March, 2011

Vudu moves to the front of the VOD line

VOD So the studios apparently have decided to hold hands and all jump together into a 60-day, premium VOD window, much to the dismay of theater owners. It’s an old trick the studios have used in the past, particularly in the early days of the home video business when they were about to do something they knew Wal-Mart or, back in the day Blockbuster, wasn’t going to like, such as move up the pay-per-view window or squeezing the video rental window.

The idea was to minimize the potential backlash against any one studio by an aggrieved buyer by presenting a consistent — if carefully un-colluded — front. In this case, Warner Bros., Sony, Universal and 20th Century Fox have each decided to support an initiative by the cable and satellite industry dubbed Home Premiere, beginning sometime around the end of April. Read More »

Will clouds block UV light? (Updated)

Cloud Amazon is the first major player out of the gate with a cloud-based digital media “locker” service but it’s a fair bet that Apple and probably Google won’t be far behind. The question is: how long can they wait?

Both Apple and Google are reported to be attempting to negotiate licensing deals with the record labels that would allow them to offer cloud-based music storage and streaming services without fear of legal challenge or litigation. But that’s a lengthy process and Amazon’s decision to launch without such licenses may for Apple’s and Google’s hands. Read More »

Amazon takes another page from Apple’s playbook

The Cloud Amazon has already shown itself to be a close student of Apple, modeling its initial Kindle strategy on Apple’s approach to the music business: drive down the cost of the content to drive up the value of owning the hardware, which translated into more high-margin hardware sales for Apple/Amazon.

With the announcement Tuesday of the Amazon Cloud Drive and Amazon Could Player, the online retail giant seems to be taking another page from that same playbook. Read More »

Navigating the new TV landscape

Connected TVs Apple may be getting ready to license its AirPlay streaming software to other CE makers to embed in their HDTVs, according to a report this week by Bloomberg . Though the report did not identify the potential hardware partners, “two people familiar with the program” said AirPlay-enabled devices could be available before the end of the year.

If the report proves true, users of thirds-party AirPlay-enabled TVs would be able to stream video content over their home wireless network from the iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch for display on the big screen. Currently, video streaming from Apple portable devices is only possible via an Apple TV set-top box. Under the proposed plan, no separate set-top hardware would be required. Read More »

Nice try, Google

Copyright So now what? Judge Denny Chin has rejected the painstakingly negotiated settlement in the Google Books case, leaving the outcome of the six-year old litigation uncertain along with the legal status of millions of books already digitized by Google and archived by major libraries.

While Judge Chin indicated he might look more favorably on a revised agreement that allowed authors to opt-in to its terms, as opposed to the opt-out standard in the current agreement, such a change would upend the commercial logic behind the deal and therefore might not be acceptable to Google. Read More »

The price of policing piracy

Copyright Implementation of the U.K.’s already delayed Digital Economy Act is likely to be postponed again, this time until at least 2012. Two of England’s largest ISPs,  British Telecom and TalkTalk plan to challenge the law in court on Wednesday on grounds that it’s proposed curbs on file-sharing violate users’ basic rights and received inadequate Parliamentary scrutiny. Assuming the high court agrees to hear the challenge the legal process is expected to take at least a year and the whole process could take even longer if Parliament decides to make changes to the law based on the court’s decision. Read More »

Chris Dodd shows how not to make an entrance

Lobbying I’m not sure former-Senator Chris Dodd did himself any favors by giving an interview to the Times’ Maureen Dowd in his first week as CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America. The Sunday op-ed piece that resulted opened with Dodd waxing whimsically about the job he really wanted (“just down the street” at the White House) and closed with him damning Hollywood with faint praise about its mild winter climate compared to Washington, DC and Connecticut. In between Dodd recounted a weird anecdote about Katherine Hepburn that made the legendary movie star sound snooty and boorish and described the movie industry’s business model as “nuts in many ways.” Read More »

The Albanians strike back

Over-the-Top Back in December, Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes dismissed Netflix as a pip-squeak power in the media world, famously likening it to Albania. “It’s a little bit like, is the Albanian army going to take over the world?,” Bewkes told the New York Times. “I don’t think so.”

Even a pip-squeak army can inflict damage, however, if it picks its spots. And this week, the Red Envelope Brigade struck again, at a strategic but vulnerable spot in the Time Warner empire. On Tuesday, Deadline.com reported that Netflix had apparently managed to outbid several major cable networks, including Time Warner’s HBO, for rights to a big-budget original series, “House of Cards,” executive-produced by and starring Kevin Spacey. Read More »

White House moves to deputize MPAA

Copyright The Obama Administration is looking to swear in copyright owners to help it catch DMCA violations at U.S. borders.

In a new legislative proposals issued Tuesday, the Administration is asking Congress to let the Department of Homeland Security share samples of possible circumvention devices entering the country with rights owners prior to those devices being seized by DHS’ Customs and Border Patrol agents, to help determine whether they are, in fact, circumvention devices. It also wants Congress to allow DHS to provide information to copyright owners about devices seized by CBP without prior involvement by the rights holders. Read More »

Dissing disintermediation

Online Video Needham Insights analyst Laura Martin and colleagues are out with an interesting report this week comparing and contrasting the demand curves for analog and digital entertainment goods, and the pricing implications of each.

According to their analysis, demand for entertainment goods in the analog world, in this case consumers’ willingness to subscribe to a particular TV channel, is fairly inelastic, in that a change in price at any point on the curve has relatively little effect on the amount consumed. Thus, the demand curve exhibits a traditional, smoothly curved shape as prices decline (below).

In the digital world, however, their analysis shows that demand is top heavy: a small slice of the audience accounts for a huge percentage of the use, making for a much steeper demand curve when plotted against the total consumer spend on the goods or service in question (below). Read More »

Apple and the importance of accessorizing

Streaming Video For most who followed Apple’s announcements today, the big news would have been the new lighter, thinner, faster version of the iPad, the latest iteration of iOS (iOS 4.3), which adds some features like local music sharing between devices on a home network, and of course the appearance on stage of a game, if painfully gaunt, Steve Jobs. For the studios and premium TV networks, however, the real news was something literally just tossed in.

That would be the $39 1080p HDMI output dongle for the iPad 2 (dongle sold separately of course). From the perspective of high-value video content, the dongle basically turns any TV with a HDMI port into an Apple TV. With the dongle, an iPad 2 owner can download or stream copy-protected video to the tablet via iTunes or other app and display it on their big-screen TV, even if the user does not have an Apple TV set-top box. Read More »