Turbotodd

Ruminations on tech, the digital media, and some golf thrown in for good measure.

Posts Tagged ‘hollywood

Game of Hacks

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I’ve been following this HBO hack with great fascination.

One, because I’ve always had an interest in cybersecurity matters (although I’m not a hacker, nor do I play one on the Internets).

Two, because it’s HBO, whom I’m also a big fan of, and I still remember the reverberations of the Sony hack in late 2014, one which led to the downfall of its dear leader, Amy Pascal.

The Guardian has a new story out this morning on the HBO hack, alleging that the HBO hackers have "released personal phone numbers of Game of Thrones actors, emails and scripts in the latest dump of data stolen from the company," and, that they "are demanding a multimillion-dollar ransom to prevent the release of whole TV shows and further emails."

Where’s Daenerys Targaryen and those flying, fire-breathing dragons when you need them?

And is it just me, or do I find it completely serendipitous that this hack comes about around the time of probably one of the peak episodes of the entire GOT franchise…SPOILER ALERT…you know, the one where Daenerys finally unleashes the wrath of those damned dragons and Dothraki scythes on Jaime Lannister and his woefully unprepared army.

While GOT players will settle for bags of gold, the HBO hacker, now someone calling themselves "Mr. Smith." (You can’t make this $%#$ up!), has apparently told HBO chief executive Richard Plepler in a 5-minute video letter to pay the ransom within three days or they would put the HBO shows and confidential corporate data online.

Continues the Guardian report: "The hackers claim to have taken 1.5TB of data — the equivalent to several TV series box sets or millions of documents — but HBO said that it doesn’t believe its email system as a whole has been compromised."

Along with the video letter, the hackers have gone ahead and released 3.4GB of files, including technical data about the HBO internal network and admin passwords, draft scripts from five Game of Thrones episodes, and a month’s worth of email’s from HBO’s VP for film programming, Leslie Cohen.

The whole episode sounds as though it could have been derived from a script from Mr. Robot, but so far as I know, USA Network has, thus far, been immune from hacktivists.

HBO’s response, according to The Hacker News, is that the company’s "forensic review is ongoing."

But one has to wonder whether, somewhere on some back lot in Hollywood, that HBO’s brass is filling the gas tanks on a few dragons of its own.

For the audience, it may all just be pure entertainment.

But HBO is running a business, and they, nor any other going concern, should ever have to be held hostage by somebody calling themselves something as unimaginative as "Mr. Smith."

Especially not in Hollywood.

Written by turbotodd

August 8, 2017 at 10:28 am

Faster Media

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I indicated in a post recently that I had gotten rid of my HBO bundle through AT&T U-Verse’s system, with all due apologies to Bill Maher and the new show about news, “The Newsroom.”

But my underlying futility was really about the inability to buy or rent specific content “a la carte” (i.e., be able to buy specific channels of content without having to provide the financial overhead underwriting others) than it was about the quality of the content itself.

New models are of digital content development and management are emerging that can help challenge these legacy financial constructs. Today, at the International Broadcasting Convention (IBC), IBM announced it has helped Canal+ Group deliver and archive digital comment.

Canal+ Group is the leading pay-TV broadcaster in France, and now will be able to more easily launch and manage new channels and services such as on-demand, web-TV, and even mobile-TV.

Prior to its process and archiving overhaul, Canal+ often used separate and isolated systems to manage its services, often making the production process cumbersome, manually intensive and costly.

Today, the staff has access to an interactive portal that collates and manages over 170 hours of content per day or 8,000 programs per year, whether from tape, external files or post-production video.

The intuitive portal allows multimedia content to flow back and forth in real-time across business units such as programming, advertising, editorial, archiving, production, and distribution.

“This project has helped Canal+ undergo a major transformation, not just in terms of how we operate internally, but how we service our customers,” said Jo Guegan, executive vice president, Technology and Information Systems, Canal+ Group. “

“This new intelligent system ensures we have the tools to produce and process programs in a time frame that keeps us ahead of our competitors in France and globally. As a result, Canal+ has become one of the first organizations in the world to dynamically monitor its workflow processes.”

Written by turbotodd

September 10, 2012 at 3:55 pm

Breaking Bad Habits

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I recently gave up my HBO habit.

I was tired of paying the premium through my AT&T U-Verse subscription, and I’d been putting off for far too long giving some money to The New York Times digital edition, content from which I consume daily.

So far, it’s been a mostly fair trade.

Though I’m going to miss shows like “Game of Thrones” and “The Newsroom” and “True Blood,” as well as Bill Maher (especially during the political season), I figured being able to get all of the Times’ content on any of my digital devices (and I have many!) at any time was easy math: The digital paywall became more forbidding than the bundle became enticing.

No sooner do I make this move, than I read in Variety this morning that HBO is going to give the Nordic countries the opportunity to cut the chord by allowing folks to subscribe to HBO without having to have an HBO pay-TV subscription.

The Variety story dug deeper into the Nordic permafrost, indicating this was a competitive matching move, an announcement short on the heels of Netflix announcing its move into Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark.

I laugh at this — I don’t live in a Nordic country, what good does this do me??!!

I did visit Stockholm once — could that qualify me for a subscription???

It’s no wonder more and more people are cutting the cord on cable TV.

Cable has a business model for offering content that is completely antiquated, and entirely out of line with the direction of more a la carte offerings in a digital world.

I only cut a small piece of the cord…this time around…but unless I’m giving more choices and flexibility in content soon, as opposed to their traditional bundling…well, HBO isn’t the only habit I can break.

Written by turbotodd

August 31, 2012 at 2:18 pm

All About The Content Razorblades

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The Interwebs platform wars continue to escalate.

Not days after I read Ken Auletta’s fine New Yorker piece on the U.S. antitrust suit against Apple and several book publishers for alleged price fixing — a scheme that clearly had Amazon and its Kindle Fire in its gunsights — do we discover that Amazon is working with Foxconn on its own mobile mousetrap, one that, like the Fire, would presumably provide easy access to all kinds of compelling content from Amazon’s vast cloud of digital entertainment.

Books, movies, gaming apps…Amazon’s play suggests that the Internet industry is moving into the razor/razorblade club, with the devices being the razors, and the razorblades being all that vast digital content.

I, personally, mostly don’t care which razor I use. I’ve owned tablets and smartphones both Android and iOS now, and most recently have given a Kindle (not the Fire) a test drive.

The most important element for me in the digital content wars are the depth and sophistication of the content libraries themselves.

That is to say, help me move beyond Amazon and Apples’  57 Channels On Demand and Nothing On!

Amazon’s bookstore, of course, has virtually the world’s book population at your disposal, so no complaints when it comes to reading (although I do agree we need healthy, competitive alternatives to the Amazon reading ecosystem).

But when I go into my Amazon Prime movie library, which lets me watch some movies for free with my Prime subscription, it’s like dragging the bottom of the movie barrel.

To some degree, I see the same problem with Netflix, although Netflix has seemed to have worked more diligently to expand its library.  Amazon Prime, on the other hand,  just added a bunch of new episodes of William F. Buckley’s “Firing Line.”

Woo hoo, where do I renew my subscription??!

The cloud providers may be lining to try and lock in as many denizens as they can via their device and subscription services, but the form factor is less important than the catalog function.

What’s kept me from cutting my own cord on the TV is the fact that the Netflix’s and Amazons of the world don’t have enough diversity of content (never mind live event access to major sporting events, which for my money are msotly worth the high cost of monthly cable subscriptions alone).

So if the Apples and Googles and Amazons really want to move these markets, they need to quickly hire some sophisticated business development executives and hard-driving attorneys who can  make some negotiation headway in the hills of Hollywood’s film libraries  rather than try to draw lines around the device footprints.

It’s never about the razors, always about the razorblades.

Written by turbotodd

July 6, 2012 at 2:45 pm

Nora Ephron: I’ll Have What She’s Having

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We lost a great writer with the passing of Nora Ephron.

Judging from all the accounts of those who knew her, we also lost a great human being.

I did not know her, but I knew her work.  Anyone who followed American cinema over the past three decades, how could they not?

Starting with the anti-love love story (about love, and Ephron’s love for New York City), “When Harry Met Sally,” when both Harry and Sally decided they couldn’t just be friends after all…“You’ve Got Mail,” the first movie that presciently understood love in the late 20th cyber century…“Julie and Julia,” which brilliantly bridged time and space, juxtaposing a young female blogger in Queens in the early oughts struggling to follow her life’s passion with Julia Childs bushwhacking her way through male-dominated culinarydom in Paris in the 1950s.

What I liked most about Ephron’s writing was her humor.  But I also liked that she challenged accepted and conventional wisdom about women and humanity in general…and threw most of that conventional wisdom right out the window.

She understood their were universalities that underscored us all — men, women, children, — and made us all seem more like one, despite all our supposed differences.  She could also brilliantly underscore those universals with her fantastic humor, humor that highlighted our common humanity and sometimes made seem so frail, but stubbornly persistent, our human condition.

But she wasn’t always about funny.  1983’s “Silkwood,” much of which was shot at the then new Las Colinas film studios near Dallas, demonstrated Ephron’s knack for serious storytelling, revealing the story of Karen Silkwood, an Oklahoma nuclear plant employee whistleblower (played brilliantly by Meryl Streep) who disappeared under suspicious circumstances before she could arrive for a New York Times interview.  It was a serious movie about some very serious and relevant issues, and paved the way for later whistleblowing films like “The Insider.”

Or “Heartburn,” which laid bare the thorny thistles underlying marriage, again with Meryl Streep playing her alter ego to Ephron’s former husband Carl Bernstein (played devilishly by Jack Nicholson), with Ephron falling in love with the insider Washington columnist despite her (valid) fears about marriage, only to find him living a double life with another woman (John Edwards, anyone?).

No, I didn’t know Nora Ephron.  But for the last thirty years, I did know her work, much of which still makes me chuckle years later.  That’s a rare talent, especially these days.

I don’t know what it exactly what it was that Ephron had…but I’d like to have just a little bit of it nonetheless.

Written by turbotodd

June 27, 2012 at 3:10 pm

A Billion Angry Birds Served…And Counting

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Remember that scene from the movie “The Social Network,” the one where Sean Parker is advising Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin over cocktails?

It goes something like this:

Sean Parker: You don’t even know what the thing is yet. How big it can get, how far it can go. This is no time to take your chips down. A million dollars isn’t cool, you know what’s cool?

Eduardo Saverin: You??

Eduardo Saverin: (As the scene shifts back to the deposition room): A billion dollars!

With the looming Facebook IPO, it seems that Parker was off only by a factor of 100, but a minor detail.

Well, it appears Facebook is not the only one reaching the upper echelons of the Internet stratosphere.

Overnight, TechCrunch reported that in Rovio’s newsletter this week, the company announced its own revenues had increased by more than tenfold in 2011, and that its “Angry Birds” gaming phenom had passed the one billion download mark.

I can see the big Angry Birds McDonald sign in the sky now, over 1 billion Angry Birds served!

What’s probably less well known is that Rovio has turned into a merchandising juggernaut, selling Angry Birds-stamped merchandise ranging from T-shirts to pencil eraser sets (of which I am now the proud owner of 2 — assembly required!).

Some 30 percent of all Rovio revenues came in last year via its massive merchandising efforts.

Could an Angry Birds movie be next? Well, perhaps not an entire movie, but certainly a spoof that pretends to be directed by Hollywood action auteur Michael Bay:

Such drama!

Of course, with all those “Angry Birds” game editions replicating like rabbits, you’re soon going to require a super-duper-bird-throwing-handheld-supercomputer to be able to keep up with all those pigs running around.

Good thing Apple’s allegedly now set to deliver a new version of the iPhone in September (this according to Apple Insider, although no details of the new iPhone have yet been released.)

One can only hope for some hopped up “Angry Birds”-optimized iPhone DRAM!

The Green Monster

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I picked a heckuva week to travel up to Boston.  I arrived the same day as the Boston Marathon, and apparently, the weather this year for the run was “hellish.”  In fact, I met a guy on the rental car shuttle bus who had just run the marathon, and he explained all he wanted was a beer, he was SO sick of drinking Gatorade to stay hydrated during the race.

But also this week, we’re witnessing the 100th anniversary of Fenway Park, one of the classic old baseball parks and home to the 7 time World Series champion Boston Red Sox.

No sooner do I arrive in Boston than I start reading that former Texas Rangers manager Bobby Valentine is stirring up agita amidst the player ranks in Boston — ah, we miss you down in Texas, Bobby.

I’m expecting to attend the Rangers/Red Sox game this evening at Fenway, my first time there.  I’ll be the crazy Texan along the third base line wearing the cowboy hat (not really).

Since age-based segmentation schemes no longer suffice in the connected consumer era, IBM Media & Entertainment is finding that behavior-based segmentation is now essential. IBM's 2011 survey revealed four prominent types of digital personalities that are not age-based, but instead are based on the combination of degree of access to content and intensity of content interaction This type of analysis is now essential to delivering compelling consumer experiences.

Now, out in viva Las Vegas, the National Association of Broadcasters show has kicked off.  As part of the festivities, IBM just released a new IBM study of the media and entertainment market, which reveals that as consumers adopt an increasing number of digital devices, four distinct new “digital personalities” are emerging.

Think Sybil for iPad users!

This shift, in turn, is compelling companies to adopt more innovative business models that deliver personalized experiences.

Here’s some details behind the study: First, not all these folks are college students, contrary to popular belief. Sixty-five percent of respondents aged 55 to 64 report surfing the Web and texting with friends while watching TV.  Take that, young whippersnappers.

Eighty-two percent of surveyed global consumers aged 18 to 64 embracing connected digital devices.  And more than 50 percent of consumers in China and the United States are moving away from traditional forms of media and using online sources for breaking news.

The New Personalities: Instant, Efficient, And Social

With the growth of digital devices, one-way communication and distribution of content is no longer enough. Connected consumers these days are demanding instant access to personalized content on their own terms.   These new “personalities” look as follows:

  • Efficiency Experts: With 41 percent in this category, these respondents use digital devices and services to simplify day-to-day activities. Efficiency experts send emails rather than letters, use Facebook to communicate with others, access the Internet via mobile phones, and shop online.
  • Content Kings: Are generally male consumers, who frequently play online games, download movies and music, and watch TV online. This audience represents 9 percent of the global sample.
  • Social Butterflies: Place emphasis on social interaction – they require instant access to friends, regardless of time or place. Fifteen percent of consumers surveyed reported they frequently maintain and update social networking sites, add labels or tags to online photos, and view videos from other users.
  • Connected Maestros: 35 percent of those surveyed take a more advanced approach to media consumption by using mobile devices and Smartphone applications to access games, music, and video or to check news, weather, sports, etc.

“Media companies need to engage with consumers based on their digital personalities, if they are going to maintain a sustainable and connected relationship, said Saul Berman, Global Strategy Consulting Leader, IBM Global Business Services, and co-author of the study. “With the mass infiltration of digital devices, organizations can now enhance, extend or redefine the customer experience within minutes due to a steady stream of real-time data via social media. Future success is dependent upon successfully executing on insights based on this data, to reach the right consumer, at the right time and place, using the right tools.”

According to the IBM study, media and entertainment companies’ payment infrastructures need to be flexible and scalable to allow a variety of innovative pricing approaches to attract consumers with different preferences to their content.

The need for payment option flexibility, even for the same set of consumers, is apparent by looking at those most active in adopting new devices.

This group’s preferred mode of payment to watch a movie on a website is by viewing advertising that is included with the movie (39 percent of this segment chose this option), while they prefer to see movies on a tablet by purchasing a subscription (chosen by 36 percent). But to watch movies on a smart phone, they prefer to pay per use (the payment choice of 36 percent).

IBM surveyed 3,800 consumers in six countries – China, France, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States for this study, and also met with global representatives in broadcasting, publishing, as well as media service agencies, and telecommunication providers, to evaluate digital consumption behaviors.

You can register to download the full report here. 

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