.

PASO ROBLES DIGITAL FILM FESTIVAL

PANEL DISCUSSIONS ABOUT

FILM AND THE DIGITAL AGE

 

"I believe that I will never shoot

another film... on film."
George Lucas

 

 

Marshall McLuhan said about

Paradigm Shifts...
 "By the time one notices a cultural

 phenomenon, it has already happened."

HIGH TECH NEWS

Well, blog, blog, blog, blog, blog...

Have no doubt that we are seeing a great Paradigm Shift...in fact the past few years the pace

of the evolution of the new technologies and how they are going to change the entertainment
business as we know it make the invent of the wireless (radio), the flickers (movies), TV and

black and white TV to color and MTV look like snail pace evolution...to see some of the present

and future of the Internet...visit our 2008 coverage of CES...the Consumer Electronic Show

STAY TUNED FOR THE 2009 CES COVERAGE FROM THE CONVENTION FLOOR

 

TO BEGIN THE NEWS FOR 2009 LET US TAKE YOU TO THE CONSUMER ELECTRONIC SHOW IN LAS VEGAS

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First Press Day 08

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BILL GATES 08

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Peter Frampton

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The Girls of CES

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First Day CES 08

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Home Entertainment

"TV will be based on the Internet; it will be an utterly different thing."

Bill Gates told Capitol Hill

 

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Cable, led by Cablevision, mulls network DVR

If the nation's largest cable TV operators have their way, the home digital video recorder could soon become a relic.

Leading the way is Cablevision Systems Corp., which plans to roll out a system in early 2009 that will let viewers record any show without a DVR, only a digital set-top box. Shows will be stored on Cablevision's servers instead of a home DVR — a shift the company said could save it upward of $700 million.    Yahoo.com news  

 

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The Nielsen Co.'s year-end report is in, and the story for music sales in 2008 involves doom, gloom and Taylor Swift.

Swift, the 19-year-old country star who helped ring in the new year with a Dick Clark's Rockin' Eve performance Wednesday, was 2008's overall top-selling artist, with 4 million in total sales and two albums in the all-genre top 10, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Even with Swift's commercial heft, the Nashville-based country music industry dropped with a thud, though not from a terribly high place. Country sales which include tallies from albums not played on mainstream country radio, such as the Robert Plant/Alison Krauss Raising Sand collaboration wound up at around 47,650,000. That's down 24 percent from last year's total. And last year's total was the lowest for country in SoundScan's 19-year history. Only classicalmusic had a bigger dip, at 26 percent.

Sales of Christian and Gospel music, much of which is produced in the Nashville area, were down 12 percent for the year.

Album sales declined 14 percent across every genre, and though growth in overall music purchases is up 10 percent, that increase relies on digital tracks, ringtones and other comparatively small purchases.

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Congress OKs bill to improve broadband access

 

Congress has passed legislation that will require the government to keep closer tabs on who has access to the Internet and who does not.Supporters hope the Broadband Data Improvement Act will help policymakers better identify areas of the country that are falling behind when it comes to high-speed Internet access   The bill passed both houses of Congress, with the Senate approving a final version Tuesday on a voice vote.
It also orders the Government Accountability Office to study broadband speeds and costs and to compare the "availability and quality of broadband offerings" in the U.S. to other industrialized nations.

Such an analysis might provide some insight as to why the U.S. — the birthplace of the Internet — lags behind other developed countries in broadband usage. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development ranks the U.S. 15th for broadband penetration.

Senate sponsor Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, said the federal government has a responsibility to make sure Americans have access to the Internet, but "we cannot manage what we do not measure."     AP.com  Sept 08

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Hollywood aims to block RealNetworks' DVD software

LOS ANGELES - Hollywood's six major movie studios on Tuesday sued RealNetworks Inc. to prevent it from distributing DVD copying software that they said would allow consumers to "rent, rip and return" movies or even copy friends' DVD collections outright.

The studios stand to lose key revenue from the sale of DVDs, estimated by Adams Media Research at $15 billion in the U.S. this year, if consumers stop buying DVDs and instead copy rental discs from outlets like Netflix and Blockbuster.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, alleges RealNetworks' RealDVD program, which launched Tuesday, illegally bypasses the copyright protection built into DVDs.              yahoo.com   sept

 

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Every season premiere Thursday night drew a lower rating than last fall, as returning favorites such as ABC's "Grey's Anatomy," CBS' "Survivor" and NBC's "The Office" tripped across the board.

ABC firmly won the night, as expected. Its two-hour fifth season premiere of "Grey's Anatomy" (18.5 million viewers, 7.4 national adults 18 to 49 rating and an 18 share) was the evening's highest-rated and most-watched show, with each half hour growing in the Nielsens. Yet "Grey's" was down 17% from last fall’s one-hour opener. Lead-in "Ugly Betty" (9.8 million, 3.3/9) slipped 15%, marking its lowest-rated debut to date. 

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CHICAGO - Napster Inc., the online music community that rose from a dorm room project to became the scourge of the global recording industry, is being purchased by Best Buy Inc. for nearly $127 million as the electronics retailer tries to boost its digital music business.

 

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The EMI Group is close to joining the three other large recording companies in backing the upcoming MySpace Music service, according to two sources close to the negotiations.

EMI and MySpace representatives were "trying to jump some final hurdles," according to one of the sources adding that the companies could finalize a deal in time for the launch of MySpace's new iTunes competitor.

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SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Amazon.com said on Monday that its subsidiary, Internet Movie Database, would allow users to watch feature films and TV shows for no charge on its Web site, imdb.com.

Over 6,000 titles will be available, the company said, citing recent episodes of popular television shows like "24" and "Heroes" or classic films like "Some Like It Hot."

IMDB also said that the first episodes of new fall television shows like "Lipstick Jungle" and "30 Rock" will be available for free viewing before their first air date

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. phone company AT&T Inc (T.N) plans to eventually link Apple Inc's (AAPL.O) iPhone to its high-speed Internet and video service called U-verse, and introduce new features like using the phone as a remote control.

At an event on Monday to showcase some recently developed technologies that are not yet being marketed, AT&T emphasized that in the future, consumers should be able to use their phones, computer and television in more interesting ways.

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Microsoft Seeks Partners For a New Run at Yahoo

By MATTHEW KARNITSCHNIG and ROBERT A. GUTH

Microsoft Corp., positioning itself for a new run for Yahoo Inc.'s search business, has approached other media companies in recent days about joining it in a deal that would effectively lead to Yahoo's breakup, say people familiar with the discussions.

Microsoft has held discussions with Time Warner Inc. and News Corp., among others, say people involved in the talks. In the past, Microsoft has floated an arrangement under which it would acquire Yahoo's search business and another partner, such as News Corp.'s MySpace or Time Warner's AOL, would combine forces with what remained of Yahoo. News Corp. is the owner of Dow Jones & Co., publisher of The Wall Street Journal.

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Movie studios and technology companies have joined together to push for digital video that isn't tied to specific devices but plays across multiple platforms. But the initiative may be less notable for what it's pushing for than for the fact that Apple, one of the leading digital-media retailers, isn't part of the effort.

The Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE) aims to make it easier for consumers to use digital video with a host of devices from different manufacturers. Headed up by Sony Pictures Chief Technology Officer Mitch Singer, DECE intends to promulgate the idea of "buy once, play anywhere" to bring a CD- and DVD-like experience to digital media.

With the use of Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology, a file purchased from any vendor would theoretically be playable on any device--as long as that device was built by a member of the consortium. In addition, consumers would have the ability to store their files online and stream them to a device from any location.

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NEW YORK/SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Yahoo Inc (YHOO.O) and Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) ended talks as the Web pioneer agreed to let archrival Google Inc (GOOG.O) sell search ads on its site, the companies said on Thursday.

Separate statements from Microsoft and Yahoo signaled a more permanent rift between the two after months of on-again, off-again talks. It also heightened pressure on Yahoo to outline an alternative strategy. Yahoo shares fell 10 percent.

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Despite continued fears over a troubled economy, U.S. online ad revenues continued their upward climb in the fourth quarter of 2007, according to new data from the Interactive Advertising Bureau and PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. Web advertising revenue in the quarter hit $5.9 billion, representing "historic revenues" for a single quarter, and a 24% increase over the same period in 2006, according to Randall Rothenberg, president and CEO of the IAB.

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"Summer forecast: Film industry in a tights spot," USA Today

LOS ANGELES – Hollywood desperately needs a hero, and not the kind that fights crime, or flies or wears tights.  One that makes money.

Heading into its most important season of the year, the film industry is staggering into summer.  Ticket sales have been down eight out of the past nine weekends compared with the same weekends last year. Attendance is down 7% from 2007…

"It will always be about the quality of the product, but when gas is $4 a gallon, it's not even cheap to drive to the theaters," says Gitesh Pandya of BoxOfficeGuru.com."

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Amid the bailout frenzy on Capitol Hill this weekend, the House on Saturday passed a bill that would give its blessing to any compromise reached between Internet radio stations and copyright holders over royalty fees.

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In a move expected to bring social networking to TV viewers, Comcast Corp. has agreed to acquire seminal online social networking platform Plaxo for upwards of $175 million, according to various published reports. The news comes the same day that another television industry giant, CBS Corp., announced a deal to acquire online technology information publisher Cnet for $1.8 billion (see related story in today's edition), and signals a continued push by traditional media companies into the online world.

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Top firms band together behind Mobile Broadband

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Top computer makers, mobile operators and technology providers announced on Tuesday that upcoming laptop computers would feature mobile broadband making them ready to surf right out of the box.

Led by the GSM Association (GSMA), a global trade association of mobile operators, the group of 16 companies said the "Mobile Broadband" service mark would be pre-installed on laptop and notebook PCs coming out later this year.

Equipped with "ready to run" wireless Mobile Broadband devices, the GSMA said in a statement that the "always-connected" PCs would be "ready to switch on and surf straight out of the box in 91 countries across the world."

 

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CBS will broaden its Internet-owned business with an agreement to buy CNET Networks for $1.8 billion cash.

CNET Networks owns entertainment, news and information sites, including CNET, ZDNet, GameSpot.com, TV.com, mp3.com, CNET news.com, UrbanBaby, CHOW, Search.com, BNET, MySimon and TechRepublic. In 2007, CNET reported revenues of $406 million.

This acquisition adds to the CBS portfolio of Web businesses: CBS.com, CBSSports.com, CBSCollegeSports.com, MaxPreps.com, CBSNews.com, last.fm, Wallstrip, MobLogic, CBS Radio and CBS Television Stations digital platforms.

CBS says the addition of CNET will place it among the top 10 of all Internet companies, with a combined 54 million unique users per month and approximately 200 million users worldwide. A key piece of the deal is CNET's strong business in China, which is highly profitable.

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Microhoo Saga Drags On, Proxy Fight Looms
Microsoft's Steve Ballmer might have walked away from Yahoo two weeks ago, but the drama is far from over.

Today, Yahoo head Jerry Yang asked staff to carry on as usual despite an upcoming proxy battle. "I ask all of you to put aside the rumors and speculation, and stay focused on the business at hand and what we do best--transforming the online experiences of our users, advertisers, publishers, and developers," he wrote in a letter.

The latest round of unrest was triggered by shareholder Carl Icahn, who announced he intends to run a slate of candidates to replace the current board. Peeved that Yahoo turned down Microsoft's offer to buy the company for around $33 a share, the aggressive Icahn has nominated 10 people for the board, including Harvard Law School's Lucian Bebchuk, former Universal Studios CEO Frank Biondi and entrepreneur Mark Cuban.

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LinkedIn was the fastest-growing social networking site in April, with traffic increasing 361% to 8.7 million unique visitors from $1.9 million a year ago, according to comScore.

MySpace easily remained the category leader with $58.7 million users, but has only grown 3% since last year. No. 2 Facebook is up a healthy 56% over the last year to 22.5 million. AOL Hometown has seen the steepest fall-off in traffic, dropping 25% to 6.3 million in the last year.

Among blog sites, WordPress was the biggest gainer in April, growing 160% to 16.6 million visitors. Blogger held the top spot with more than 38.4 million, up 40% from a year ago. By contrast, traffic to Xanga.com has slipped 33% to 2.4 million.

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Yahoo CEO on hot seat after rebuffing Microsoft's $47.5B bid

Yahoo Inc. Chief Executive Jerry Yang has gotten what he wanted: a chance to prove his company is worth more than the $47.5 billion that Microsoft Corp. offered to buy the Internet pioneer.

It will be a daunting challenge, as Yang will be pointedly reminded Monday when investors are expected to show how little they think of Yahoo without a takeover bid on the table. Faced with resistance from Yang and the rest of Yahoo's board, Microsoft withdrew its offer over the weekend.

Many analysts believe Yahoo's stock price, which had climbed nearly 50 percent since Microsoft's initial offer, will surrender most, if not all, of that gain, leaving the Sunnyvale-based company's market value around $30 billion.

Disillusioned shareholders are bound to question whether the rejection of Microsoft's sweetened $33-per-share offer was driven more by emotion and ego than sound business sense.    AP.com  

 

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Things are moving fast in the world of social networks. Every day it seems MySpace is adding features that mimic Facebook-like functionality, and Facebook is adding features (or apps) that make Facebook look more like MySpace. I have a MySpace account that I use 95% for connecting with friends and family; a Facebook account that is 35% friends and family, and 65% professional; and a LinkedIn account that is 95% professional connections. There is overlap across all three. I have an ASmall World account I have yet to build out my network on (if you're on ASW, Facebook, or LinkedIn, shoot me a connection request and reference this Spin so I know how you found me). But what is the future of social networks as more niche social networks come into play and strong players like MyYearbook, Buzznet and Bebo continue to grow? Where does a marketer place his or her bets?

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SAG-AMPTP talks end without deal

Guild talks end sans pact; next up, AFTR

SAG has run out of time to make a new feature-primetime deal with the majors and has been pushed aside in favor of AFTRA -- probably until late May.

The failure of SAG and the companies to make a deal after 18 days of talks will ignite fears that SAG will strike when its deal expires June 30. SAG president Alan Rosenberg told Daily Variety that SAG will now "take the temperature of the membership" and may seek a strike authorization from members as early as next week but he also portrayed the guild leadership as wanting to avoid a work stoppage.

"Our negotiating team is prepared to work around the clock for as long as it takes to get a fair deal," he said. "We want to keep the town working."

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After Deal Dies, Yahoo Weighs Its Next Move

SAN FRANCISCO — How low will Yahoo’s stock go on Monday? And how long will it stay there?

These questions are high in the minds of Yahoo shareholders, and probably its management, as the company considers its options after Microsoft’s decision to withdraw its offer to buy Yahoo for $33 a share, or approximately $47.5 billion.  Much will depend on Yahoo’s next moves, which could include a partnership with its chief competitor, Google.

People close to Yahoo said that the chief executive, Jerry Yang, and his team, who told Microsoft they would not sell for less than $37 a share, greeted Microsoft’s decision as a victory. High-fives were exchanged Saturday afternoon when they learned Microsoft was backing down. Yet some Yahoo shareholders, large and small, have indicated that they favored a deal at around $34 to $35 a share. Even those who were holding out for a higher price said a merger with Microsoft made strategic sense.

“I don’t believe that Jerry Yang as a founder, as someone who is emotionally attached to the company, was really looking out for my interest as a shareholder,” said Darren Chervitz, co-manager of the Jacob Internet Fund, which owns about 150,000 shares of Yahoo. “I don’t think anything Yahoo puts out there is going to be comparable with what Microsoft was offering.”

The entire board backed Mr. Yang’s desire to reject Microsoft’s offer, said a person involved in the negotiations who was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter. But unhappiness with Mr. Yang could spread through the company’s ranks.

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - A company founded by Rupert Murdoch's daughter will help News Corp's MySpace distribute Web shows on television and DVDs outside the United States, as the world's largest social network seeks an audience away from the computer.

The move is a play to make shows such as MySpaceTV's "Quarterlife" or "Roommates" available outside of the United States, or create localized versions of the shows, said Travis Katz, managing director of MySpace's international arm.

The partnership with ShineReveille, the distribution arm of Elisabeth Murdoch-founded Shine Group, is one of News Corp's most ambitious plays to underscore MySpace as a media platform, distinguishing itself from fast-moving rival Facebook.

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Time Warner drops ax on New Line

It's the end of the line for most of New Line, with Warner cutting 450 jobs as part of its earlier decision to fold the studio into Warner Bros.

The pinkslips, announced Monday afternoon, leave New Line with 40-50 employees. A Time Warner spokesman said about 40 New Line employees are being offered jobs within Warner Bros.

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When you think teens, you automatically think they are online, right? Can you guess what percentage of teens are using the Internet? A whopping 93%, according to a recent study by The Pew Internet & American Life Project. In fact, the Internet is said to be a part of a teen’s social life where they can share creations, tell stories, and interact with others.

 

Report I saw at NATPE was that 79% of the 21 year olds

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Hot Summer Ahead? TV Advertisers Could Sweat Actors' Strike

 MEDIA BUYERS, TAKE NOTE: AN actors' strike will make the writers' strike look like a walk in Central Park... on a sunny day... with someone handing you daiquiris along the way.

June 30 will come a few weeks after the broadcast part of the upfront is done. That's when the actors will most probably elect to strike. And advertisers will be looking at a second strike in less than a year, which, in theory, could flow into the start of the fall season.

Again, TV networks will be looking a scarcity of fresh programming. Again, TV networks will use this as leverage to force in even more reality shows. Again, media buyers will be scratching their heads about whether to shift media dollars around.

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Invasion of the Mobile Social Networks
The New York Times
Social networking is moving to the cell phone, where scores of new upstarts are clamoring to become the next Facebook or MySpace. The cell phone market has a few advantages over that of the Internet: at 3.3 billion, cell phones have a larger worldwide user base, and they also provide global positioning satellite and other location-based technologies.

According to market researcher Informa Telecoms, about 50 million, or 2.3 percent of mobile users, use their cellphone for social networking, from chat services to file sharing. The company estimates that the market will grow to 12.5 percent in five years, or roughly 300 million mobile subscribers.

But what about the Internet majors? Won't the Google's and Facebook's of the world squash these mobile startups? "We don't think any of them will make a big splash in the mobile space," says Lai Kok Fung, CEO of Singapore-based MyGamma. "They view mobile as an extension of the online site, while we know our members use mobile much differently."

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Gates Predicts Big Technological Leaps

Mar 13,
Microsoft Corp. Chairman Bill Gates said Thursday he expects the next decade to bring even greater technological leaps than the past 10 years.

In a speech to the Northern Virginia Technology Council, Gates speculated that some of the most important advances will come in the ways people interact with computers: speech-recognition technology, tablets that will recognize handwriting and touch-screen surfaces that will integrate a wide variety of information.

"I don't see anything that will stop the rapid advance," Gates said, noting that technological change driven by academia and corporate researchers continued even after the Internet stock bubble burst in 2000.

Gates also said the coming years will bring rapid changes in media as television increasingly becomes a targeted medium, where viewers can select niche content for news, sports and entertainment.

"TV will be based on the Internet; it will be an utterly different thing," he said.

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Friday, March 14, 2008 by Wendy Davis 

Since releasing its latest album online less than two weeks ago, Nine Inch Nails' "Ghosts" has taken in $1.6 million in revenue.

What makes that figure even more impressive is that the group offered the tracks at pay-what-you-wish pricing. Users could download nine of the 36 tracks for free, purchase the entire set for as little as $5 or as much as $300 for an autographed version. What's more, press reports say the album is widely available completely free on torrent sites.

Still, fans clearly feel enough goodwill towards the group that they're willing to pay for the tracks.

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Frustrated indies seek web distrib'n

But still face challenging online marketing gap

 
Of the 100-some features questing for a distributor at January's Sundance Film Festival, only a handful found the holy grail: worldwide theatrical distribution with an advance minimum guarantee and back-end participation.  With an unforgiving and glutted marketplace for indie films, where the cost of prints and ads to keep a movie in theaters is punitive for everyone, there's no appetite for risk-taking.

The key question is, when will an alternative distribution outlet for indie films emerge -- an outlet that can interest enough viewers to bring in meaningful returns?

Once filmmakers make the mental leap that Hollywood isn't going to offer them a $2 million minimum guarantee, they have plenty of other distribution options, from cable and self-distribution to the Internet. The problem lies in getting the word out to sufficient viewers to convince them to download, stream or pay-per-view the pic.

"We're in the transitional post-major studio pre-Internet era," says Emerging Pictures CEO Ira Deutchman. "Models will be clear in the future. We're still heading toward Web 2.0."  Filmmakers need to get past the romance of a theatrical release, says Cinetic Media's John Sloss. "People are so disproportionately preoccupied with getting their movies released in theaters that they're not interested in alternatives. You make more money and get more exposure and promotion on HBO."                 variety.com  March

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Fox has won the past three broadcast seasons among the adults 18-49 demographic and is expected to win this season as well. CBS has many crime procedurals popular with older audiences and has won among total viewers the past six seasons.

But after the writers strike gutted networks that rely heavily on scripted programming, Fox's reality-driven slate with such shows as "Idol" and "The Moment of Truth" has outpaced competitors this season by a wider margin than ever. A couple weeks ago, Fox surpassed CBS among total viewers. Fox currently averages about 11.5 million to CBS' 10.6, ABC's 9.4, NBC's 8.5 and the CW's 2.6.

Even with CBS' scripted programming retuning to the air in the coming weeks, Fox's first-place position is expected to hold through the conclusion of the May sweep.  Moonves acknowledged CBS wasn't going to be able to overtake its rival.

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ShoWest: DreamWorks Animation Goes 3D

The future is 3D, declared DreamWorks animation czar Jeffrey Katzenberg on Tuesday before showing the first piece of 3D footage created by DreamWorks--a redo of an entire scene from the upcoming 2D movie Kung Fu Panda in RealD. (Everyone seems to like these cool RealD glasses better than the clunkier Dolby ones.)

It's all 3D all the time for DreamWorks Animation from now on, Katzenberg declared, exhorting the exhibs to upgrade to digital 3D. 2009 is the big year when some 10 to 12 digital 3D pics will hit screens--and there aren't enough of them yet--about 1000-- to handle a wide 3D release. UPDATE: Disney distribution and marketing chief Mark Zoradi on Wednesday predicts 4 to 5,000 3D screens by 2010. "In the next 24 months we'll reach a tipping point," he said. And exhibs are finally ready to step up and invest now that they see competitors doing better with Beowulf and Hannah Montana in 3D. Here's more on the impact of Hannah Montana on the biz.

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MySpace courts music labels

Site looks to enter digital download market

By GORDON MASSON

 

Social networking website MySpace is close to launching an online music service that is expected to partner News Corp. with the major labels.

This could create a music site with a business model similar to that of the Fox-NBC video site Hulu.com.  Execs from MySpace are ramping up negotiations with record labels to roll out an extended MySpace music service as soon as possible, according to a report in London’s Financial Times on Monday.

 

Sony BMG, Warner Music and EMI are within days of signing a deal with MySpace, but the world’s biggest music group, Universal Music, is stalling because of an unresolved lawsuit with MySpace over alleged copyright infringements.

MySpace would not comment on its plans, but it is believed the website is hoping to launch its digital music library before the end of this year, with or without U.

 

Rival website Facebook has reportedly also begun negotiations with the major music labels as the social networking giants battle to win a share of the digital music market.                Variety.com

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As you may have heard, Google closed its acquisition of DoubleClick today.

The closing of the transaction will have no immediate impact on your relationship with DoubleClick Performics. We will continue to operate as a separate business unit as we review product integration opportunities.

Data confidentiality remains our priority. Google will fully honor customer contracts that govern the use of your data.

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What Buyers May Know - But Won't Admit -- About Online Video Budgets

 DESPITE THE DEBATE OVER THE viability and sustainability of ad-sponsored online video networks and platforms, there's still a giant elephant in the room that I suspect many are missing.

No, it's not about pre-roll versus overlays versus in-banner video or the likes.

It's that increasingly, online video ad spend is being parked by agency buyers and their marketers as a line item back in the ol' TV budget -- not always within the digital spend.

But wait. Wasn't it the traditional media agencies that once kicked digital media to the curb as too fleeting and too complicated? These days, their acquisitions point to the fact that they're playing a very different tune -- struggling to catch up to the expertise of the digerati, and not only take back the digital spend but now purport to manage "all things video."     mediapost.com

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AOL TODAY WILL RELAUNCH NETSCAPE.COM as a collaborative news portal along the lines of the popular Digg.com. Weblogs co-founder Jason Calacanis, who joined AOL last year, will head the project.

Similar to Digg, the new Netscape site invites users to submit news stories that they think are noteworthy, and to vote on them; the most popular stories will be given prominent placement on the site. Netscape additionally will include a social networking component, providing users with their own pages where they can share articles they find intriguing with others.

But--in a twist absent from Digg--AOL has hired a team of bloggers and editors, which it calls "anchors," to follow up on select stories with further reporting. For instance, the AOL anchors might return to sources and pose follow-up questions, or expand on a piece by adding more information about the subject.

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IN HOPES OF EXPANDING ITS audience by adding niche content, America Online agreed to purchase Weblogs, Inc., the blog company founded by Jason Calacanis and Brian Alvey, for $25 million. The deal, signed Wednesday, will close next week. The agreement brings Weblogs' 85 blogs--including the technology blog Engadget, car blog Autoblog, and parenting blog BloggingBaby--within AOL's free network.

The Weblogs' properties attract more than 30 million monthly Web page views and 25 million monthly RSS page views per month, according to AOL.

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Toyota Enlists YouTube for Marketing Campaign
The Wall Street Journal
Toyota Motors is bowing a new online marketing campaign that's been created in conjunction with Google's YouTube. The move is gamble for both the automaker and the video-sharing giant.

YouTube worked closely with Publicis Groupe's Saatchi & Saatchi LA to customize the comedy-themed marketing initiative from Toyota, which promotes the company's new Corolla sedan. The ad shop provided the creative, while the YouTube folks focused on the technology side. The result is a $4 million comedy site called "Best in Jest," hosting the best comedy routines found on YouTube. Each week, Google culls its video database for new routines and uploads them to the Corolla-sponsored "Best in Jest" site. Toyota is also sponsoring a sketch-comedy contest called "the Sketchies", with prizes reaching $25,000.

Online marketing continues to grow at a fast clip, but revenues at big social media sites like YouTube and Facebook have been disappointing. Marketing efforts on these sites often provide a more interactive and effective user experience, but they tend to reach small audiences, especially when you weigh the cost and labor involved in those efforts. That reality has led many marketers to either create-or at least become a part of-the content creation process. Some analysts disagree with Toyota's approach, saying the automaker would be better off buying a basket of customized interactive marketing options.

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Why Yahoo-AOL Merger Makes Sense, Won't Happen

Yahoo (YHOO) and AOL (TWX) are talking more seriously about a merger as an alternative to the Microsoft (MSFT) bid, the WSJ says. Specifically, Time Warner is preparing a proposal that Yahoo can take to its board and shareholders. The proposal would involve Time Warner folding AOL into Yahoo for a sizable minority stake (we estimate 25%-35%--see spreadsheet). As with the Microsoft option, the companies are discussing the usual $1 billion in synergies.

In our opinion, Yahoo is unlikely to be able to persuade shareholders that an AOL merger would be a better option than taking Microsoft's money (plenty of integration challenges there, too, and no quick payoff), but it's worth a try. If nothing else, a real option here might extract a few more dollars out of Microsoft.

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VOD Rising: Preferred By Some Lazy TV Viewers Over DVR

 TALK ABOUT YOUR LETHARGIC TV viewers!

Yesterday, Disney-ABC Television chief Anne Sweeney said 20% of DVR owners said they prefer to watch video-on-demand rather than use their DVRs.

How much easier can DVRs be? At best, viewers only need to hit the same button twice on DVR. Once to say, "Yes, record." And then again when prompted: "Are you sure you want to record this?"

Marketers really need to concentrate on these lame TV viewers -- perhaps find other messaging. If they are too lazy to deal with DVRs, they are probably too lazy to respond to other media -- as well as schlep into their cars to go out and buy products from Target, Best Buy, Kmart, or Whole Foods.

Separately, Sweeney also says viewers of ABC TV shows online are phenomenally happy to grab free viewing in exchange for sitting through four commercials.  No word on whether they are happier to do this than watching via DVRs and zapping through commercials.

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Sony's Blu-ray technology is emerging as the likely winner in the format battle for the next generation of DVD players after Toshiba appeared ready to ditch its HD DVD business.

Such a move would help consumers know which system to invest in and would probably boost sales of Blu-ray gadgets, analysts say. But it will disappoint the 1 million people around the world that Toshiba estimates have already bought HD DVD players.

Toshiba Corp. said Monday no decision has been made but acknowledged it had started a review of its HD DVD strategy. The comments follow a flurry of weekend Japanese media reports that the company was close to pulling the plug on the business.

A company official, speaking on condition of anonymity because she isn't authorized to speak on the matter, said a board meeting could be held today, when a decision is likely.

HD DVD has been competing against Blu-ray disc technology, backed by Sony Corp., Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., which makes Panasonic brand products, five major Hollywood movie studios and others.              Associated Press

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Toshiba's Plan for Life After HD DVD

TOKYO -- In February, after a long, expensive battle with Blu-ray over the format for next-generation DVD players, Toshiba Corp. Chief Executive Atsutoshi Nishida pulled the plug on the company's HD DVD business. The move surprised analysts. Japanese companies tend to look for acceptable compromises to save corporate pride, and the analysts had expected Toshiba to phase out the format quietly.

Mr. Nishida: I didn't think we stood a chance after Warner left us because it meant HD DVD would have just 20% to 30% of software market share. One has to take calculated risks in business, but it's also important to switch gears immediately if you think your decision was wrong. We were doing this to win, and if we weren't going to win then we had to pull out, especially since consumers were already asking for a single standard.

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Nine Inch Nails just released its latest album online, Ghost, free of DRM restrictions and at pay-what-you-wish pricing.

The group is offering nine of the album's 36 instrumental tracks for free. Fans can purchase all tracks for as little as $5 or as much as $300 for an autographed set. There's also a $10 version and one for $75.

For frontman Trent Reznor, the initiative marks the second time he has experimented with letting consumers set the price. Last year, he produced "The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of Niggy Tardust" by Saul Williams, which he made available online. Consumers could opt to download the album for free, or pay $5 for higher quality tracks.

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Eighty years after the 7 1/2 -minute cartoon "Steamboat Willie" helped launch the career of a certain iconic mouse, Walt Disney Co. has returned to its short-form roots with the debut of a digital studio that will develop original content for the Internet.

Stage 9 Digital Media, quietly in the works for two years, will be unveiled today with the premiere of "Squeegees," a comedy series about window-washer slackers, on ABC.com and YouTube. It is the first of a planned 20 online programs currently in development.
 

"We've all seen the appeal of short-form content grow over the past few years," said Anne Sweeney, president of the Disney-ABC Television Group. "The launch of this experimental new media studio allows us to play in this space with some quality content, while giving us an interesting venue for telling stories in a different form."

ABC Television Group joins a growing number of TV studios, including CBS and Warner Bros., that have set up separate digital creative teams to produce the kind of instant-gratification videos that are popular online, especially among young viewers who can no longer be counted on to watch the networks' prime-time shows.

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A friend of a friend who is an avid fan of American Idol told me how she figures out who is going to win and who will be voted off. She said, "Go to You-Tube and type in the contestant's names, and see how many hits they have had on the videos of them for that week. With that information you can figure out who is most and least popular in the competition for that week. 

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SAG aims for April start date

Facing pressure to start contract talks as soon as possible, SAG has announced it won't start formal negotiations with the AMPTP until April at the earliest.

In a message sent to members Thursday, SAG president Alan Rosenberg and national exec director Doug Allen said SAG plans to stress the issues of new media, compensation for middle-class actors and forced endorsement on product integration.

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Google to Bid for Yahoo Stake?

TechCrunch has the hot rumor of the day: Google is apparently far more scared of a Microsoft-Yahoo merger than previously thought and could be preparing an offer to purchase 15-20 percent of Yahoo's stock. Henry Blodget of the Silicon Alley Insider reminds us that this is a play that Google has used against Microsoft before, when it swooped in at the 11th hour to purchase a $1 billion 5 percent stake in AOL.

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Oscar Didn't Win In The Key Category: Viewers

Feb 26, 2008  IN THE SPACE OF ONE month, the Super Bowl achieved its best viewership ever, while the Academy Awards will record its lowest ratings in history.  "The 80th Annual Academy Awards" on ABC took in a Nielsen preliminary 21.9 household rating/33 share--a massive drop of 21% versus last year's numbers of 27.7/42.

That's not all. The 21.9 rating is also 14% below the lowest-rated Oscar event ever, which was in 2003 during the start of the Iraq war. Then, the telecast earned 25.5. That year, the Oscars pulled in 33 million viewers. This year, the Oscars grabbed 1 million fewer viewers. It also pulled in a low 10.7 rating among 18-49 viewers.

There is plenty of blame to go around, according to analysts--everything from the writers' strike disruption, to low-grossing, thinly seen boutique nominated films to less marketing support for the show.

Responsibility also lies with the subject matter, according to analysts, which was dark and depressing. However, for some, this made a better fit for Hollywood on Sunday night, which endured showers and rain and cool temperatures.

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Facebook Traffic Declines in U.S., U.K.

Facebook saw month-to-month traffic declines in December and January, according to separate reports from ComScore Media Metrix and Nielson Online.

TechCrunch suggests that the Web's No. 2 social network may be plateauing in the U.S. ComScore data shows the site's traffic leveling over the past few months, dipping by about 800,000 visitors in January. In December, the site drew 34.7 million unique visitors in the U.S. compared to 33.9 million in January. MySpace also saw declines, but less so, drawing 68.9 million U.S. uniques in December compared to 68.6 million in January.   Is Facebook plateauing? Are users getting fed up with the site's dissemination of personal information? Worldwide, the site grew 3 percent in January according to ComScore, but declines in the U.S. and U.K. are troubling, nevertheless.   TechCrunch/Times Online

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Microsoft's "Brilliant Steps" To Remake Itself
Fortune
Microsoft is "taking brilliant steps to remake itself." Fortune says the decisions both to buy Yahoo and to open its software up to greater interoperability represent a "critical moment in [Microsoft's] history." The bigger step, of course, is the $40 billion-plus Yahoo bid, which would be the company's largest-ever acquisition and could pose significant regulatory and restructuring complications. Shareholders are very much against the deal, and have shaved 15 percent off Microsoft's stock price since the company announced its intentions.

These are huge changes for a company that built its fortune on proprietary software. Microsoft is more or less conceding that its monopoly days are over, and that the future belongs to open, Web-based programs, much of which will be ad-supported. The move to more open software is especially positive for Microsoft's enterprise business, which faces mounting pressure from corporate software makers who use open source technology. The addition of Yahoo will ease the company's transition to a more "Web-centric" (i.e. ad-supported) approach to Internet services.

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Industry Execs Say Gaming To Move Online
BBC News
Industry luminaries are in accord: The future of gaming is online. They predict that content will be delivered from a central server to a network of users, and that Internet service providers will provide access to that network by tacking on an added charge for gaming service, just like cable providers charge $10 extra per month for HBO.
"A huge game changer for our industry is for there not to be a requirement for there to be a machine in the home," said Neil Young, general manager of EA Los Angeles. Electronic Arts is the largest third-party developer of video games, which means the company makes games for three major game systems--so a move to Internet delivery would suit the company.

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SEATTLE (Reuters) - Microsoft Corp plans to invest heavily in Web search to compete against Google Inc, even if it fails to acquire Yahoo Inc, the company's chairman Bill Gates said on Monday.

Gates, who called Microsoft's offer for Yahoo "very fair," said Google is the only company with "critical mass" in Web search. Microsoft needs a bigger piece of the market to create a more competitive and profitable Web search business.

"We can afford to make big investments in the engineering and marketing that needs to get done. We will do that with or without Yahoo," said Gates in an interview with Reuters.

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Wal-Mart dumps HD DVDs to back Blu-ray

Feb 15

Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N) has decided to exclusively sell high-definition DVDs in the Blu-Ray format, dealing what could be a crippling blow to the rival HD DVD technology backed by Toshiba Corp (6502.T).

The move by the world's largest retailer, announced on Friday, caps a disappointing week for HD DVD supporters, who also saw consumer electronics chain Best Buy Co Inc (BBY.N) and online video rental company Netflix Inc (NFLX.O) defect to the Blu-ray camp.

In a statement on its Web site, Wal-Mart said that over the next few months it will phase out sales of HD DVD systems and discs. By June, it will sell only products in the Blu-ray format which was developed by Sony Corp (6758.T).

"We've listened to our customers, who are showing a clear preference toward Blu-ray products and movies with their purchases," said Gary Severson, a Wal-Mart senior vice president.

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News Corp./Yahoo Combo Would Yield Display-Ad Powerhouse

$50 Billion Price Tag Puts Pressure on Microsoft to Up Its Bid for Portal

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Want to talk about massive display share? Forget Yahoo and Microsoft -- it's Yahoo and News Corp. that could shake up that world. The two companies are discussing a deal that would make News Corp.'s Fox Interactive Media assets part of Yahoo in exchange for a 20% stake in the newly combined entity, according to a person familiar with discussions.

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GPS technology is now being put into mobile phones

BARCELONA, Spain (AFP) - After replacing paper maps for millions of drivers, GPS technology is now being put into mobile phones and was one of the most-hyped developments at this week's Mobile World Congress.

The biggest handset manufacturers and GPS (global positioning system) specialists have begun building handsets with personal navigation software, planning routes and guiding pedestrians with detailed digital maps.

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Yahoo Inc. hopes media conglomerate News Corp. can rescue it from a Microsoft Corp. takeover — or at least prove the slumping Internet pioneer is worth more money than its unsolicited suitor wants to pay.

A News Corp. partnership could provide Yahoo with the escape hatch that the Sunnyvale-based company has been seeking since Microsoft pounced with its takeover bid two weeks ago.

If nothing else, the possibility of Yahoo joining forces with one of the world's largest media empires could prompt Microsoft to sweeten its bid, which was originally valued at $44.6 billion, or $31 per share.

Yahoo is believed to want at least $40 per share, or about $56 billion.

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Netflix nixes HD DVD ...Net co. rolls with Blu-ray

Chalk up another one for Blu-ray: Netflix is phasing out HD DVD rentals from its service due to underwhelming demand.  Online subscription company said it will not purchase any more HD DVD discs, phasing them out entirely by year's end. Netflix had stocked both high-def formats since their launch almost two years ago.

Company cited studio and customer support of Blu-ray for the decision, noting that the majority of major studios now back Blu-ray exclusively and that the majority of subscribers requesting high-def discs want them in Blu-ray.

Last month, Warner Bros. dropped its dual format approach to endorse Blu-ray exclusively; the studio will continue to release HD DVD discs for a few months at a slight delay after Blu-ray bows. Only Paramount and Universal remain soley commited to HD DVD, and neither is contractually bound to continue releasing on that format.

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Mobile-phone companies ready wave of new Web-based products
Nokia has put its new generation of digital maps in GPS-equipped mobile phones, one of several ways mobile-phone companies are connecting phone customers to the Web. "The future is about bringing context -- time, place and people -- to the Web; that is the foundation of the next generation of the worldwide Web," said Nokia executive Niklas Savander

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AdAge.com comments on the end of the writers strike

"Once the strike ends, the aftermath sort of begins," said Chris Boothe, a president at Publicis Groupe's Starcom USA. "We think repercussions will be felt for a long time."

Among the predictions: more reality TV, fewer programs overall and a staggered series of show launches that could move away from the fall and more toward the fourth quarter. And there will be plenty of other questions, including whether networks can get enough big-audience blockbusters on the air to allay concerns about ratings shortfalls during the strike. Even after all that, there's still the question of whether those shortfalls will mean networks are on the hook for "make-goods" -- ad time owed to marketers for failing to deliver promised ratings points -- at the end of this season. Below, Ad Age looks at some of the new trends and how marketers could be affected by them:

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Calling the internet "the cloud," outgoing Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates made his predictions about the continuing change he sees in media and marketing communications technologies in the coming decade. For instance, he envisions a near-future world of "high-definition experiences everywhere" on screens spanning the surfaces of furniture as well as architectural spaces.

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Yahoo Rejects Microsoft's Offer

Portal Could Explore Alliances With Google, AOL  February 11, 2008

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Following Yahoo's decision to reject Microsoft's $44.6 billion takeover attempt, speculation has focused on what the future holds for the slumping online-media giant.

A few scenarios have popped up. One has Microsoft continuing to press Yahoo by taking the proposal directly to its shareholders or by sweetening the offer to make it palatable to the Yahoo board, which today said the bid undervalues the company. Another has Yahoo playing defense either by partnering with Google on search advertising, sure to draw scrutiny from regulators, or by rekindling talks with Time Warner about a merger with its AOL unit.

Microsoft is chasing Yahoo as part of its effort to close the gap on Google, the leader in search. The combination would combine the No. 2 and 3 players, but "Micro-hoo," as it's been unofficially dubbed, would still trail Google.

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Can Jerry Yang keep Yahoo from becoming a division of Microsoft?

Since the 39-year-old engineer and company co-founder received a surprise phone call from Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer on Thursday night offering to buy Yahoo for $44.6 billion, Yang and his board of directors have been looking for alternatives that would leave Yahoo an independent company.

While those discussions are confidential, analysts who have studied Yahoo's position aren't optimistic.

The Sunnyvale-based search giant has few options. There's the Disney ending where Yahoo finds a proverbial rich white knight. There's the tech thriller version where CEO Yang takes a knife to his workforce, outsources Yahoo's advertising business to Google and fights to the death in a bloody proxy battle. And there's the investment banker's favorite script, where management accepts the deal and everyone gets a little bit richer.

The fairy tale ending seemed less likely after Monday. At least two media companies signaled they will not bid against Microsoft. On a conference call Monday morning, co-hosted by JPMorgan Chase, Jeff Zucker, president and CEO of NBC Universal, said he was "not interested in being a white knight for Yahoo" and that the deal proposed by Microsoft would be good for NBC.

Rupert Murdoch, chief executive of News Corp., told analysts on a conference call Monday they could count him out as well.

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Yahoo! in tune with Rhapsody for digital music service
Yahoo! is in a deal with RealNetworks' Rhapsody America, under which Yahoo! will transfer all users of its Yahoo! Music Unlimited subscription service to Rhapsody, whose on-demand service will be marketed by Yahoo! on its Web site. The two parties also reportedly plan to collaborate on other digital music initiatives.

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Activision, which already announced that it was the top publisher in 2007 in large part thanks to Guitar Hero, today announced that its popular music game franchise has set an industry record by breaking $1 billion in North American retail sales in just 26 months (according to data from The NPD Group). Since the Guitar Hero franchise debuted in fall 2005, it has sold over 14 million units in North America alone.

Furthermore, Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock was the number one video game in units and dollars for calendar year 2007, "making it the #1 best-selling video game of all time in a single calendar year," Activision boasted. Activision has also benefited from ancillary revenue, as gamers have downloaded more than five million songs in the 10 weeks since the game's launch. MTV Games recently said that the competing Rock Band has seen 2.5 million song downloads.

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TV'S ADVERTISING ECONOMICS ARE NOT that hard to figure out -- even in these striking, trying times.

You don't have development. You don't have pilots. You don't have anything to show to advertisers, at a pricey upfront presentation. So you don't have the gaudy affair -- at least for this year.

NBC says it's nearing a decision to cut its annual "dog and pony" show, as NBC Universal chief executive Jeff Zucker calls it. But Zucker won't cancel the actual upfront advertising marketplace itself. That would be stupid.

NBC, as well as the other networks, still need the cash, especially the bulk that the upfront brings. Better to have 70% of all advertisers' yearly TV spending in your pocket now instead of  later -- even if it is for "Celebrity Biggest Loser" and "Celebrity American Gladiators," and USA Network reruns of "Psych," "Monk" and "Burn This."

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CBS Asks: Where Does Last.fm Grow From Here? CBS CORP. ON WEDNESDAY PRESENTED its highly ambitious vision for the global music business. Anyone familiar with Last.fm, the online community of musicians and fans that CBS bought last year, already knows what that vision looks like.

Trying to sell Last.fm as the biggest free, ad-supported music service online, CBS President and CEO Leslie Moonves took it upon himself to address members of the media, Madison Avenue and Wall Street.

"Community clearly is the future," Moonves said from Black Rock's Studio 19. "It is clear to us that communities built around great content are increasingly driving traffic and revenue online."

Through deals with Universal Music Group, Sony/BMG, Warner Music Group and EMI Group, among others, Last.fm is now offering full-length tracks and albums for a total of more than 3.5 million songs.   Jan 08

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Here's the good news: Digital sales of music grew to $2.9 billion globally last year, marking a 40% increase from 2006.

But here's the bad news: Music sales overall still dwindled to $17.6 billion, a drop of 10%, as the digital growth wasn't enough to offset lost revenue from plummeting CD sales, according to a new report by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry. The report comes just several weeks after Nielsen SoundScan also reported that sales of physical albums plunged 15% last year.

Again, the music industry is blaming piracy for the declining revenue and renewing calls for Internet service providers to start filtering out copyrighted material.

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Record Audiences For Newspapers Online

While their print editions continued to slide, newspapers enjoyed an online audience boom in 2007, according to the Newspaper Association of America, which says the total unique audience for newspaper Web sites increased 9% in the fourth quarter to an average 62.8 million per month, compared to the same period in 2006, The figure from October, when 63.2 million people visited a newspaper Web site, is an all-time record.

 

 

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