Good morning, it's Wednesday, April 13, 2011, and this is your first early morning digital briefing. If you would like to read this or any other Cynopsis edition online, click here.
New York entrepreneur Paul Ceglia, who claims to own some 50% of Facebook, filed an amendment to his lawsuit on Monday with a bigger law firm and a lot more evidence to support his claim. Mr. Ceglia has introduced emails between himself and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in which they discuss terms of a contract entered into by both parties. (Facebook is claiming that the emails are fake, according to a report in Business Insider, which has posted several of the emails.) Meanwhile, a federal appeals court upheld the Winklevoss Twins' $20 million and 1.2 million share settlement after the pair returned to court, arguing they had been deceived about the value of the shares.
HBO's online on demand platform, "HBO Go" and Cinemax's "Max Go" became available to DirecTV subscribers yesterday after beta trials with Comcast Xfinity TV, Verizon FiOS, Cox Advanced TV and AT&T U-Verse. The service currently offers more than 1,400 titles including theatrical movies and entire seasons of past originals. The HBO Go service, available only to paying HBO subscribers, is also launching as an iPad and iPhone app beginning May 2, according to Home Media Magazine.
WalMart's HD video on demand service VUDU has launched a browser-based streaming service at Vudu.com offering instant access to thousands of new releases titles for rent or purchase. (Unfortunately, the movies will only stream in SD quality through a browser, but you can always start a movie on your browser than resume playing on a Vudu-enabled device.) Rental prices range from $3.99 for older titles to $5.99 for more recent movies.
PBS announced it is testing a digital-only Emergency Alert System utilizing video, audio, text, and graphics to deliver alerts to cellphones, tablets, laptops and netbooks, as well as in-car navigation systems. The system, which has received support from the LG Convergence Lab, is built upon the ATSC Mobile Digital TV broadcast standard.
Nearly forgotten social network Bebo, which AOL paid a fortune for before unloading it to private equity firm Criterion, has reemerged with a new look, a reworked Lifestream and a new notification system. The new Feed section on the homepage has been expanded to display "who commented on who" entries from your friends, complete with "Emotion Markers" to label feed items as Cool, Funny, Sorry, or OMG. The redesign was lead by Hi5 co-founder Akash Garg, Xbox co-founder Kevin Bachus and Bebo co-founder Michael Birch, who returned to the Bebo board in Dec. after pocketing $850 million from AOL.
The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Interactive Media Peer Group has announced its April 29th deadline for entries in the 63rd Primetime Emmy Awards competition for Outstanding Creative Achievement in Interactive Media. This will mark the 10th year for the Interactive category, awarded in multiple genres to programs launched between June 1, 2010 and May 31, 2011.
The Clearlake Capital Group has headed up a recapitalization of 3D production technology firm 3ality Digital, acquiring a majority of the newly-issued preferred stock of the company to give it a majority of its voting shares.
Online video analytics specialist TubeMogul has put its expertise to use in launching a demand side ad platform for brand advertisers. Marketers can access a dashboard of real-time metrics including audience demographics, unique viewers, second-by-second engagement, city-level geographics and social network sharing to place orders for ads across a variety of video format (including pre-roll, mobile, in banner and in game video) in real time. The platform, currently being tested by trading desk Varick and brand advertisers such as Harper Collins and Prana, reaches over 90% of the top 100 ComScore sites, according to TubeMogul and integrates with third party targeting and ad serving software.
Video ad management platform FreeWheel announced it has landed News Corp.'s British Sky Broadcasting as a client and that it is opening a new office in London. Sky will use FreeWheel's Monetization Rights Management product to serve video ads across web and mobile services.
TBG Digital has introduced two new Facebook tools for marketers: SmartPages is a multi variant landing page optimization tool allowing marketers to build web pages within the social network and Daily Deals is an app that allows companies to run Groupon-style offers without having to pay a commission to third parties.
Senators John Kerry and John McCain introduced a new online " privacy bill of rights" on Tuesday that would require companies to instruct users when their personal data is being collected and to seek users' permission when sharing that data with third parties. The bipartisan proposal, the first comprehensive privacy law if passed, would be enforced by State Attorneys General and the Federal Trade Commission and allow NGO's to set up voluntary safe harbor programs to encourage companies to work with the government on compliance. Reaction to the bill was mixed - telco Verizon called it a "great start" for users while consumer groups such as the Center for Digital Democracy and Consumer Watchdog complained the bill doesn't go far enough to protect online privacy.
Cisco announced that it is shutting down its Flip video camera unit as part of a larger restructuring plan, a division it acquired two years ago under the Pure Digital Technologies banner for $590 million. The company plans to cut 550 jobs from its workforce and take a pre-tax charge of about US$300 million for the overhaul. (Flip cameras were hot for a while but have become superfluous with the improvement of video cameras on smartphones.)
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski renewed his call for voluntary incentives auctions to free up more broadcast spectrum for wireless companies during his NAB address on Tuesday. He also questioned the wisdom of many broadcasters for not moving more content online.
NAB President and CEO Gordon Smith characterized the industry as being in "full battle mode" in his annual keynote to prevent the government from forcing broadcasters to give up their spectrum. "It concerns us that the FCC could forcibly relocate a broadcaster, crowd channels closer together, reduce their coverage, destroy innovation for viewers, increase interference, or otherwise degrade their signal," said Smith.
Kit digital made yet another purchase, acquiring UK-based cloud-based video delivery company ioko for $79.4 million including performance-based incentives. ioko, whose clients include AT&T's U-verse and the BBC, provides Kit with a IP video platform built to deliver video to over-the-top devices.
Microsoft announced a new partner ecosystem enabling partners the ability to develop industry-specific solutions based on the Windows Azure platform.
The New York Times saw decline in overall visits of between 5% and 15% during the 12 days following the launch of its paywall which limits users to accessing 20 articles/month before having to pay a subscription charge, according to a Experian Hitwise analysis. For all 12 days, there was also a decline in total page views, which ranged between 11% and 30%.
Major label-backed music video site Vevo dropped from second to fifth in ComScore's monthly video view rankings, surpassed by traditional portals AOL, Yahoo and Microsoft during March. A rising tide lifted all boats, however as total viewing session were up from 5 billion to 5.7 billion and ave. video content consumed increased from 13.6 to 14.8 hours/viewer. Hulu continued to dominate in the minutes per viewer metric, with Hulu users watching an average 215 minutes on the site for the month.
Top U.S. Online Video Properties by Video Content Views
Ranked by Unique Video Viewers - March 2011
Property Total UV Viewing Sessions Minutes per Viewer
Total net aud. 174,315 5,726,413 889.1
Google Sites 143,191 1,971,939 275.6
AOL, Inc. 57,006 284,688 39.2
Yahoo! Sites 56,361 267,688 42.1
Microsoft Sites 53,090 331,282 47.2
VEVO 52,585 241,154 79.6
Facebook.com 48,792 185,817 19.2
Viacom Digital 48,696 180,638 73.2
Turner Digital 41,718 154,163 37.5
NBC Universal 31,052 65,973 17.3
Hulu 27,537 143,673 215.5
Source: comScore Video Metrix
Casual game developer iWin and Endemol USA announced a partnership to bring the hit TV game shows Deal or No Deal and 1 vs. 100 to the Facebook platform starting later this spring. iWin will also develop PC versions of both games for release this fall.
Eric Petro, EVP & CFO of iN Demand L.L.C., will add Business Development to his responsibilities, and Mark Boccardi has been upped to SVP/Programming & Business Development, reporting to Mr. Petro. They are both based in the company's New York headquarters.
MaxPoint Interactive has hired Chris Kozloski as VP/Sales; Lynn Vitello as VP/Marketing; Eric Thorne as Director of Sales for MaxPoint's New York office and Mark Ailsworth as Director of Sales for MaxPoint's newly opened Chicago office.
A CYNOPSIS MESSAGE FROM ACADEMY OF TELEVISION ARTS & SCIENCES
Him, Her and Them is a new kind of interactive film produced exclusively for Facebook by NYC studio Murmur. (Like the great R.E.M. album of the same name.) Launched as an app within the social networking platform, "Him, Her and Them" slowly reveals the story of a lovelorn 20-something living in New York then relies on contributions from viewers and friends of viewers to add context and color by posting simple text additions. The interface reveals a segment of the film shot in HD then allows you to scroll through still images that build upon the themes of the central narrative. The whole thing is more of a puzzle than a story, providing a minimal amount of structure but empowering users to fill in the blanks. You can add comments or interpretations to images that contain none, post them to your wall or add friends to a role call at the bottom of the screen to grow the audience. Like anything that relies on user interaction for content, the finished product will depend greatly on the quality of those interactions. Not bad for a first effort - thoughtful, provocative and so much more original than yet another casual game retread.
Later - Wayne
Wayne Karrfalt for Cynopsis: Digital
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