Archive for November, 2007

Google to bid on wireless spectrum; is it playing to win?

google wirelessNow that Google has jumped into the deep end of the pool, what are its plans for the upcoming wireless spectrum auction? Is Google playing to win? Is this a bluff? Do we as consumers want Google to win? Should we care?

As expected, Google made it official today: It will bid on the “C Block” 700 MHz spectrum offered by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission. The bids, expected to go as high as $4.6 billion, begin January 24, followed by a series of bidding rounds. An end — and answers to many questions — may not come until March.

Google’s plans for the auction are outlined in its official blog, although the company doesn’t give us much insight into its strategy. Some bloggers, including Om Malik, rightly ask if Google is in the auction to win. As Om points out, part of Google Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Eric Schmidt’s comments didn’t sound like Google is going to fight like hell and do whatever it takes to win.

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Deutsche Grammophon opens wonderful online music store for classical enthusiasts

dg webshopDeutsche Grammophon has opened a wonderful online music store for classical music enthusiasts, the DG Web Shop, which offers quality and availability unlike any other online store, including iTunes.

Nearly 2,400 classical DG albums will be available for download in the best MP3 quality available — 320 kbps — which exceeds the download standard of 128-192 kbps and the “quality” standard of 256 kbps offered by EMI on iTunes* and at AmazonMP3 (see our review).

The DG Web Shop is also open to countries not serviced by other online music retailers, including China, India, Latin America, South Africa, and Central and Eastern Europe.

Pricing ranges from $1.29/euro for titles with playing times up to seven minutes, while regular-length recordings with or without “e-booklets” will sell for $10.99/euro-$11.99/euro.

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"Heroes" now streaming on Netflix and a website near you

netflixIt’s almost as if, once NBC decided to dump iTunes, the network has been looking for every venue possible to make its shows available for digital viewing.

The latest place on the Internet to find NBC shows is Netflix, best known for its online DVD rentals. Netflix has signed a deal with NBC Universal (press release) to offer online episodes of “Heroes” and past episodes of other series such as “30 Rock”, “Friday Night Lights”, and “The Office.” Netflix subscribers will have the option of watching these shows immediately on their computers at or on DVD.

Heroes” episodes will appear on the Netflix website the day after they air on NBC. There’s no word if each episode will be available throughout the season, or if shows will be taken down once new ones are aired.

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MTV Networks to put every South Park episode online

South Park fans rejoice (“Kenny” to live online forever).

MTV Networks to put every South Park episode onlineFollowing a successful experiment with “The Daily Show”, MTV Networks will make every episode of “South Park” available free online sometime next year, as part of the company’s wider distribution strategy “to reach consumers everywhere” (see the Reuters report).

The lesson learnt by MTV Networks subsidary, Comedy Central, when it made the entire archive of “The Daily Show” available for streaming online, is that Internet TV viewing can lead to more traditional television viewing. In other words, The Daily Show’s television viewing figures are up not down, even though fans are able get an unlimited fix via the show’s own website.

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The end is near? Yahoo! and AOL may shut down Internet radio service

launchcastaol radioIt looks like two of the Internet’s biggest Web radio services may be shutting down after being hit with a 38 percent increase in royalties to air the music they play.

Bloomberg reports that Yahoo! and AOL have stopped directing users to their radio sites after Sound Exchange, the Washington, D.C.-based group representing artists and record labels, began collecting higher fees in July. As a result, the number of people using Yahoo! Launchcast fell 11 percent to 5.1 million in October, and AOL users declined 10 percent to 2.7 million from 3 million, according to ComScore.

“We’re not going to stay in the business if cost is more than we can make long term,” Ian Rogers, general manager of Yahoo!’s music unit, told Bloomberg.

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EMI parent Terra Firma mulls cutting back support for RIAA, IFPI

emiterra firmaIt may seem like an insignificant dot on the music industry landscape at the moment. But if EMI, one of the Big Four record labels, goes through with its plan to “substantially” reduce the amount of money it gives to trade organizations, maybe, just maybe, it will help force these groups to re-examine their legal strategies and continue the push for DRM-free music.

Guy Hands, Terra Firms’s chief executive officer, sent letters to the industry’s two largest trade groups — the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) — threatening to slash EMI’s annual funding to the organizations by at least half, The Financial Times and Reuters reported. Terra Firma, a private equity firm, bought the financially-troubled EMI in May for nearly $5 billion. Hands has been stripping costs since then and has been questioning the return on investment in supporting the RIAA and IFPI.

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TiVo and Nero partner to bring TiVo's DVR solution to the PC

TiVo and Nero partner to bring PVR software to the PCIn more TiVo-related news (following yesterday’s hookup with NBC), the company is partnering with software maker, Nero, to develop a TiVo/Nero branded DVR solution for the PC. This will see the two company’s compete with existing PC software-based DVR products from Microsoft (Media Center), Snapstream (BeyondTV) and SageTV.

In the accompanying press release, TiVo’s CEO, Tom Rogers, is quoted as saying:

“This agreement provides TiVo with an opportunity to deliver its interface and differentiated feature set globally via the PC, enabling TiVo to use all avenues of mass distribution — from consumer electronics, to cable and satellite boxes and soon, the PC.”

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NBC becomes first broadcast network to tap into TiVo for advertising insight

my tivoThe TV execs might as well and go ahead an implant chips in our heads so they can track every instant we watch television, when we watch, how we watch, and whether or not we skip the ads.

Don’t laugh. In recent months, NBC and a company called Innerscope tested a vest that monitored a viewer’s heartbeat, sweat, and movement to show that consumers react to sped-up ads.

The latest attempt to gain an understanding of our TV viewing habits comes from NBC Universal, which became the first major broadcaster to use a digital video recording company’s advertising services to — you guessed it — better understand every moment we watch (or don’t watch) TV.

NBC-U will tap into TiVo’s StopWatch commercial-ratings service to gain second-by-second information on how TiVo’s viewers are watching TV. Additionally, NBC-U’s 14 TV and 10 NBC-owned-and-operated TV stations will sell TiVo’s interactive “tags”, or onscreen icons, that viewers click to see longer commercials in combination with other NBC products.

Naturally, TiVo and NBC Universal will work together to develop additional advertising products.

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Verizon's opening its network to any phone and software app is welcomed, but no surprise

verizonColor Verizon’s announcement today however you want: an about-face, a shocking surprise, a concession to Google and the Powers-That-Be. But the No. 2 U.S. carrier opening up its network to any phone and any software application is nothing more than Verizon counter-punching in a high-stakes heavyweight bout between the carriers, Google, the government, and consumers.

I’m glad they did it. Woopie! Fantastic! Way to go! But this should have been done years ago by a notoriously protective carrier known for its iron-fisted rule over the devices running on its network. After all, the use-whatever-device-you-want approach has been practiced for years by T-Mobile and other GSM carriers, especially outside of the U.S.

As David Farber told Wired today, “So, basically, Verizon has now joined every other carrier out there — with the exception of AT&T — in saying they will allow other devices to run on their network. They’re just saying ‘me too! me too!’ ”

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Finally some sense – BBC, ITV and Channel 4 catch-up services to unite

Finally some sense - BBC, ITV and Channel 4 uniteThe three significant British terrestrial TV networks – the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 – have today announced an initiative to develop a combined service for accessing their on-demand and catch-up services. The new service is currently known under the working title “Kangaroo”. At the moment each network offers their own service, each with their own failings and benefits. Most recently the BBC launched their controversial iPlayer, which hit headlines after it was announced that it would only be available (in the first instance) for Windows XP machines, alienating Windows Vista machines and users of other operating systems.

By having a unified method of browsing, downloading and viewing programs from each of the three providers, viewers will have more control over the content stored on their machine. I argued a while back that a unified application just makes more sense. The end-user only has to learn one method to view their favourite programs, and not three. Imagine this as being similar to an electronic program guide (EPG) – one view for all channels (or at this time, for those channels covered by those networks). If, for example, Sky’s EPG was fragmented like the current online catch-up services, you would have one style menu for BBC, another for Sky channels, another for Channel 4, and so on.

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