You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

HD pic stream still limited

Bandwidth will instead augment Blu-ray

With millions of devices in homes now connecting HDTVs to the Internet, online movie services are poised to send a flood of high-def movies down those digital pipes. But the flow may be less than smooth, given limited broadband connection speeds in U.S. homes and the superior video quality on Blu-ray discs.

Vudu, Apple iTunes and Amazon Video on Demand have all added high-definition titles in the past six months. This fall, Microsoft (via the Xbox 360) and Roxio CinemaNow are each planning a major high-def push. In addition, almost every service is offering high-definition viewing via instant streaming so consumers no longer have to wait hours for large HD files to download.

But few expect digital downloads to be a serious competitor to Blu-ray discs anytime soon. That’s because most consumers don’t have broadband connections fast enough to stream HD video and, even if they did, most companies say HD streams can’t yet match the quality of Blu-ray.

Popular on Variety

The average consumer has only a 2.5-megabit-per-second broadband connection, said Mark Ely, VP of strategy for Sonic Solutions, which owns Roxio CinemaNow. To stream HD content in the standard MPEG-2 compression quality requires an 18-20 mbps connection.

Vudu’s well-reviewed HDX streams, which it touts as the highest-quality HD streaming, require a 10-mbps broadband connection, while its standard 1080p HD streams need a 4.5 mbps connection.

Because of broadband limitations, most companies in the space are positioning HD downloads as a complement to Blu-ray. That’s not surprising, since many are planning to offer their services through Blu-ray players in an attempt to expand their reach into the home. Sonic and Netflix, for instance, already have deals with LG Electronics to offer their services on BD players coming this fall.

Also limiting the potential growth of HD streaming and downloads is the amount of content studios make available and the terms under which they do so. So far, studios are releasing almost every new release, but since most HD new-release downloads and streams are available as rentals, they are available only in the VOD window, sometimes debuting after DVD and only available for a limited time.

Microsoft Xbox 360, which has been offering HD rental downloads since launching its video service in late 2006, will begin offering nearly every film it can in HD with instant-on streaming after it migrates to Zune video in the fall. Currently, the Xbox Live Marketplace has 5,000 HD titles, compared with 18,000 in standard definition.

Vudu says it now has 2,000 rental titles in HD and 200 more available as download-to-own. (Jennifer Netherby writes for Daily Variety sister publication Video Business.)

More Digital

  • Cenk Uygur

    Bernie Sanders Retracts Endorsement of Young Turks Founder Cenk Uygur After Backlash

    Bernie Sanders pulled his support for Cenk Uygur’s congressional bid, with the Vermont independent in part acknowledging that Sanders’ supporters were “frustrated” about the endorsement. Sanders, who’s running for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, cited Uygur’s announcement Friday that he would not be accepting any endorsements. In a statement, Sanders alluded to sexist and other [...]

  • Tana MongeauStreamy Awards, Arrivals, The Beverly

    Streamy Awards 2019: The Complete Winners List

    The 9th Annual Streamy Awards — honoring the best from YouTube and online video — were held Friday night in Beverly Hills. Tana Mongeau (pictured above) was named Creator of the Year and Rhett & Link’s “Good Mythical Morning” won Show of the Year in the two fan-voted Audience Choice categories. David Dobrik picked up [...]

  • NBC News - Quibi

    NBC News Digital Workers Form New Union

    A group of approximately 150 editorial workers who help produce some of NBC News digital content have formed a union, citing a desire to push their employer to work more seriously through such issues as equal pay and the recent handling of sensitive stories. Editorial employees of NBC News Digital won certification of their union [...]

  • Fox Nation Tests Holiday Programming

    Fox Nation Tests Holiday Programming

    The Fox Nation streaming-video service has long been touted as a new option for super-fans of the Fox News Channel. But some of the broadband hub’s new programming choices suggest adherents of “Fox & Friends” and Sean Hannity aren’t looking solely for chatter about politics and interviews with members of the Trump administration. Subscribers to [...]

  • Facebook

    FTC May Stop Facebook From Integrating Whatsapp, Instagram

    The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is weighing whether it should seek an injunction against Facebook to prevent the social media giant from integrating services like Whatsapp, Messenger and Instagram with its core app, according to reports from the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. Regulators fear that Facebook’s app integration plans could make [...]

  • Ivanka Trump

    Ivanka Trump Reportedly Set to Speak at CES 2020

    Ivanka Trump, President Donald Trump’s daughter and an adviser to the president, is scheduled to appear on a panel at CES 2020 in January, according to a published report. Ivanka Trump will appear on a panel set for Jan. 8 at 3 p.m. at the Las Vegas confab with Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content