Barnes and Noble steps up battle against Amazon


The Barnes & Noble Inc. Nook Tablet display stands at a store in New York, U.S., on Thursday, Nov. 17, 2011. (Paul Taggart/BLOOMBERG)
September 25, 2012

The content wars continue. Barnes and Noble announced Tuesday that it’s releasing its very own video service — Nook Video — in partnership with studios such as HBO, Sony Pictures, Starz, Viacom and Warner Brothers.

The new service, which is almost certainly an answer to Amazon’s Instant Video, will be available on Nooks, as well as other tablets, smartphones and televisions. Barnes and Noble’s did not indicate whether there would be a subscription fee.

These are two ways the company could carve a niche for itself in the highly competitive streaming video distribution market — one that Apple and Amazon have been fighting over.

Amazon has made its video service available on a few devices besides the Kindle Fire, including game consoles and, most recently, the iPad. It’s not available through Android devices, Microsoft mobile devices or the iPhone. Amazon offers instant video as part of its $79 per year Prime subscription, as well as a la carte video rentals and purchases.

Nook Video’s cloud storage system also provides a way for Barnes and Noble to get around the storage space limitations of the Nook Tablet. Letting users access their movies through the cloud on multiple devices also means that the video service’s success won’t completely rely on people buying Nook hardware.

Barnes and Noble hasn’t said which operating systems it will support, though it would be smartest to start with Apple’s iOS and Android. Barnes and Noble already provides support for Nook Reading Apps on both of those systems.

Given Nook’s relationship with Microsoft, it’s not outrageous to assume that there could be support for Windows devices as well, or that Nook Video could show up on Xbox Live at some point in the future.

The service also has a feature that’s aimed at shoring up a fading market — the sale of physical video discs.

Barnes and Noble is also embedding Hollywood’s UltraViolet system into the service, a studio-backed effort aimed at unifying users’ physical and digital movie libraries.

Users who shop in Nook Video will be able to buy DVDs or Blu-Ray discs through the service and, when possible, add digital versions of the movies or television shows to the Nook Cloud. Those already using UltraViolet will also be able to add their existing titles to Nook Video.

The company was vague about when it will launch the service, saying that it’s coming this fall. It also said that it will be adding more studios to the service for a more compelling array of content.

Barnes and Noble has been fighting hard to maintain a foothold in the tablet and e-reader market against Amazon’s Kindle Fire, dropping its prices and adding services to make the Nook Tablet and Nook Reader a compelling alternative to Amazon’s low-cost tablets.

Related stories:

Review Roundup: Early takes on Kindle Fire HD

As buzz builds around Apple iPhone 5, focus shifts from high-tech wizardry to content

Nook Tablet, Nook Color get a price cut

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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