The U.S. Trade Representative’s annual list of the countries on America’s official piracy radar was released today, with Spain and Malaysia dropping off the roster and Ukraine coming aboard. The highest Priority Watch List includes thirteen countries: Algeria, Argentina, Canada, Chile, China, India, Indonesia, Israel, Pakistan, Russia, Thailand, Ukraine, and Venezuela. The report says online piracy is “rapidly supplanting physical piracy in many markets around the world” and nowhere more so than in China, where 99% of all music downloads are illegal. Streaming sites with pirated content also have become the preferred venues to watch TV shows, movies, and live sports events. “Strong copyright protection and enforcement are vital to our industry’s ability to create U.S. jobs, grow our own economy, and expand U.S. exports,” MPAA chairman Chris Dodd said today in commending the Special 301 report.
As we scooped earlier this month, CBS Corp today announced it has wholly acquired TV Guide Digital, which includes the TVGuide.com and TV Guide Mobile properties. Under terms of the deal, CBS Corp acquired the remaining 50% stake in TV Guide Digital shares from Lionsgate. The two companies continue as 50/50 partners in the TVGN cable network per their March 26 agreement.
TVGuide.com had been valued at about $20 million, and I hear CBS paid a little shy of $10 million for Lionsgate’s half. I hear DirecTV had been in exclusive negotiations to acquire TVGuide.com, but the talks did not result in a deal. CBS then decided to step in and incorporate TVGuide.com and the TV Guide Mobile apps into CBS Interactive’s Technology, Games and Lifestyle group, which operates similarly TV-focused TV.com as well as CNET, GameSpot, Last.fm, MetroLyrics, Metacritic and CHOW brands, among others. “TV Guide is one of the most-enduring and iconic brands in the world of television and video, and we’re proud to welcome TV Guide Digital to the CBS Interactive family,” said Jim Lanzone, President of CBS Interactive. Here are some stats from CBS’ press release:
EXCLUSIVE: Mike Mahan will be leaving his post as President of TV Guide, the company that encompasses the TV Guide Network and TVGuide.com. Mahan will make the transition in the coming month, with Dennis Miller, strategic adviser of TV Guide co-owner Lionsgate Entertainment, stepping in as interim president as the network and the website continue to mull a potential sale. Mahan just made the announcement in an internal email, which you can read below the post.
In one of Mahan’s last major initiatives at the company, he is shepherding a name change of the TV Guide Network to TVGN, which, along with a new logo, will be introduced at the end of March. The new name eliminates the Guide reference in the network’s moniker, underlying its transition from a TV listings utility to a full-screen programming cable network. Other cable networks that have switched to abbreviations as their programming direction had evolved from what their original names stood for include AMC, GSN and TLC.
I hear that several months ago Mahan informed the TV Guide parent companies of his decision to step down from his full-time management position in order to pursue other opportunities. He was offered to stick around in another capacity and will now join the company board. In addition to that, I hear Mahan is eyeing another high-level TV executive position. No one would comment, but a top post at Dick Clark Productions seems logical as it would reunite Mahan with longtime business partner Allen Shapiro, who became chairman of Dick Clark Prods following the company’s recent acquisition by Guggenheim Partners, Mandalay Entertainment and Shapiro’s Mosaic Media Investment Partners.
HBO’s sister channel Cinemax has put in development Kingpin, an hourlong drama from Black List writer Chad St. John (Ronin) and Will Smith and James Lassiter’s Overbrook Entertainment. It is one of two drama projects St. John and Overbrook are collaborating on, along with Watchlist, which recently sold to Fox. Both are executive produced by St. John, his wife Viruna Arend and Lassiter.
Kingpin centers on a crafty and careful mid-level drug trafficker trying to get out of the business. He is blackmailed back into it by a dirty DEA agent — who’s really a dirty CIA agent, because the agency can no longer work with murderous cartels — who plans to make the trafficker a puppet kingpin…a tidbit the trafficker and his partners will wish someone would have told them.
“This is the most comprehensive effort to modernize our copyright laws in over a decade,” James Moore, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages, said about the country’s controversial new Copyright Modernization Act. The new law — also known as Bill C-11 — aligns Canada more closely with the World Intellectual Property Organization. The country’s long reluctance to update its anti-piracy laws made it a regular on the U.S. Trade Representative’s annual Priority Watch List. In February the International Intellectual Property Alliance said that Canada’s effort to combat piracy “falls far short of what should be expected of our neighbor and largest trading partner, with ineffective border controls, insufficient enforcement resources, inadequate enforcement policies, and a seeming inability to impose deterrent penalties on pirates.” Canada’s new law includes a provision that the U.S. strongly supported that makes it illegal for consumers to break so-called digital locks, including copy protection mechanisms on CDs and DVDs. It also increased the penalties for infringment:
BETHPAGE, NY – March 14, 2012 – Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC) today announced the launch of HBO GO® and MAX GO®, expanding to 12 the number of mobile programming services available to iO TV digital cable customers. HBO GO and MAX GO make HBO® and Cinemax® content available on any Internet-connected computer and other portable devices like the iPad® and iPhone® and Android™ smartphones to customers who receive the channels as part of their cable service.
Following Time Warner Cable’s deal for HBO Go on Friday, Cablevision had remained the only major cable operator not to offer the HBO streaming service.
BETHPAGE, NY—December 19, 2011 – Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC) today announced an agreement to offer its iO TV® customers access to HBO’s authenticated online video destinations, HBO GO® and MAX GO®. Cablevision customers who subscribe to HBO and/or Cinemax will have free, unlimited access to the corresponding online services at any time, on any computer in the U.S. with a high?speed Internet connection as well as iPad®, iPhone®, iPod touch® and select AndroidTM devices. The company expects to launch these services in the next few months.
Netflix is eyeing a January 2012 target date for its debut in a country in which illegal downloads outstrip movie ticket sales by 4-to-1. There was no announcement from the streaming and DVD rental giant, but Pedro Perez, president of the local producers association, confirmed that Netflix had contacted various Spanish producers ahead of its launch. Spain is on the International Intellectual Property Alliance’s Watchlist of offenders for piracy with 400 million illegal downloads per year, compared with 100 million tickets sold in the theaters. Several attempts by local producers and distributors to provide legal downloading sites in Spain have struggled so far. Among them, Apple’s iTunes store, which opened in Spain in November, has gotten off to a slow sales start.
Paramount Pictures closed a deal to acquire Wheeler Dealers, a pitch for a drama that will be written by Michael Lerner. It’s based on the true story of a group of Miami twenty-somethings who landed a $300 million Pentagon contract to acquire massive stockpiles of old Chinese ammunition that wound up being sent to supply the Afghan army. The film will be produced by Will Smith and James Lassiter’s Overbrook Entertainment and Brett Ratner’s Rat Entertainment.
The actual Miami gunrunner, Efraim Diveroli, was sentenced to four years in prison. The episode created a scandal on Capitol Hill because the Pentagon contract was awarded to Diveroli’s company despite the face both were reportedly on the State Department’s Arms Trafficking Watchlist. Lerner’s repped by ICM, Anonymous Content and attorney Linda Lichter. Lerner last month sold the spec Game Theory to Summit Entertainment, with Temple Hill, Alex Goldstone and Adam Shulman producing.
According to an announcement by both companies today, Verizon’s FiOS TV will be the first affiliate to offer HBO Go, the premium network’s broadband video portal, with 600 hours of content available to subscribers. See their statement: