A CYNOPSIS MESSAGE FROM WE tv
Good morning, it's Thursday, September 2, 2010, and this is your first early morning digital briefing. If you would like to read this or any other Cynopsis edition online, click here.
Steve Jobs and crew unveiled a number of new devices on Wed., including a sleek new $99 version of the Apple TV set-top (down from $229). The new Apple TV streams content from Netflix, YouTube and Flickr; first-run movies for $4.99; and ABC, ABC Family, Fox, Disney Channel and BBC America TV shows for 99 cents. (A total of 7,000 movies will be available at launch, half in HD and most available the day they're released on DVD.) To make it cheaper, Apple has ditched the hard drive, making it a (48-hour) rental-only machine, and the company is betting that its sleek user interface will help drive widescale adoption. iOS integration and the new "AirPlay" feature will allow users to access titles they rent on their the iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch - begin watching a movie on your TV then watch the rest on your iPhone. Or shoot an HD movie and easily port it over to the Apple TV. It will remain an uphill battle to get TV viewers to buy such a device en masse, but this interoperability could go a long way to convert followers.
Apple also announced a more socially-inclined version of iTunes enhanced with "Ping," a music-themed social network that allows users to post their opinions and share their favorite songs, albums and artists. ("It's Facebook and Twitter meet iTunes," is how Steve Jobs described it.) The Ping interface allows you to follow artists' profile pages containing recent videos, tour dates and music they themselves listen to. A Recent Activity feed shows your network of friends' posts about artists, albums, songs and concerts, with a consolidated Top 10 list of the songs and albums your friends and the artists you follow are downloading. There was no mention about a subscription-based streaming music service, as had been rumored.
Sony, on the other hand, did unveil a cloud-based music and video content service for the European market under its "Qriocity" brand, accessible initially via PlayStation gaming consoles, Bravia-equipped TV and Blu-ray players and other connected devices. Launching this fall in five European countries including France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the U.K., Qriocity will supply HD rentals of movies from 20th Century Fox, Lionsgate, MGM, NBC Universal International Television Distribution, Paramount, Sony, Disney, and Warner Bros. Digital Distribution, as well as content from local European studios.
Evolve Media Corp. unveils a new ad supported site today as a part of its AtomicOnline publishing unit. Momtastic will combine the voice of mommy blogs with premium content covering Parenting, Cooking, Health & Beauty, Home & Living, Entertainment, and Community. Articles will be written by a team of expert moms who specialize in the various topics. Gain and Maytag have signed on as sponsors.
Here's a natural fit: NBC Universal Digital Studio has named ChaCha as the "answers service provider" for its "FCU: Fact Checker's Unit" branded entertainment series. Users can check any fact by texting FCU (space) followed by the fact/question they want to check to 242-242. Users can also opt in to a "FCU: Fact Checker's Unit" VIP mobile list powered by ChaCha to get show reminders, breaking news, etc. by texting FCUVIP to 242-242.
Japanese ad giant Dentsu and digital ad technology vendor OpenX are teaming to create an online ad exchange for the Japanese market. The new platform will allow publishers to maximize ad revenue by selling their inventory in a real-time auction market catalogued on an impression-by-impression basis. The Japanese online ad market was worth an estimated $7.4 billion in 2009, making it the #2 market in the world, and is projected to grow to more than $10 billion by 2014, according to the Nomura Research Institute - a CAGR of more than 42%.
AOL has acquired Santa Cruz-based mobile applications company Rally Up for an undisclosed amount. The company has developed a location-based service, also called Rally Up, that allows you to share content with nearby friends on the iPad. It also as an app called FacePlant for the iPhone 4 currently under review that would allow you to see nearby FaceTime users.
A carriage dispute between Crown Media and AT&T has led U-verse to drop the Hallmark and Hallmark Movie channels from its line up. AT&T U-verse sent out postcards to subscribers late last week after negotiations hit a standstill and viewers responded with a flood of support via Facebook, Twitter, email and phone calls, according to Hallmark.
A judge in the Tribune Co. bankruptcy case appointed a mediator who will assist negotiations with various creditors as the company continues with its Chapter 11 filing.
International broadcast technology company ionoco has been chosen as the technology supplier for three top FremantleMedia North America game shows in the U.S - Family Feud and Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader? and the new format Downfall. The company says it has also completed another five game show pilots shot in the US.
Despite the huge influx of apps, games, movies and TV shows, most iTunes users are still more willing to dip into their wallets for music downloads than any other piece of content, according to the NPD Group study of nearly 3,900 respondents. Yet, the uptick of free app downloads may be distracting users from buying more music as digital music sales have leveled off in the past year. Two out of three iPhone and iPod Touch owners who have downloaded apps report using them regularly. The 69% of iPhone and iPod Touch owners who have not yet paid for an app told NPD they are interested in possibly doing so in the future.
ComScore has acquired Amsterdam-based web and online video analytics firm Nedstat for approximately $36.7 million. The company's clients include the London Stock Exchange, Panasonic, Renault and many European broadcasters including Eurosport, France Televisions, ITV and RTL. Upon the acquisition, Nedstat becomes a wholly-owned subsidiary and will contribute an estimated $4 million in revenue to ComScore through the remainder of 2010.
Apple also unveiled a couple of new music players:
Sony announced it is adding a 6-inch touch-screen and a bigger 2 GB hard drive to its entry level e-Book reader, the Reader Pocket Edition, that will increase its price to $179. The new screen features a low glare, high contrast e-ink display that displays 16 shades of gray. Sony also released a new Reader Touch Edition with expandable memory slots for $229 and said a new Reader Daily Edition, featuring access to AT&T's 3G network, will go on sale in Nov. for $299. The company also updated its Reader Store.
Electronics Arts released its own social football game under the Madden banner. Madden NFL Superstars allows you to construct a team from a roster of 1,500 player cards or purchase upgrades using virtual currency from EA's recently acquired PlayFish, then challenge friends to an automated game.
Technology Research Corp. named Robert D. Woltil as VP/Finance, CFO and Corporate Secretary, effective immediately. Robert had served as TRC's Interim Chief Financial Officer since mid-July.
Semantic Ad Targeting firm Peer39 hired Monika Belur as Marketing Director. Monika most recently served as Marketing Director at quadrantONE, a joint venture of major local publishers.
A Malthusian environmental extremist named James Lee took a group of hostages by force at the Discovery Communications headquarters on Wednesday to protest the fact that the company has not been doing enough to protect the environment. (Overpopulation and Global Warming seemed to be his primary issues and he felt some Discovery Channel shows did not do enough to address these problems.) The gunman was finally shot dead by police later in the afternoon and the all three hostages freed, unharmed. It was the biggest story of the year for the website of Gannett's Washington D.C. CBS affiliate WUSA9.com and the station didn't miss a beat, featuring a live HD feed of its newscast throughout the day with a live chat room widget, allowing users to comment on the footage. (Participation in the chat room peaked at around 1,100 users and held strong for more than an hour.) WUSA 9 has led the D.C. area with many technological firsts, including being the first (and the 6th in the U.S.) to broadcast its news in HD and the first local station to stream the State of the Union address in HD. Too bad there was no ad payoff to speak of for the local site. As local stations become a place to turn to on the web for breaking news stories of national interest, stations are going to have to figure out how to monetize these sudden bursts of traffic. As Gannett continues to search for a head of digital (former Chief Chris Saridakis quit in April,) this challenge will be front of mind.
Later -- Wayne
Wayne Karrfalt for Cynopsis: Digital
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