Barnes & Noble rolls out Nook vid service

Disney, Sony, Viacom, WB, HBO, Starz to supply content

Barnes & Noble is rolling out a video service for the Nook tablet, setting up yet another examble of what every Internet giant seems intent on establishing: an ecosystem for digital content to call its own.

The nation’s biggest bookstore chain, which is also a leading DVD retailer, said Tuesday that Nook Video will launch this fall in the U.S. and hit the U.K. over the holidays. Movies and TV series will be available a la carte for purchase and rental from Walt Disney, Sony, Viacom, Starz, Warner Bros. and HBO.

Titles like “Brave,” “Breaking Bad,” “Dora the Explorer,” and the “Harry Potter” franchise will presumably be accessible via the existing Nook tablet, though the company didn’t specify that; it is possible Nook Video may be reserved for future Nook hardware expected to be announced later this year.

Nook Video will be available as an app on non-Nook devices, though specific hardware wasn’t identified, either. In addition, Nook Video will integrate physical DVD and Blu-ray disc purchases and digital video collections across devices using UltraViolet through the Nook Cloud.

By creating a digital storefront and cloud system of its own instead of using a third-party solution, Barnes & Noble is going toe-to-toe with ventures from Apple, Amazon and Google. While Barnes & Noble and Nook are primarily identified with the book business, the opportunity to extend into multimedia may have been too good to ignore even if Nook Video ends up an also-ran in a still-nascent category.

Another comparison might be Walmart and its digital content service, Vudu. Like Barnes & Noble, Walmart is a bricks-and-mortar retailer reputed for its strength in the DVD market attempting to bridge the gap between physical disc sales and digital copies. However, Walmart doesn’t make its own line of tablets.

Thomas Gewecke, prexy of Warner Bros. Digital Distribution, said Barnes & Noble’s heft with in-store, online and digital promotions will help consumers “learn how to maximize their entertainment using all the benefits UltraViolet provides.”

Nook also has an ally in Microsoft, which invested $300 million in the division in April when Barnes & Noble separated it from the rest of the company. While not a full-fledged spinoff, the move was widely interpreted as a preliminary step in that direction.

Nook Video is not a subscription VOD product like Netflix, which will still be available in the Nook Store.