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Bill Baker's Blog

Perspectives on the Media from New York Public Television

Weekly Media News Briefing for November 21st-25th

Michael Hurtig | November 23rd, 2011

Samsung may be next in line to produce televisions for Google, the L.A. Times reports. Although Google TV’s first iteration did not catch on with consumers, Google’s ongoing effort to enter the television market is now backed by its recent investment in the production of premium programming channels via Youtube. Meanwhile, Netflix is pressing forward with the licensing of exclusive premium content – in a recent deal with Fox, the company has acquired the exclusive rights to distribute new episodes of Arrested Development, a critically acclaimed Fox comedy which ran for 3 years before being canceled. Netflix’s recent troubles with subscribers and its subsequent loss of market value have directed attention away from the company’s trajectory in premium content distribution, but it is clear that the internet streaming site is looking to establish itself as a major player in the future of television.

Weekly Media Briefing for November 14th-18th

Michael Hurtig | November 14th, 2011

John Paton, CEO of MediaNews, is taking a web-based approach to the newspaper industry. His methodology for the overhaul of newsrooms is reminiscent of those organic to many internet news start-ups, demanding that journalists take on broader roles, while removing any barriers to speedy newsgathering and publishing. More at the New York Times.

Youtube seems to have cracked the code to the premium content industry. Under a new partnership with Disney, the company will produce an original series and feature Disney content on its site. Youtube has long been seeking to broaden its content offerings – the company stepped up its efforts earlier this year when it began offering premium video rentals, and more recently created partnerships with show runners and content producers matched by a $100 million dollar investment to create a slew of online premium content channels.

Apple’s newsstand, included with its new operating system, iOS5, offers publishers a new way to distribute their content – and get paid for it. One UK Publisher, Future Publishing, has reported a major increase in digital sales – 750%. Although this increase is based on the publisher’s first four days on the platform and not on annual sales, it still has significance. The psychology of purchasing a publication at a newsstand rather than a site, matched by the convenience of Apple’s sales portal may prove to be a strong formula for selling premium content.

Weekly Media Briefing for November 7th-11th

Michael Hurtig | November 8th, 2011

YouTube and Disney have made a new content-distribution deal that seeks to bring new short-form programming clips to a wider audience.
Disney is also looking to boost its low Youtube presence. Via Wired.

Sony Music Entertainment has a new CEO, and he has big plans – to “create the pre-eminent record company in the world.” Record companies, including new music start-ups have been finding new ways to make money off of music, despite the record fall-off in sales over the last ten years. While services like Pandora and Spotify are promising, many are still unsure whether the music via subscription can bring the industry anywhere close to its previous state.

Barnes & Noble released their new Nook tablet on Monday, in the hopes that it can increase its share of e-books while maintaining over a thousand book stores. Via Wall Street Journal

Weekly Media Briefing for October 31st-November 4th

Michael Hurtig | October 31st, 2011

Skype co-founder Niklas Zennstrom presented a keynote and interview at the Dublin Web Summit last week, and offered some insights into his experiences in the online video space. He mentioned that when he launched Joost, an online TV portal, in 2007 he quickly found out that it is “pretty much impossible to start an online company [video] and to have the licenses”. “The timing was right,” he said, mentioning that Hulu and other online sites popped up around the same time as Joost. Joost did not survive long, however – by the end of 2008 the company shut down its application-based service, and in 2009 sold its assets. What Zennstrom did not discuss in his interview is his move back into the online video space with Vdio, but instead the music licensing company which he co-founded, Rdio. He indicated that part of Rdio’s success is owing to the company’s tenacious efforts to form licensing partnerships with content owners. In his keynote above, you can hear Zennstrom’s advice for internet entrepreneurs. A video of his interview can be found here: http://new.livestream.com/channels/58/videos/4072

Is the latest version of Google TV the latest and greatest in television aggregation? The internet search giant is edging into the tv space at break-neck speed as it seeks not only to fine-tune its viewing platform and proprietary recommendation engine, but also to generate content for its upcoming streaming channels. The company’s production efforts via YouTube, which include partnerships with showrunners and writers with strong track records, are likely to make waves in the television industry, and have a greater impact than did the release of the first generation of Google TV. Youtube is getting set to launch 100 channels with professionally produced content.

Consumers aren’t dropping their cable subscriptions in droves, as many tv industry analysts had warned they might. Instead the New York Times reports, “the vast majority of American households are still paying for television subscriptions and watching most video that way.”

Following the Comcast-NBC merger in early 2011, it was announced that NBC was looking for non-profit news partners. This week, NBC has announced that it is making a major investment in local news across 10 stations, hiring 130 staff members to increase the output of NBC’s local news divisions. In addition, New York and other markets will receive new investigative and consumer units.

Time Warner is looking to cut down on excess spending and heavily invest in content, which includes its television shows, movies, sports and news that drive revenue. Via New York Times.

The FCC’s new Connect America Fund of up to 4.5 billion will be used to help bring high-speed internet connectivity  to communities with limited connections across the country.

Weekly Media Briefing October 24th-28th

Michael Hurtig | October 24th, 2011

News publications continue to blur the lines between newspapers, web, and television. The Daily Beast is adding ‘Daily Beast TV’, an online talk show, to its output. More at AdWeek.

The Nieman Lab has provided a nice update on the uptick in paywalls and platforms for subscriptions, such as Apple’s ‘newsstand’ in its new operating system. Notably, one startup in Slovakia, Piano Media, already has publishers distributing their subscriptions through a common paywall.

Sitcoms are making a comeback on network television. With viewer numbers down in the 18-49 demographic across all networks except Fox, one area of growth is in comedy programming. Via The Altantic

The American Academy of Pediatrics recently released a statement discouraging young children from using electronic media. Meanwhile, a new study from Common Sense Media reports that between 40-50% of children regularly use new mobile devices such as smart phones, iPads, and iPods. More at Washington Post

What impact are tablets having on news consumption? Some have touted the tablet as a savior of the publishing and newspaper industries, and the Project for Excellence in Journalism’s study of tablet users and their news consumption habits indicates that the written word is very much still popular with news readers, young and old. The in-depth, comprehensive study is available on their site, journalism.org

Weekly Media Briefing October 17th-21st

Michael Hurtig | October 19th, 2011

Can the creators of Skype challenge Netflix’s muscle in the online streaming market? Their attempt at revolutionizing television in 2007 with Joost – a web-based tv platform, failed to take off due to a lack of premium content. Although the market is growing crowded with powerhouses Amazon and Youtube increasing their offerings by the day, Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis seem to be betting that they can offer something new with their service, Vdio, which will launch first in the UK. Stay tuned.

According to Andy Rubin, Google’s Senior Vice President, the internet giant will soon offer access to premium media and music on its Android operating system, in direct competition with Apple.

Weekly Media Briefing October 10th-14th

Michael Hurtig | October 11th, 2011

Experimentation continues with premium video on demand as studios plan to release ‘Tower Heist’ on VOD three weeks after its theatrical release – for 59.99. The hefty price tag for viewing the early release tops recent efforts by operators to shave time off of the post-theatrical window. Earlier this year, studios entered into agreements with cable operators to offer a select number of films on VOD for 30 dollars beginning 60 days after their theatrical run. Whether consumers will be willing to pay such a high price to watch a movie at home is a major test for the film industry, which is setting a new course as the DVD market shrinks and the studio-backed ultra violet digital locker system is rolled out. UPDATE: Universal has canceled its plans for the experimental release, via THR.

Time Warner and Vivendi have placed bids on Polish broadcaster TVN. TVN’s parent company, ITI Group, is seeking the sale of its controlling 56% stake in the broadcaster.

A new report from Digital TV Research indicates that global online tv and video revenues are expected to grow “more than five fold” their current levels by 2016.

The Federal Communications Commission is trying to encourage more Americans to use high speed Internet. In collaboration with various private companies, the FCC plans to offer free computer training to individuals in disadvantaged communities.

Weekly Media Briefing October 2nd-8th

Michael Hurtig | October 3rd, 2011

NPR names Sesame Street Executive as its new Executive, says the New York Times.

Even though the drama of previous months has lessened, Google and the Association of American Publishers are still attempting to reach a settlement, guided by Judge Denny Chin.  Need to brush up on your knowledge of the Google Books settlement?  Here is an excellent piece from the New York Review of Books on what the stakes are.

E.W. Scripps company is expanding with the purchase of nine McGraw Hill TV stations.

Millions of young Russians are choosing the internet over television as a source of entertainment. Overwhelming declines in ratings and advertising revenues are forcing channels to reformat their programs with American dramas and reality shows.

Clear Channel, the country’s biggest radio station operator, has a new CEO. Robert Pittman will lead the company as it continues an effort to give its collection of 850 radio stations a strong presence online and maintain its position in the outdoor advertising market.

The St. Petersburg Times is now offering its political fact checking system, Politifact News Service, to newspaper publishers.

ABC News is partnering up with Yahoo to create an online news-programming model. Content from ABC News will be merged into Yahoo news, the Yahoo homepage, and more. According to Ben Sherwood, president of ABC News, the  new relationship “will give ABC News an unrivaled ability to reach across the Web, combining Yahoo’s vast distribution and cutting-edge technology with our award-winning journalism.” Via Los Angeles Times.

With 17 million visitors last month, Mashable is expanding its scope to include world news, among other new sections.

Youtube has strong original content deals on the horizon with everyone from media majors like News Corp. to celebrities and established executive producers. The Google-owned video streaming site isn’t waiting for the convergence of television sets and internet search to make its mark in entertainment.

Weekly Media Briefing September 26th-30th

Michael Hurtig | September 26th, 2011

Dish’s first big move following its acquisition of Blockbuster in April is the introduction of the Blockbuster Movie Pass, which will be available only to qualifying Dish subscribers. The ‘pass’ resembles Netflix’s previous model – a limited number of streaming titles and a large selection of dvds by mail, but added to that, subscribers opting for the service will also receive a set of movie channels delivered via the Dish Network. Another valuable component which makes this offer competitive with Netflix’s offerings (for those already subscribing or willing to subscribe to the Dish service) is the ability to swap rented dvds in Blockbuster stores or by mail, a holdover from the days of Blockbuster’s dvd-by-mail service.

Over the last ten years, ‘reality tv’ programming has come to dominate tv sets across the country. Nielsen’s latest review of the popularity of different genres in primetime shows that since 2002, reality tv has on average reached over 50% of primetime audiences.

TV is not the sole source for local news, says a new study by Pew, reported by the New York Times.

Amazon continues to grow its library of titles for online streaming, signing a deal to stream many Fox titles.

Twitter is anxious to get involved with TV. And on Sunday, without any involvement by the company, user Ryan Storms prevented the elimination of two contestants on CBS’ primetime show, The Amazing Race.

“Pew survey finds that human interaction trumps all but but TV when it comes to community news,” says Slate.

The Copyright Clearance Center (CCC) gets new leadership.  The CCC has thrived because of the death of the Google books settlement, and the vacuum in digital rights management for book length intellectual work it created.

An SNL Kagan report forecasts that the major 4 US television networks (CBS, NBC, ABC, FOX) will close out 2011 with strong numbers.