NDS Threaten TiVo with DirecTV PVR

There won’t be much surprise to hear that the now Murdoch-controlled DirecTV is readying the launch it’s own PVR around Spring 2005, whose function mirrors TiVo. Added to this, NDS the creators of the rivals PVR, claim their unit will handle Pay Per View programming better – by charging for the content when it is watched, not recorded. This will give them the opportunity to speculatively tempt the viewer with lots of yummy content.

The divorce of DirecTV and TiVo has been long, protracted and painful to watch. Much like friends watching from the outside as a marriage crumbles, where everyone appears to know that it’s over, except the unhappy couple.

TiVo has already had experience of the Murdoch approach to their business, when the two ‘worked together’ to bring TiVo to the UK. It is sufficient to say that TiVo stopped selling their product in the UK after only selling 30,000 units. It’s likely that most of these, probably would’ve been brought directly from the US anyway.

The big problem for TiVo is that DirecTV is their largest single customer and it will seriously impact their business. We imagine that they’ve been expecting it since DirecTV sold its 55% stake in one lump and its vice chairman, Eddy Hartenstein, resigned from their board back in June this year.

When this news is combined with, in our view, the near suicidal idea that TiVo plan to ‘upgrade’ the software on their subscriber’s boxes to display popup banner ads when fast forwarding through the TV adverts, you have to think that TiVo is in serious trouble.

Times have changed, and what was once special about TiVo has now become commonplace, and sadly, they don’t appear to be able to add anything to their offering as magical as the original.

We’re dismayed to read in the news report that the new DirecTV device will not have the ability to skip through the adverts. While we’re not surprised that an integrated company like News Corporation want to stop their subscribers for skipping through a revenue stream, we’re saddened that a feature that was so much a selling point for the original PVR, is going to be withheld. We wonder what the reaction of the subscribers that currently have the TiVo box that will be ‘upgraded’ to the new system will be? Even if the reaction is bad and vocal, it’s highly lightly that this will be a mere blip in the media landscape stretching forward.



Net-atHome™2004 is the 7th edition of the event annually hosted by Homega Research and targeting organizations and industry associations already active in the field of Home Networks and Gateways, Connected Appliances and Integrated Services, or interested in penetrating European or worldwide markets in this field.Nice, France http://www.net-athome.com/

i-mode UK Bound Via mmO2?

There has been some press speculation over the last day or so about mmO2 partnering with DoCoMo to bring their phone and content platform, i-mode, to the UK. Reuters reported that mmO2’s Chief Executive, Peter Erskine, had said last week that the company would decide by year-end on whether to introduce i-mode.

Things appear to have moved on, and this morning the Financial Times is more firm on the story, reporting that O2 will announce the deal next week. They say the service would start next year.

We spoke to mmO2 and their official comment was “the process is ongoing and we are still on schedule to announce before the end of the year”, so no big scoop for us there then. In conversation they did mentioned that the i-mode service has become more attractive over the years, since they last looked at it. Over that time the available range of handsets has increased significantly, it has driven up usage in the markets it has been deployed and the range of content available now for the platform has increased substantially.

[A brief interlude. Why is the company sometimes called mmO2 and other times O2? Let us clear up the confusion. mmO2 is the parent company that operates in a number of countries (UK, Ireland, etc). Its operating units in these countries are called O2. So, parent co=mmO2, local instance=O2.]

i-mode is a huge in Japan, where it has 42m users. Some even credit it with bringing the Internet to the youth of Japan. As home computer ownership previously wasn’t that large, the youth used their phone to get online.

It is already running in four European countries; Germany, France, Italy and Spain, although the take up figures haven’t been what you would call stunning, running at around 4m over the continent. The UK is a big gap in DoCoMo’s European coverage.

For content producers, the most interesting thing about i-mode is its content publishing model. Compared with other mobile platforms in the UK who can take as much as 50-60% of payments made by consumers, i-mode takes significantly less – in the low double digits.

It’s deals like this that are highly likely to draw content to mmO2 – it’s not wholly surprising that content producers will be inclined to get the most income from their wares as possible.

Given the current fashion among 3G watchers is to think that the winners in 3G will be those with the strongest content, a generous share of the income to draw in content owners could be a very smart move by mmO2.


CNN News Free to Mobiles, Xerox Sponsored

CNN News to mobiles, Xerox SponsorCNN has launched a news service over Europe that delivers the top ten CNN headlines to mobile phones without a subscription charge.

The phone owner will receive the 10 top stories of the day as chosen by the CNN.com site editorial team. If the application is kept ‘live’, ie. running on the handset, it will continue to receive news updates. When the GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) is turned off, either by the user or because they drop out of range, the news items remain accessible, as they are stored on the handset.

The process of signing up for the service sounds simple. The phone user sends an SMS requesting the service and a returned WAP link takes the phone to a Java application that is automatically downloaded to the handset. The news is then delivered to it using the data-only GPRS otherwise know as 2.5G.

Consumers will not have to pay a subscription charge for this service, as Xerox will be sponsoring it. In return Xerox will have their logo displayed as the service starts, on the home page and on the individual news pages. Xerox is paying a fixed price for the deal, which doesn’t vary on the number of people who sign up for it. Although users of the service can click through to a page of information about Xerox, which they have editorial control over, the real driver for their involvement is the association with the CNN brand and a leading-edge application of technology.

CNN have been pretty adventurous in distributing their news product to many platforms. CNN mobile currently offers a breaking news service to mobiles via SMS, which it charges Euro 4.75/month. In Austrian, Finland, Italy and the Netherlands, mobile owners are able to watch CNN on their handsets via their GPRS video streaming service.

There will be those in the mobile content world who will find this type of deal a little disturbing. They are currently very pleased that consumers appear to associate mobile content with paying – in stark contrast to Internet based content. If the consumer starts being offered quality content for no money, they might get used to it.

Expect more deals like this from media owners, as Kevin Razvi, head of CNN International ad sales says, “Our expanding portfolio of wireless businesses exposes advertisers directly to a broad consumer base through a highly relevant service for an increasingly mobile and technically-savvy target audience.”


Distributed Audio Award (2004) Winners Announced

Meda Bravo Digital Media ServerBelow are the winners of the Distributed Audio Award (2004) announced at Electronic House Expo in Long Beach, California. Chosen by a panel of five industry experts, they were selected for their innovation, functionality and practicality.

While none of the products here will blow the socks off regular readers, these give a good indication of the state of play in the home entertainment market, showing the functionality and the price levels. This market is becoming more mass market, and as you would expect, prices have come down substantially from the early days of custom installation.

2004 Distributed Audio Award Winners

All-Inclusive Distributed Audio System: $1,000 or more per room
Xantech, MRC88

All-Inclusive Distributed Audio System: Less than $1,000 per room
Sonance, Sonance DAB1

Amplifiers, Controllers & Receivers
Audio Design Associates, Inc. (ada), HTR-2400 Home & Theater A/V Receiver

Connectivity Products
On-Q Home, Entertainment Connection Center

In-Ceiling Speakers: $1,000 or more per pair
Boston Acoustics, DSi495

Installation Aids and Accessories
Sencore Electronics, SP295C SoundPro Audio Analyzer

In-Wall Speakers: $1,000 or more per pair
Polk Audio, LC265i with ENC265

In-Wall Speakers: Less than $1,000 per pair
Boston Acoustics, DSi460T2

In-Wall/In-Ceiling Subwoofers less than $1,000
Boston Acoustics, VRiSub85

Multiroom Audio Media Servers
Meda Systems, Inc., Bravo(TM) Digital Media Server

Multiroom Audio Source Components
Bose Corporation, Bose(R) Lifestyle(R) BUILT-INvisible(R) AV-18 Media Center

On-Wall Speakers: $1,000 or more per pair
Boston Acoustics, P400

On-Wall Speakers: Less than $1,000 per pair
Klipsch Audio Technologies, Klipsch Reference Series RVX-42

Outdoor Speakers
Niles Audio Corporation, RS8Si Weatherproof Rock Loudspeaker

Racks, Mounts & Enclosures
Middle Atlantic Products, ASR Adjustable Shelving Rack

User Interfaces/Keypads
Remote Technologies Inc (RTI), T2+ Universal System Controller

Wireless/No-New-Wires Transmission Media/Technology
Philips Consumer Electronics, Philips SL400i

Best Overall Distributed Audio Awards Product
Meda Systems, Inc., Bravo(TM) Digital Media Server

Entertainment Now: UK 3’s Deal with APTN

3, the first 3G network in the UK, are further enhancing their content offering by announcing a deal with Associated Press Television News (APTN). APTN will provide the video show, “Entertainment Now” that will be released twice a week and cover ‘celebrity entertainment’. In their words, it will be “quirky and irreverent, poking fun at the rich and famous, and of course, the infamous.”

3 customers have two ways to pay for the content. At 50p per clip or they can watch as much video as they like by paying £5 per month for the “video value” add-on.

We spoke to Deanna Gullery, APTN’s New Product Marketing Manager about the deal. They currently sell a 24 minute version of Entertainment NOW (is it just us or is the capitalisation unnecessary?) that goes to air with a number of broadcasters in various countries on a weekly basis.

The 3 version will be a cut down version, primarily featuring celebrity interviews, calling on AP’s strong access to the stars. It will be edited in-house down to between 2 and 4 minutes, voiced over and releases on Tuesday and Thursday.

We think the 3 deal is an interesting example of a content creation company making the most of their assets – “Sweating your assets” as we believe the 80’s phrase for was. AP are all over the world (80 bureaux in 67 countries) shooting this type of material for ‘traditional’ media outlets anyway. Why not make the most of it and edit it together in to custom pieces? We’re strong believers in this type of approach.

We don’t think this is the kind of content that will drive people to join the 3 services, it’s more about maximising Average Revenue Per User (ARPU, in trade terms). Their current ARPU taking the first 7 months of this year is £43.22 per customer, per month.

Associated Press Television News

Philips Sells Total Holding In Vivendi Universal

Royal Philips Electronics has sold its total holding of 32,265,561 shares in Paris-based conglomerate Vivendi Universal. The transaction, which closed yesterday, will provide Philips with proceeds of approximately 720 million euros, and will result in a non-taxable gain of approximately 300 million euros in the fourth quarter. Prior to this transaction, Philips’ holding represented approximately 3 per cent of Vivendi Universal’s outstanding shares. Philips’s share prise rose 1.1 per cent after the announcement, while Vivendi shares fell 0.7 per cent.

The initial combination of the companies was believed to lead to the strengthening of all parties involved, including Philips and its shareholders, by creating a global powerhouse in entertainment and services in the new economy. Philips was a set-top box provider for Vivendi, with whom it supplied to Vivendi’s Canal+ division. Philips has not commented further on why it has sold all of its holdings

Vivendi Universal which began as a French civil engineering enterprise, grew to absorb the Universal entertainment conglomerate in the US and then sold or spun off most of its media acquisitions after investors lost patience over rising debts. Restructuring since 2002 has reduced Vivendi to a much smaller, but significant French film, television and telecommunications operator. The company was expected to drop the ‘Universal’ part of its corporate name in 2003 after a deal that transferred its US film, theme park and cable television interests to a joint venture with NBC-owner General Electric.

In 2001, Vivendi Universal and Sony launched ‘Duet’, an alternative to Napster. The service sported monitoring of what’s downloaded and listened to, better sound quality, a subscription service, and pay-per-listen options. ‘We hope to license 50 per cent of the world’s music’, said a company representative. To kick-start the venture, Vivendi Universal purchased MP3.com for about $350 million, a move that followed Napster’s deal with media conglomerate Bertelsmann. Both deals marked a critical moment of détente and an admission that the labels needed the help of their one-time enemies, as they got serious about online distribution. Unfortunately, that dream failed too.

Vivendi Universal

Internet:Act II

While Digiworld’s major players have been forced to focus on recovery, the initial excitement stirred up by the internet has not died down. On the contrary, it continues to engender unexpected and often destabilising initiatives, raising important questions over future developments. This is the opening of “Act II” in which players will have to find fresh avenues of growth, innovate, form new partnerships and prove their staying power in the competitive Internet arena. To open the International Conference, dedicated to Internet Act II, IDATE and its partners are organising workshops and specialised seminars:

  • 3rd International Video Game Forum
  • Broadband for all
  • Corporate Telecom Services
  • European enlargement and ICTs

Montpellier, France http://www.idate.org/

MPAA Judge Finds ‘bulldozer’ approach ‘improper’

Last week, members of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) filed 11 lawsuits against hundreds of people they accused of using file-sharing networks to share infringing copies of movies. However, the Federal Judge ruled the ‘bulldozer’ approach improper, ordering that the case should be put on hold for all but one of the defendants.

The move by the MPAA to group defendants into arbitrarily-joined actions was probably thought of as a ‘neat’ and easy way to get the message across to other US citizens participating in file sharing. ‘Bulk’ suing could also save a heck of a lot of paper shuffling and administration work.

The MPAA sued groups of “Does” (John Doe) identified by numerical IP address and requested the discovery of names from the users’ Internet Service Providers (ISPs). However, Judge William Alsup ruled that because claims against the 12 defendants were unrelated, suing them together into one big case was improper. “Such joinder may be an attempt to circumvent the filing fees by grouping defendants into arbitrarily-joined actions but it could nonetheless appear improper under Rule 20,” the order states.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has filed friend-of-the-court briefs, objecting to similar misjoinder in many of the cases filed by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) against alleged infringers.

“This decision helps to give due process rights to the Internet users accused of infringement,” said EFF Staff Attorney Wendy Seltzer. “Lumping them together makes it more difficult for everyone to defend against these claims.” EFF is also concerned about the movie studios’ failure to produce evidence of infringement against even Doe #1 in this case.

In a separate case, Warner Brothers Entertainment has secured a $309,600 judgement against an actor for allegedly making promotional ‘screener’ copies of ‘The Last Samurai’ and ‘Mystic River’ available for bootleg DVD copying and unauthorised Internet trading.

Carmine Caridi, a former recurring actor on ‘NYPD Blue,’ is accused of copyright infringement and is facing a default judgement of $150,000 per film and $9,600 in attorney fees. Caridi and co-defendant Russell Sprague were caught because the screeners were individually watermarked for each recipient.

According to Warner Brothers, Carmine Caridi, as a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, signed an agreement before he received the 2003 awards season screeners promising not to circulate them. It is believed that he immediately sent the VHS screeners to another address where they were copied onto DVD and converted to digital files that were posted on the Internet.

DAB Gets Big pre-Xmas Push from BBC

BBC DAB Xmas campaignThe BBC will be launching a multi-format campaign starting at the end of November to promote Digital Radio in the run up to Xmas. It’s being previewed in London today.

Running across TV, radio, online (including the BBC home page) and posters, it will be a comprehensive campaign. The TV element, which airs this Saturday, will use animations of a computer-generated world to relate its message, marketing news site mad.co.uk reveals (reg. req.). In the piece, Robert Senior, the managing partner from the company that created the campaign, Fallon, goes on about a “wider spectrum of emotions” – but that’s quotes from marketing publications for you.

An industry insider tells us that this year the BBC will highlight what makes DAB special, rather than just talking about their additional channels, as happened last year. DAB features such as digital-quality sound and scrolling text should be highlighted.

This is a big year for DAB in the UK. Each of the major electronics retailers will be featuring DAB equipment prominently in their advertising. This year DAB receivers have also been in all of the glossy magazine with them falling over themselves to feature DAB in their publications. Last year they wouldn’t touch it.

The BBC’s isn’t the only campaign. The Digital Radio Development Bureau (DRDB) will be running a campaign over 257 commercial radio stations around the UK telling all and sundry that receivers can be bought for ‘under £50′.

The desired effect of all of this should be two fold. To give a boost to the sale of DAB receivers, at a time people are starting to think about presents for their friends and relatives; as well re-reminding the UK public that there is a wider variety of radio content available over DAB than on the analogue channels.

We learnt from the DRDB that 801,000 DAB units had been sold in the UK in the year to September. Their sales target for this year? “We’re aiming for 1 to 1.2m units before the end of the year” Ian Dickens, Chief Exec of DRDB told us.

With over 100 models now available in many different forms factors, they’ve got a strong chance of hitting it.