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More on MPAA and Net neutrality

Independent_film_and_television_all MPAA chief Dan Glickman doesn't speak for the movie industry, technically. His clients are the MPAA's dues-paying members, the major Hollywood studios. And the interests of those studios -- all owned by giant conglomerates -- don't necessarily align with their smaller brethren, just as the RIAA often parts ways on policy matters with the indie labels. A good illustration of this is a letter to Glickman released today by Jean Prewitt, president of the Independent Film and Television Alliance. She blasted Glickman for coming out against Net neutrality regulations earlier this week in a speech to theater owners. You can download the letter here, or just check out the money line:

The issue is not whether the government should regulate the Internet but whether there will be effective oversight to prevent a handful of corporate giants from imposing their own version of private regulation to the public's detriment.

Not that the indies particularly mind the use of government regulatory power: last year IFTA called on the FCC to require networks to devote at least 25% of their programming lineups to shows from unaffiliated producers (Download here). Nevertheless, independent studios have a clear interest in Net neutrality rules that would prevent larger players from buying preferential treatment for their websites and online services, particularly with the opportunities dimming on cable, satellite and broadcast TV for smaller programmers. As Prewitt put it, "Allowing the Internet to become the exclusive province of a small number of large companies would inevitably harm the future of independent art and commerce."

If Glickman releases a reply, I'll update this post to include it.

Mulling Mixwit

Mixwit_logo Mixwit lets you create and share playlists using music culled from the Web via Seeqpod. So I ask you, is this legal? Right? Fair? One thing's certain: it's really fun. And although there's no evident business model, if I were a label exec I'd be helping these guys to find one.... (If an image of an old-school BASF tape doesn't appear below, click here -- I haven't had much luck getting the embedded player to work with IE.)

Verizon gives p2p some love

Verizon_logo Verizon, a leading provider of broadband services in the U.S., isDcia_logo the belle of the blogs today thanks to its work with a p2p trade group on a technology to speed p2p downloads. The technique, developed by researchers from Yale and the University of Washington, enables p2p software and broadband networks to work together to select the most efficient way to deliver a requested file.

For ISPs, this "P4P" approach offers a way to cut the amount of bandwidth hoovered by file-sharing applications -- in particular, the costly bandwidth between the ISP's local network and the rest of the Internet. That's because it would help downloaders obtain as much as possible from the shortest possible electronic paths.

Continue reading Verizon gives p2p some love »

TiVo adds YouTube

TivoTiVo's deal to bring YouTube videos to its subscribers might give YouTube another way to reach TV sets, but it doesn't solve the bigger issue for online video aggregators: how do you make your service as appealing on a TV set as you do on a PC? It's a user-interface problem, really. Rather than force viewers to use a keyboard, set-top box makers assume their customers will try to navigate through a site like YouTube with just a TV remote and its up, down, left and right keys. That leads them to present the site's inventory of videos as a list of folders and screenshots that viewers have to scroll through vertically. It gets old in a hurry. TiVo's YouTube rollout won't happen until later this year, so perhaps the company will come up with a better UI than its predecessors -- something that apes the look of YouTube.com, enabling people to choose among multiple related videos on a single screen.

Continue reading TiVo adds YouTube »

Hulu: Half finished

Hulu_logoAfter more than four months in an invitation-only Beta, Hulu opened to the public today with full-length episodes from about 200 current and classic TV shows, as well as a smattering of full-length movies. If you're interested in the Hulu inventory, the site is a nice way to experience it. The programming is all available on demand (albeit after lengthy loading times), the player's controls are great, and the commercial interruptions are less frequent than they are on TV (and in some cases, viewers get to choose between a long pre-roll and shorter interstitials). The video quality is high, even when blown up to full screen. And programs can be linked into playlists, although they don't function particularly well (the waits between clips are unforgivable). Still, Hulu is missing too many pieces to make it a truly compelling entertainment experience, which it will have to be if it wants to make a dent in online piracy.

Continue reading Hulu: Half finished »

CBS Sports gets March Madness right

Cbs_march_madness_on_demand For the third year in a row, CBS will make its broadcasts of NCAA basketball tournament games available free on the Web. The biggest difference this year, though, is that it will make *all* the tournament games available online (except for one opening-round game on March 18). There will be no local blackouts, and every round will be online, even the finals. The move acknowledges something that seems obvious: the Net doesn't cannibalize the broadcast TV audience. No one who could watch the game on a TV set would choose to watch it on a PC -- there's no interactive feature compelling enough to drive viewers out of the living room (or sports bar). As CBS chief Les Moonves told financial analysts last month, according to Online Media Daily, the "Internet audience is additive to our core audience."

Continue reading CBS Sports gets March Madness right »

Digital cinema is quietly happening

Access Integrated Technologies announced yesterday that four major Hollywood studios (Disney, Fox, Paramount and Universal) had committed to provide digital versions of their films to up to 10,000 theaters in the U.S. and Canada. That's close to a fourth of all the screens in those two countries (about 39,000 here, 2,800 up north) The announcement came on the heels of a trio of releases about deployments by Thomson's Technicolor Digital Systems, which has agreements with four major Hollywood studios (Fox, Sony, Universal and Warner Bros.) and DreamWorks SKG to distribute digital movies to up to 5,000 theaters. Meanwhile, Sony announced Monday that it plans to offer a competing digital-cinema package to exhibitors.

Continue reading Digital cinema is quietly happening »

MPAA clarifies stance against Net neutrality

MPAA chief Dan Glickman made it official today: Hollywood will fight Net neutrality regulations being considered by Congress and the FCC. Glickman's comments, which were in his annual "state of the industry" speech at ShoWest, weren't exactly surprising, given that the MPAA had urged the FCC last year not to adopt neutrality rules that would hurt anti-piracy efforts. Today, though, the nuance was gone. Said Glickman:

Government regulation of the Internet would impede our ability to respond to consumers in innovative ways, and it would impair the ability of broadband providers to address the serious and rampant piracy problems occurring over their networks today.

Continue reading MPAA clarifies stance against Net neutrality »

MMCast's mobile commercials

Here's a link to my column today about MMCast's intriguing approach to advertiser-supported content on wireless networks. The company, which has offices in Beverly Hills and London, believes its targeted approach to commercials can generate enough revenue to enable content companies to give away music, ringtones, games, and videos. Its secret sauce is technology to cache video ads on handsets, rather than embedding them into the content. Included is one interesting data point about a test that Vodafone did to measure the price elasticity of downloadable games. Not surprisingly, people really, really like free content....

Ezmo folds

Ezmo_logo Ezmo, a music locker service that let users share their collections with friends, bit the dust today. The service alerted users in an email and blog post, saying it couldn't raise the money it needed to keep going. I spoke briefly this afternoon with David Leibowitz, who was Ezmo's chairman, and he still thinks Ezmo had a workable business model: encouraging people to buy music by letting them play for free the songs that friends own. It's much like Lala.com's approach, at least conceptually. I'll confess to being more than a little skeptical about the latter, largely because of the royalty payments it had agreed to make. But at least Lala.com has deals with the labels; Ezmo never got that far.

Continue reading Ezmo folds »



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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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