Yahoo Hires Former ABC TV Exec

What better person to appoint to head your media and entertainment division than a Hollywood executive with shows like ‘The Sopranos’, ‘Lost’, ‘Desperate Housewives’, ‘Wife Swap’ and ‘Boston Legal’ under his belt? Prior to this, he served as co-chairman of the division with responsibility for all creative, programming and business areas of the division, which encompassed Touchstone Television and ABC Entertainment.

The man in question is former ABC Entertainment Television chairman Lloyd Braum, and he will oversee Yahoo’s movies, TV, entertainment, music, games, finance, news and weather, sports, health and kids businesses. He will also do the negotiating with Hollywood to release exclusive content on Yahoo, as well as developing original new content within the company. It has been reported that he was fired from his ABC post in April following disagreements over the direction and management of the network, which had fallen to fourth place in the ratings.

His main task will be to convince movie, TV and music companies to distribute more content exclusively on Yahoo. His impressive pre-ABC resume reads like he is tailor-made to do some convincing – chairman of Disney’s Buena Vista Television Productions, president of Brillstein-Grey Entertainment, and partner at the law firm of Silverberg, Katz, Thompson & Braun.

Yahoo already took the Hollywood route a few years ago when it appointed former Warner Bros. chairman Terry Semel as its CEO in 2001. In recent months, the company has signed several deals to provide related Web content for popular television shows such as NBC’s “The Apprentice” and CBS’ “Survivor”.

It’s all about getting exclusive content. In September, Yahoo announced that it would produce, host and sell advertising for the official Web site of reality TV show, “The Apprentice,” in which contestants battle to win a job working for real-estate mogul Donald Trump.

HomeChoice now Quad-play, Adding Phones

Video Networks Ltd. (VNL) is upping their game with their HomeChoice service. It has announced the addition of a home phone service to its already rather ample HomeChoice bundle of broadband Internet, digital TV and video-on-demand, making it a serious contender for both home entertainment and communications. The service will be delivered using Carrier Pre-Selection, and VNL also plans to offer line rental in 2005. Carrier Pre-Selection entails them using BT lines to carry the phone traffic to VNL networks for delivery.

Currently the service isn’t using VoIP, but we understand from them that they may move to this in the New Year. They certainly have the equipment and bandwidth available to provide it.

HomeChoice customers can opt for either ‘Free Evening and Weekend’ calls at no additional cost, or have the option to upgrade to the ‘Anytime’ talk plan from £5 (~$9) per month. Both offering lower rates to UK mobiles and overseas numbers than similar plans from BT, TalkTalk, One.Tel, NTL and Telewest.

The ‘Free Evenings and Weekends’ talk plan offers, the obvious, free evening and weekend calls to all local and national numbers starting with 01 & 02, and a daytime rate of 2.5p to those numbers.

‘Anytime’ talk plan includes calls to all local and national numbers starting 01 & 02. It costs £9 (~$16) per month for 512Kb broadband customers, £7 (~$12) per month for 1Mb broadband customers, and £5 (~$9) per month for 2Mb broadband customers.

You don’t need a special box or a prefix code. You can use your existing phone and phone number, and the existing standard BT line in your house, for which you will still pay rental. But you have to take VNL’s broadband and digital TV services to avail of the free calls.

The first to offer four services in the UK, VNL geared itself up for this expansion earlier in the year by appointing Vijay Sodiwala, former managing director at Broadsystem Ventures, a News Corporation company, to develop the home phone services.

The service faces stiff competition from rival fixed line offerings such as Carphone Warehouse’s TalkTalk brand, One.Tel, BT, NTL and Telewest, but no doubt the £1 million (~$1,841,100) marketing push will give it a kick start, and hopefully (pardon the pun) ringing endorsements.


Premier 3G Concert Broadcast

U2 special edition iPods, ‘phone cast’ Rooster concerts on 3G mobile phones, Robbie Williams new video premiered on 3 mobile phones – is rock becoming virtual?

Avoid the crowds, the heat, the general mayhem, (but sadly also the atmosphere) and virtually experience live gigs on your 3G mobile phone wherever you are, and make as many calls as you want during the intermission.

Yesterday in London, rock band, Rooster played the first ever concert broadcast by 3G mobile phone. Rooster was chosen because 3 is already in partnership with their record label, BMG. The 45-minute gig was really a trial run by 3 to discover more about how people use their video phones. 3, which already provides 1.2 million customers with 3G services in the UK, has already planned a series of gigs to happen throughout 2005, and is hoping that the move will lure more people into buying video phones.

The broadcast was trailed on Rooster’s Web site and on 3’s own phone-based news and entertainment channel, and about 10,000 people signed up for a free pre-gig reminder. Ten minutes before start-up, these 10,000 users were sent an SMS inviting them to visit a “virtual box office” where they could pay £5 to view the gig, and the first 1,000 were admitted.

Another world first was the release of Robbie Williams’ new video ‘Misunderstood’, exclusive for a week on 3 video mobiles before being premiered on the TV or the Web. The deal between EMI and 3 allows fans to either stream or download the video straight to their mobiles. This is a clever choice since the video for ‘Misunderstood’ – which features in the Bridget Jones sequel, ‘The Edge of Reason’ – includes clips from the forthcoming film.

Staying in the digital arena, Robbie Williams also recently announced the release of his greatest hits album on memory-card format for mobile phones, which will be released this month.

Some commentators might say these developments let fans get closer to artists, and if you were selling the equipment you would say that, wouldn’t you?

“It sounds exactly as you would expect a live band playing down a telephone line to sound”, says Alexis Petridis today in his Guardian review of the Rooster event – “a Library Of Congress field recording from the 1930s.”,11711,1342211,00.html

Nokia: New Products and Strategic Alliances Announced

It’s all about mobility and workstyle now as mobile devices move ever closer to ubiquitous cover.

On just the second day of Winter, Christmas came early in Monaco yesterday when a plethora of new products, technologies and strategic alliances were announced at the ninth Nokia Mobility Conference. In keeping with worldwide trends, the announcements addressed product diversity, cross-industry collaboration and evolution in network infrastructure. The new Nokia smart phone line up includes the 7710 widescreen multimedia smartphone, the 3230 megapixel smartphone and the business-oriented Nokia 6020 camera phone. Nokia outlined plans to expand the Series 60 smartphone platform to include more extensive multimedia capabilities, supporting widescreen resolutions (up to 640 x 320) and touch-screen, pen-based and traditional input methods. A big strategic announcement was the extension of the long-standing alliance between Nokia and Oracle to implement push e-mail capability for Oracle(R) Collaboration Suite on the Nokia 9500 Communicator and Nokia 9300 enterprise smartphone, among others. The push e-mail solution, designed by Oracle and Consilient will be the first based on the emerging Push-IMAP standard, and is expected to be available during first quarter 2005, furthering the march towards integrated communications across multiple mobile devices and platforms. Nokia’s strategy of continuously forging relationships with multiple companies to provide a broad range of e-mail options on Nokia business-optimised devices such as the Nokia 9500 Communicator and Nokia 9300 enterprise smartphone includes alliances with Good Technology, IBM, Research In Motion, and Visto. Nokia also continues to market and develop its own mobile e-mail platform, Nokia One Business Server, targeted at corporations who want to extend their mobile e-mail to legacy browser-based mobile devices. In fact, the Enterprise Solutions group announced their strategy to become the device of choice for mobile e-mail and messaging in the enterprise market. The strategy aims to provide enterprises with a range of business-optimised mobile devices that not only excel as voice devices, but can support the widest range of mobile e-mail clients and supporting technologies and can integrate with leading enterprise applications. For Nokia, this means being able to offer enterprises a mobile e-mail environment for their unique needs.

Nokia: Crown Castle joins to pilot DVB-H technology

Yet another chapter is unfolding in the battle to bring the TV screen and its contents to the mobile masses. And it’s all being made possible with global digital technology, as the first US pilot of DVB-H takes place. DVB-H is a standard specified by the Digital Video Broadcasting Organization specifically for the transmission of TV-like content and data to handheld devices, such as mobile phones. Nokia and Crown Castle have joined ranks to pilot DVB-H technology in the United States. Crown Castle already offers significant wireless communications coverage to 68 of the top 100 United States markets, and owns, operates and manages over 10,600 wireless communication sites in the U.S. The whole point of the exercise is to bring TV-like services to mobile devices. The pilot commenced in October, and aims to prove and test the feasibility of DVB-H technology and related service systems in this market space. The next step will be to expand the pilot to test consumer experiences and acceptance of a mobile phone TV service. Spokespeople from Nokia and Crown Castle aired their views in yesterday’s press release. “We believe this may be an important new technology for our company and our industry. We look forward to partnering with content providers and wireless service providers to introduce commercial services utilising the nation-wide spectrum that we acquired in 2003 and our extensive portfolio of US towers”, said Michael Schueppert, Senior Vice President – Business Development for Crown Castle. On the Nokia side, Seppo Sutela, Director, Rich Media, Nokia said, “Piloting with Crown Castle is a major milestone for Nokia. It will expand mobile phone TV services to United States, giving DVB-H standard a truly global reach. Mobile phone TV, based on DVB-H, will provide new attractive consumer services as well as business opportunities for all parties in the business system. Our pilot with Crown Castle is an important step towards that.”

BT Offer Public WiFi for £1/month

It’s just bargain after bargain, as companies keep pushing out the barriers to attract new customers or hang on to existing ones, using every technological and communications innovation available. Now BT is offering its new and existing, business and consumer broadband customers, public wireless broadband for just £1 a month. Remember that BT already have a Bluephone in the offing – a mobile phone that will provide cheap Web-based phone calls from Wi-Fi hot spots anywhere in the world.

The service is called BT Openzone and there are two introductory discount deals of £1 per month for up to 500 minutes available to BT Business Broadband customers and BT Broadband and BT Yahoo! 500 minutes is only eight hours a month though, and this may not be enough for some people. It is offered to BT customers, who sign up before December 31, 2004. After the first three months, customers can continue using the exact same service for a further 12 months for £5 a month.

Aimed at people on the move who need to keep in touch, customers can log on to BT Openzone with their Wi-Fi enabled laptop or PDA when within range of over 7,000 hotspot locations across the UK, including hotels, airports, railway stations and coffee shops. With cable companies, mobile operators and VoIP providers always offering trendy alternatives, Telcos have to keep going back to the drawing board.

But (she asked, scratching her head), why would you bother paying £5 or even £1 per month if all you have to do is hawk your laptop down to the nearest café, and get the whole lot for free, plus a really well-made cup of coffee?

Thousands of BT Openzone hotspots can be found in the UK and Republic of Ireland, in motorway service stations, airports, conference centres, hotels and cafés. Also, a Wi-Fi roaming agreement with BT Openzone, has increased the number of T-Mobile UK hotspots to 1,900, and customers of BT Openzone will now also have access to T-Mobile’s 600 UK Wi-Fi hotspots, as well as thousands more across Europe and the US. Now all we have to worry about is wireless security!

BT Group plc

VoD, NVoD & DVR All to Grow In Europe – Yankee

Combined Annual VoD and NVoD revenue will increase fivefold to Euro 2.2 Billion by 2008, while DVR service penetration will also increase to 20% of Western European Digital TV Homes by 2008, says Yankee Group.

Video on demand (VoD) and digital video recording (DVR) are phrases that service providers are getting very used to – because that is where their business is heading, and both will “coexist as complementary options for digital TV customers,” says Jonathan Doran, Yankee Group Broadband & Media Europe senior analyst, in yesterday’s news release.

Yankee predicts that Video-on-demand (VoD) and its variants will account for an increasing proportion of digital TV revenue in Western Europe, with products like FastWeb and arrivo accounting for a growing proportion of European pay-TV revenue in the next 3 to 5 years.

Two reports, On-Demand TV, Part 1: VoD Will Grow Europe’s Pay-TV Markets, but Not Much, and On-Demand TV, Part 2: Operators Must Move Fast to Add DVR to Their Digital Proposition, mention some challenges that VoD must face. Cable operators, for example, will have to fork out for digital upgrade costs and provision of customer-premises equipment, while satellite operators won’t be able to provide true VoD services if they don’t have a return path. Furthermore, while services such as Sky+ and PILOTIME are showing strong initial appeal among early adopters, high subscription fees will deter many users.

But most importantly, Yankee says platform operators will have to recognise that VoD represents an enhancement of the digital TV value proposition rather than a core application, so that although VoD will become an intrinsic part of digital TV, it will only account for a modest share of overall service revenue.

Operator-provided DVR service faces numerous challenges, Yankee warns, like competition from standalone retail DVR and DVD-R units. However, as equipment prices continue to fall and platform operators increase their marketing push, consumer adoption of DVR service is increasing. “DVR services will be more widely and frequently used by digital TV subscribers than regular VoD offerings that are limited to the less ubiquitous cable and broadband platforms,” says Jonathan Doran.

It’s still more theoretical than practical at the moment, so many cable operators will have to play it safe and offer both VoD and DVR until a demand pattern is established.

Europeans don’t Get Portable Video Players Yet

A new survey has found that Europeans are not enamoured by the all singing, all dancing devices that play songs and films, play video games and have a video-playback feature. Only 5% are interested in buying a device that plays both music and video, while a mere 7% would like their device to play games and video. But almost a third are interested in listening to music on a portable player such as an iPod.

5,000 consumers from Britain, Germany, France, Sweden, Spain and Italy were recently surveyed by Jupiter Research and the results were published yesterday.

Things might change, of course, if the multi-purpose gadgets could stay small, neat and inexpensive, and indeed Apple has managed to add photo display capabilities to the iPod without increasing its size.

It makes sense that 27% of European consumers would prefer to have music-only while on the move, since unlike movies, you really can listen and enjoy it whilst running or walking. As for the 13% who want to watch video while out and about, maybe they are the ones who have to wait the longest for buses and trains.

So, gadget makers sit up and take notice. Consumers want music, just music – 39% of French and 31% of British consumers were most interested in music players – and they want the sound quality to be top notch. That’s why lots of them have dedicated, digital music players. This is probably not really what Bill Gates wants to hear, with his Portable Media Center waiting in the wings.

Last months Jupiter Research report, ‘European Digital Music: Identifying Opportunity’, predicts that digital music revenue will reach €836 million(~$1,062m), or 8% of the total market, by 2009. While the growth of digital music players like Apple’s iPOD or the Creative Nomad Jukebox feature a lot in the news, CD’s still rule. So, it is sobering to remember that these statistics and reports are only referring to a tiny proportion of the music-listening public.

Content becomes More Popular than Communications

The Online Publishers Association (OPA) has announced that for the first time ever, this September, Content surpassed Communications to become the leading online activity as measured by share of time spent online.

Content was also the only category to register an increase in share of time spent online over August 2004, while Commerce, Communications and Search registered month-over-month declines of 5.8%, 4.0% and 3.1%, respectively. It was tight, but Content (41%) only just pipped Communications (39.8%) to the post rather than outrun it by lengths.

For OPA purposes, Content means Web sites and Internet applications that are designed primarily to provide news, information and entertainment like,, Windows Media Player and MapQuest. Communications covers Web sites and Internet applications that are designed to facilitate the exchange of thoughts, messages, or information directly between individuals or groups of individuals like Yahoo! Mail, AOL Instant Messenger and MSN Groups.

The Internet Activity Index is based on the proprietary clickstream database that underlies Nielsen//NetRatings’ NetView service, and calculations are made for each segment – Communications, Commerce, Content, and Search.

As mentioned, Content’s share of time grew substantially from 34.6% in September 2003 to 41.0% in September 2004. While Commerce and Search remained relatively flat over that same time period, Communications registered a sharp decline, from a 46.0% share to a 39.8% share.

Michael Zimbalist, president of the Online Publishers Association explained the increase in share of time spent on Web Content – the string of hurricanes, the start of the pro football season and the baseball playoffs, the presidential debates, and the new Autumn line-ups of the television networks.

If these are the reasons for the historic first, well then the figures are just temporarily skewed and will, one presumes, return to second place in October. But what about September 2003? All the sporting and television line-ups were there a year ago.

What really pushed Content ahead of Communications? Was it the hurricanes, the presidential election debates or both? Or, as Michael Zimbalist says, “a shift in how consumers are using the Web as broadband households continue to grow. Clearly, it is much more than a tool; it is a primary source of information, entertainment and fun.” Online Publishers Organisation/iai

Qualcomm to Spend $800m on Video to Mobile Network

As if the cell phone was not already overburdened with cameras, music and video players and handheld computers, Qualcomm now want to add TV programs to the mix.

Qualcomm, the San Diego developer of wireless technology and maker of computer chips for cell phones have spotted a gap in the market that might increase sales of their chips. They have just announced plans for a subsidiary, MediaFLO USA Inc to deploy and operate a nationwide “mediacast” network, delivering high-quality video and audio programming to third-generation mobile phones at mass market prices in co-operation with US cellular operators.

QUALCOMM intends to offer the network as a shared resource for US CDMA2000 and WCDMA (UMTS) cellular operators, enabling them to deliver mobile interactive multimedia to their wireless subscribers without the cost of network deployment and operation. Content will be delivered to mobile devices in the 700 MHz spectrum that will enable the network to serve the whole country. It will be based on QUALCOMM’s FLO (Forward Link Only) technology, and will use the MediaFLO media distribution system for content aggregation, delivery and viewing.

The chain of events happens like this – MediaFLO will deliver news, sports or entertainment programs over the new ‘mediacast’, high-speed cell phone network to US wireless companies, who will in turn pay for the service beginning in 2006.

Supporting 50-100 national and local content channels, including up to 15 live streaming channels, this system will give TV stations and networks, cable TV and satellite operators and networks a major new distribution channel, enabling them to reach their audiences when they are away from home and on the go. Content will be delivered in an easy-to-use and familiar format at quality levels that dramatically surpass current mobile multimedia offerings through the use of QVGA video at up to 30 frames per second and high-quality stereo audio.

Dr Paul E. Jacobs, president of QUALCOMM Wireless and Internet Group sees this move as “the logical next step in the evolution of the wireless industry.” The network will cost US$800 million over the next four to five years.

It may not take on in Europe though. Only yesterday we learned from Jupiter Research that Europeans are less taken with the multi-functional gadgets.