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Blanket licenses, XM-Sirius and other tidbits

The members of this newspaper's editorial board take turns writing a bi-weekly column (because, frankly, we have more specious opinions than we can possibly fit into the editorial-page stack), and today the blathering comes from yours truly. Click here to read about the uphill battle waged by PlayLouder MSP, an ISP in England that wants to sell people high-speed Internet access bundled with the right to download and share an unlimited amount of music with other subscribers.

Meanwhile, Sirius and XM are making it official: they've proposed to merge their debt-laden, momentum-leaking operations. (The NY Post evidently broke this one; read Engadget's take here.) The Justice Department killed an effort to merge satellite TV operators a few years ago, so the outlook for the deal is questionable. Still, it's hard to see a combined Sirius and XM exerting market power over any area other than subscription radio services, and that hardly seems like a separate market. Rather, it's more like a competitive response to local radio (and, in the not-too-distant future, Internet radio in broadband-equipped cars).

HD DVD fans tired of all the news about hacked DRMs can take solace in this development: Doug Carson and Associates, a company that makes tools for producing optical discs, announced the successful production of the first 3X DVD. Such discs, which work only on HD DVD players, offer high-definition movies on conventional DVDs. Using a more powerful (and less long-in-the-tooth) codec than MPEG 2, the 3X DVD approach can squeeze up to 135 minutes of high-definition video onto a double-layer DVD (the same kind of disc used for many standard-definition movies). The format could give budget-conscious consumers a way to watch high-def videos without paying a huge premium for a player (entry-level HD DVD models sell for under $400, which is at least a hundred dollars less than the least expensive Blu-ray Disc player) or the discs themselves. And it certainly represents a cheaper solution for studios and disc manufacturers, who could use the same equipment and supplies they use for conventional DVDs. Still, with little or no room for extra features, 3X DVD may not appeal to many in Hollywood.

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Times editorial writer Jon Healey pens opinion pieces about a variety of business issues, and blogs about technologies that are changing the entertainment industry's business model.

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