Good morning, it's Friday, April 23, 2010, and this is your first early morning digital briefing.
Local phone and internet services provider CenturyTel is acquiring ailing Denver-based telco Qwest Communications in a stock-swap deal worth $10.6 billion. The combined company will become the third largest landline phone company, serving customers in 37 states, including 5 million "broadband" DSL customers, 17 million land lines, 1.4 million video subs and 850,000 wireless customers. Both companies have faced steady declines in their core landline businesses and stiff competition from cable and now 4G service providers that offer superior flexibility and connection speeds.
The NCAA negotiated a new $10.8 billion multiplatform 14-year deal with CBS Sports and Turner Broadcasting System to cover March Madness from 2011 through 2024. If the Division I board approves the contract, the tourney would expand its field to 68 teams (instead of the 96-team model that had been considered.) Under the new deal, CBS will share broadcast rights with TBS, TNT and truTV. CBS will have the regional finals, Final Four and Championship game through 2015 then alternate with Turner in following years. CBSSports.com retained the right to stream the games from NCAA.com and CBSSports.com but Turner has also secured digital rights to feature NCAA content on multiple Turner and Time Warner platforms.
Hulu may test a $9.95/month subscription service as early as May 24, per the LA Times. The free ad-supported version of Hulu would continue to offer the 5 most recent episodes of ABC, NBC and Fox shows but the premium version, dubbed Hulu Plus, would offer a deeper archive of past episodes.
Sony struck a deal with MLB Advanced Media to offer out-of-market MLB.TV games on the PS3 in HD, at the cost of $25/month or $120/year. Sony estimates that some 9 million of the 12 million PS3 consoles in the U.S. are connected to the internet. The MLB streaming games package is also available via computers, Roku set-top boxes, Boxee-compatible devices and mobile platforms including the iPhone and iPad.
Conde Nast's Bon Appetit Magazine completed an integration with location-based social network Foursquare to provide users with curated epicurean and travel destinations handpicked by Bon Appetit editors. The Best of Food & Travel City Guides will allow users to "check in" to a Bon Appetit-selected location via the mobile or online service, where they can read tips and recommendations from Bon Appetit editors. An original monthly feature at Bonappetit.com will highlight favorite menu selections by Foursquare Mayors of spots featured in the "Hot 10" restaurant column in Bon Appetit magazine.
"Food Mob" is a new interactive cooking show from Revision3 built around audience interaction. Host Chef Niall Harbison will field questions from viewers via Twitter, Flickr, YouTube and other social media channels.
France-based Publicis Groupe reported a 3% organic growth in revenue during Q1 reaching 1.16 billion EUR. Digital activities grew by more than 15% and now account for 27% of Publicis' revenue. In fact, The combination revenue of digital and the emerging economies accounted for 47.1% of the Groupe's consolidated revenue in the first quarter. Organic revenue growth figures exclude recently acquired digital agency Razorfish, which posted growth of 8.6% in Q1.
Current TV is featuring a series of ads showcasing Frito-Lay's SunChips snacks on its user generated "VCAM" ("Viewer Created Ad Message) platform. Viewers are asked to create videos that encourage positive change and contain the new compostable Sun Chips bag. The current featured ad, "Little Steps" was hand selected by Current TV Chairman Al Gore to air in a number of prime time spots during the month.
Microsoft reported a 35% jump in net income to $4.01 billion for the quarter ending March 31, pointing to the release of Windows 7 and positive results from search, gaming and online software.
As part of its National Broadband Plan, the FCC voted Wednesday on a number of initiatives related to fostering competition among pay television and internet service providers:
Speaking of terrorism, South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker posted a statement on SouthParkStudios.com yesterday alerting viewers that Comedy Central was responsible for the censorship of Wed. night's episode. The episode, a follow up on last week's 200th episode that depicted the Prophet Muhammad as a man in a bear costume, was bleeped considerably. Matt and Trey received a threat from a radical Islamic website after episode #200, warning that they may end up like Dutch Filmmaker Theo Van Gogh, who was murdered by fanatics for depicting a Muhammad on his show.
Local TV station group LIN TV reported Q1 earnings of $91.8 million, an increase of 23% from the previous year. Political revenues jumped by $2.9 million to $3.4 million while digital revenues, including internet advertising revenues and retransmission consent fees, increased by 47% to $13.2 million. LIN TV said that Ave. time spent on its sites was 20:21 seconds for the first quarter, and that 81% of the company's station web sites ranked number one in their local market for time spent on site compared to their broadcast media competitors.
Content Delivery Network Akamai announced the results of a green initiative for Earth Day, involving improving the efficiency of its 61,000 server-network by upgrading technology, implementing virtualization and reducing waste. The company claims that new energy efficiency efforts have yielded a 32% reduction from its carbon output in 2009 over the previous year.
Investors continue to grumble that Apple is hording too much cash on its balance sheet; this week's revenue report listed nearly $42 billion in cash and investments. CEO Steve Jobs has defended the practice saying that it was best to keep cash on hand for "bold" moves including acquisitions. Mobile phone processor specialist ARM Holdings has been named as a possible target, according to a report in London's Evening Standard.
Seattle-based Widevine announced the availability of its expanded video optimization and DRM platform for Over-the-Top and TV Everywhere solutions, currently used by clients such as Netflix, Best Buy, Blockbuster and Roxio - Cinema Now for video streaming services to a plethora of devices. New features include support of live HTTP streaming, adaptive streaming, trick play and chaptering and multiplatform DRM.
Amazon announced that the Kindle will become available at select Target stores beginning on Sunday, the first brink-and-mortar outlet to carry the popular $259 e-reader. The company reported earnings of $299 million for Q1 yesterday on revenues of $7.13 billion, up 46% from a year ago.
A new carpooling iPhone app called Avego from Mapflow maintains a ridesharing network of users and utilizes the phone's GPS capabilities to alert drivers of nearby folks who need a lift in the direction they are going. The driver receives a cash award of $1 plus 20 cents/mile, with fees maxing out at $10 per ride or so.
Developer Ludia announced that it sold its one millionth "Where's Waldo?" iPhone/iPod Touch app. The game, launched in Dec. 2009, reached the #1 game in nine different iTunes stores including the US, Canada, UK, Argentina, Mexico, Chile, Australia, Japan and France.
NCTA announced it is launching a BlackBerry and iPhone app to help Cable Show attendees navigate the show, featuring detailed exhibitor info,. session schedules, etc. The show is being held at the LA Convention Center May 11-13 this year.
NBC Local Media upped Gregory Gittrich to VP/Digital Media - Editor in Chief, and Lora Le Sage to VP/Digital Media - Operations. Greg will oversee the 10 NBC "Locals Only" City sites, the company's new "Feast" products and franchises, as well as user acquisition and retention across web and mobile platforms. Lora will oversee product development, advertising sales, business operations and finance. Both will report to Greg Scholl, President, Local Media Platforms.
Matt Stefl has been named SVP, Director of Planning of the Dailey ad agency, reporting to CEO Bruce Miller. Matt will lead the agency's communications planning practice and will be based in Los Angeles.
Amy Tunick has been appointed President of Alliance, the entertainment and lifestyle marketing agency of Grey Group, based in New York. Amy succeeds John Eckel, who has left the agency.
Michael Benedek has been promoted to the role of President for AlmondNet's online data division. He was formerly Vice President, Business Development for the data aggregation company.
A new web shortcut tool dubbed Springo has launched into beta, designed to aid search by listing prominent publisher sites visually in vertical categories including news, music, video, online games, shopping, maps and movies. The Springo search system utilizes user feedback to prioritize searches. The "Springo Express" tool is a browser add-on that connects you to suggested websites by typing in what you're looking for directly into the URL bar. Use it on a search engine like Google and the recommended results come up in visual display on the left side of your screen. Following a trend pioneered by Microsoft's new Bing search engine, Springo sports a nice looking interface and its button-style palette has also been optimized for many of the popular touch screen phones on the market, including iPhones and Android handsets. Pull down menus help filter categories; in the video navigation trail you can expand the filter to look at Mass Media, Music, Visual Arts, Celebrities, Literature, Cinema, Acting and Modeling or Entertainment. (Why Weather.com comes up as the #2 Entertainment video channel with Hulu relegated to #10, I'm not sure.) But the tool certainly completes some of the legwork for your when conducting popular searches; it's much easier to find what you're looking for by viewing 12 visual buttons at a time.
A CYNOPSIS MESSAGE FROM ROVI
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Later - Wayne
Wayne Karrfalt for Cynopsis: Digital
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