Web Content Over More Than The Web

There’s no going back now; the YouTube influence has latched an iron-clad grip on the nation’s video consumers.

Thanks in part to the tornado-like arrival of online video site YouTube, Internet and television are converging in 2007, marrying the world’s newest medium with the world’s most popular medium in a whirlwind courtship of new gadgets and services.

This means that we will soon be able to access a lot of Web content through our TVs instead of just our PCs, potentially cutting out the need for cable TV providers.

That’s the gospel according to several vendors, which convened at the 2007 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week. Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates announced the content deals as part of his Sunday evening keynote.

Web content for your Vista PC or Xbox?

A number of media outlets struck deals with Microsoft to provide downloadable content suitable for viewing on more than just a television.

Starz Entertainment Group said that Internet subscription video download provider Vongo will also be available to air on TVs thanks to a new relationship with Microsoft for Windows Vista and the Xbox 360 videogame and entertainment system.

Consumers who own PCs loaded with Windows Vista Premium or Windows Vista Ultimate and Vista Media Center will be able to download their favorite movies onto their PCs or laptops using Vongo and then view the titles on any connected TV in the home.

Users may also stream movies and other content via Vista Media Center extenders, such as Xbox 360 consoles, that are connected to the home network.

The Xbox 360 will automatically check to see which Windows XP or Vista-based devices are registered on the network and ask the user whether they want to access content from that PC.

In the Fox Sports deal, users with Vista Media Center may view Fox Sports’ SportsLounge, which will offer live TV, sports score “weather crawls,” scheduled recordings, and fantasy sports player tracking.

Nickelodeon will offer its interactive broadband video site TurboNick through Windows Vista Media Center, allowing users to browse the channels, shows or favorite Nickelodeon characters.

Showtime Networks will let consumers download its TV content and play it on a PC or transfer it to a portable player.

Delivering Web-based content over televisions may be a new, nice bridge from the television network to the consumer in an increasingly digital age. But traditional cable networks may not be so thrilled about it because it could cut into their ability to offer services.

Now, people subscribe to cable services to get the content we can’t access from regular TV. Any Web content we view is through the PC.

Should the new agreements, particularly the Starz deal with Vongo, germinate, they could usher in a shift by TV networks to use the Web to pipe their programming to TV instead of just the home computer.

This could trigger an end-run around cable and satellite providers because people will find it easier to watch their favorite TV shows without paying a cable bill.

Sony Joins Web to TV Blitz

With its belief in the convergence of Internet and TV, Sony is as good a company as any to join the discussion. The consumer electronics giant this week introduced its first Internet video system at CES.

This summer, Sony  said several of its BRAVIA flat-panel LCD TVs will accommodate a device that can stream broadband high-definition and other Internet video content with the press of a remote-control button.

Users who have broadband connections in their homes will be able to use the it to view channels maintained by content companies.

Sony executives, along with partners AOL, Yahoo and Grouper, offered a demonstration of the service, which featured the Japanese company’s Xross Media Bar (XMB), an icon-based user interface similar to the GUI on Sony’s PlayStation (PS3).

New-fangled computers are also being increasingly attuned to pipe Web-based video.

Sony unveiled the Vaio XL3 Digital Living System equipped with a BD drive, which is ready to record and store high-definition television programming.

Sony’s new TP1 Digital Living System is a new Vaio machine that can connect directly to a flat-screen LCD TV so users can access online videos, as well as pause, record and rewind live TV as with a digital video recorder.

Bite The Apple, Watch TV

Not to be outdone in the race to deliver Internet content via the TV, Apple  CEO Steve Jobs is expected to formally unveil the company’s iTV at MacWorld in San Francisco Tuesday, separating from the rest of the CES pack.

The device is designed to let consumers play their movie and TV downloads on the living room TV. It connects wirelessly to Apple computers or PCs in the house. An Apple standard remote control device can be used to navigate movie downloads and transfers.

The gadget will include 802.11 wireless connectivity, USB, Ethernet, HDMI and component video connections.

Announced at an event in September, the iTV is expected to cost $299.

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