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Take Note: Even More Cord-Cutting Options Are On The Way

NEW YORK – CE manufacturers and streaming services could drive the use of over-the-top (OTT) video services to even higher levels with the growing availability of OTT content, more viewing options and plans for high-dynamic range (HDR) content.

In recent days, Sling TV added new services and extended its subscription-streaming channels to the Google Nexus Player and to select TVs powered by the Android TV platform.

In addition, Kaleidescape expanded its selection of downloadable high-definition and DVD-quality movies with the addition of Walt Disney Studios content available for its $2,495-suggested Alto movie player. And video-streaming service M-Go, the pay-per-view joint venture between Technicolor and DreamWorks, announced plans to offer Ultra HD 4K video with HDR sometime later this year. It will join other streaming companies that have also said they would also offer the technology later this year.

OTT usage is on the rise, based on a Parks Associates study that found 57 percent of U.S. broadband households access OTT video-subscription services. That excludes downloads and web-based pay-per-view services.

Here’s the latest on some of the developments that could drive OTT usage higher:

Kaleidescape: The company expanded its selection of movies that can be downloaded to its $2,495-suggested Alto movie player with the addition of content from Walt Disney Studios.

The company’s Kaleidescape Movie Store already offers movies and TV shows from Warner Bros., Lionsgate, NBCUniversal and Sony Pictures.

The Disney agreement “adds significantly” to the total number of movies licensed by the company, Kaleidescape said. That number exceeds more than 10,000, including about 700 titles just licensed from Disney.

About 6,000 movies are currently available for download from the company’s store, including 100 Disney titles, said Kaleidescape founder/CEO Cheena Srinivasan. The company continues to add more titles to the store, he said.

On a separate topic, Srinivasan told TWICE that he plans to offer Ultra HD 4K content and 4K HDR content sometime later this year.

The movies are playable on the Alto player, launched last December and sold through the company’s 1,400 residential systems installers. The player launched with more than 8,500 movies and 1,600 TV seasons licensed from major motion picture studios.

Key Alto features include a 4TB hard drive to store up to 100 movies in Blu-ray quality or 600 movies in DVD quality. It connects to additional Alto players to support up to four viewing zones. Consumers can also upgrade their DVD and Blu-ray titles to digital versions for download from the store.

M-Go: The joint venture between Technicolor and DreamWorks will begin offering Ultra HD 4K video with HDR sometime later this year, M-Go COO Christophe Louvion told TWICE.

The non-subscription pay-per-view site “will launch not with two to three titles but a full selection,” he said “There will be several dozens [of movies and TV episodes],” and the selection “will build up quickly,” he said.

He called HDR technology a “giant leap” akin to the leap from black and white to color and more dramatic than the leap from 1080p FullHD to 4K UHD. “It’s almost like looking through a window,” he said of the wider color gamut as well as the brighter highlights and deeper blacks that don’t wash out details.

Other vide-streaming services planning HDR sometime later this year are Vudu, Amazon and Netflix.

M-Go’s parent Technicolor is a member of the UHD Alliance, which is developing specs and minimum performance standards for 4K content, including HDR. M-Go will support the alliance standard.

For its part, however, Vudu will launch multiple Warner Bros. titles in Dolby Vision HDR. Both Netflix and Amazon last year announced support for Dolby Vision, but earlier this year, Netflix VP Scott Mirer appeared to be on board with the alliance standard. Netflix is an alliance member, as is Dolby.

Alliance members have said Dolby could always create a version of “twolayer” Dolby Vision that supports the “single-layer” approach favored by the alliance. “Most people in the industry believe single layer is best,” Louvion said. The costs “make sense” in the distribution chain from production to post production and in CE devices, he said. “It’s less complex for everyone.”

TVs however, could incorporate the UHD single-layer open standard and Dolby’s two-layer standard, Louvion said.

Sling TV: The Dish Network’s OTT service extended support to the Google Nexus Player and other devices powered by the Android TV platform. The app for Android TV is available via the Google Play store.

On the programming front, Sling TV also added ESPN Deportes to its Deportes Extra $5 per month add-on pack, which can be purchased on top of Sling TV’s core $20 per month service. Launched in May, Deportes Extra is a tier for soccer fans. It also features Azteca, beIN Español, beIN HD (English), Univison, Univision Deportes and UniMás.

Similar to device bundle deals with Roku (for the Roku 3 player and the Roku Streaming Stick) and with Amazon (for the Fire TV box and Fire TV stick), Sling TV is offering the Nexus Player, the first device to run Android TV, at a 50 percent discount when new customers pre-pay for three months of Sling TV. Nexus Player users can also sample Sling TV for seven days for free.

Launched last fall, the Asus-made Nexus Player regularly sells for $99.95, though outlets such as Walmart are offering it for less. The puck-shaped player features a remote with voice-based search, and is outfitted 1.8GHz Quad Core Intel Atom processor, 802.11ac, and an HDMI output. Sony already offers a short selection of Android TVs in the U.S., and other CE companies that have launched or are developing Android TV-powered products include Sharp, Philips, Razer and Nvidea.

Sling TV also supports Android and iOS mobile devices, web browsers, and the Xbox One.

“We’re committed to making Sling TV available on the most popular devices consumers use to stream live and on-demand entertainment,” Sling TV CEO Roger Lynch said. — Multichannel News contributed to this story.