Currently airing in Brazil, Portugal and the U.S. — where reviews have been lackluster and ratings slipped 20% in the demo on Sunday night from last week’s ABC series debut — Rising Star is taking the next evolutionary step in the singing competition arena. Keshet International and Universal Music Group have entered a multi-territory deal, excluding the U.S. and Israel, which will see UMG acquire exclusive options to sign artist agreements with any or all show contestants. Separately, Keshet DCP has signed a deal with UMG which will see artists on ABC’s U.S. version win a record deal with the Capitol Records label. Capitol is also making full studio recordings of the performances available for download. (UMG’s Interscope Records already releases American Idol winner and contestant music.) Overseas, KI and UMG say they will work together to maximize finalists’ potential locally and internationally on all platforms. In terms of breakouts so far, the waters are relatively untested. The only Rising Star series to complete its run is the original Israeli version whose finale scored big ratings on Keshet Channel 2 in December 2013. The winner was 20-year-old Evyatar Korkus, who received his first record deal, and beat out The Gat Brothers (aka The Singing Rabbis). Brazil and Portugal, the 2nd and 3rd markets to launch, are drawing average audience shares of about 30%. In September, France’s M6 debuts its take, and the UK’s ITV will raise …
Taking a page from News Corp’s book, French conglomerate Vivendi is moving closer to splitting itself into two separate companies. Canal Plus and Universal Music Group owner Vivendi says it is launching a study to weigh a demerger that would create, on one side, a new international media group with interests in music, film, pay-TV and online. On the other side would be SFR, the mobile phone operator that Vivendi says would “gain greater freedom on strategy and developing partnerships.” A final decision on the split is expected early next year. The idea that Vivendi would break up its media and telecom assets has been floated before, but this is the first official indication. The company has long met with investor criticism over what’s known as the conglomerate discount – the difference between what a company’s holdings are worth and the real value the market places on the whole. Billionaire shareholder Vincent Bolloré told French financial daily Les Echos that the board was “unanimously agreed that there were no synergies between telecoms and content,” which was aggravating the share price. “I feel the split is an attractive plan, and it has my total support.” With a view to the new structure, Bolloré, who owns 5% of Vivendi, now becomes vice chairman of the supervisory board.
SEATTLE, Jan. 26, 2012 /PRNewswire/ — Rhapsody announced its European expansion today through the acquisition of Napster International, the first subscription (flat-rate) music service in Europe. Rhapsody will own and operate the Napster service in Germany and the United Kingdom.
“The acquisition of Napster and its subscriber base in the UK and Germany gives us an ideal entry to the European market,” said Jon Irwin, president, Rhapsody. “Through the benefit of scale, the strength of our editorial programming and strategic partnerships, we can now bring the Napster service to even more consumers on a variety of platforms.”
The group Anonymous appears to have crashed sites for the Justice Department, Universal Music, and the MPAA — apparently to retaliate for the Justice Department’s effort to close Megaupload. The so-called hacktivist collective claimed responsibility on Twitter. “We are too many for them!” one tweet said. Another said that it’s “the largest attack ever by Anonymous — 5,635 people confirmed” trying to bring down sites. This is the second major incident recently involving Anonymous after The New York Times reported last week that the group disclosed personal information about Time Warner’s Jeff Bewkes and Viacom’s Sumner Redstone — as well as other executives at NBCUniversal, Sony Pictures Entertainment, and Disney — to protest their companies’ support for two anti-piracy bills: the Senate’s Protect IP Act and the House’s Stop Online Piracy Act.
Universal Music has already announced that it will pay $1.9B for the recorded music operation. We’re told Sony’s teed up to disclose that it landed EMI’s music publishing business for $2.2B. The deals end a drawn-out process to decide the fate of a company whose hitmakers include The Beatles and Katy Perry. But the companies may face tough questioning from European antitrust officials, and possibly U.S. ones as well. Impala, which represents independent European music companies, said this week that deals with Universal and Sony — two of the industry’s largest companies — ”would be the worst possible outcome of the EMI negotiations — for music, those who make it and those who want to access it.” Citigroup has made it clear to bidders that it expects to be paid no matter what; buyers would have to assume all the financial risks for any deal that’s blocked.
If the transactions go through, then it could mean big problems for Warner Music, which industrialist Len Blavatnik bought for $3.3B early this year. “Warner’s really small now” compared to Universal and Sony, says one long-time industry exec. “They’re the third port of call for every artist, and won’t have the same leverage with Walmart for shelf space.” The publishing deal with Sony also raises questions for BMG, which has been on an acquisition tear with financial support from private-equity firm Kohlberg Kravis & Roberts. BMG has wanted to build scale, and a deal with EMI — the No. 1 music publisher — would have capped that effort. Some industry players wonder whether KKR now will look to sell its interest in BMG.
Google has agreed to pay royalties to songwriters repped by the National Music Publishers Assocation when their songs appear in videos on YouTube. The deal, which covers roughly 3,000 mainly indie songwriters, resolves a copyright lawsuit brought by the organization in 2007 and sets up the two sides to share ad revenues generated by videos on YouTube. “We are pleased to have resolved NMPA’s litigation claims and to work with YouTube in providing a new licensing opportunity for songwriters and publishers,” NMPA president and CEO David Israelite said on the group’s website. “This is a positive conclusion for all parties and one that recognizes and compensates the work of songwriters and publishers going forward.” The largest music publishers — EMI Music Group, Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment — have their own licensing contracts with YouTube and are not part of this agreement.
Music industry executives tell me that they’d be stunned if Universal Music can turn American Idol’s new winner Scotty McCreery into a big enough star to set him up for a long-term career. The teenager is seen as a likable country music performer who could have a few hits if he’s paired with catchy tunes and a shrewd producer. But they say that he didn’t display the charisma, vocal dexterity or strong point of view that singers typically need in order to endure or broaden their appeal to the pop market. McCreery’s limitations will become more obvious as he tries to compete with compelling country music hitmakers including Taylor Swift, Sugarland, Jason Aldean, Miranda Lambert, Kenny Chesney, Brad Paisley, Keith Urban — and Idol’s Season 4 winner Carrie Underwood. True, the weekly appearances on television’s most popular show have made McCreery a household name. But so were previous winners Lee DeWyze, Kris Allen and Taylor Hicks, who have yet to set the music world on its ear. That may have had something to do with the fact that up to now Idol winners were at the mercy of Sony Music’s Clive Davis whose commercial instincts haven’t kept up with the times. McCreery and other Idol finalists who land recording deals will work with a hipper group led by Jimmy Iovine, chairman of Universal’s Interscope-Geffen-A&M.
Vivendi announced today that the current CEO of UMG will add chairman to his title at the world’s biggest music company, which has operations in 77 countries. He will remain on Vivendi’s board of directors and was added to the board at the French conglomerate’s vidgame publisher Activision Blizzard, which is based in Santa Monica. The move comes on the heels of Sony Music last week hiring Doug Morris as its CEO.
Los Angeles, CA — 19 Entertainment and Simon Fuller, creator of ‘American Idol,’ television’s biggest entertainment program for the last nine seasons and one of the most globally recognized entertainment brands, and Universal Music Group (UMG), the world’s leading music company, today announced a long-term strategic alliance to increase the development, distribution and marketing of ‘American Idol’s’ musical artists. The announcement was made today by Doug Morris, Chairman & Co-Chief Executive Officer of UMG, Lucian Grainge, Co-Chief Executive Officer of UMG, and by Simon Fuller on behalf of 19 Entertainment.
As part of this multi-year agreement, UMG’s Interscope Geffen A&M will market, promote and distribute albums globally from ‘American Idol’s’ finalists and winning contestants across a broad array of retail and new media platforms. Recently, ‘American Idol’ kicked-off auditions for its milestone 10th season as the excitement and renewed interest in the show resulted in over 26,000 hopefuls coming out for their shot at the coveted Idol crown in Nashville and Milwaukee.
Upcoming auditions will be held in Louisiana, Texas, New Jersey and California.
Mr. Fuller comments: “With Idol celebrating our 10th season I wanted to inject some new power and weight behind our brand. We have been quietly delivering hits relentlessly for 9 seasons and Lucian Grainge and Jimmy Iovine’s (Chairman, Interscope Geffen A&M) ambition, commitment, and determination to push the boundaries and go even further with Idol was very compelling. It is exciting to have the world’s biggest