Turbotodd

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

Posts Tagged ‘hollywood

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. 

The Netflix Identity Crisis

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I got the most extraordinary email earlier today, from Reed Hastings, the CEO of Netflix.

The email is also posted on The Netflix Blog, if you want to go and read it in its entirety.

Upon the heels of Netflix’s announced price increases, which went over with many Netflix customers like a ton of bricks, Hastings is now announcing that Netflix is going to become the “Sybil” of video delivery services, online and off.

That is to say, Netflix as we know it shall be no more.  The Netflix you used to know — you know, the one that delivered DVDs for years and helped close a few thousand Blockbuster stores — well, they’re now going to be called “Qwikster.”

I know, they clearly don’t have a corporate naming department over there at Netflix…err, Qwikster.

From here on out, Hastings explained, Qwikster will do the DVD deliveries.

Netflix, which used to do DVD deliveries, is no longer going to do deliveries, because they’re going to be the streaming part of the former Netflix.

The new Netflix is the same as the old Netflix, minus that key part of DVD deliveries, which apparently is no longer key.

Ya got all that?

Now, let me just say this: I’m a HUGE fan of Netflix and/or Qwikster.  I’m more a fan of the new Netflix than I am the old, meaning I prefer the online streaming delivery model to the USPS model.

However, there’s one big issue with this move: The better content library seems to be in the Qwikster part of the business, which is exactly the opposite of the way it should be.

The streaming delivery model should be the core of the Netflix model, but everytime I go to Netflix online, I struggle to find new and/or interesting titles that have at least a three star rating (I’ve found that’s the minimal threshold for watching movies on Netflix).

In fact, I’ve been watching mostly foreign films (which I have no problem watching whatsoever) lately, because the Netflix library is much deeper with foreign distributors than American ones (read: Hollywood ones).

And therein lies the real problem. Hollywood is still scared to death of being “Napsterized.”  They want control of their content, come hell or highwater.  And the early deals they stuck with Netflix were made when streaming was still a novelty.

Well, those days are over.  Streaming has grown up: It’s convenient, it’s immediate, and it’s a huge business opportunity, for the Hollywood studios as well as filmmakers around the globe.

There’s no stopping it, not even with Netflix’s latest branding identity crisis.  The big question that remains is, who of the big movie industry players is going to step up and make a deal.  A BIG deal, one that offers a deep and wide movie library that benefits consumers, but identifies a business model that can work for the studios and the Netflix/Qwiksters.

Because if THEY don’t, someone is going to.  Or not.  And then the so-called “Napsterization” of Hollywood will make what happened to the music industry seem like “The Bad News Bears” meets “Moneyball.”

Ultimately, avid movie fans like myself want just a handful of small things, none of which seem too much to ask: a robust library of movie choices at reasonable prices delivered the way we prefer.  Again, let me mention that we’re willing to pay for it!

Increasingly, that channel is going to be via streaming, and no amount of putting-head-under-the-sand by Hollywood studios is going to alter that direction.

Despite all the consumer hysteria about this change that’s already bubbling up across the Blogosphere, I have to say, that probably is the best and most valuable lesson from this whole endeavor: The fact that Hastings made his announcement in a letter he sent out to customers via email and posted on the Netflix blog.

His customers, according to the comments section, are mostly not in favor of this move.  But what’s different is: Hastings and his team are given his customers a direct vehicle response to the message he delivered to them.

Only time will tell whether or not Hastings and team heard them.

Written by turbotodd

September 19, 2011 at 3:37 pm

Crossing The Rubicon

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Anybody see the last episodes of “Mad Men” and “Rubicon” last evening?

Spoiler Alert.  If you’ve got them on your DVRs, stop reading now, because I plan to comment on some of the outcomes.

First, Don Draper.  Did anybody see that coming?  Asking the new secretary to marry him on a trip to Disneyland, and using now deceased Anna’s ring? What a small world after all, especially for the lovely researcher, Dr. Faye, who’s on the losing end of this proposition, as she was assumedly in love with Draper, and he with her.

I dreaded Draper’s contacting Faye (or not) the rest of the episode.  The from-the-couch psychotherapy that could be read into that decision (marrying his assistant over the professional working woman), particularly at that point in history…well, it could fill volumes.

Meanwhile, poor Peggy Olson puts on her advertising gumshoes and lands the troubled Topaz account virtually on her own, and nary a person in Sterling Cooper notices due to Don’s newlywed nuptials.

I can’t wait to see where Matthew Wiener takes this thing next season.

As for “Rubicon,” it’s my favorite new show on TV.

It’s everything impatient and reality TV isn’t.  It makes you wait.  It’s slow to unwind.  But the looming backdrop is like a conspiracy unraveling amidst a greater web of conspiracy.

It’s impossible to dive right into this show and understand what’s going on.  From the first episode, the backstory drove the narrative, and the conspiracy, but it’s been one that’s a real pleasure to see unwind.

When the rest of TV is beating up on your intelligence with sensory overload (“Ice Road Truckers,” “Dancing with the Stars”), “Rubicon” has been more like a storyline cabernet that just needed a few weeks to breathe and open up.

And open up it has.  API analyst Will Travers uses his fine analytical abilities to connect one dot to another through most of the season, only to discover there’s a seemingly whole other portrait being painted, one that transcends that of the inside operation being planned by Truxton Spangler.

The terrorist attack in Galveston Bay was planned and masterminded by a cabal of insiders connected to Atlas MacDowell, but they’re convinced Spangler’s left too much of a trail linking the attack (purposely) to Iran, and with Will Travers having learned way too much.

Who’s ultimately pulling the strings, then, becomes the critical question. If not Spangler, if not his associates (who deliver the much feared four leaf clover, a death sentence in the show to date), then who?

That’s the key question left to the imagination, and one that will only likely be answered if “Rubicon” is picked up for another year.

My vote is most assuredly yes…then again, I’ve never been a big “Ice Road Truckers” fan.

Written by turbotodd

October 18, 2010 at 3:29 pm

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