This year’s CES show in Las Vegas wasn’t full of noteworthy events from our perspective. Most people I asked about their CES experience said something like “Don’t ask me, I was in meetings the whole time.” The consensus was that attendance was down but that those who did attend were the most senior people, making the show more of a backdrop for serious business discussions.
One of the few announcements of note from CES came from Sonic Solutions and Blockbuster, concerning their partnership to deliver Blockbuster’s large library of video content to devices in Sonic Solutions’ CinemaNow ecosystem. The latter also grew as Sonic announced new devices that can receive and play CinemaNow video through the CinemaNow SDK, network-enabled Blu-ray players and Nintendo Wii gaming devices.
This announcement represents a consolidation in the Internet video-on-demand space: it is an almost-merger of two former rivals in the Internet video-on-demand space, Movielink and CinemaNow. Movielink, originally a joint venture of several major film studios, was acquired by Blockbuster in 2007, while Sonic Solutions acquired CinemaNow last November.
An outright merger of these two services would not make much sense, at least not over this issue: Blockbuster is a video sales and rental business; Sonic is a software company; both are both small pieces of their respective owners’ businesses.
CinemaNow has been working for over three years to push from video delivery on PCs to a wide range of consumer devices. It partnered with Digital 5 (now Macrovision) in 2005 to provide content interoperability across home media networks, although the devices that worked with that scheme were generally limited to those that supported Microsoft Windows Media DRM. Last year, CinemaNow integrated Widevine’s multiplatform DRM into its client software in order to increase the universe of compatible devices.
In short, CinemaNow has gone further than its erstwhile rival Movielink in getting content to a wide range of devices in the home; it’s now vying with Netflix, Tivo, and others for supremacy in the home video network platform sweepstakes. Therefore it makes sense for Blockbuster to license Movielink’s catalog for distribution through the Sonic/CinemaNow footprint.
Yet many consumers are still scratching their heads over home media networks and content interoperability. David Pogue of the New York Times put it best in his sardonic review of CES: “I guess I could write about the convergence of TV and the home network. But honestly — this is, what, the seventh consecutive C.E.S. where that was supposed to be the hot new trend?”