Nine digital media companies have joined forces to create the Global Online Video Association, the first-ever org designed to represent and promote the growing digital content industry. Multi-channel networks Big Frame, BroadbandTV, Collective Digital Studios, DECA, Discovery Digital Networks/Revision3, Fullscreen, Maker …
In this week’s podcast, Deadline’s executive editor David Lieberman and host David Bloom look at CBS’ new Thursday night football deal with the NFL; Twitter’s complexity issue with newbies, and Disney’s red-hot quarter fueled by Thor and new franchise Frozen. They’ll also take a gander at those newly available HBO financial details and how they stack up against Netflix, even as Time Inc. braces for layoffs after its imminent spinoff; and question whether Microsoft’s new boss will be much different from the old boss, particularly with the company’s first boss as his new technology adviser.
After a search process that seemed as drawn out as a season of American Idol, Microsoft decided to stick with an insider to replace Steve Ballmer in the software company’s top job. A 22-year veteran of the company, Satya Nadella was EVP of the Cloud and Enterprise group, and formerly oversaw the Bing search service. Microsoft also says that Bill Gates will become more active in a new role on the board as Founder and Technology Advisor, where he’ll help Nadella “in shaping technology and product direction.” An independent director, John Thompson, will replace Gates as board chairman.
The execs have their work cut out for them: Over the last five years Microsoft shares have lagged rivals led by Apple and Google as the company’s Windows-based products struggled to find a foothold in the world of smartphones and tablets. “The opportunity ahead for Microsoft is vast, but to seize it, we must focus clearly, move faster and continue to transform,” Nadella says. “A big part of my job is to accelerate our ability to bring innovative products to our customers more quickly.” Gates says that Nadella is the right pick because he’s “a proven leader with hard-core engineering skills, business vision and the ability to bring people together. His vision for how technology will be used and experienced around the world is exactly what Microsoft needs as the company enters its next chapter of expanded product innovation and growth.” Here’s the company’s release:
In this week’s podcast, Deadline’s executive editor David Lieberman and host David Bloom preview the upcoming Consumer Electronics Show, which David L. will be covering in Las Vegas.
Among the big trends the Davids say we can expect from the mammoth show: big, big TVs showing ultra-high-definition “4K” images; new technology from Google to help transmit that high-bandwidth video to screens of all sizes; and what this all will mean for cable TV companies, telcos, satellite TV providers, theatrical exhibition and Hollywood itself.
They also look at other likely areas of focus at the show, and preview appearances by the CEOs of Sony, Yahoo! and Twitter, and possibly even a new CEO for Microsoft, which is back on the show floor after last year’s surprising absence.
Deadline’s financial editor talks with host David Bloom about Sony’s big investor meeting this week and the changes and cuts it’s promising to make to enhance the health of its “vital” entertainment unit; the race between Sony and Microsoft as each finally launches long-awaited next-generation videogame consoles; more big cuts at the long-suffering Tribune Co.’s newspapers; and John Malone and Charter Communications look like they’re about to go hunting for more cable companies.
A week after its biggest competitor’s successful launch, Microsoft rolled out its own next-generation video game console, the Xbox One, in a midnight party in Hollywood amid hundreds of gamers and a fair smattering of rappers, actors, YouTube personalities and other celebrities of varying wattage. The Xbox One is $100 more expensive than Sony’s PS4 at $499, but more technically capable thanks to included motion, face and voice sensors. Sony’s console sold 1 million units on its launch day a week ago. Both companies will be fighting for consumer attention this holiday season, which kicks off officially in one more week.
At last night’s event at the Milk Studios in Hollywood, as electronic dance music star Deadmau5 and other DJs spun on a stage, the company showed off its biggest games — including some 22 titles exclusive to the platform — to fans who played for hours ahead of the machine’s first official sale at 12:01 AM. But all the night’s noise obscured Microsoft’s broader push, which is that the machine can integrate all kinds of entertainment while easing access to them all. One of the machine’s niftiest tricks is a slick and relatively reliable ability to seamlessly switch between, or even simultaneously watch/use/play, a TV show, the Internet and a game with virtually no delays. The device’s sensors can recognize when a person has sat down in front of it, and automatically open up that person’s customized interface on screen. It can even do so for more than one person at a time. Voice and gesture commands work pretty well, though many reviewers have said the gee-whiz tech isn’t reliable enough yet to completely replace using a hand controller to navigate.
When they introduced the console six months ago, Microsoft reps talked up new kinds of interactive programming being created by Microsoft Studios under former CBS honcho Nancy Tellem. But last night only games were on display. They didn’t even demonstrate the offerings for fantasy football as part of their new deal with the NFL.
It’s been years since we’ve seen new models of the major gaming consoles battle head-to-head in the marketplace. And Sony‘s PlayStation 4, in its first weekend, has set a high bar in initial sales for Microsoft to try to beat later this week when it releases the Xbox One. Sony’s stock is +1.5% thus far today — when most stocks are down — following the company’s announcement yesterday that it sold 1M PS4s in the first 24 hours after Friday when it was released in the U.S. and Canada. ”Sales remain very strong in North America, and we expect continued enthusiasm as we launch the PlayStation 4 in Europe and Latin America on November 29,” Sony Computer Entertainment CEO Andrew House added. Even so, Benchmark Co analyst Mike Hickey notes that the roll out was “marred” by reports of a problem: “A pulsing blue light in the centre of the console, nicknamed the Blue Light of Death in tribute to the Xbox 360′s infamous ‘Red Ring of Death’, has reportedly heralded the doom on hundreds of bricked PS4s,” he says in a report. A company spokesman in Tokyo told Bloomberg that these are “isolated incidents and represent a very small percentage of total units shipped to consumers to date.” Still, Sony posted several suggestions for consumers to fix the problem “while we investigate.”
David Bloom is a Deadline contributor
Two weeks before its next-generation game console hits stores, Microsoft made a big last-minute push today to emphasize the entertainment capabilities of the Xbox One, unveiling 19 online video-app providers for the machine in the U.S. They include the NFL, ESPN, Netflix and Hulu Plus, a number of which are already on the current-gen Xbox 360’s Xbox Live Gold online service.
In press briefings and one of two blog posts that launched this morning, the company emphasized the Xbox One’s entertainment providers. A second blog post talked up the gee-whiz tech capabilities of the Xbox One, such as its ability to recognize users by voice and face and to understand voice commands to seamlessly control and switch between games, online video services, live TV feeds from a cable set-top box, Internet searches, and an online program guide.
In the U.S., the video provider list includes Amazon Instant Video, Crackle, CWTV, ESPN, FOX NOW, FXNOW, HBO GO (listed as “coming soon”), Hulu Plus, Machinima, MUZU TV, Netflix, Redbox Instant by Verizon, Target Ticket, TED, The NFL on Xbox One, Twitch, Univision Deportes, Verizon FiOS TV and VUDU. The provider lists for a dozen other countries that also will roll out in the first wave of sales are shorter, and vary substantially from country to country.
Some of the machine’s capabilities are indeed impressive, like the Xbox One’s integration of live NFL game statistics with a user’s fantasy football teams, displaying scoring updates for a user’s team members on a small portion of the TV screen as they happen.
David Bloom is a Deadline contributor.
Microsoft finally, and quietly, made official a November 22 launch date in the U.S. and a dozen other countries for its long-in-coming new game console, the Xbox One, according to a company blog post by Corporate VP Yusuf Mehdi. The base model will sell for $499 in the States. The date means the Xbox One will hit stores a week after its next-gen archrival, Sony’s PS4, launches in North America and Europe for $399, and a week ahead of “Black Friday,” the year’s biggest shopping day. November 22 also is the date Microsoft launched its current-generation Xbox 360 eight years ago. Mehdi’s post said the company has sold out its pre-launch allotment of Xbox Ones for the U.S. and would offer a “limited number” of additional “Day One” machines for special order. With full production underway, the company has goosed up the machine’s processing speeds, making the CPU about 10 percent more powerful than originally announced specs.
David Bloom is a contributor to Deadline.
Microsoft’s announcement this morning that Steve Ballmer, the oldest of the old guard at what was once the biggest of the big tech companies, is leaving as CEO should be a major deal in Hollywood as well as Silicon Valley. After all, Ballmer and the tech giant he’s helped run for more than three decades have spent billions of dollars on countless entertainment-related initiatives trying to take their tech success to Tinseltown, including the latest big hire of former CBS network chief Nancy Tellem as president of Microsoft’s entertainment and digital media division. But will Hollywood notice Ballmer’s departure? Not really. He doesn’t even do the big CES keynote address anymore. And Hollywood’s likely indifference says a lot about Ballmer, Microsoft and the challenges the entire tech industry continues to have in decrypting Hollywood (and to be fair, vice versa).
At the May unveiling of the Xbox One, Tellem got on stage to say her unit is producing video programming for the console across every genre. She intimated that the studio’s programming would move far beyond traditional television, to take full advantage of the connectivity, motion-detection, emotion-detection and other interactive capabilities of the Xbox One. Less clear is whether that interactive programming will find an audience, especially given Xbox One’s high price, poor E3 showing and competition from a new Sony device and lots of far cheaper and more mobile alternatives. Audience sizes, especially in the first couple of years of the new console, will almost certainly be uncomfortably small for yet another expensive entertainment venture.
To head off some of that, as Deadline’s Nikki Finke and David Lieberman wrote, Ballmer recently joined Tellem on a series of meetings with Hollywood big-shots. The June trip was designed to both test support for their programming initiatives and build more interest among talent, dealmakers and producers. What hasn’t surfaced is whether those conversations have turned into anything substantive.
Steve Ballmer succeeded Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates as CEO in 2000. On announcing his retirement this morning, he said, “There is never a perfect time for this type of transition, but now is the right time.” One question Ballmer’s exit brings up is how this might affect Microsoft’s nascent Xbox Entertainment Studios. Ahead of the E3 confab in June, Ballmer was escorted around town by the division’s president Nancy Tellem to lobby her closest Hollywood pals with an intimate preview of the new Xbox One capabilities. It was part of Ballmer’s effort to drum up exclusive content for Xbox One’s new customized TV and entertainment apps. But it was also, an insider told Deadline at the time, “to reiterate Microsoft’s commitment to transitioning its business to devices and services and to explaining that Hollywood entertainment is a big part of that. Microsoft in the past has just dipped a toe but now has a real commitment.” In July, Microsoft announced a sweeping reorganization that created teams to focus on various functions rather than dividing the company by products. In his statement today, Ballmer said, “My original thoughts on timing would have had my retirement happen in the middle of our company’s transformation to a devices and services company. We need a CEO who will be here longer term for this new direction.” MarketWatch notes that Microsoft has more than tripled in size since Ballmer took over, but revenue growth has stalled recently as PC sales have declined. In a memo to employees, Ballmer said he would continue as one of Microsoft’s “largest owners.” Prior to today, Microsoft stock had gained 21% this year. Shares were up more than 7% after this morning’s opening bell. Here’s Microsoft’s official release:
REDMOND, Wash. — Aug. 23, 2013 — Microsoft Corp. today announced that Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer has decided to retire as CEO within the next 12 months, upon the completion of a process to choose his successor. In the meantime, Ballmer will continue as CEO and will lead Microsoft through the next steps of its transformation to a devices and services company that empowers people for the activities they value most.
The reorganization is so sweeping that the company gave it a brand: One Microsoft. The goal is to “see our product line holistically, not as a set of islands,” CEO Steve Ballmer tells staffers in a memo today. …
David Bloom is a Deadline contributor.
Just a week after a splashy but criticized debut at E3, Microsoft has backed off controversial policies for its upcoming Xbox One game console that had clouded its chances against Sony’s competing PlayStation 4. Don Mattrick, who heads Microsoft’s Xbox unit, posted a blog entry saying the company had heard from many gamers and, “You told us how much you loved the flexibility you have today with games delivered on disc. The ability to lend, share, and resell these games at your discretion is of incredible importance to you. Also important to you is the freedom to play offline, for any length of time, anywhere in the world.”
The so-called store-within-a-store at Best Buy will offer Windows-based tablets and PCs, phones, Microsoft Office software, and Xbox consoles, the companies said today. Between this month and September the retail chain plans to allocate as much as 2,200 square …