DVD Deviants

FOB-DVD Deviants-Wil Smith in HancockWill Smith has taken on aliens, zombies, robots, and now, cable operators. Sony plans to stream movies to the TV set starting with Sony Pictures' Smith vehicle Hancock, which will be offered on Sony Bravia TVs in the fall prior to its DVD release, a move that circumvents cable companies.

By digitally delivering its films on its own, Sony is the latest technology player to take aim at cable's role as the middleman in serving up TV and movie programming to consumers. In fact, Sony, along with Google, Apple, Microsoft and Netflix, are all aiming to reach consumers directly via the Internet and have introduced services in the last year that do so.

The march into the living room by consumer electronics makers and Web giants could both hasten the end of DVDs and transform cable operators into mere utilities that provide only the broadband pipe. Cable operators won't go quietly, though; Comcast plans to offer an iTunes copycat called Fancast this summer and to synch online programming with video-on-demand in the future.

Still, with five major companies making inroads into the TV set, the business of Web-to-TV convergence has begun, says Alex Lindsay, a technology expert and the chief architect with PixelCorps, a San Francisco-based consortium of new media producers. "You have the biggest guys in the game going head-to-head, and they know this is the new battlefield."

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