Yahoo gets new rivals for Connected TV

DivX and Vudu launched new or expanded platforms for delivering Internet content to TVs

Yahoo has signed up new partners for its Connected TV effort but also faces new competition from other companies looking to bring movies and applications from the Internet to the TV.

Among the new entrants is DivX, which announced a software platform on Thursday called DivX TV that will stream movies and other content from the Web to all kinds of devices including TVs, Blu-ray players and game consoles, the company said.

LG Electronics is the first company to license the DivX TV software for use in Blu-ray disc players and home theater systems. DivX TV will provide access to paid movies and free video from the Internet, as well as to social-networking and photo-sharing sites, the company said.

Also in the game is Vudu, which said Wednesday that its streaming movie service will be embedded in TVs and Blu-ray players from Sanyo, Samsung, Sharp and Toshiba, in addition to products from existing partners LG, Mitsubishi and Vizio. It also launched Vudu Apps, which will add services like Facebook and Pandora alongside its video content.

The announcements are being made at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where Internet-connected TVs are again one of the big themes. TV makers see it as a way to get consumers to pay out for new, Internet-capable TVs, and the manufacturers sometimes get a cut of revenue from the movies delivered to their televisions.

Twenty-five percent of the HDTVs that ship worldwide this year will be capable of connecting to the Internet, according to research firm Parks Associates.

One challenge for the industry is figuring out what types of content consumers want, be that just movies or a wider range of applications. Vendors also need to provide TV interfaces that are simple to use and don't overwhelm people with content.

"We need to figure out a way to simplify all this, because I can see a day when I turn on my TV and 50 widgets appear and I have no idea what I want," said Mitch Singer, CTO of Sony Pictures Entertainment, in a panel discussion of connected TVs at CES Thursday.

Yahoo launched its Connected TV service at CES last year, with support from TV makers Sony, Samsung, LG Electronics and Vizio. At CES Thursday it announced that Hisense will also sell Internet-connected TVs with the Yahoo Widget Engine, which is Yahoo's software for displaying movies and other Web applications.

Also supporting Yahoo are chip makers MIPS Technologies and Sigma Designs, and ViewSonic said it will release a $159 media player this quarter that will allow TVs that don't already have Yahoo's software to run Yahoo Widgets.

Also signed on with Yahoo is Brightcove, which offers a platform for publishers to create and distribute video for the Web. The publishers will now be able to distribute that content to Yahoo Widgets, Yahoo said. Yahoo is also making its software developer kit publicly available to encourage creation of more applications.

Brightcove is also among the partners listed for DivX TV, and in fact most of the manufacturers and content providers have struck multiple alliances with companies providing software platforms for Internet TV.

It will be partly up to the buying power of consumers to decide which of them succeed. As Singer put it: "You can't predict what will happen in two years' time; the environment right now is too disruptive."

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