Apple made a major improvement to its digital music service today as it introduced iTunes Match. For $24.99 a year, iTunes will scan a user’s mobile gadget or hard drive, identify its recordings — including those copied from a CD — and then make them available on iCloud for streaming to any Web-enabled device running iTunes software. The company says iTunes already has 20M songs, and will upload “only what it can’t match.”
The announcement precedes Google’s expected unveiling tomorrow of its own music store. It will enable buyers to download tunes, and stream them from remote servers. The company also has been lobbying record companies to make it possible for members of the Google+ social network to share tunes with their online friends. EMI has agreed to offer songs from its catalog on the music store, and Vivendi’s Universal Music “may be signed as early as tomorrow,” Bloomberg reports. The other two majors, Sony and Warner Music, are holding back until pricing and privacy concerns are resolved.
Neither the TV networks nor consumers are likely to complain after Apple today dropped the option of renting network TV show episodes. Apple had to fight hard to get the networks on board with the concept last year, but consumers proved cool to the 99-cent rentals. Apple has recently given customers the ability to watch shows they purchased via iTunes any time they want, on any Apple device, by streaming it from its “iTunes in the Cloud” service. “iTunes customers have shown they overwhelmingly prefer buying TV shows,” said Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr. Fox agreed that single-episode rentals were a non-starter in its own statement: ”After carefully considering the results of the rental trial, it became clear that content ownership is a more attractive long-term value proposition both for iTunes customers and for our business. To further enhance the value of ownership, we are working with Apple to make content available within their new cloud-based service.”
Walmart is about to fire a warning shot at Apple’s iTunes: The retail colossus will introduce on Wednesday a way for iPad users to access VUDU’s Web site to buy or rent videos and view them on the tablet. ”We’re committed to offering the VUDU experience on as many devices as possible so customers can shop for and access their favorite movies and TV shows however they want, whenever they want,” says VUDU general manager Edward Lichty. Walmart has a mixed track record in video. Although it’s the leading seller of DVDs, the retail chain failed in an effort to create a Netflix-like mail rental service. It also stumbled in its partnership with Hewlett Packard to offer movie downloads. Walmart bought VUDU in 2010 and has slowly been building it into a service that’s too powerful to ignore. The retailer says that VUDU is available on more than 300 electronics devices including the PlayStation 3, making it the most widely accessible broadband pay-per-view service. Its library includes more than 20,000 movies and TV shows and can be streamed at full 1080p high-definition video quality with Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 surround sound.
Filmmakers at the Sundance Film Festival who don’t land a distribution deal don’t have to leave empty-handed: The Sundance Institute unveiled today an Artist Services program that will enable directors to show their movies on iTunes, Amazon, Hulu, Netflix, SundanceNOW and YouTube. They can charge viewers if they want, and don’t have to sacrifice their ownership rights. The Institute will help with marketing and promotion, and has a new deal with Topspin Media to provide direct marketing tools and retail fulfillment services. The program kicks off with two films from the 2011 festival: the documentary Connected: An Autoblogography about Love, Death & Technology directed by Tiffany Shlain, and a narrative film On the Ice directed by Andrew Okpeaha MacLean. Sundance says that filmmakers of Jess + Moss, Lord Byron, New Low, Obselidia, The Oregonian, Space Tourists, and The Woods plan to take advantage of the initiative. Read More »
UPDATE: Paramount press release for The Fighter on iTunes below. Right below is Focus’ release, issued after Deadline broke the story.
EXCLUSIVE: I’m hearing that Focus Features has made a deal with iTunes that will allow SAG members to view its awards season candidate, The Kids Are All Right through a multitude of viewing devices. This follows last week’s announcement by Fox Searchlight of its accommodation with iTunes so that SAG members could watch 127 Hours, Black Swan and Conviction. Other studios are expected to follow suit quickly, because the acting races are so tight this year and because, unlike the AMPAS voting, SAG polls are open for two more weeks. Focus Features is making the service available today because we’re heading into a four-day weekend with MLK Day, and the Golden Globes. The Kids Are All Right is a triple SAG Award nominee, for Ensemble Cast, Annette Bening for Actress, and Mark Ruffalo for Supporting Actor.
Will the move toward iTunes make DVD screeners obsolete? I’m told the jury’s out. The process allows voters to view films on devices, which adds a convenience factor, and there are safeguards. Viewers get 24 hours to finish watching a film before it goes dead. The system could certainly work for AMPAS members, though it might be more of a challenge to get an older membership to embrace it, as well as Writers Guild and Producers Guild membership. The Directors Guild doesn’t is the sole body that still tries to make voting … Read More »
Time Warner’s chairman and CEO says he asks what TV aggregators can do for his channels rather than the other way round. “New entrants such as Google , Amazon and Apple must support or improve programming going into the marketplace,” said Bewkes, speaking at the Royal Television Society conference in London this afternoon. For example, Time Warner keeps full-length shows off YouTube. The Time Warner boss predicted a shake-out among internet companies. Whatever was new on the internet, whether it’s a Google search engine or Facebook social media, tends to be winner takes all, he said.
Bewkes argued that with TV shows such as Boardwalk Empire, which will come to UK Sky next year, TV is having its 2nd golden age. Partly this is because TV has kept pace with technology, from digital to HD to 3D. “We’re in the midst of a TV renaissance,” Bewkes tub-thumped. Bewkes singled out UK-originated shows such as Shameless, The Office, American Idol and X Factor as examples of quality TV. “The cultural impact of TV is now greater than movies. TV has become the most innovative medium in pop culture today. And it comes from increasing quality. Television is very healthy right now; TV is the only medium which has increased its audience apart from the internet.”
Given that 80% of Time Warner revenue comes from TV, Bewkes said he’d restructured the media giant as mainly a video programming business. “AOL was meant … Read More »
Forty two online movie stores went out of business last year, according to research firm Screen Digest. Online movie stores that have disappeared over the past few years include Movielink, Lycos, Guba, AOL and BitTorrent. So much for that online movie pot of gold waiting at the end of the rainbow. Here in the UK, iTunes commands a 60% share of the digital movie market. Microsoft, which has been selling movies through Xbox Live since December 2007, is in second place. Apple has an even larger 85% share of the download-to-own TV show market. Xbox is not selling TV through its games console over here yet.
The consultancy estimates that the UK internet-delivered movie market was worth almost £16 million ($21 million) last year — less than 1% of the DVD market. And 63% of that came from download-to-own rather than video streaming. Screen Digest presented its findings this week to industry lobbyist Bsac. The analyst recently slashed its global digital film revenue estimate by one third to $943 million.
From Deadline|London editor Tim Adler: That was the message at today’s confab in London organized by industry think-tank the British Screen Advisory Council. Claire Enders, managing director of Enders Analysis, said that Enders pointed out that whatever technological panic there’s been over the past 20 years, the same five Hollywood studios are still at the top of the heap. Technology is “lifting studios to a brighter and brighter future. If you’re a studio then you’re in luck. It’s just bad luck for everybody else”.
She also poured cold water on long-tail theory. This is the idea that people would be buying older, more obscure movies or books because of infinite digital shelf space. Instead, said Enders, all we’ve seen is the blockbuster gobbling up even more dollars. The way that search engine algorithms work just creates more demand for bigger hits. Although iTunes has 13 million tracks listed, Enders pointed out, 10 million of those have never made a sale. “The long tail is rubbish,” she concluded.
Will his absence until the end of June because of his health issues affect Disney’s and Apple’s close relationship not to mention the future of iTunes? Hollywood is pondering that right now. I have to say yes. He is the embodiment of creativity when it comes to delivery so the content companies have to be weighing their options anew. Just look at the dismal state of Sony when a once out-of-the-box thinking corporation stops setting the standard and falls behind its competitors.
It takes a short guy to admit a big mistake. Or a big ego to declare a small victory. But the fact is that Jeff Zucker went off on Steve Jobs and severed NBC Universal’s relationship with iTunes a year ago. NBC Universal had been iTunes’s No. 1 seller even if Zucker boasted back then that NBC wasn’t getting all that much dough from the deal. But Zucker’s backing out of renewing its contract with Apple over disputes on pricing, bundling content together, and more restrictive DRM was still a pinhead move. Not only did NBC execs admit that The Office got a big awareness boost when because of iTunes, but they missed not having iTunes as another marketing platform to promote the 2007-2008 fall season which ended up dying. And then Zucker added insult to injury by claiming Apple and iTunes had “destroyed the music business” in terms of pricing and that video was next unless “we take control”. Back in January, there were hints of a rapprochement after Universal inked a movie rental deal with iTunes and Zucker did a 180. “We’ve said all along that we admire Apple, that we want to be in business with Apple,” Zucker told the press. “We’re great fans of Steve Jobs.” Jobs praised NBC Uni, too. Now all is forgiven and NBC is back on iTunes with its lineup of TV shows. Jobs announced today that The Office, Heroes, Monk, Battlestar Galactica, 30 Rock, etc. will all be sold. HD versions will run $2.99 while SD versions … Read More »
I’m told that Oprah is talking to MTV Networks chairman/CEO Judy McGrath about running Winfrey’s new cable network for “empowerment programming” — the latest pop culture-speak for self-help guidance. Called OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network), it launches in 2010. Judy has been at MTV 27 years. Maybe it is time for a change. Then again, no one moves from aop a $7 billion-a-year media powerhouse to an entertainment start-up without a big equity position.
Apple this week has apologized to its iTunes Store Season Pass purchasers whose series subscriptions were affected by the recent WGA strike and offered them download credits. Now, if only the studio and network CEOs would apologize to TV fans for unnecessarily prolonging the labor action by not getting involved in the negotiations sooner. Here’s the e-mail:
“As you may have heard, the Writers Guild of America, the union representing TV and movie writers, has settled its strike and its members have returned to work. Because of the strike your season pass … may have fewer episodes than were scheduled by the network at the time of your purchase.
“We will make all additional episodes which are broadcast during the 2007-08 season available to you as we receive them. If the season does end up with fewer episodes, you will receive a partial refund to make up for the difference.
“For now, I have granted … free video credits to your account which you can use to purchase any TV episodes, music videos, or short films on the iTunes Store… I apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused and thank you for being an iTunes customer.”
Bob Wright seemed to say today that Wal-Mart’s just launched movie download service is bigger than Zucker’s upping. Wright’s right. Wal-Mart will sell digital versions of about 3,000 films and TV episodes from all the major studios and some TV networks. This will put Wal-Mart in direct competition with iTunes. Studios first resisted deals with iTunes cuz of Apple’s desire to sell movies at one price. Studios prefer variable pricing which is what Wal-Mart is offering. Apple’s pricing has also caused scuffles between studios and Wal-Mart which doesn’t want digital copies of films sold cheaper than the wholesale price of physical DVDs. But Wal-Mart has alarming market clout: it accounts for about 40% of DVD sales, and the studios don’t want to piss off their largest customer. As for you consumers out there, remember this: Buying Wal-mart means you’re also buying into all that company’s lousy business practices in terms of discrimination, labor relations, political influence, environment, community impact, corporate culture, supplier relationships, and health care.
Jeez, I’ve never seen Hollywood so orgasmic as today’s simultaneous climaxing in Beverly Hills, Burbank and Century City offices over the sexy new iPhone. (Quick, buy stock in Kleenex.) Now, all Steve Jobs needs to do is make a very limited edition line so the celebs can come in their Oscar swag bags. That said, what does Jobs’ techno toy mean for the entertainment industry? You feel the horniness in your gut: this is finally the Perfect 10 of New Media too cool for the room platforms that the public has been aching for. This is the call girl that does everything you want: movies, TV, email, tunes, contacts, the works. This will make you crazed enough to switch to AT&T’s Cingular even if the service sucks, just so you can run your fingers up and down that sleek oxymoronic 3.5-inch widescreen display. And, therefore, this is finally what Hollywood can start to monetize if they jump on its bones early enough, the way Bob Iger and Brad Grey have done. Every other major studio: what in the world are you waiting for? The problem right now, to use the VCR analogy, is that this is VHS and everything else is just Beta. The money is there for the taking at a time when the DVD market has fizzled since iTunes is now the … Read More »
Disney’s Bob Iger took the stage at Apple’s “It’s Showtime” special media event in San Francisco today as Steve Jobs unveiled a new version of the iTunes store selling downloads of movies and videogames. The dog-and-pony show also debuted a revamped Ipod lineup including a specially adapted-for-movies 5th generation iPod with 80G storage, 3.5 hours of video playback, a bigger and 60% brighter screen, gapless playback and new earphones, for $349. And already the reviews are in: thumbs down! As expected, the iTunes store will initially offer only films from Walt Disney Co. (which owns Jobs’ Pixar). Today, films from Disney, Pixar, Touchstone, Miramax — over 75 movies — become available. They are near DVD quality: 640 x 480 resolution. New movie releases will cost $14.99 apiece, preorders $12.99, and older titles $9.99. Buyers will be able to watch the movie as it downloads as well as download multiple movies at once. It’ll be in Dolby surround audio. Apple also will release a compact wireless box for the TV called iTV that allows consumers to watch movies purchased online, as well as other digital content stored on a computer, on a connected television set. Half the size of the Mac mini, it works with Apple Remote. It will sell for $299 and be available early next year. Also, there’s a new matchbook-sized iPod shuffle and a 2nd generation ipod Nano. Look, if you’re like me, then we’ve been waiting for a really cool Movie iPod whose screen will be at least the length and width of the device itself with the controls on … Read More »