Here's how you know streaming video has gone mainstream: when mass market retailers are getting in on the game.
Scheduled for a holiday release is a new digital video service that will be available on TVs and Blu-ray players sold at Sears and Kmart. It's called Alphaline Entertainment, and will be available on devices from Sharp, LG, Sony, Samsung, Panasonic, and RCA by the end of the year. Customers will be walked through the set-up inside the store by customer service representatives so that they can just take it home and begin watching movie content at once.
The service is similar to what Best Buy and Wal-Mart have started offering. Sears and Kmart's service is powered by the same back-end technology as Best Buy's: Sonic Solutions' RoxioNow streaming and content architecture. There are about 5,000 new-release movies available on the service, according to Sonic.
Wal-Mart went a different direction, and instead of partnering purchased Vudu, a streaming-video service in February with plans to make it accessible on every Web-connected consumer electronics device sold in its stores.
That's in addition to the streaming services from Netflix and Amazon Video on Demand which have proliferated to be available on PCs via the Web, and across a wide range of living room devices.
Sonic's streaming-media library is now available via Blockbuster's online service, Best Buy, and soon Sears and Kmart. According to Sonic, while manufacturers have been on board with the idea of Web-connected devices, retailers are relatively new to it, but are gradually coming around.
"Moving from Blockbuster and Best Buy to Sears/Kmart shows that those retailers who reach a broad base of consumers are really wanting to embrace digital services," said Mark Ely, Sonic's head of strategy.
One of the main reasons that retailers are suddenly interested? Physical media sales are going to drop off, and these retailers are preparing for the future.
"We see the DVD business declining over the next couple years," said Elliot Becker, vice president of home electronics for Sears and Kmart. "We wanted to offer a service on all of the devices we sell, not just TVs, but Blu-ray (players), tablets, all the devices we're in or going to get into."
Tablets are not in the plans for this year, but perhaps next year depending on how demand for them shapes up, Becker said.