Thursday, February 1, 2007

The Museum Closes

British theaters have pulled the plug on "Night At The Museum," in response to Fox's plans to release the DVD just 13 weeks after theatrical release. The accepted theatrical window has been four months. It's the second showdown in two weeks. Last week German theater owners pulled all Fox pictures in response to the studio's plan to move up the DVD release date of Eragon. Fox blinked on that one. It seems that the war over theatrical windows (a battle between platforms) has just begun. In the US directors like Steven Soderbergh have been playing with the concept of simultaneous theatrical and home releases. The theatrical window is bound to close, but the timing is still up in the air.

Web: TV's Minor Leagues?
As reported on Mashable today, the indomitable LisaNova will be making the move to the big time (well, semi-big time) having signed a deal to join the cast of MADtv. LisaNova, aka Lisa Donovan, moved to LA and auditioned unsuccessfully for MADtv the first time around, the traditional way. She made it once her YouTube show took off into the stratosphere. Fred Wilson reports that her YouTube shows sometimes generate more than 1mm viewers, always more than 100,000.

The real question here is whether the web is a farm club for TV or a end in and of itself. I would argue that, at least for now, it's a training ground. MADtv is now a farm club for bigger and better TV shows and films in the same way that the Groundlings as been a feeder for SNL. What's quite cool is the opportunity that forums like YouTube allow for training and truly open auditions.

More Bad News In Timesville
Yesterday the Times reported a $648 million quarterly loss. As reported by the AP...

The New York Times Co. posted a $648 million loss in its latest quarter as it absorbed an $814.4 million charge to write down the value of its struggling New England properties, The Boston Globe and the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.

Interesting, some of the loss is attributed to the economic clime, but a part of it is reported to have been caused by the consolidation of major retail chains, like Macy's and Filene's, the bread and butter of newspaper advertising.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The New TV

I had a great conversation today with Adam Elend and Jeff Marks, the producers of Wallstrip. Wallstrip is an irreverent video series, looking at stocks topping the charts on Wall Street. Elend and Marks are TV pros and the daily videos are slick without being glossy. You know what I mean, they still have that sort of underground edge. Now that they've started and have caught on to the tune of 10,000 viewers per segment, they are being courted by potential partners and advertisers. I should also mention that Howard Lindzon is the third, non-production member of the Wallstrip triumverate. Howard is, however, featured on today's segment.

Wall Street is definitely the right way to go. After porn, gambling, and, maybe, technology, personal finance attracts a huge audience of the right demo of people with money and some tech savvy. Wallstrip definitely does it right by bringing production values to a web video world that has long been dominated (OK, it hasn't been around for too long) by talking heads and dark and gloomy shooting.

Adam and I had a long conversation about how web video is likely to be monetized in the future. We agreed that the winning formula is not to create a tent pole site, but to make your video available to everyone who wants to see it by whatever means possible. They post on YouTube,, iTunes, etc. You can also subscribe or catch it on their own site. I have attempted to do this in media campaigns I've been running. Post it everywhere, and do not assume people will find it and come running to you.

We also discussed the state of web video advertising. Adam feels that pre and post rolls will be of limited utility, and that the winning formula will be to embed and integrate advertising into online content and also to create affiliations with consumer and service brands. This is another example of history repeating itself. Soap operas, variety shows (Hello, Uncle Miltie) and even the news were once presented by and named after single sponsors.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Google's In The Library

Jeffrey Toobin's generally favorable profile of Google Books hits magazine racks in this week's New Yorker. Aside from having been fortunate (?) enough to have visited Google HQ during pajama day, Toobin reports on Google's plans to scan every book ever to have been in print -- by hand no less. They believe it can be accomplished inside of 20 years.

His take on the legal wrangling.... It's all part of a protracted negotiation process. Deep pocketed Google actually wants to strike a deal with publishers and copyright holders. The company's acknowledgment that writers have financial rights will create a precedent, and leave Google the only one in the House with the ability to pay. It's estimated that paying the bill could cost Google $800 million. The bill will be painful but not at all insurmountable for a company with a cap in the billions.

The publishing industry newsletter goes on the defense, taking Toobin to task for offenses large and small....

We're thus supposed to believe that Google would pay more than Microsoft could? That Amazon can't handle this for nearly all books that people want to read now? That the world needs multiple search-engine libraries of every book ever written? And, grim, panicked, slow and desperate that we are, publishers' own extensive efforts to develop digital distribution of their books on their own terms--for indexing by any engine and access through a myriad of sites--doesn't get mentioned all.

My experience, though limited, is that publishers have been slow to adapt to digital technologies, especially on the promotions front. It's been just a couple of years since promotional websites became widespread. And that's about all I've seen thus far.

Ask A Ninja This
It's being reported that the popular video site Ask A Ninja has a deal in place with Federated Media to be paid $300,000 if they keep their numbers up. It's said to be an upfront against expected ad revenues. There's apparently some gold in them there video hills.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Superbowl YouTube Style

For better, worse or somewhere in between, Superbowl Fever is here. The WSJ commented this weekend how the first contest seems to be between fans who are posting videos to YouTube. In the last week alone there have been more than 60 take-offs of the Bear's much remembered "Superbowl Shuffle." Interestingly, the original video circa 1986 was removed at the copyright holder's request. YouTube itself is actually holding a competition for users to submit their own takes on Superbowl commercials.

Sundance Takes to the Web
While we're at it, the WSJ also comments how Sundance has gotten websavvy. Of the 71 shorts at the festival, 44 can be watched for free. 17 can be downloaded via iTunes. This year, the organizers also commissioned several short films exclusively for mobile devices.

Online TV Revenues to Raise the Roof
Call this burying the lead on this blog entry, but it is predicted that online TV revenues will jump by ten-fold in the next ten years. That, ladies and gentlemen, will amount to some $6.3 billion. That forecast is announced in a study released today by British research firm Informa Telecoms and Media.

According to Adam Thomas, Media Research Manager at Informa, "these trends are now so pronounced, that the term 'social revolution' no longer seems too much of an exaggeration. With social change occurring on such a large scale, traditional media companies are being forced to change their behaviour and business models to adapt their offering to consumer demand. The challenge for the TV industry is to monetise this massive interest in online content."

The big risk here for traditional media is that they will blow it, in the same way that the recording industry has never recovered from early missteps in dealing with the Internet and piracy. NBC and CBS and to some extent ABC have all found ways to deal with -- and increase viewership and revenues, potentially -- through digital means. There is a real opportunity for traditional media to use these developments for good, at least their own good.

Broadband penetration is a factor that will make all of this possible. Japan and Korea are expected to lead the way with penetration expected to reach 91% and 81%, respectively by 2012. The UK will be next at 79%. The US at 76%.