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NYT on Programming Large and Small October 30, 2005

Posted by David Card in Media.
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Pretty thoughtful piece in the Sunday Times on programming for big and small screens. It raises a lot of interesting questions:
– Will programming polarize?
– Where will TV “intimacy” migrate?
– Is communal viewing about to make a comeback?

    But on a small set, you loom over the inch-tall figures, cupping them in your hands, and your fingers never leave the buttons that control them. As new as the sensation is, there’s something familiarly televisionlike about it, and then you realize: what you’re doing, in effect, is watching a remote control.

What if Playstation Mis-Fires? October 27, 2005

Posted by David Card in Media.
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Another grim quarter for Sony. Has anybody written the story on what happens to Sony’s strategy if it doesn’t come out Number One in games again this generation? According to Sony’s annual reports, for the past three years, the Playstation group has accounted for 10% to 13% of Sony’s revenues, and 38% to 69% of its operating income.

The Music Phone Dilemma October 26, 2005

Posted by David Card in Digital Home & Personal Tech.
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If anyone’s still puzzling over why Jupiter remains lukewarm on music phones, Wired has a really solid story detailing the supply-side challenges. Carriers, handsets, labels, and Apple. Goodness knows, I usually try to defend the music industry, but this quote is almost incredible:

    And now that file-sharing appears to be leveling off, the music labels have been chafing at Apple’s 99-cent US price cap anyway. For mobile downloads, they figure, the ability to make an impulse purchase should command a real premium. “The price associated with iTunes’ launch was really about establishing some traction with consumers where there had been complete failure to show that people would pay any price,” says Michael Nash, a digital strategy executive at Warner Music. “Where you don’t have that artificial price depression, people are willing to pay more to get what they want, when they want.”

“Artificial price depression”!?! Hey, I’m a believer in price discrimination — for early access, for big stars, maybe — but come on, the labels and publishers are keeping 65 cents of the 99 already…darn good margins. Consumers have been telling us consistently during three years’ worth of surveys that 99 cents is the sweet spot.

All Your Base Are Belong to Google? October 26, 2005

Posted by David Card in Media.
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Credit where it’s due: I think rival analyst Charlene Li is closer to the mark than most. If Google Base amounts to anything, it’s about way more than classifieds. Google wants to be a repository for all your information…

Viacom Should Have Another Online Hit October 25, 2005

Posted by David Card in Media.
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Comedy Central’s Motherload should be highly successful; better even than MTV Overdrive or TurboNick. Bits from Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show? Home run. Viral, short, lunch-at-work-perfect. Clearly, MTV Networks gets it:

    “This is supposed to be a complementary experience,” said Jason Hirschhorn, senior vp of digital media for MTV Networks. That is unlikely to change in the near future, “until broadband truly moves into the living room. VOD snacking of three to five minute clips is really where the audience is right now.”

Well, most of the time:

    Initially, Motherload’s Original’s channels will feature six series, including “I Love the Thirties,” which serves as a spoof of VH1’s ubiquitous “I Love the 80s” series- taking mock nostalgic look at events like the Great Depression and The Lindbergh Baby Kidnapping.


Can Wal-Mart Alone Stop Single-Window Movie Releases? October 25, 2005

Posted by David Card in Media.
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Edward Jay Epstein is making a living at Slate essentially re-printing his book on the movie industry chapter by chapter, with newsworthy updates. (Don’t get me wrong; I liked the book.) This week he’s quite provocative on the familiar “Mark Cuban wants to break down release windows” story. Epstein says the only thing holding studios back is Wal-mart.

    Wal-Mart executives told Viacom’s home entertainment division in no uncertain terms that if any studio does away with the 45-day video window for a single title, they would risk losing access to Wal-Mart’s shelf space for all of its titles. Wal-Mart provided studios with more than one-third of their U.S. DVD revenue in 2004. In the face of Wal-Mart’s retail power, the studios have not dared (yet) to do away with the protective video window.

Why Should You Pay to Read This? October 24, 2005

Posted by David Card in Media.
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I can’t for the life of me figure out “Why You Should Pay to Read This” by David Carr. He mumbles a bit about “symbolic value” and paper costs. And ring tones (new forecast coming soon). But heck, see if you think he makes the case.

Ironically — or not — the Times ran the column outside its pay-only wall.

Yeah, It Was a Fad October 24, 2005

Posted by David Card in Media.
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In case anyone was still wondering, poker on TeeVee is just about done. The Times might have missed that in its darts on TV story.

    Travel Channel’s “World Poker Tour” was down 17 percent in total viewers watching first-run episodes during its 2005 season, compared with 2004, according to Nielsen Media Research. ESPN’s “World Series of Poker” is down 14 percent season to date. CNBC’s “Heads Up Poker” tournament is down 18 percent. And among the three iterations of GSN’s own “Poker Royale” series, most are similarly down.

    And those are the success stories.

    The syndicated effort “Ultimate Poker Challenge” is struggling, having been relegated to early-morning slots in major markets. E! debuted “Hollywood Poker Night” this summer but has not renewed the program. CMT’s “Dead Man’s Hand,” like several announced poker projects, died in development.

Yahoo 3Q05 Earnings Call Highlights October 21, 2005

Posted by David Card in Media.
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Sorry for the late posting. We’ve been doing planning all week, which means hourly meetings. Anyhow, Yahoo’s revenues from marketing services (ads and search), minus fees paid to partners (ex-TAC) were up 6% sequentially and 40% year over year to $762 million. Fees (consumer and small business) were up 7% from Q2 and 42% year to year, to $170 million. Yahoo again slightly raised overall 2005 guidance. It continutes to outgrow the industry, if not Google. Some industry- rather than finance-related tidbits from the earnings call (Yahoo is giving fewer and fewer details these days):

– Gross revenues up 6% sequentially and 46% year over year to $1.16 billion.
– Top 200 advertisers spent at an over 90% renewal rate, and spending among them grew faster than Yahoo’s overall marketing growth rate. Claims these big advertisers are spending on search as well as display, and using targeting, rich media, and network-wide packages. Said 50 of the top 200 were also in their top 200 in search.
– Said streaming video ads almost doubled, “much of it driven by CPGs”
– Called out targeting in particular, and noted that better targeting was allowing more efficiency for otherwise contextual-only campaigns (a practice we’ve seen elsewhere as well), and freeing up inventory. Said more than once that inventory shortage is not, and would not be a growth inhibitor.
– Overture and Yahoo sales forces now under same management.
– Search revenues from MSN are declining as the deal winds down. Yahoo estimates MSN ex-TAC revenues will be $70-75 million total in 05, $20-25 million in 1H06, then zero.
– Again this quarter, as in Q2, a questioner estimated that display ad sales grew 10% sequentially, i.e., higher than search. This time, however, mgmt challenged the questioner’s math. However, Yahoo also said it had double-digit growth in display dollars per page view, which it attributed both to more impressions and to higher CPM. Display is traditionally slow in Q3. Yeah, I’m lost, too.
– Key paid search initiatives: Publisher Network (i.e., keyword contextual) launched in beta in August will go wide beta in Q1; new, better matching capabilities (to raise coverage); and new optimization analysis tools for advertisers (to raise revenue per search and click-through)

Paid Content and Services

– 191 million active registered users, up 6% sequentially and 22% year over year
– 11.4 million paid relationships, up 13% sequentially from 10.1 million, and up 50% year to year. A second big sequential growth quarter in a row. (1.2 million added in Q2, 1.3 million in Q3), but no real signs the growth is from the new Music service. Fantasy football is huge in Q3, and broadband access bundles are going strong.
– Biggest categories: access bundles, fantasy sports, music, small business. It’s possible that this stated order implies Music is bigger than Personals, I suppose.
– Yahoo also gave some numbers that seem to say acquired business sales were $25 million, with Musicmatch the bulk of that. That seems high to me. (Market leader RealNetworks did $24 million in music last quarter.) Possibly Yahoo is counting all all music subs in there, but even then…
– Yahoo said it was pleased with the launch of Music Unlimited. I’ve heard some contradictory scuttlebutt, and not seen nearly the amount of advertising — outside of Yahoo’s own network — I expected. (Though sales & mktg spending was up $20 million sequentially compared with being flat between 2Q04 and 3Q04.) I’m a little worried our music subscription spending forecast for 2005 — $250 million total in the US — might be a shade high.
– Adding the Bell South bundling deal (to SBC & Verizon) will give Yahoo a broadband footprint it estimates equal to 92% of US.

Gosh, the Google Press Backlash Sure Didn’t Last Long October 20, 2005

Posted by David Card in Media.
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This kind of love-hype is simply absurd. “Targeted” 10-word text ads on teevee must be keeping Les Moonves up at night.

    (CEO Eric) Schmidt said the company also was mulling how it might extend its ad brokering system to television. “It’s certainly on the list” of projects Google is considering, he said in an interview.
    …”Putting Google ads on TV is a tremendous undertaking,” he added, saying he wouldn’t speculate further on such an initiative. Such a move by Google, whose success has already instilled panic in some media companies seeing their ad revenue shrink, could incite similar fears in the TV industry.