No Shock from Survey – The Buying Public Think CDs are Too Expensive

US music channel, VH1, carried out a poll of their music buying viewers on the current pricing of CDs, and in particular the price drop Universal Music Group’s (UMG) is instigating from 1 October.

There’s no great surprise to that 72% of them liked the idea and thought it would lead them to buy more CDs.

When asked in detail about the pricing of CDs, 89% thought that current prices were too high and when asked what their expectation was to the prices they should be paying, 43% said $6-$9, 46% felt $10-$13, and 8% thought $14-$17 was reasonable.

Inside the mind of the music downloader

The telephone survey also asked in detail about music downloading and the attitude of those who had downloaded music.

20% of those surveyed admitted to having download music, with 11% having done so in the last six months. Both of these are lower than expected figures and it is highly possible that many people did not admit to having downloaded music given the very public legal action by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) against downloaders. Indeed nearly all of those who had downloaded music were aware of the Recording Industry Association of America’s (RIAA) legal action against downloaders.

As a strong indication to the music companies, this none the less indicative survey revealed that 58% of the downloaders thought a price drop would encourage them to buy more CDs. As is commonly accepted, the survey reported there is a hard core of 13% who said price drops would probably not make any difference and they would not return to buying CDs.

In an indication that the current legal actions might not be steering the buying public in the expected direction, when the downloaders were asked if the threat of lawsuits would prompt them to buy new CDs, only 35% said it was likely, 21% were neutral — and 45% said it was unlikely that the threats would get them to shop for CDs at retail.

The poll was conducted by telephone over a five day period between 17-22 September, 2003 using a random American sample of 1,038 adults aged 18 and older. It was reported that the results have a +/- 3.1% margin of error.

Hulk Up-loader Receives Six Months Sentence and Fines

Vivendi Universal Entertainment took legal action against 24 year old Kerry Gonzalez after they found he had uploaded an unfinished version of The Hulk on the Internet several weeks prior to its theatrical release.

Gonzalez pleaded guilt in the summer and was sentenced at the end of last week to six months home confinement, three years probation, fined him $2,000 and ordered him to pay $5,000 in restitution to Universal. He had faced up to three years in prison and a fine of $250,000 for felony copyright infringement.

Gonzalez had obtained a “work print” of the movie that had been sent to a New York advertising agency. The print was missing some special effects, graphics, and a soundtrack.

The FBI traced the Internet copy back to Gonzalez through an encoded “security tag” on the print, which was widely thought to be a watermark burnt into the video image. This could have traced the copy to an individual but neither the advertising agency or the employee who has made this possible by passing him the video tape were named or action taken against them. The reasons for this are not clear but it adds weight to the recent AT&T labs research that much of the unauthorised video available on the Internet is sourced from within the industry.

After the pre-released version was uploaded, reviews started appearing on sites like Ain’t It Cool News slating the film for, among other things, its shoddy CG effects. Studio executives claimed that this could have depressed ticket sales, but the early criticism didn’t have too negative an impact; The Hulk grossed a $62 million in its opening weekend, a record for a June opener. It has earned $130 million so far, after costing $150 million to make.

Vivendi Universal Entertainment, commissioned several studies to determine what Gonzalez’s actions cost the studio. While assigning a dollar amount is an inexact science, the studio settled on about $66 million in a victim-impact statement to the federal court. The court moved to make Gonzalez pay $5,000, but it is not clear if Vivendi will take further action against him.

This kind of high profile court case will certainly make people think twice before uploading unauthorised video content to the Internet, or passing preview material to those who might.

Nintendo to Launch Wireless Game Boy Adaptor

In a move to try and balance the efforts that Nokia are putting in to the N-Gage portable gaming platform, Nintendo has been working closely with Motorola to create a wireless adaptor for the Game Boy Advance and Game Boy Advance SP. The reasonably sized add-on uses the already crowded 2.4GHz band to enable up to five gamers to play against each other.

Motorola say they have applied considerable effort to make the unit consumer as little power as possible, while using the TDMA (Time Division Multiple Access) communication protocol to provide game users a fast receive-and-respond capability similar to a wired experience.

The wireless adapter with the new Game Boy Advance software “Pokemon FireRed” and “Pokemon LeafGreen” will be launched in Japan first half of 2004.

Marc Cuban and Todd Wagner Buy US Art-house Cinema Chain

It is with great interesting that we see that Marc Cuban and Todd Wagner have bought Landmark Theatres, America’s largest chain of 54 art-house cinemas which are scattered over fourteen states.
They both came into the public eye when they sold an innovative webcasting company,, that they had founded in 1995, to Yahoo! in 1999 for $5.7 billion. Following that avalanche of cash, Cuban went to buy the NBA team Dallas Mavericks, found High Definition TV specialist HDNet and co-found 2929 Entertainment with Wagner.

HDNet two 24/7 networks, HDNet and HDNet Movies, produces and televises more hours of original HDTV entertainment, news and sports programming than any other network.

2929 Entertainment is a vehicle for movie production and, following its November 2001 purchase of Rysher Entertainment, holds substantial film and television programming library, including various rights to shows including “Sex and the City”. It is also currently in post-production on two films including “Godsend” staring Robert DeNiro.

The Landmark Theatres chain has been for sale since 2001, languishing as part of a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing. The financial terms of the purchase, which is scheduled to close in October, have not been disclosed.

Why does this make an interesting deal?

Digital cinema has held promise for a long time, but has effectively stalled.

The cinema theatre owners are not willing to pay for the digital projectors, as they say the margin that the make on showing films is so slim (the reasons the cite for the necessity for popcorn sales) that they are not able to invest in the equipment. They also point out that it is the film distributors that will gain most benefit from the drastically reduced film distribution costs – physical copies of the film, at a cost of around $3000 each, do not have to be made, nor to they have to be transported to each of the cinemas.

The film distributes say it is not for them to pay for the equipment, as this is the responsibility of the theatre owners. It is also widely believed that they have very little will to digitally distribute their content, as content protection schemes haven’t been decided upon.

The excitement of d-cinema is not just about showing blockbuster films, but the ability to economically distribute small, independent film and other video content that would not normally be shown at as cinema, such as music or sporting events – enabling cinema to become something different.

Now they have the theatre chain, Wagner said they can now take movies from production to the screen with no outside interference – “We think this acquisition provides a unique opportunity to make a significant impact in the art and independent film, HDTV production and digital exhibition communities.”

Together this collection of companies not only have the content, technical savvy, strategic vision and the money to make this possible, but they are run by people who are keen to shake things up. This could be the kind of competition that the film companies need to make them sit up, stop the current stalemate and move up a gear or two in realising digital cinema. We wait with baited breath.

Landmark Theatres


2929 Entertainment

Xbox Japan employs well know Japanese games figure

The sales of Microsoft’s Xbox are considerably behind that of Sony’s PS2 in Japan, so it is interesting to see that Microsoft have appointed Yoshihiro Maruyama as the new general manager of the Xbox Division at Microsoft Japan, starting 1 October.

Until recently Yoshihiro Maruyama was Senior Vice President (SVP) and Chief Operating Officer COO of the highly respected software developer Squaresoft, who are best known for the Final Fantasy epic series of game.

Maruyama has dealt extensively with both the US and Japan when negotiating content licencing with companies in both countries including Disney.

It is imagined that Microsoft hope his appointment will bring them much needed credibility in Japan.

Gateway Becomes Top US Seller of Plasma TVs

Gateway Inc. has become America’s top seller of plasma screen TVs to consumers, surpassing Sony, Panasonic, Samsung and other traditional industry leaders.

Previously only known as a direct-sales PC seller, they started selling their first thin television,
a 42-inch Enhanced Definition (ED) Plasma TV, last November and by June this year they held a 28 percent market share of major consumer electronics retailers.

They plan to expand their current six thin screens offering, which range from 17 inches through to 50 inches, before the christmas season.

Micro MP3 Roundup

Although Apple’s iPod is definitely the portable music player to have at the moment, there are plenty of other options out there to fit your criteria: cheaper, better battery life, lighter.

The Register has a round up of the current crop of MP3 players, link below. Devices like Sony’s ATRAC-based Memory Stick Walkman aren’t covered as they’re not proper MP3 players.

The Register on micro MP3 players

Memory Stick Video Recorder

The snappily named (as all Sony products are) PEGA-VR100K uses a built-in tuner to record TV programmes using the Quick Time 6 codec to a Memory Stick. You can then pop the stick into your VAIO for editing or for watching on your Clié when it’s convenient. The VR100K can also be attached to a monitor for use as a TV tuner.

Included are utilities for scheduling recording, so you can record that episodes of Fame Academy to watch surreptitiously in meetings.

Sony report that a 1gb Memory Stick will hold more than 16 hours of video in Long Play mode – though we’ve yet to see what the quality is like. Resolutions are given as 320×240 and 160×120, at 15fps. Bear in mind a 1gb stick will set you back about £400.

Sony Style on the PEGA-VR100K

Price of Standalone, Additional Hard Drive Storage Starts to Reduce

We’ve been speaking for a while about the logic of adding extra storage to home networks simply by attaching a stand alone networked drive – as music, photo or video collections grow. This type of device has had a number of names, such as Storage Area Network (SAN) or Network Direct Attached Storage (NDAS).

The prices of these devices have been a little limiting up to now, not significantly cheaper than the price of a slow/low-end PC with a big disk in it. XiMeta NetDisk is getting closer to the price point that they need to be, which is probably the reasons that the hallowed West coast retailer, Fry’s Electronics, have signed a deal to distribute them.

The NetDisk can be connected via an Ethernet adaptor or use USB2.0 and retail for $189 for 80 GB, $269 for 120 GB, and $289 for 160GB. It has a number of well thought our features, like the ability to carry out automatic backups, when a second NetDisk is added.

Expect plenty more of this type of device.

XiMeta NetDisk

New UK Channel in Pipeline

Channel 4’s new channel, tentatively called More4,  will focus on history, property series, documentaries and drama.  More4 will also feature some original programming, spin-offs from Channel 4 shows and drama and entertainment bought in from the US.

"This shouldn’t be thought of as a factual channel. It’s more based on a demographic," a Channel 4 spokesman said. "If E4 targets the younger end of the Channel 4 audience demographic, More4 will be aimed at the older end of that demographic," he added. "At launch there will be less origination, more narrative repeats of Channel 4 shows – ‘another chance to see’ – and archive programming. There will be entertainment and drama, as well as factual programmes, and some acquisitions. You could also see More4 doing live streaming of some of our more upmarket Channel 4 factual stuff, like Regency House."

The Guardian speculates that More4 will have an annual budget of £10m-£20m, and the channel is not expected to launch for at least a year.

More4 is likely to broadcast for around 12 hours a day, probably from early evening to early morning, when it launches. The launch will be welcomed by the government, as it is another incentive for viewers to move away from analogue boradcasts.

Channel 4 is expected to broadcast More4 on Freeview but also seek carriage on Sky Digital and digital cable services NTL and Telewest.

Commercial and creative development of More4 will be led by the managing director of 4Channels, Dan Brook, and the head of digital programming, Murray Boland.

Sky also admitted publicly for the first time yesterday that it has plans to launch a mainstream channel to compete with BBC1, ITV, Channel 4 and Five.