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New hope for webcasters, revisited

OK, it's on now. SoundExchange issued a press release this morning making what seemed like a helpful concession to webcasters, offering to cap the minimum fees paid by multi-channel services such as Pandora and Live365. But some advocates for webcasters suspect there's a catch and that SoundExchange isn't really willing to give up the negotiating leverage that the  bankruptcy-inducing minimums provide.

Continue reading New hope for webcasters, revisited »

Be an iPhone reviewer

Every day since MacWorld in January, I've been resisting the temptation to write about the iPhone. Sure, there's an entertainment-technology convergence angle, but there's been no lack of coverage on that point. Still, the phone is so ... so ... shiny. My resistance finally broke down Thursday, which is why The Times has an editorial mulling what the iPhone tells us about ourselves. For a nice gloss on that piece, read this post by Cynthia Brumfield at IP Democracy.

All the same, I won't be lining up to buy an iPhone today. I'm not getting a review unit, either; nor, apparently, is my colleague David Colker in the Business section, the guy who was supposed to do a critique. (The only gadget anyone's dangled in front of me recently has been this one.) So for now, at least, The Times is going to rely on you readers to detail the pros and cons of Apple's new status symbol. If you're splurging this weekend on the highly coveted coolness communicator, we'd like to hear about it. Post your first impressions as a comment to this blog. Tell us what it's like to actually use the thing, or maybe just to stop traffic with it. Or tell us the crushing disappointment you felt when the store ran out before you reached the head of the queue.

To give you a head start, here are links to reviews that ran before the iPhone's release:
David Pogue, New York Times
Walt Mossberg and Katie Boehret, Wall Street Journal
Steven Levy, Newsweek
Ed Baig, USA Today
My personal favorite is by Phil Baker of the San Diego Daily Transcript, who appears to have cobbled his review together without an official loaner from Apple. Way to go, Phil!

EMI, Snocap sell MP3s

Snocap_logo_2 Snocap finally bagged a big one. Shawn Fanning's second act announced this morning that it had signed its first agreement with a major label to distribute MP3s -- EMI, the only one not allergic to files without DRM. Snocap already has agreements with numerous indie labels and MySpace, and it recently launched an intriguing arrangement with social network iMeem to monetize shared streams. The EMI deal is of a different order of magnitude, though, because it could put Snocap's tools to work for some real musical tonnage-movers.

[This post has been updated to reflect the fact that EMI is the first label to do an MP3 distribution deal with Snocap. Previously, Warner Music Group had signed on with Snocap to distribute copy-protected WMA files.]

Continue reading EMI, Snocap sell MP3s »

New hope for webcasters?

Soundexchange SoundExchange, which collects digital broadcasting royalties for labels and performers, announced this morning what appears to be an important concession to webcasters specializing in customized playlists, such as Pandora and Yahoo's LAUNCHcast (download the press release here). The agency proposed to cap the administrative fees it collects at $2,500 per service. The move -- three days after hundreds of webcasters shut off their signals in a "day of silence" --  would eliminate one of the most perverse features of the new royalty regime announced in March by a panel of federal arbitrators, a provision that threatened to push even such powerhouse webcasters as Yahoo and RealNetworks out of the business.

Continue reading New hope for webcasters? »

NBA sells its online rights

The LAT offers a piece today by Dawn Chmielewski and Greg Johnson about ABC, ESPN and TNT buying both the over-the-air and online broadcasting rights to eight years' worth of NBA games for a total of $7.4 billion. This strikes me as a good thing for viewers online because it encourages advertiser-supported business models there, rather than the subscription and pay-per-view approaches that are dominant today. (Here's Greg Johnson's sidebar on the approaches taken by the major pro and college sports organizations.) A network that has the rights to air the games across multiple platforms can create attractive packages for advertisers, who may be even more interested in broadband viewers than those watching on TV. That's not possible when a league sells the over-the-air rights to the networks while keeping the online rights for itself or some other entities.

Also in the paper today, a nice follow-up by Alex Pham on the medical establishment resisting calls to treat video-game addiction as an honest-to-goodness medical problem.

Film Fresh's DivX solution

Divx_logo Back in April I wrote about Film Fresh, an online store specializing in indie films, getting into the downloadable-film market with the help of DivX, which was supplying the software to compress, play and burn the files. The store's approach offered something that has largely eluded other downloadable movie ventures: an easy path to the TV set, at least for the tens of millions of people with DivX-capable DVD players in their living rooms. Or rather, that's what the folks at DivX promised. I recently downloaded a couple of movies from the site and found that the claim was pretty much true: within minutes of the movie's arrival on my PC, it was playing on my TV.

Continue reading Film Fresh's DivX solution »

Video games, iPhones....

In today's LA Times:

Like many a Hollywood release, video games based on movies typically sell well despite drawing raspberries from critics. Alex Pham writes about how game developers are trying to turn those thumbs around.

You've probably read that the line to buy iPhones has already started forming outside Apple's store in Manhattan. You may find that the guy who's first in that line seems a tad familiar. Thomas Mulligan explains why.

Jim Puzzanghera reports on a Senate hearing Tuesday on TV violence, which demonstrated the sharp split among lawmakers over whether to regulate broadcasters on that front.

I'll confess, this one has little or nothing to do with tech, but I was fascinated by Meg James' take on NBC Entertainment's youthful, you-gotta-lovable new co-chairman, Ben Silverman.

Finally, there's an interesting piece in the other Times about MySpace's new strategy for video. It plans to launch a separate site (www.myspacetv.com, a dead link as of this writing) for video clips, and it appears to be betting heavily on professionally produced material. That could help settle the question about what's more important to the success of YouTube: is it Hollywood content (particularly the unauthorized kind), or is it the material spawned by users, often in response to that content?

XM, Sirius and the grass roots

For those of us in Journalismland, the proposed merger between XM and Sirius has become a press-release-of-the-day phenomenon. Either the National Assn. of Broadcasters announces a study or testimony condemning the proposal, or the satellite companies trot out a competing study or filing by an advocacy group -- often a little-known one -- saying the merger would be a wonderful thing for all of humanity. I did a column today for latimes.com looking at the common inside-the-Beltway practice of rounding up interest groups to advance (or oppose) a controversial proposal, and you can read it here.

Sony dis-Connects

Sony_connect_logo Well, that's one way to address the DRM incompability problem. PaidContent.org reports that Sony is all but killing its online music and video store, dubbed Sony Connect. Evidently, the new Sony gives up more quickly on misbegotten initiatives than the old Sony, although frankly I'm surprised Connect lasted even this long.

Continue reading Sony dis-Connects »

Webcasting royalties round-up

In case you missed it, the Los Angeles Times' website played host to a virtual debate last week over Webcasting royalties and related topics. Kurt Hanson, publisher of the influential Radio And Internet Newsletter, squared off against Jay Rosenthal, counsel to the Recording Artists Coalition. Anyone interested in the topic should read their posts -- they're both articulate and forceful.

For something a bit less compelling, you can read the column I did on webcasting royalties to kick off the week. It provides a bit of the history behind the debate and points out some of the flaws in the process. It also shows that when it comes to writing long, Hanson and Rosenthal have nothing on me.

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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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