Fast Company

Hulu, Best Buy Battling for Your Web Streaming Movie Custom

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Best Buy's movie service is primed and ready to launch this month, meanwhile Hulu's premium content system is apparently not due to arrive as soon as we'd thought it would. The net-streaming TV business is never short on drama.

BestBuy bought CinemaNow from SonicSolutions as a vehicle for its high-value paid content, and the name isn't going to change. From later this month it'll be serving up DVD-fresh "first run" movies to owners of LG Blu-ray players with Net connections, then other home theater and set-top boxes. As the company's SVP of entertainment Chris Homeister notes in the press release, "With the introduction of CinemaNow, Best Buy continues our commitment to evolve with our customers as their demand for digital entertainment grows," indicating that Best Buy is well aware of the trends toward Web-delivered movies that's pushing the industry forward.

Hulu, as one of the earliest and most paradigm-shifting players in this game, is even more familiar with this situation, and it's been planning to transform its free delivery model into a paid-content one for some time. We've heard all about Hulu Plus, and had even learned it may have arrived as soon as this month from a source as reputable as the L.A. Times. Some Hulu execs had even hoped to have a paid delivery model lined up ready with a special app in time for the iPad launch. Now Peter Kafka of MediaMemo is quoting those famous anonymous inside sources that always pop up, with news that there's "no way" the system will be arriving soon.

According to Kafka, while big-name content providers have fleshed out the core of the deal with Hulu, the big details need to be thrashed out, and that's what's holding everything up. Hulu's model, like Best Buy's, relies on super-fresh content that it hopes users will pay for before it becomes available to the masses for free.

Will Best Buy's earlier entry let it steal big market share ahead of Hulu's arrival? Impossible to tell. But with exciting things like Google TV rumored to be kicking off soon, both will be trying to steal the public's awareness before the business gets too established.

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