What Are You Missing? March 17-March 30
Ten (or more) media industry news items you might have missed recently:
1) The Supreme Court has been busy (and not just with DOMA). The High Court handed down multiple rulings with major impact for the entertainment industries. First, the Court extended the “first sale” doctrine to content purchased overseas but resold in the US, in a case brought by Supap Kirtsaeng, a Thai-born student sued for copyright infringement by Wiley & Sons when he resold textbooks purchased in Taiwan. The ruling has already spurred some in Congress to call for revisions to copyright law, with testimony from the U.S. Register of Copyrights calling for the “next great copyright act” involving clarifications and revisions to the Digital Millenium Copyright Act enacted 15 years ago.
2) While the industry may have lost that case, they did come out ahead in another, as the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Comcast in an antitrust suit filed by Philadelphia-area subscribers claiming they were being overcharged. This could extend beyond the realm of television/cable providers, as the ruling impacts the ways cases can be pursued by a class group.
3) As regular WAYM readers might recall, last week News Corp and Disney were both considering buying the other out for control of Hulu. Now, reports show both sides are considering selling to a third party. Potential buyers being tossed around are investment firm Guggenheim Partners, Yahoo, and Amazon, tough no official comments have been made. So at this point, anything (or nothing) could happen.
4) In other streaming news, HBO GO, the online streaming service from HBO that is currently only available to those with a cable subscription (with the extra HBO fee), may ‘go’ broader, with HBO CEO Richard Plepler mentioning interest in teaming up directly through broadband providers. This would make HBO the “first premium cable network to bypass cable” and go directly to its Internet-based audience. This could be a big step, and a tacit admission of new competition in the form streaming sites like Netflix and Amazon.
5) This past week, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released a report detailing the results of an “undercover shopper survey” on the enforcement of entertainment industry ratings. In an age where video games are often singled out for their impact on children, the FTC found the ESRB’s rating system and video game retailers the best, noting an 87% success rate of underage children being denied buying M-rated games. All areas found marked success, however, as box office, DVD sales, and CDs all showed improvement over the past years (See graph/report for more details).
6) The Game Developers Conference (GDC), the “world’s largest and longest-running professionals-only game industry event,” took place this past week, featuring booths, panels, and demos of the latest and greatest out of the video game industry. Although events like PAX and E3 draw larger audiences and media coverage, GDC has become another site for industry outsiders, like Disney and Warner Bros., to become more involved. Highlights include Activision’s uncanny valley-crossing graphics demo and independent game Journey taking home several awards including being the first independent to win Game of the Year.
7) Upfront season is really heating up, starting with News Corps cable network FX announcing the launch of a new sister channel, FXX (The extra X is for… I don’t know). FXX (launching in September) will specifically target a younger demographic, 18-34, and will be bolstered by moving current FX comedies It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and The League, as well as new comedy programming and reruns of popular shows like Sports Night and Arrested Development. Back on the FX front, network president John Landgraf also announced the acquisition of a 10-episode adaptation of the Coen Brothers’ Fargo, a bid they hope puts them in competition with more premiere cable fare like HBO and AMC.
8) More from the upfront front, Participant Media announced the creation of ‘pivot’ (stylized in lower-case), a new cable network formed from their purchase of the Documentary Channel. The new channel will mostly be filled with non-fiction programming aimed at Millenials, with shows from Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Meghan McCain already lined up. Participant Media is exploring options for offering the channel via broadband, trying to hook this young generation with both relevant technology and content.
9) A new report out this week from UCLA and the Writers Guild of America (WGA) revealed women and minorities are still underrepresented on television writing staffs as well as in producer roles. UCLA sociologist and the report’s author Darnell Hunt revealed that while some progress was made, it was at such a slow rate, the effects are marginal or nearly nonexistent.
10) Variety isn’t gone, but it won’t be the same. The 80-year-old Hollywood daily trade magazine published its last print edition on March 19. Variety will live on, both online in its revamped (paywall-free) website and in a new weekly magazine that debuted March 26.
And we return to The Silly Side, looking at the inherent weirdness that comes from entertainment industries:
- Montie, the cat understudy of the new Breakfast at Tiffany’s Broadway production, has been fired.
- Ashley Judd has officially announced (on Twitter) she will not be running for Senate. In related news, I, Andrew Zolides, will also not be running for Senate.
- In Jon Hamm’s penis news, Jon Hamm has spoken out (in a Rolling Stone interview) about the Internet’s obsession with his penis, calling out various blogs and tumblers devoted to… him. At any rate, Mad Men returns April 7.