Dec. 28, 2010 at 4:02 PM ET
The company behind Blockbuster and Best Buy's video-on-demand services, Sonic Solutions, has teamed with Sears to launch Alphaline video on demand for Sears — and Kmart — shoppers. While the service, live now, only supports playback on Windows PCs, the partners hope to introduce it on mobile and set-top devices soon.
In the words of their joint press release:
Sonic and Sears are teaming to embed the services at a chip level on a growing network of devices including portable media players, Blu-ray Disc players, mobile phones, and high-definition television sets from leading manufacturers.
It's easiest to see this as a defensive measure against Amazon and Wal-Mart, which purchased the highly regarded Vudu streaming video service in early 2010. DVD sales are down from their record highs, and Blu-ray sales haven't taken their place. If the future of home video is in streaming — and that is looking quite likely — every company with business at home will want a piece.
What it means for consumers is a little less clear. Presumably this would give Sears the ability to promise video on demand to customers walking out of the store with a TV or Blu-ray player, but most mid- to high-end TVs and Blu-ray players already offer the services.
Worse, the service is likely to be a near carbon copy of Sonic's other services, including RoxioNow (formerly CinemaNow), Blockbuster and Best Buy video on demand. (It is not clear how Sonic can be partners with competitors, but that's another matter.)
And finally, bear in mind, this is not the same as Netflix or Hulu Plus, which are subscription based, "all you can eat" video streaming services. It's pay-per-view, which means it not only competes with other services, but with every digital cable box in the land, and is subject to Hollywood's strict pricing regulation.