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Bill Baker's Blog

Perspectives on the Media from New York Public Television

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

New York City’s SONiC Festival Brings 21st Century Compositions to Life With Style

Michael Hurtig | November 1st, 2011

New York City’s American Composers Orchestra presented its inaugural Sounds of New Century (SONiC) Festival October 14th- 22nd. The festival included performances of works by over 100 composers age 40 and under at various venues throughout New York City.

Composer Derek Bermel and pianist Stephen Gosling co-curated the 9-day event that began at Zankel Hall with a performance by the ACO featuring five of new pieces under the direction of conductor George Manahan. Throughout the festival, orchestras and ensembles also took up stage space at many different venues all over Manhattan, including the Miller Theater at Columbia University, The Stone, Symphony Space, Roulette and more. In total, 16 extraordinary performances featuring at least 18 world premieres, eight US premieres, and eight New York premieres were showcased.

The American Contemporary Orchestra premiered new compositions at the World Financial Center October 22nd

The SONiC festival concluded on Saturday with a free symphony concert at the World Financial Center in the Winter Garden atrium. Once again, ACO Music Director George Manahn led the orchestra as they premiered a number of new compositions by Ruby Fulton, Paul Yeon Lee, Bryce Dessner, Ryan Gallagher, Andrew Norman and Suzanne Farin. This final performance was hosted by John Schaefer and presented on WNYC’s New Sounds Live.

Q2 Music, New York Public Radio’s Internet radio station will broadcast audience favorites in a special program dedicated to SONiC. Notably, the festival made great use of ipads at performances to collect votes in real-time from audiences, in addition to distributing a smart phone app to audiences for off-site voting.

For further information on the festival,  visit http://sonicfestival.org/

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.

The Creator’s Project

Michael Hurtig | October 31st, 2011

On October 15th, the Creator’s Project came to Brooklyn. The event was an art and technology festival sponsored by Intel and Vice Media which featured musical performances from DJs and indy groups, installations, and film/video screenings. The mission was to bring together art works by young people that use new technology. The atmosphere was buzzing, and the variety of offerings, split across a number of different venues in DUMBO, made exploring the project an adventure. For a clear view of what was on offer over the weekend, take a look at the video above.

Giants of Broadcasting Luncheon 2011

Michael Hurtig | October 26th, 2011

WNET President-Emeritus Bill Baker hosted the 9th annual Giants of Broadcasting ceremony on October 14th. The ceremony paid homage to thirteen “media giants” who transformed the broadcasting industry over a span of seven decades. The luncheon was held at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, where guests wined and dined while enjoying celebratory montages and acceptance speeches.

Honorees included Brian Williams, Christiane Amanpour, Fred Pierce, Charles Kralt, Robert Northshield, Charles Osgood, Rand Morrison, John Dille III, Brian Lamb, Frances Preston, James Arness, Rick Buckley, and Dawson ‘Tack’ Nail.

While most honorees spoke of their past achievements, current ABC international correspondent Christiane Amanpour discussed her hopes for the future of broadcasting. “I do hope in the future that we see many more women on the screen, and that there is a balance between men and women,” she said. “I would like to see the day where women were not judged by the amount of highlights in their hair, not judged by the shortness of their hemlines or deeply plunging cleavages, but [judged] for their professionalism, competence, and the quality of their work.”

The ceremony acknowledged that broadcasting is still relevant. The awards honored media entrepreneurs of the past alongside broadcasting icons of the present. The late James Arness and Dawson ‘Tack’ Nail were commemorated for paving the way for twenty-first century journalism. Meanwhile, CBS anchor Charles Osgood and NBC correspondent Brian Williams continue to make waves in modern day broadcasting.

The ceremony was sponsored by the Library of American Broadcasting, which acts to preserve historical records from past television and radio broadcasts. Their ultimate goal is to “make records available to a wide audience of academia, industry, and the public, while simultaneously keeping a weather eye on the future”. The luncheon is the Library’s biggest fundraising event of the year.

At the Metropolitan Opera, a New Ideology

Michael Hurtig | October 25th, 2011

The New York Times reported earlier in October that the Met has recently seen “a record amount of contributions for the fiscal year that ended in July.” The recent successes of the institution, including its HD broadcasts which reach 1,600 theaters in 54 countries, are in part owing to Gelb’s “‘effort to democratize opera’” as the Met seeks to reach new audiences. Read more at nytimes.com

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.

Women, War and Peace Premieres on PBS; Leymah Gbowee’s Nobel Win

Michael Hurtig | October 11th, 2011

Last night, PBS premiered the first of five-parts of Women, War and Peace, a series in part featuring Liberian peace advocate and women’s rights leader Leymah Gbowee. The series seeks to “challenge the aesthetics of war” by exposing the reality of a woman’s role during warfare. The premiere comes just days after news of Gbowee’s 2011 Nobel Peace Prize win for her nonviolent role in promoting peace, democracy, and gender equality.

At this year’s Celebration of Teaching and Learning, Gbowee talked about her peace efforts with project creator Abigail Disney and educator Colm Macahon. During a panel Gbowee specifically addressed the need to “challenge the media’s image of African women and women in conflicts around the world.”, and to use media to form a bridge from remote communities to the rest of the world, encouraging new ideas, thoughts and perspectives.

Gbowee shares the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize along with other two other women, Liberian President Ellen Sirleaf and Yemen peace-maker Tawakkol Karman. Gbowee told the New York Times that their win is “finally a recognition that we can’t ignore the other half of the world’s population. We cannot ignore their unique skills.”

Watch the full episode. See more Women War and Peace.