Amazon – Antenna Responses to Media and Culture Thu, 30 Mar 2017 23:48:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Amazon’s Betas: From the Valley to the City Mon, 23 Dec 2013 14:00:18 +0000 0419-betas-amazon-630x420Amazon’s new series, Betas, opens with a google maps-like zoom from the earth to the suburbs of Silicon Valley, somewhere between Palo Alto and Mountain View, finally stopping at the Mind Hub Communal Workspace. Inside, Nash (Karan Soni), a sometimes painfully stereotyped Indian American brainiac, is struggling to write code while avoiding Nerf darts and Cheetos crumbs. The communal space is chaotic – the Google workplay gone awry – as if the parents left town leaving a refrigerator full of beer, red bull, and massive amounts of broadband.

In the second episode, Nash and the BRB team get a big chance to develop their mobile app from the Stuart Brand-like investor, George Murchison or ‘Murch’ (Ed Belgey Jr.) and the whole BRB team moves to ‘the city’. In contrast to the Mind Hub in the Valley, ‘Murch’s Accelerator’ is cool. It’s in a gentrified building in downtown SF somewhere with exposed HVAC ducts, brick walls, and is so hip you have to enter from a secret passage in the alley. Painted on one wall is the famous quote from John Carpenter’s 1988 anti-consumption film, They Live. It reads:

“KICK       betas_publicitystills7_1020_large





It’s witty or ironic, or something. However in They Live, Roddy Piper says he’s here (in a bank) to “chew bubblegum”, and then he says, “and kick ass”. Next he says he’s all out of bubblegum and starts blowing away aliens who control our thoughts and actions through media and advertisements.

The contrast between the two spaces is meant to be obvious. The Mind Hub is a neat idea, nestled cozily in the fat suburbanism of the Valley, babysitting young tech geeks. The Murch Accelerator, however, is for serious, cutting edge app development. It’s sharp, urban and ballsy. It’s not baby communal egalitarianism, its big boy competitive capitalism – it chews gum and kicks ass without worrying about running out of either. But rather than simply backdrops for the show, the contrast between the two spaces expresses a hierarchy of social practices, i.e., private competitive copyrights over communal open source coding practices, and market-driven co-operation over idealist cooperation. It constructs a structure of value through a historic migratory myth about moving to and from the City.

The Valley to the City is also more than simply climbing the app development ladder. It intersects an embattled political history of redevelopment that is transforming the physical space and cultural character of San Francisco. Slow growth polices in the 1970s that curbed the construction of office space in order to preserve affordable housing have slowly given way to new ‘smart’ growth policies that push redevelopment of ‘underutilized’ urban areas to increase density. But whether the results are bad gentrification or good progressive land use, the production of urban space has a lot to do with who, how, and why.

For geographer Neil Smith, cities can map for us the ‘spatialization’ of capital accumulation. He suggests urban development follows a political logic, a history of negotiations between policy and economics that unevenly accommodate the patterns and habits of productive spaces, and those who can access them. This is why property zoning, transportation and parking, and a city’s tax structure are such important political fronts. According to San Francisco State professor of geography Jason Henderson, the politics of space are the politics of San Francisco and a large part of its culture.

For residents who protested outside Twitter’s Mid Market headquarters in downtown San Francisco just two weeks before the Betas premiere, a political logic of urban development isn’t simply theoretical. As Twitter introduced its IPO on November 7th, they held signs calling attention to the role of high-tech industries in displacing the poor and elderly. Their argument was simple: when you move in, we get moved out. The importance context of their argument is that historically, when companies like Twitter, Spotify, Pinterest, and Zendesk take advantage of large tax incentives to move downtown, it’s overwhelmingly the disabled, elderly, poor, working-class, and minority residents that are forced to move. But the middle class (once gentrifiers themselves) are no longer safe either and skyrocketing rents are not the only issue.

Both the East Bay Express and New Republic recently expressed an uneasiness about the cultural and political effects of the young, mostly male, entrepreneurial, free marketeers, once content shooting Nerf guns and eating Cheetos in the Valley, moving downtown SF to chew gum and kick ass. While mega rich entrepreneurial types in SF are nothing new, the articles question whether the new stock of rich, pampered by Mayor Lee, are just as eager to invest in the traditional civic-minded institutionalism of the city – things like arts funding, transit first, and public goods. Some readers commented that it is all too easy to mix the consumptive choices of the new digital elite with real, material disparities. Perhaps. But maybe, like the expressive relationship between space and social practice, they are already mixed from the beginning.

Like BRB’s mobile app meant to connect you to people you ‘should’ know, the issue of who’s in and who’s out is literally geographic in San Francisco. As a comedy (but not because) Betas has little room for big stakes issues in SF like the politics of redevelopment. Amazon has to choose carefully which story of high-tech San Francisco people will buy. But public transportation, in a famously transit-first city, is wallpaper in the show until Trey (Joe Dinicol), BRB’s CEO, trades his vintage mercedes for stolen hardware after their app gets hacked in episode five. This is an outright rejection of geography. Space is not neutral, especially the mobile app world in San Francisco. Like all technology, including Amazon, BRB is constructed by particular cultural and political biases and assertions about people and the world that are grounded in relationships to physical space. That Betas writers miss or ignore the politics of space in San Francisco as an active character in the show’s development is perhaps one of its fatal flaws.


What Are You Missing? Nov 25 – Dec 8 Sun, 08 Dec 2013 15:00:09 +0000 Here are ten or more media industry news items you might have missed recently:
(NOTE: This edition will be slightly more brief, thanks to the increased December workload.)

hotfile_logo1) A huge anti-piracy decision was handed down through the courts as cyberlocker Hotfile has been charged with infringing copyright, granting Hollywood Studios $80 million in damages. The MPAA initially brought the case back in 2011, claiming the site enabled piracy and did not do enough to combat it. What’s more, Hotfile has permanently shut down, leaving behind the note, “If you are looking for your favorite TV shows and movies, there are more ways than ever to get high-quality access to them on legal platforms.”

2) Start saving up because the FCC is having an auction! An announcement from new chairman Tom Wheeler revealed the agency’s plans on having an auction of the broadcast spectrum for wireless use to further open them up to new mobile and telecom firms, effectively reshuffling ownership. Being regarded as the most complex undertaking of the FCC ever and originally scheduled for late 2014, the auction has been pushed back to 2015 to ensure the software works properly ( anyone?).

3) The Fox Searchlight-Interns legal battle will not go away. An appeals court is now looking into the case which sees former interns on the film Black SwanThe original ruling found in favor of the interns, claiming they were working as employees but not being paid, while the studio argues they should not be considered employees. The case will likely have far reaching consequences for other entertainment and media internships, a field we all probably know a little something about.

4) Another appeals case has been settled, this one upholding a ban on political advertising on public television. The ruling was being challenged as a violation of First Amendment rights, but the court felt such advertising would “change the character” of public broadcasting and undermine its goals.

Amazon Drone5) Amazon has started taking its ideas from The Onion articles, as the company announced on 60 Minutes future plans for automated drone-based delivery of several of its items. Jeff Bezos unveiled their working prototypes for the service called Amazon Prime Air, which will come out in 2015 depending on FAA approval. No word on what sorts of defensive capabilities the drones will have, as I don’t want some nut to shoot down by DVD set of Psych Season 5!

6) Speaking of ridiculous things, a new report from Nielsen claims Americans spend more time listening to traditional radio than browsing the Internet or using DVD players and game consoles. Only television reigns supreme over radio in terms of time spent using. Of course, this report also reminds us the average media user is between the ages of 45 and 54, but my YiaYia (Greek for grandmother) emails me all the time. She’s getting those links from somewhere!

7) In a case WAYM has been following for months, it seems that the case against SiriusXM will be moving forward in California. The satellite radio giant is facing a $100 million class-action lawsuit for distributing pre-1972 recordings without repayment, as that was the year sound recordings began falling under federal copyright. The case could be monumental, as giving public performance rights to the copyright holders could impact not just radio, but television and film as well.

8) In other music legal news, singer-songwriter-awesome human being Aimee Mann has won the first round of her lawsuit against a company called MediaNet that delivers songs to online music streaming services. Mann claims the company has infringed upon her copyrights, using the songs after the contract expires. She is not alone in the case, as other artists are taking this as a lead to push back regarding their own copyrights.

9) Jerry Bruckheimer has found his new home. The blockbuster producer has signed a three-year first look deal with Paramount that begins next April. This will be the first time in nearly 20 years Bruckheimer will not be under a deal with Disney. First up: new installments for Beverly Hills Cop and Top Gun. I’m glad to see Bruckheimer is still as creative as ever!

tennis-channel-logo10) Looks like The Tennis Channel is looking to the biggest court in the land, as The Tennis Channel has filed a petition with the Supreme Court to review their case against Comcast over whether a cable company discriminated against their channel by placing it in a separate tier from Comcast-owned cable sports channels like Golf Channel & NBC Sports Network. The original case ruled in favor of Comcast, citing a lack of evidence, but The Tennis Channel is continuing the volley, hoping to serve up some justice and take advantage on the (or in) court… I’ll stop.


Rethinking Media Distribution Wed, 20 Nov 2013 15:00:21 +0000 Tryon pic

The news that the subscription service Netflix now has more total subscribers than premium cable channel HBO further confirms that media industries are changing rapidly, especially when it comes to the practices of movie and TV distribution. Beyond altering the economics of media distribution, subscription services such as Netflix and Hulu have introduced a whole new vocabulary for both media consumers and industry professionals alike. Activities such as binge watching and “Netflix adultery” were unimaginable just a few short years ago, while more traditional practices—such as the weekly trip to the video store—have practically disappeared. With those changes in mind, Jeff Ulin, a media distribution expert who has worked at Lucasfilm, Paramount, and Universal, has substantially revised his 2009 book, The Business of Media Distribution, for the era of digital delivery, providing a fascinating and engaging road map for both media scholars and industry professionals.

The new edition of the book starts by spelling out how studios and networks manage media properties in order to create value—through managing intellectual property rights, for example—before tracing several different modes of distribution: theatrical, home video, television, and internet. The final sections of the book focus on aspects such as marketing and promotion, especially as those practices have been transformed by the emergence of social media tools. Ulin also reiterates one of the key observations discussed in his first book: the idea that studios are best understood as “financing and distributing machines” that seek to maximize value, in large part by managing the distribution “windows” when movies or TV shows are available through a specific platform. Ulin emphasizes the process by which studios carefully balance when movies are available theatrically, through VOD platforms, on DVD, and eventually through subscription services such as Netflix, in order to maximize the value of a given text.

In his map of the film distribution landscape, Ulin traces several of the key factors that drove the adoption of digital projectors, most notably the role of 3D in serving as a means for justifying surcharges to consumers. But another major factor identified by Ulin is the role of China as a major marketplace for Hollywood theatrical films. Specifically, Ulin points out that the U.S. government negotiated a deal to raise the limit on the number of international films screened annually in China from 20 to 34, with the stipulation that the additional movies be screened in 3D. While Ulin is less explicit on this matter, the clear implication is that China’s theatrical market will likely shape the choices studios make when it comes to picking projects for the foreseeable future.

But the strength of Ulin’s book is his thorough explanation of the changes in the home video marketplace, especially as online video sources are poised to upset DVD rental and sales. As Ulin points out, the conflicts between physical or bricks-and-mortar retailers and online sources including Amazon are often more complex than they appear, especially given incentives such as using DVDs as “loss-leaders” to draw shoppers into big-box retailers such as Walmart and Target. More crucially, however, subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) services such as Netflix and Hulu and transactional video-on-demand (TVOD) retailers such as Amazon and iTunes have upset traditional revenue streams and the distribution windows that were designed to provide various platforms (theaters, pay cable, basic cable) with periods of exclusivity that allowed studios and exhibitors to protect the value of the movie being distributed. These conflicts have played out in the ongoing debates over day-and-date distribution, especially for independent and low-budget movies, or shorter theatrical windows for studio films. But they also inform how TV shows circulate, especially when the interests of production companies and SVOD services such as Netflix compete with the interests of cable TV channels such as TNT and FX that are currently negotiating to extend their “broadcast window” to encompass the most recent season of a show, rather than just the five most recent episodes. Such battles are likely to persist in our current on-demand culture

One of the challenges that faces any book that focuses on the media distribution landscape is that it changes so rapidly. As I was reading Ulin’s book, Blockbuster Video announced that it would be closing its last 300 stores, resulting in the loss of over 3.000 jobs and leaving Redbox as, perhaps, the primary option for DVD rental for most US consumers. However, Ulin’s book remains relevant, in large part because he offers several key principles to describe the ongoing evolution of the media industries. With that in mind, we can read all of the recent changes—Netflix’s competition with HBO, Blockbuster’s closure of its U.S. stores, and China’s emergence as a crucial theatrical market—as part of a larger system in which studios and other media institutions use windows in order to generate and retain value for the films and television shows they distribute, no matter how we access them.


Making Television in the 21st Century Conference Report Mon, 28 Oct 2013 13:23:58 +0000 Making TVFresh insights and global perspectives dominated the Making Television in the 21st Century Conference held in Aarhus University, Denmark from October 24-26. The common thread uniting the wide-ranging talks was the pursuit to provide updated models and methods to make sense of the evolving medium.

In the inaugural keynote, John T. Caldwell (UCLA) presented an analysis of the complex media labor system, and its financial environment, based on a three-part model regime: the “Craft-World,” the “Brand-World,” and the “Spec-World.” In the “Craft-World” the aesthetic goal is to create a durable artifact, while in the “Brand-World,”  flexible reformatting and concept-iteration are fundamental. The “Spec-World”, in contrast, seems to be more disaggregated. It is based on a sharing culture and tends to offer virtual pay systems.

However, these three regimes are not detached, as they form a connected “para-industrial buffer” that scholars and producers must conciliate. For example, there is a “Corporate Spec-World” that deals with brand reformatting from a speculative point of view. Moreover, Caldwell suggested that, in the actual context, all media products seem to function as a television pilot, a prototype opened to speculation and replication. Disney is a good example of this idea. As Caldwell observed, with the ABC series Once Upon a Time, the company has found a new mode to recreate its own brand. This process becomes more evident in episodes in which we can see real actors re-enacting scenes from classic Disney animated movies.

The conference also offered space for interesting ideas about Netflix and Amazon as new operators in the television industry. Sarah Arnold, from Falmouth University, posed the provocative question: “Is Netflix really television?” The diffusion method used by the streaming platform, promoting the binge viewing of its new series, makes Arnold question the televisual aspect of the streaming platform. Can we talk about television without a regular and scheduled content?

In the same panel, Jakob Isak Nielsen, from Aarhus University, added that one challenge that Netflix must face is to find a specific target group for its new content, as premium cable networks mostly do. Besides, the company must deal with the difficult situation of dealing with other television networks to offer their content on streaming and, at the same time, be one of its competitors. According to Nielsen, the future of Netflix happens to be less dependent on licensing material.

While most discussions about quality TV or the Golden Age of TV are rooted in US programming, this conference fittingly examined the recent international appeal and acclaim of Danish series such as Borgen, The Killing, and The Bridge, the latter of which is a co-production with Sweden. Heidi Philipsen of The University of Southern Denmark and Tobias Hochscherf of The University of Applied Sciences Kiel presented “Television Dogmas of Creativity? The Cross-Fertilisation of Film and Television as a Prerequisite for Danish Television’s Recent Success,” detailing a new partnership and subsequent production culture, “television dogmas for production” that was influenced by the 1990s-era Dogma film movement. The key principles include double storytelling, crossover between film and TV for a “cinematic touch,” and the significance of the writers, who hold the final say.

Within this dogma, the National Film School that is behind the development incorporates predefined themes, actors, teams and genres. Within the industry, the reputable public service broadcaster Danmarks Radio (DR) provides easy national financing for the creators, allowing room for innovation and stating that “failure is OK,” if not often necessary, for the creative process. As Philpsen and Hochscherf have interviewed these practitioners and will soon observe onsite filming, they informed that the conditions include 20 weeks of development and 20 weeks to shoot 24 episodes. In a conversation with Caldwell, the three agreed that these modes are not unique to Denmark, but quite similar to US schedules. A version of this paper will be included in the forthcoming Danish TV dossier in the Journal of Popular Television.

In the same Danish Drama TV panel, Lynge Agger Gemzøe described the national identities associated with the Swedish-Danish production of The Bridge and later compared the original with the US adaptation on FX. A French-British version called The Tunnel has also recently been released.

Afterwards, Pia Majbritt Jensen and Anne Marit Waade dissected the pros and cons of external funding for Danish programming. While outside sources can provide an abundance of money, Danish creative control can be weakened. Likewise, public service to the nation’s audience can also be replaced for international appeal to sell series abroad. In a separate panel, Hanne Bruun described the flux of Danish broadcast journalism, highlighting the tensions between the people, media and state and providing non-Danes a context to understand future plots in the politics of Borgen, a series very specific to the country’s government, with clear universal appeal, that has been broadcast in 60 countries.

In addition to Danish programming, numerous quality papers were given on British, German, Italian, Scandinavian, and Spanish and television industry and production practices.

In the last keynote panel of the conference, questions about the next challenges of television production were posed from a European perspective. Lothar Mikos, Professor of Television Studies, Academy of Film and Television “Konrad Wolf” in Potsdam, Germany, suggested a system of transnational co-productions as a real possibility to create and finance large scale television series to compete with the US. The European film industry, as Mikos reminded us, is a good example of this kind of cooperation between different countries and agents. Additionally, the emergence of Netflix offers a new alternative of partnership for European television channels following the case of Lillyhammer, a Norwegian-American production. However, every country is different and Denmark, as was proved along the entire conference, has found its own receipt for success adapting the American television system based on the crucial figure of the showrunner.

In conclusion, the conference celebrated risk and transgression as a main goal for television production in this 21st century. “Audience demands originality”, declared Lotte Lindegaard, head of TV2 Denmark.
AntennaCinemaJournalJune This post is part of an ongoing partnership between the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Antenna: Responses to Media & Culture and the Society for Cinema & Media Studies’ Cinema Journal.


What Are You Missing? May 26 – June 9 Sun, 09 Jun 2013 18:36:15 +0000 the_purgeTen (or more) media industry news items you might have missed recently.

1. Low-budget horror film The Purge is expected to come away with a $35 million opening weekend, more than ten times the film’s production budget of $3 million. The Purge grossed $17 million on Friday and was #1 at the box office this weekend. Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing opened strong as well, grossing more than any limited release since The Place Beyond the Pines.  Much Ado About Nothing is one of several recent films, including Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha and Alexander Payne’s Nebraska, shot in black-and-white.

2. News reports this week have revealed that the U.S.’s National Security Agency has been data mining from major internet and social media companies, in addition to monitoring Verizon phone records of U.S. citizens. So far, nine media companies are alleged to have cooperated in the PRISM program: Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, YouTube, Skype, AOL, and Apple. Many have denied having any knowledge of PRISM .

3. AT&T joins DirecTV, Time Warner Cable, Guggenheim Partners, Yahoo and a handful of other entities as potential bidders for ownership of Hulu. Reports suggest that AT&T may join with former News Corp. head Peter Chernin’s Chernin Group to purchase the company together. Bids for Hulu have reportedly ranged from $500 million to $1 billion depending on stipulations regarding content deals with the present owners of the company, Disney/ABC and News Corp.

4google_glass. A company named MiKandi produced the first pornographic app designed for Google Glass. Google responded by banning pornographic apps, defined by the company as “Glassware content that contains nudity, graphic sex acts or sexually explicit material.” On a related note, fearing that the head-mounted display technology would enable cheating and card-counting, New Jersey casinos have banned the use of Google Glass. Somewhat ironically, use of Google Glass was also restricted from a recent Google shareholders meeting.

5. A new study by the Council for Research Excellence and financed by Nielsen reveals that online streaming services like Netflix and Hulu provide the majority of mobile television consumption on smartphones and tablets. Netflix and Hulu accounted for 64% of TV watched on smartphones and 54% on tablets, while broadcast and cable network’s websites or online applications accounted for only 26% of mobile TV watching.

6. On June 6th, American film actress Esther Williams passed away at the age of 91 in Beverly Hills. Williams was a competitive swimmer who became a MGM contract star in the 1940s. According to The New York Times, Williams was one of the top 10 box-office Hollywood stars in 1949 and 1950. Her films at MGM often involved spectacular swimming sequences, many choreographed by Busby Berkeley.

7. At Cannes, Abdellatif Kechiche’s Blue is the Warmest Color (La Vie d’Adele – chapitre 1 & 2) won the Palme D’Or by a unanimous vote from a jury headed by Steven Spielberg. Though critics have generally responded favorably to the film, some prominent voices have criticized the film’s graphic sex scenes for reproducing, or being constructed according to, a hetero-normative male gaze. Manohla Dargis and Julie Maroh, author of the graphic novel on which the film is based, have both voiced opposition to the film’s sexual representation of the lesbian couple.

game_of_thrones8. The penultimate episode of season 3 of Game of Thrones, “Rains of Castamere,” shocked fans and resulted in a flurry of press about the episode’s graphic violence. Popular news outlets weighed in on the episode as one of the most violent in TV history. Author George Martin explained his reasoning behind writing the “Red Wedding” chapter in interviews.

9. Amazon Studios announced that they would produce five original series available exclusively on Amazon Prime. These include, ‘Alpha House,’ a political satire created by Garry Trudeau, starring John Goodman, and ‘Betas,’ a comedy about “young entrepreneurs attempting to make it big in techland.”

10. In Netflix-related news, the trailer for Netflix’s newest original series, ‘Orange is the New Black,’ is now available online. The series, which is about a bourgeois Brooklyn woman’s stint in a female prison, will debut on July 11 with all 13 episodes available to stream. Netflix also recently did not renew their licensing agreement with Viacom, leaving Netflix subscribers bereft of kid-friendly programs like ‘Dora the Explorer’ and ‘Spongebob Squarepants.’  In response, Amazon struck a licensing deal with Viacom for Prime Instant Video. In addition to the kid-friendly fare, Amazon also plans to make available other Viacom titles like ‘Workaholics’ and MTV’s ‘Awkward’ on Instant.


What Are You Missing? March 31-April 13 Sun, 14 Apr 2013 17:00:26 +0000 78274-playboy-app-store-iphoneA few interesting news stories you may have missed…

1) News Corp’s COO Chase Carey is threatening to turn Fox into a pay cable channel if courts continue to allow the new internet television broadcaster Aereo to profit from its retransmissions of Fox programming. Courts have so far ruled in favor of Aereo twice.

2) The popular social media site and bibliophile hang-out, Goodreads, will soon be under the ownership of While Amazon VP Russ Grandinetti says this will help self-publishers “promote their books on Goodreads,” a number of Goodreads members are apparently leaving the website to prevent Amazon from monitoring what they are reading.

3) Speaking of good reads, Playboy announced it will start delivering its magazine through a new iPhone application. However, due to the no-nudity policy on iPhones, the app will not include any of the publication’s erotic photos.

4) Dolby announced that several more titles — including Man of Steel and Wolverinewill receive the company’s Atmos treatment later this year. The new 64-channel surround sound format was introduced last summer and has been wired in more than 90 theaters worldwide. As of now Dolby has no plans to make Atmos available for home theaters.

5) Continuing WAYM’s interest in HBO GO’s potential to provide a GO-only subscription, HBO now suggests they are looking to provide live streaming of non-boxing sporting events through their GO service. And in case this should ever come up, if you are a New York Times columnist you should maybe think twice about announcing to your readers that you steal HBO GO from a friend.

6) Continuing WAYM’s interest in covering the potential Hulu buyout, last Friday former News Corp president Peter Chernin made an offer to buy the streaming website for $500 million. Chernin was involved in developing Hulu for News Corp during its launch in 2007. Among other investments, Chernin is also looking to buy Fullscreen, a company that supports and advises creators of online content for websites like YouTube.

7) In Kickstarter news, the Veronica Mars Movie Project has ended its record-breaking Kickstarter run with 91,585 total backers, more than any other project in Kickstarter’s short history. The crowd-sourcing website was also slated to help Roger Ebert re-launch his weekly television show, though those plans have been sadly cancelled.

8) The digital cinema projection company Cinedigm has continued its push to distribute movie and television content by acquiring digital and VOD rights to more than 1,000 episodes of Australian television. Cinedigm is also now conducting DCP instillations on more than 100 drive-in screens across the country.

9) In DreamWorks Animation news, the company has acquired the intellectual property rights to those Troll dolls from yesteryear. The company also appears to be recovering from Rise of the Guardian‘s disappointing release last November, with The Croods currently exceeding $200 million at the foreign box office, making it the second film in 2013 to gross more than $300 million worldwide.

10) The script-thief’s revenge… and does he take requests?


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What Are You Missing? Feb 3-Feb 16 Sun, 17 Feb 2013 14:00:26 +0000 TURBONetflix10 media news items you might have missed recently:

1) Not as many people tuned into the Super Bowl on February 3rd as the previous 2 years, but it still managed to be the 3rd most watched game despite the 34 minute blackout during the game, which some brands used to their advantage.  The game also failed to boost ratings for the CBS Monday lineup. Many viewed the Super Bowl ads as disappointing and not reflexive of the interests of younger generations.  However, the game set a record for the most social media interactions connected to an event.  Some campaigns used social media prior to the game, for example Budweiser’s campaign to get people to offer suggestions and vote on the name of the baby Clydesdale used in their ad this year (They chose Hope).  The FCC decided to ignore Joe Flacco’s swearing at the end of the game, which has sparked very little backlash.

2) Netflix released all 13 episodes of House of Cards, its original series, on Feb. 1st.  While Netflix execs have been reluctant to release viewer statistics, general buzz suggests that the show’s premiere was a success, and it has been generating a lot of talk about what this means for both Netflix and the future of TV viewing.  Netflix plans to continue creating original programming, both another season of House of Cards and a children’s show, Turbo, in conjunction with DreamWorks.  Netflix was also facing a court case from shareholders who felt that the company misled them by inflating its share price, but the case was thrown out.

3) Network and cable TV have been dealing with their own issues, such as a big ratings slump for NBC that might cause some mid-season shifts in the schedule.  Comcast purchased the remaining shares of NBC from its former parent company GE.  As a side note, in an unusual bid for Oscar attention, Warner Brothers bought 30 minutes of prime time on NBC to promote Argo.   CBS tried to use online extras to generate excitement for the Grammy awards.  CBS also acquired a share in AXS TV in exchange for programming and marketing.  Time Warner is increasing original programming on TNT and TBS, and FX continues to use dark, risque material to draw fans and create a niche for themselves.

4)  xbox remains the top selling gaming system for the 25th month in a row, selling over 281 thousand units in January.  But could it be that in the future Apple will overtake the gaming system market?

5) Some news on film distribution around the globe: European TV stations are not acquiring as many art cinema films, leaving even successful distributors in a difficult situation when trying to find an audience for these films.  In Japan, is experimenting with allowing a limited number of people to stream a film, Sougen no isu, for free before it is released theatrically.

6) Barnes and Noble had another disappointing quarter.  Book sales are not in trouble everywhere though, India’s publishing industry is showing steady growth despite the decrease in global markets.  Amazon is attempting to break into the ebook market in China, but is facing several obstacles including the lack of available kindles for purchase and piracy issues.  Apple’s ibookstore highlights self-published books, perhaps another sign of the changing print industry landscape.

7) The house subcommittee met to talk about preserving global internet freedom from government control.  On other internet news, AOL had surprisingly good 4th quarter revenues.  They have also re-branded their group as AOL Networks, to emphasize the link with its parent company.

8) The Grammy awards took place on February 10th, setting the second largest record for social media interactions.  The awards led to an increase in album sales from the previous week, although the numbers are down from where they were at this time last year.  In other music news, Lady Gaga’s tour has been cancelled due to a hip injury, and approximately 200 thousand tickets will have to be refunded.

9) Dell Inc. goes private in a $24 billion leveraged buyout, in an attempt to rework the company to provide a wide range of products for corporations.  In other buyout news, John Malone’s Liberty Global acquired UK’s Virgin Media, putting him in position to compete in the UK’s pay TV market.

10) Some fun things to end with: Remember tamagotchi keychain pets?  Well now there’s an app for that.  Currently only available for Android devices, it should be available for Apple in the near future.  For those fans of the Alamo Draft House in Austin, they announced plans to open a second location in Kalamazoo, Michigan.  And this week’s newest internet sensation… Doing the Harlem Shake (and thinking about how to get the most out of it)


What Are You Missing? January 6-19 Sun, 20 Jan 2013 15:27:41 +0000 Ten (or more) media industry news items you might have missed recently.

1. China had a big box office year in 2012, though a good chunk of the revenue came from American studio imports, like Life of Pi. The Hangover-esque Chinese comedy Lost in Thailand has become the country’s biggest domestic hit ever, though, and some expect the rise of China to global number one movie market status to come courtesy of shallow blockbusters.

2. Hollywood studios are turning to outside funding to support its films that aren’t shallow blockbusters, while Disney is looking at budget cuts for everything. DreamWorks is still a great place to work, though. Video game makers want greater control over the films Hollywood makes from their properties, while Disney is meshing together gaming and its movies with the upcoming Disney Infinity game.

3. We’re getting more info about Redbox Instant, which is expected to launch in March, because a group of users have gotten to beta test it. We know that it will be focused on movies, not TV shows, and Redbox’s CEO also says the company won’t abandon DVDs. But Austin Carr isn’t impressed with the service.

4. Home video revenue finally rose a bit last year, halting a seven-year skid, with streaming getting most of the credit for the uptick. UltraViolet also continues to grow, and Walmart’s “disc to digital” cloud service has been improved. Don’t expect Amazon to extend its “Amazon-purchased CD to digital” plan to movies, though.

5. Amazon has also launched a new mp3 store targeted toward iPhone/iPod users, offering a shot across iTunes’ bow. iTunes now has a partnership with Rolling Stone, whose iPad magazine will have links to Apple’s music store. The blog Asymco has graphed the iTunes economy.

6. 2012 music sales indicate the CD’s impending demise and the digital single’s growth. Other trends revealed from the figures are that big hits take up an increasing share of download sales; rock and pop music dominated, though country music sales rose compared to 2011; and indie labels grabbed one-third of album sales.

7. The number of children reading books on digital devices is rising, though over half of kids still have never read an e-book. Libraries are also said to be losing their influence among children, but maybe video games at libraries can help. There’s also a plan in the works in Texas for a bookless, all-digital library.

8. The Wii U is bringing in more revenue than the original Wii did in early sales, but that’s only because it costs more. Nintendo’s president says sales of the Wii U are “not bad,” given the competitive landscape, and Nintendo is merging its console and handheld divisions to better deal with that landscape. Xbox 360 has finished its second year as the best-selling console, and Microsoft says that the next Xbox system will fill your living room with images to immerse you in games. And we can now say goodbye to the dominant console of the past, the Playstation 2, which will no longer be made.

9. Pingdom offers a slew of stats on how we used the internet around the world in 2012, from search to mobile to email, while Mashable has an infographic specifically on social media use in 2012. The FCC is looking to expand Wi-Fi spectrum space so we can do even more online in 2013, like look at video ads.

10. Some of the finer News for TV Majors posts from the past few weeks: Anger Management Returns, CNN-SI Change, OWN Hopes, Double Your FX, TCA & Twitter, The Killing Will Return, Dish & CBS Battle Ropes in CNET, Corrie Coming to Hulu, Five-0 Ending, Time-Shifted Viewing, Soap Revivals, Video Sharing Passed, Netflix & Ratings, Al Jazeera America, PBS at TCA, The CW at TCA, CBS & Showtime at TCA, Arrested Development at TCA, ABC at TCA, FX at TCA, Fox at TCA, NBC at TCA.


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Ex-Pat TV: Technologies of TV Away from Home Mon, 29 Oct 2012 13:00:20 +0000 World Map with arrowsAs media scholars, we increasingly find ourselves living abroad for periods of time, either doing research or working in universities outside our home countries. While for some, this can be a thrilling research opportunity, for others it can be frustrating to be separated from both research material and TV pleasure by international licensing agreements that don’t seem to be keeping pace with the culture of an on demand global internet. As an American recently moved to Ireland but continuing to study and write about American culture and television, I fall into the latter camp, and thus have been searching for the best technologies to watch Ex-pat TV.

The following is a list of some of the technologies I either researched or tried out. I hope that these either help others connect to the TV they’re missing or inspire readers to post their own experiences with or suggestions for getting TV while away from home. A side note: some of the technologies listed below require negotiating ethics and legalities, others less so, although none would likely be greeted with enthusiasm by American television executives.

Bit Torrent—Invented in 2001, this is, by internet standards, an ancient file-sharing service that most readers are probably familiar with. Its advantages are being well tested, having lots of users, and often providing the quickest turnover from airdate to streaming on your computer. The downsides are that relying on file-sharing isn’t the safest thing for your computer, and in May 2011, 23,000 BitTorrent users were, according to Wired magazine, the subject of the biggest file-sharing lawsuit to date in the US. Despite the problems, BitTorrent is the best known and most-used of the semi-standard pirating—er… sharing—sites or services.

Streaming Services—Various streaming services from Netflix to iTunes or Amazon have the advantage of being perfectly legal. The downsides are pretty much everything else. iTunes is hugely expensive at $2.99 an episode for current half-hour or hour-long network shows (Modern Family and The Good Wife, for example) or $49.99 for an HD season pass, $38.99 for an SD season pass. Programs from premium channels are only available for past seasons, and there’s no guarantee of finding your show if it’s more obscure. doesn’t offer the streaming services available in the US, and blocks streaming outside the US. Netflix in the UK and Ireland, while having racked up an impressive million users in the short time since its launch in early 2012, has a very limited catalog.

Slingbox—This requires you to have a friend in your home country willing to connect the sling box to his/her TV set. Basically, Slingbox gives you access to your home DVR on your computer or any other device connected to the internet. It works extremely well, and while it’s a US company, you could probably connect it to a TV in any country. The boxes cost between $179.99 and $300, and the newest box, while top-of-the-line, mostly looks hard to stack with all the other black boxes that are probably connected to your TV.

AmericanTV2Go—This service essentially charges you a monthly fee for access to a centrally hosted Slingbox. I used the free trial and it was great, but ranging from $49.99-$99.99 a month, too expensive to continue regularly, especially on top of a local cable subscription.

VPN Clients—This is what I’ve settled on as the best for me. Most U.S. colleges and universities have a virtual private network that you can set up so that you can still log in to your school’s server and access your virtual learning environments, shared files and library subscriptions on days you work from home. If you’re abroad temporarily, you can use your home university’s vpn and connect to the internet in your home country, giving you access to any streaming content available there. If that’s not an option, for $7/month, companies like Strong VPN will let you log in to a vpn in another country. Strong only has networks available in the US and the UK right now, but for a bit more per month, PC-Streaming offers networks in Canada, Australia, and several European countries; you could likely find similar services connecting you to wherever your home country is.


What Are You Missing? October 7-20 Sun, 21 Oct 2012 14:51:50 +0000 Ten (or more) media industry news items you might have missed recently:

1. YouTube is ramping up its investment in branded channels to make itself more like TV. There’s a danger, though, in alienating the amateurs that YouTube initially capitalized on to distinguish it from TV. More favorably, YouTube is trying to help out nonprofit campaigns, and it has tweaked its search algorithm to better favor videos that viewers truly engage with.

2. Some big numbers in the news this past fortnight: There are now six billion cell phones worldwide (though that still leaves one billion without one), and there are one billion smartphones out there. Internet advertising reached $17 billion for the first half of 2012. American mobile devices ate up 1.1 trillion megabytes of data across 12 months, and US high speed broadband connections are up 76% over last year. The biggest number in the news? A French woman received a mobile phone bill for $15 quadrillion.

3. Amazon is going to take advantage of all the consumer data it gathers by working more closely with advertisers and ad agencies to place ads on Amazon sites. The Do Not Track movement is trying to limit what consumer data advertisers can obtain from our web browsers, much to advertisers’ chagrin. Adding more chagrin is a study highlighting how frequently mobile ad clicks are merely accidental.

4. The newspaper audience is shrinking — or maybe it’s not — but either way, Britain’s Guardian is the latest to look at ending its print edition. In the US, the Chicago Tribune is shifting to a paywall strategy online, which sounds like a bad move if you buy the idea that print outlets should be following what The Atlantic is doing. Newspapers in Brazil don’t like what Google is doing, and they’re now going to have to deal with the New York Times encroaching on their turf in an effort to expand its global audience.

5. A new study finds that young people commonly copy and share music among family and friends, but it was also determined that file-sharers buy more music than non-file-sharers, lending some food for thought to the music industry, which will see peer-to-peer users warned about illegal sharing activities soon. Unfortunately, the musicians’ cut of digital music income remains paltry, but Pandora insists the money is there.

6. As the compact disc turns 30, Neil Young is pushing for a new digital format, one superior in sound quality to mp3s. Meanwhile, music streaming marches onward, with Xbox now joining the fray and the BBC starting its own service, while Spotify looks to expand in new areas, such as in Japan and on smart TVs.

7. 20th Century Fox professes to be very excited about new technologies, while one of the most pervasive of Hollywood’s recent technological efforts, 3D, is supposedly on the decline (again). Given recent studio turmoil, it’s unclear who exactly will lead Hollywood through this next stage of technological production, but it’s seeming likely there won’t be as many unpaid interns working for them as before.

8. The new documentary nomination rules that Michael Moore helped the Academy usher in for this year’s Oscars have apparently only caused new problems, so now Moore is proposing new solutions, including getting rid of the old solutions. Much of this revolves around issues of distribution, and the story behind Detropia illustrates how challenging distribution of docs has gotten today.

9. The gaming company Zynga is experiencing all sorts of turmoil, from declining stock to rumors of employee revolts to lawsuits against an ex-employee being portrayed as a threat to current employees. But at least there’s FarmVille 2, now with 50 million players. Of course, it’s no Angry Birds, now with 200 million players.

10. Some of the finer News for TV Majors posts from the past few weeks: Community Art, Ratings Takes, Scrambling Ban Eliminated, Cord Cutting Boxes, Connie Britton’s Hair, New Moonves Contract, New Local Ratings System, Real PBS Issues, DVR Boosts, Variety Sold, House of Cards Scheduled.


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