DVD – Antenna http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu Responses to Media and Culture Thu, 30 Mar 2017 23:48:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.5 Revisiting Region Codes http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/2014/09/10/revisiting-region-codes/ Wed, 10 Sep 2014 12:57:49 +0000 http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/?p=24404 TV_wrong_region_codeThis post is part of a partnership with the International Journal of Cultural Studies where authors of newly published articles extend their arguments here on Antenna.

There is, and always has been, a fundamental disconnect between digital media’s supposedly democratizing effects and the disconnections, delays, and prohibitions that actually characterize the global media environment. For instance, many around the world still feel the “digital distance” that comes with an inability to access films, songs, television programs, games, or other entertainment media experiences that remain out of reach. The DVD region code, developed and implemented in the mid-1990s, was instrumental in maintaining this distance.

Born out of complex, years-long standard-setting debates among film studios, consumer electronics manufacturers, and the computing industry, the region code gave the lie to the idea that digital technologies would necessarily ease global connectivity. By carving up the world into six geographic “regions,” with DVDs from one region unable to play on the DVD players of another, region codes actually attempted to retain global media’s disjunctive flows.

To this end, region codes represented a way for home video industries (and particularly the Hollywood studios) to segment and regionalize their distribution markets. And, of course, they did so in ways that privileged certain territories and markets over others—a logic most obviously apparent in the numerical ranking of the regions. Even a cursory glance at the region code map indicates that territories were grouped through their possible exploitation as markets as much as (or more than) geographic or cultural proximity. Of course, the relative prominence of region-free DVDs and the ease of burning and circulating unauthorized copies meant that region codes worked only partially to maintain these borders of distribution. Region codes could be particularly frustrating to diasporic viewers and cinephiles, who for various, obvious reasons would want access to DVDs from across borders. So, region-free players became quite common.

So, why is the DVD still an important element of media culture–and media studies–in 2014? Well, in spite of pronouncements of the DVD’s death, it’s very much alive. A recent poll showed that DVD and Blu-ray players are still the most commonly owned media devices in American households. Even if, for some, these players are collecting dust, they have not merely disappeared. Furthermore, in many territories around the world, the technology is still key to formal and informal film distribution networks. The fact is, any media technology has a far more complicated lifespan than we might imagine if we simply follow industry logic. As Paul Benzon has recently argued, rather than taking the DVD as obsolete, we might behold its “complex and conflicted timeline of technological change shaped by interdependence among innovation, obsolescence, residuality, reproduction, and reuse.” The suggestion that the DVD will be (or has been) wholly replaced by Blu-ray and streaming video is one that comes with classist and Western-focused assumptions.dvd_region_map

But even for those who have already consigned the DVD to the scrap heap, regional lockout is still a common user experience. Streaming music platforms like Spotify and Pandora are only available in some regions. Likewise, VOD platforms like Netflix and the BBC iPlayer are geoblocked, and users take various measures to get past these hurdles. Although other forms of regional incompatibility existed before the DVD (like the PAL/NTSC/SECAM color television standards), the DVD region code represented a pioneering moment in the intentional, conscious installation of regional control mechanisms through DRM. Through geoblocking and IP address detection systems, this logic is present in today’s global media cultures.

For more on the DVD region code’s development, and its implications for global home video distribution and technological standardization, I invite you to read my new International Journal of Cultural Studies piece on the subject, entitled “The DVD Region Code System: Standardizing Home Video’s Disjunctive Global Flows.” To correspond with this post, the journal has agreed to make the article open access for three months.


Pre-Prime: HBO’s Off-Channel Revenue Legacy http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/2014/04/23/pre-prime-hbos-off-channel-revenue-legacy/ http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/2014/04/23/pre-prime-hbos-off-channel-revenue-legacy/#comments Wed, 23 Apr 2014 16:50:07 +0000 http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/?p=23975 TheWire_Complete_intIt makes sense we would focus on the future. HBO’s streaming deal with Amazon Prime is clearly an effort to prepare for a streaming future, enabling HBO to have both a branding presence and a revenue stream tied to an increasing amount of viewers who stream their television instead of subscribing to cable or satellite services.

There is plenty to talk about regarding that future. Will audiences who currently subscribe to HBO be more likely to cut the cord if they could access (only select) HBO programming three years later than if they subscribed to the service? Probably not. Will existing—particularly young—cordcutters become more likely to subscribe to HBO in the future when they’re in a financial position to do so if they’re more engaged with the channel’s library? Maybe. Will HBO ever make current flagship series Game of Thrones available on Amazon Prime while it’s still airing? Doubtful.

As interesting as those questions are, I want to consider how this deal reflects the history of HBO embracing new forms of distribution in the interest of connecting with audiences unable to afford or unwilling to pay for HBO subscriptions. Although often marginalized within these conversations in the contemporary moment, both syndication and home video were once similar points of outreach for HBO and other cable channels, and they are implicitly a significant factor in HBO’s current streaming strategy even if they go unnamed in official press releases.

HBO’s decision may be primarily focused on the streaming future, but it is predicated on the home video past. In an age before streaming, DVD sets were how you caught up with a show like The Wire, and even in the wake of HBO GO it was how you caught up with The Wire without having to subscribe to cable (at least if you weren’t borrowing someone else’s HBO GO password). With premium price tags and elaborate packaging, sets for series like Six Feet Under, The Sopranos, Rome, and Deadwood were a key space where HBO could package their prestige programming for a different audience.

If that DVD market were still healthy, one imagines HBO might have been more resistant to signing streaming deals that will further limit the appeal of those library titles: although DVD/Blu-Rays of current series will retain value (both for collectors and those unwilling to wait three years for them to arrive to Amazon), I would be interested to see if the company’s print runs on legacy DVD sets begin to shrink even further. Without knowing the financial details behind the Amazon deal, it seems safe to say that HBO ran the numbers of how this might affect their DVD business, and that their decision to embrace off-channel streaming is a tacit acknowledgement that the TV on DVD bubble burst some time ago.

image11-350x205If the Amazon deal signals HBO moving past its legacy DVD business, however, it simultaneously signals their inability to completely move past its limited foray into syndication. Notably absent from the deal are three comedy series that were sold into both basic cable and broadcast syndication: Entourage, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Sex and the City. Although the first two were quickly pulled from broadcast syndication after heavy editing gutted their appeal, edited episodes of Sex and the City had a stronger run on broadcast, a banner run on TBS, and currently air on E!, while both Curb Your Enthusiasm and Entourage retain cable syndication deals on TV Land and Comedy Central, respectively.

Although all three are offered as part of HBO GO, they are absent from the Amazon announcement, implying that the nature of HBO’s contracts prohibits their sale of that content to streaming services while existing syndication deals are in place. In the case of Sex and the City, which entered into syndication before streaming was even a thing that existed, its most recent deals have been explicit about the role of streaming: reporting about its current deal with E! suggests online rights were included in the deal. While streaming deals and syndication deals may function somewhat differently, more recent syndication deals would appear to have offered streaming as part of the package, which seemingly makes it impossible for HBO to re-license that content to a third party in any capacity while existing deals are in place.

Premium cable’s relationship with streaming has always been complicated: Showtime and Starz each ended content deals with Netflix in order to build greater value into their own subscription streaming services, with Showtime only recently returning to Netflix with Dexter following the series’ conclusion. None have jumped in head first because they run on business models that require careful cultivation of value centered on subscriptions but relying on these sources of ancillary revenue (and exposure). The delay in HBO’s case is tied to both their efforts to translate their library into a subscription incentive through HBO GO—which were clearly not so successful that HBO could refuse Amazon’s likely rich financial offer—and the fact that they remain linked to previous equivalents to streaming’s ability to extend their content beyond the premium cable paywall.

HBO’s deal with Amazon signals their willingness to move past one of those models, and their inability to move past another, at least until the current syndication deals run out. When that happens, though, we will gain greater insight into how these two forms of value compare. If cable channels remain willing to pay a premium for edited versions of Sex and the City, are Amazon’s terms lucrative enough to compete? While our focus on the future makes the choice of streaming seem like common sense, HBO’s focus on the bottom line could make a different decision with streaming than it did with its legacy DVD business when the time comes.


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Teach Hacks: Creating Clips from DVDs http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/2013/08/08/teach-hacks-creating-clips-from-dvds/ http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/2013/08/08/teach-hacks-creating-clips-from-dvds/#comments Thu, 08 Aug 2013 11:00:46 +0000 http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/?p=21237 mpegstreamclipThis is the second post in Antenna’s “Teach Hacks.” I’m covering a crucial skillset for film and media scholars: extracting clips from DVDs. I’m including numerous links, since there are already some clip-making tutorials and explanations of relevant fair use doctrine available online. But I’ll also address a few thorny issues, including nuances of extracting subtitles and clip-making in the “post-physical-media” era, that aren’t well covered elsewhere.

Fair Use
In 1998, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) made it illegal to break copyright protection technology on DVDs – even if one employed the liberated media in a manner satisfying fair use doctrine (i.e., using short excerpts for criticism/comment). However, in 2006, 2009, and 2012 the Library of Congress’s Copyright Office announced exemptions to the DMCA for educators and students. Jason Mittell covers the 2006 and 2009 rulings here. Here you can read the 2012 report, which extended the exemption to K-12 educators and students and to certain types of online video (more on that later).

Fair use advocates have thus far failed to persuade the Copyright Office to extend the exemptions to Blu-ray discs, which are protected by a different type of encryption than DVDs. According to the 2012 report, “the record did not reflect a substantial adverse impact due to the inability to use motion picture materials contained on Blu-ray discs” – even if said materials were only available on Blu-ray. So, for now, the exemptions apply only to DVDs “that are lawfully made and acquired.”

mtrMaking Clips
To go from a commercial DVD to a short clip ready for instructional use, a couple of things need to happen. (Some applications perform these tasks simultaneously,but that does not automatically make them the best option in all instances.)

1. You need to “rip” the relevant chapter(s) of the DVD to your computer or an external drive – in so doing breaking CSS encryption.

2. You need to pinpoint a precise “in” and “out” point for your clip and generate a corresponding video file from the ripped DVD chapter.

One option is the program Handbrake. Two Handbrake-based tutorials are Miriam Posner’s and Jason Mittell’s.

My process more closely resembles that outlined by Bill Kirkpatrick, who recommends, for Mac users, a combination of two programs: Mac the Ripper and MPEG Streamclip. DVDFab is a comparable ripping application for PCs; MPEG Streamclip is available for Mac and PC.

Pro tips:
-The ability to rip off-region DVDs varies unpredictably from disc to disc. In some cases I’ve been able to rip a chapter right from my laptop’s DVD drive, and other times I’ve only been able to do so using an external drive. Sometimes neither works.

-MPEG Streamclip can’t extract clips’ accompanying subtitles. Handbrake can retain subtitles. If you’ve got custom-subbed media, the subtitles are probably stored as .SRT files. A very helpful clip-making application for the latter scenario is FFMPEGX.

-If your source material is interlaced you may wish to de-interlace it when making a clip.

-If you are going to be displaying your clips on a TV (especially an older set), you may wish to toggle the “zoom” function to 90-95% to protect against overscanning.

If you make clips, especially ones needing subtitles, regularly, and are picky about quality, you should seriously consider paying for an application like Wondershare Video Converter or MacX DVD Ripper Pro. They offer one-stop ripping/clipping/converting and are faster and more flexible than the free options discussed above.

Transferring/presenting Clips
Now, how to get your clips into the classroom? Here are your chief options, from best to worst:

1. Screen them directly from your computer if you have a video dongle/audio input setup available.
2. If you can’t use your own computer but have access to a classroom AV console with a computer, play them from a USB drive. If you teach film or media and don’t already own a 32GB or larger USB drive, you should get one.
3. If you have only a TV/DVD system to work with, burn your clips to a video DVDR that is playable in a standard DVD player.

The third option is worst, because a clips DVD is: a time-consuming pain to create; harder to navigate for close analysis and discussion; and otherwise more restrictive and onerous. Many older standalone DVD players (such as those still in use in college classrooms) do not play burned DVDRs with any consistency.

It’s also getting increasingly difficult, at least for Mac users, to make clips discs, because new Macs no longer ship with iDVD. A freeware alternative to iDVD is a program called Burn, but in my experience it has trouble combining clips with different aspect ratios. (For PCs, Posner suggests BurnAware or ImgBurn.)

dvdcollThe Future of Clip-making and DVDs

I’m wary of the much-touted decline of physical media and concurrent rise of cloud storage and access, as these phenomena stand to restrict our ability to manipulate media for teaching or analysis. Streaming and cloud-based media are more difficult to capture and make clips from. When you can make clips from streaming media, the quality is often significantly worse than clips made from a DVD of the same work. Streaming media can be yanked from the consumer any time (remember “Streamageddon“?). The films and shows for which you can obtain “official” digital copies in proprietary online “vaults” represent a mere fraction of all the media you might wish to draw on for your teaching. Apple is among the most aggressive proponents of the cloud, and its computers no longer ship with optical disc drives. But it remains crucial for film and media instructors to own a functioning DVD drive – and to encourage their universities to continue building DVD libraries.

But what about media only available via streaming services – for instance, the rare television programs hosted at the Paley Center’s “iMedia” online archive? Well, the Copyright Office grants fair-use excerpting privileges not just for “motion pictures on DVDs” but also for those “distributed by online services.” This clause seems to open the door for some legal circumventing of proprietary streaming software like Silverlight. But that’s a subject for another Teach Hacks …


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Archiving Blackness: The DVD and Cultural Memory http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/2012/12/27/archiving-blackness-the-dvd-and-cultural-memory/ http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/2012/12/27/archiving-blackness-the-dvd-and-cultural-memory/#comments Thu, 27 Dec 2012 17:17:22 +0000 http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/?p=17148 Flipping through the after-holiday sales papers and seeing Season 7 of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia for $12.99 at Target and Season 3 of Community for $19.99 at Best Buy, the TV show on DVD is a decidedly ubiquitous part of television culture. But I am reminded that the availability of TV on DVD works as an archive. Certainly, the shows available on DVD speak to the popularity of the series – we would be astounded if Friends or Seinfeld were unavailable on DVD. But as I have been conducting research on black-cast sitcoms, I am reminded how the DVD not only works as an archive but also a creator of collective memory.

Certainly, networks and netlets contribute to our collective memory through re-runs (which also speaks to particular ideals about taste cultures) and the selection of series available through those channels, but the DVD works as a tangible, on-demand archive that allows one to relive a series on demand. So, when we think about the black-cast series, what is available and what might that say about the archive? Why is the complete series of The Cosby Show available when only the first season of A Different World is available? Certainly, as Janet Staiger has argued, The Cosby Show was the last blockbuster television series, but A Different World provides a quite interesting case study.

The series ran from 1987 – 1993 on NBC and was created as a star vehicle for Lisa Bonet’s Denise Huxtable as she went off to the fictional Hillman College. In its first season, the show was an extension of The Cosby Show – a series that has often been criticized for the ways in which it failed to deal with racial issues, particularly in the 1980s, a time when the Reagan administration created policies that disproportionately had a negative impact on the black lower classes. The first season of A Different World is a vastly different series than the one it became in subsequent seasons, which is why it remains queer that the DVD archive only remembers the first season.

The second season of A Different World underwent a complete overhaul (although the show was No. 2 in the Nielsens overall and in black households), with Debbie Allen transforming the series “from a bland Cosby spinoff into a lively, socially responsible, ensemble situation comedy” according to the Hollywood Reporter. It is beginning in the second season, when the series breaks from its squeaky-clean Cosby roots that it really begins to resonate with black viewership, particularly black members of Generation X.

My best friend Ayanna looked to A Different World to provide instruction on identity development. While speaking in “proper” English was not the lesson Ayanna took from the show, she did gain a sense of the possibility of higher education for black students. Ayanna recalls, “It was probably the first time I had seen… a show that had what I would consider peers, or close to peers, who were predominantly African American, that were seeking education who I had similar things in common with.” Perhaps even more importantly, Ayanna draws a distinction between the import of a text like The Cosby Show and its depiction of an intact black family and the collegiate space carved out in A Different World. She remembers, “while The Cosby Show was cool, it was more about family, I just remember A Different World sticking out for me and it actually being a show that I could kinda grow up with as I was becoming a young person seeing how they evolved.”

Certainly, A Different World remained popular for black viewers throughout its run and can frequently be seen in reruns on WE, TVOne, and a host of other cable networks, but if we use the DVD as a kind of archive to have and to hold and to watch our favorite TV classics (however one defines that term) on demand, why does A Different World get erased from the collective memory that is the DVD archive? Or better yet, why does A Different World get remembered for a season of the show that is so unlike the rest of the series?

I could make the argument that black-cast sitcoms I loved from the 1980s are unavailable on DVD like He’s the Mayor (1986) or the woefully ahead-of-its-time Frank’s Place (1987), but these had a far lesser cultural impact in their cultural moments. But A Different World was a series that was only outside the Nielsen Top 5 for the last year of its run. Rather, there seems to be something else afoot with A Different World particularly given that other Carsey-Werner hits of the era, Roseanne and The Cosby Show, are widely available through this archive (as well as fixtures on the syndicated circuit of TVLand, WE, Oxygen, and other cable networks).

What I argue is afoot is that A Different World engages with a different kind of blackness than other black-cast shows of the era like The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (1990-1996), which also aired on NBC and whose complete series is available via the DVD archive in the United States. Rather, in its second season (and until the end of its run), A Different World becomes a show that engages with issues that affect and effect black communities of the late 1980s and early 1990s like HIV/AIDs, Reaganomics, intra-race racism, the ongoing legacies of racist stereotypes, like the “mammy” and black people owning slaves. These issues are a far cry from the issues Will and Carlton face on The Fresh Prince or from the general antics of J. J. Evans on Good Times or Fred and Lamont Sanford on Sanford and Son. I am attempting to refrain from making a value judgment about Good Times, Sanford and Son, or The Fresh Prince, because they all have their place within the black television canon. However, when those shows that regularly depict black people in purely comedic light become the only way in which the DVD archive remembers blackness, it becomes highly problematic.



Beller, Miles. “A Different World.” The Hollywood Reporter (Los Angeles), 21 September 1989


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What Are You Missing? Apr 29-May 12 http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/2012/05/13/what-are-you-missing-april-29-may-12/ Sun, 13 May 2012 15:17:17 +0000 http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/?p=13014 Ten (or more) media industry news items you might have missed recently:

1. Happy Mother’s Day! Nielsen reports that among American moms, half have smartphones, and they love Facebook and Pinterest (Twitter, not so much). For the general US population, mobile data access is a big area of growth, while check-in apps are still mostly niche. In India, women use their phones more for talking and texting, whereas men do more web browsing.

2. “More video is uploaded to YouTube in one month than the 3 major US networks created in 60 years,” tweets a YouTube exec, with 60 hours of video uploaded every minute. Now there’s word that YouTube could add a premium subscription service. But with YouTube getting so vast, some are finding smaller competitors offer a better platform, especially for mobile sharing.

3. Ebay and Wal-Mart are looking to develop their own search engines to battle against Google’s dominance, right as a Google report insists that search engines have First Amendment rights, which would mean Google could pick and choose which content and in what order to load up for a search reply. But Google isn’t allowed to violate internet privacy the way it apparently did by hacking into Safari to track users. Microsoft might also be cheating by making Internet Explorer the only browser that will work right on the upcoming Windows RT system.

4. While the documentary has a storied history in Canada, filmmakers are having a hard time finding funding for documentaries today thanks to federal cuts. If they can dig up an extra $20,000 or so from someplace, those filmmakers can get their films into the DocuWeeks program, which will still be a conduit to Oscar nominations, over Michael Moore’s objections.

5. News out of the National Association of Theatre Owners CinemaCon convention included 20th Century Fox planning to end 35mm film distribution next year, which will have complex consequences. Plus all manner of new theatrical magic is on its way, including lasers. A few theater chains are reporting a surge in attendance right now, while the AMC chain might be looking to sell to China.

6. Overall home entertainment spending is up for the first time in awhile, though that’s mostly thanks to digital streaming and Blu-ray, and not DVDs and rental stores, of course. Blu-ray might decline too once people realize they’ll now have to sit through two government warnings before getting to the movie.

7. Microsoft has invested in the Nook, which is now worth more than Barnes & Noble itself. B&N is trying to find ways to reconcile physical and online book sales without killing off the former, as possibilities for survival and the future design of physical books are up for speculation.

8. April was a bad month for video game sales, and while EA did well last year, investors didn’t like its weak outlook for this year. EA has big development plans, though its big investment in social gaming company Playfish hasn’t paid off yet, as a CityVille competitor has flopped.

9. Rovio had a huge year in 2011, thanks of course to Angry Birds and its one billion downloads, and the company is hoping to replicate that success with the new Amazing Alex. Zynga is also trying to recapture magic with a Farmville sequel. Zynga’s acquisition of Draw Something’s company doesn’t seem to be working out, but its cloud technology is apparently to be envied.

10. Some of the finer News for TV Majors posts from the past few weeks: Renewals/Cancellations/ Pickups, Request for Family Programming, Dish Ad Skipper, Aereo Warning, HBO No, TV Everywhere Trademark Fight, Dish Dropping AMC?, Just Cancel, Kutcher Ad Pulled, Online & TV Ad Buys, Nielsen on Viewing, Bloomberg Wins, Hulu Authentication Coming?, BSkyB Defending Itself, Murdoch Criticism, TV & Diversity.


What Are You Missing? Jan 29-Feb 11 http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/2012/02/12/what-are-you-missing-jan-29-feb-11/ http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/2012/02/12/what-are-you-missing-jan-29-feb-11/#comments Sun, 12 Feb 2012 16:20:28 +0000 http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/?p=12210 Ten (or more) media industry news items you might have missed recently:

1. While movie industry revenues are down, one study finds that BitTorrent piracy isn’t responsible, at least for US box office declines, and the media conglomerates overall have had a good decade. Winter box office numbers are up, even as the average price of a ticket got slightly cheaper.

2. MGM is attempting yet another comeback with a new infusion of credit, while Disney is trying to take on India next. But I’m sure what you really want to know about is what Lionsgate is up to: its president of production is leaving in March and is being replaced by new partner Summit’s production chief.

3. Netflix agreed to wait 28 days for Warner Bros. DVDs, but Redbox has balked at that, while Disney is working out options. Redbox is now the largest DVD renter and continues to grow, as DVDs aren’t quite dead just yet despite Netflix’s best efforts. VOD is clearly the future, though, and some studies show VOD has even bigger revenue potential without windowing than with it. The VOD take for Bridesmaids has been big, but many are most surprised just by the fact that Universal released the numbers on it.

4. Kickstarter is grabbing a lot of attention lately, even just within 24 hours: it was a presence at Sundance, has helped two projects reach $1 million in pledges, has facilitated funding on a wide array of projects, and has the potential to change the gaming world. And you know it’s a good model when a new competitor, Crowdtilt, has popped up already.

5. Barnes & Noble is fighting with both Microsoft and Amazon, but it has to get in line alongside many others in regard to the latter, as other booksellers have joined in to not carry Amazon-published books, Goodreads is abandoning Amazon, and one state after another fights to pry taxes out of Amazon. With the taxation seeming inevitable, Amazon is moving forth with plans for brick-and-mortar stores. It should chat with Barnes & Noble about how well those are doing lately.

6. Some artists worry that digital music is ruining sound quality, but more are worried about it, or more specifically digital  music services, ruining their profits, and Paul McCartney has accordingly pulled his music. (Now where will we find “Silly Love Songs” when we really need it?) Sister Sledge and others are taking Warner Music to court over missing digital sales revenue, while the iTunes Match service could be a big money maker for indie musicians.

7. Though game and console sales continue to drop, gaming in general has greatly risen as a pursuit over the past few years, as mobile and online gaming have spread, and the Kindle Fire looks to be a pivotal new outlet for that. One thing that hasn’t declined is politicians getting undie-bunched over violent video games, while a few gamers are voluntarily choosing non-killing games.

8. Printing out a year’s worth of Facebook status updates would require 11.5 billion sheets of paper. Printing out a year’s worth of complaints and concerns about Facebook would probably take 15 billion. But luckily there aren’t too many examples of people shooting their laptops or, for Pete’s sake, each other over Facebook.

9. Google and Facebook are removing content in India due to religious censorship warnings, while the Iranian government is pretty much just blocking the whole internet to keep content it doesn’t like inaccessible to its people. In regard to piracy, the UK is testing out new protection measures, while Europeans are planning protests against limitations.

10. Some of the finer News for TV Majors posts from the past two weeks: New Netflix RivalLiz Lemon Problem, James Murdoch’s Fall, Amazon Plans, Ellen Stays, Internet Viewing Rising, Youth Spectatorship, News & Twitter, House Ending, Cable Beats Broadcast for Politics, Apple HDTV Specs, Super Bowl Stuff, ABC-Univision News Channel, Seeing Smash, Revolution Ratings, Race & Cable Ratings, Sky Developments.


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What Are You Missing? January 1-14 http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/2012/01/15/what-are-you-missing-january-1-14/ Sun, 15 Jan 2012 16:26:15 +0000 http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/?p=11758 Ten (or more) media industry news items you might have missed recently:

1. The Academy has issued new provisions for future documentary Oscar nominations, including eliminating committee determination of nominations and adding a rule that a doc has to have been reviewed by the New York Times or LA Times to qualify (intended to prevent TV docs – *side eye at HBO* – from horning in on a film award). The latter has drummed up controversy, but Michael Moore insists it’s all good. Unrelated to this controversy but related to the Academy, the organization’s chief executive Dawn Hudson is under major fire.

2. IndieWire highlights 2011’s studio box office trends, as well as what happened at the specialty box office, which was apparently so much that it required a second part. Midnight in Paris led specialty grosses, while it was a down year overall for animation. British Prime Minister David Cameron wants UK filmmakers to shoot for topping one of these box office revenue lists in 2012. And the number of studios backing films that will make such lists is reduced by one, as Lions Gate has acquired Summit, thus putting The Hunger Games and Twilight series under the same banner.

3. Warner Bros. is getting tough about its DVD rental window delay, and while Netflix has caved, Redbox and Blockbuster are poised to fight. Unfortunately, Blockbuster is also poised to die. While Netflix is cooperating with Warner Bros. on DVDs, it is pulling out of the Warners-backed UltraViolet, which has yet to take off, though now Amazon and Samsung are trying to help out.

4. Publishers Weekly highlights 2011’s print bestseller trends, and USA Today says fiction sales were the big story last year, while a post-holiday e-books sales surge is the story now. It sounds like the Nook isn’t benefiting as much as it could from that, while the Kindle Fire could end up stomping other e-reader devices in the end, including the regular Kindle, not to mention other tablets.

5. Music stocks were mixed in 2011, vinyl album sales soared, rock sales were up, and digital sales surpassed physical sales for the first time, but indie labels got just a 12% cut of overall music sales. Most strikingly, only about 2% of the total album releases were responsible for 90% of new album revenue in 2011.

6. You might be tired of reading here about how video game sales in the US are slipping, so I’ll change it up for you: video game sales in the UK are slipping. The Consumer Electronics Show presented some hope for revitalizing the gaming industry, from Nintendo’s Wii U to Microsoft’s Kinect for Windows.

7. Twitter failed to predict the Iowa caucus winner but nailed it in New Hampshire, and the main takeaway is that Ron Paul could totally be the president of Twitter if he wanted. Twitter did pretty good at predicting a health epidemic, but it apparently falls short on fighting against pedophiles.

8. Twitter got mad at Google for incorporating Google+ into search data because it might diminish Twitter’s influence, and Google was all, This is your own fault, jerks. Facebook got snooty about it more quietly. Some think this is a big mistake by Google; others see it as pushing Google ahead in the online identity race. Google+ is growing, but I don’t think it’ll get to 1 billion users by August like Facebook.

9. Around the world in three sentences: Belarusians can no longer access foreign websites and India is threatening China-style controls, whereas in Sweden file-sharing has been recognized as a religion. Text messaging is declining in some countries, and globally, a mere 1% of bandwidth users are consuming half of all the traffic. Apple supplier factories in the Far East are rife with labor violations, as a This American Life segment recently exposed.

10. Some of the finer News for TV Majors posts from the past two weeks: All the TCA posts, Great Television Women, New TVs, iPad Value for Cable, Court Leaning Toward Indecency Regs, 2 Broke Girls at TCA, More Content to Xbox, Netflix’s UK Launch, Moffat & Sexism, Defending Pop Culture Studies, Louis CK’s Lesson, HBO Ends Netflix Discount, Consumer Usage Report, Reality TV Class, Comcast-Disney Deal, Netflix Doubles Up Hulu, Netflix Originals Plan, Viewing Stats, Internet Changing Syndication.


What Are You Missing? August 14-27 http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/2011/08/28/what-are-you-missing-august-14-27/ Sun, 28 Aug 2011 14:31:50 +0000 http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/?p=10322 Ten (or more) media industry news items you might have missed recently:

1. Remember how I said in every spring post that Spotify was coming to the US and it never came? Well, wouldn’t you know it, while WAYM was away, Spotify finally draped itself in the Stars and Stripes! Not surprisingly, Spotify has started out strong, is on track for its very first profit, and could pose a threat to iTunes. Meanwhile, Pandora says Spotify’s launch hasn’t affected its service, which despite posting losses is growing in revenue, and Pandora’s ad rate potential is even getting into traditional radio territory.

2. Lots of lawsuit and negotiation news in the music biz lately, including a Village People singer suing for copyright credit, artists like Bruce Springsteen getting a shot at reclaiming ownership of recordings from labels, music publishers dropping a suit against YouTube, and AFTRA working on a new contract with labels. The most potentially impactful case for the future of music services came down last week, when a judge ruled in favor of EMI and against the online service MP3tunes but at the same time affirmed the legal foundation for music locker services like the ones Google and Amazon are fostering. The judge decided these services don’t violate copyrights, but Peter Kafka says this mainly keeps the status quo for consumers. If you want to see status that is not quo, check out this pie chart animation of recording industry revenue from 1980 to 2010.

3. Another big event WAYM missed on hiatus was the new Netflix plans, and despite a lot of grumbling from consumers, James McQuivey says Netflix is still doing fine. Additional developments at Netflix include a kids’ section, rumors of a VOD rental option, and future expansion into Britain and Spain, a country which others have stayed out of because of struggles with piracy. We know DVD sales are plunging, but digital downloads and rentals aren’t doing so hot either. Amazon is touting new digital movie deals, but Wal-Mart’s Vudu has zipped past it in market share, and Miramax is trying out Facebook, which is now ranked third as an online video destination.

4. The lineup for the Toronto Film Festival, which runs from Sept 8-18, has been released, and indieWire highlights some of the surprises among films that won’t be there. This summer’s specialty hits included Midnight in Paris and Senna, while The Worst Movie EVER! turned out to have the most prescient title ever, at least box office-wise. Unfortunately the economy doesn’t bode well for indie filmmakers, so the Weinsteins are looking to Broadway to make more money, and you can check record stores (if they still exist in your area) to find David Lynch.

5. A Disney executive admitted that studios don’t care at all about story when it comes to tentpole films, which makes it extra hilarious that Disney’s Lone Ranger reboot with Johnny Depp has been shut down because of a sky-rocketing budget. Same deal with Universal’s Ouija Board film. Just a thought: Maybe shooting for a good story would be cheaper. If those projects get cranked back up again, the writers might want to consult Sean Hood’s essay about what it feels like to have your film flop at the box office. And apparently the Chinese don’t care about story either, because Hollywood is really making a push into that market.

6. According to Nielsen stats, older people are increasingly using tablets and eReaders. That has to be good news for Reader’s Digest, which is now on the iPad. It’d be great if the olds would read digital comics too, which are now available via a digital storefront initiative. While some fear that the book’s days are numbered, Paul Carr argues that eBooks are helping to make this a Golden Era of books, and he also doesn’t see books suffering from piracy issues. eBooks may suffer from over-pricing issues, though, as a class-action lawsuit against Apple claims. But if you want to over-pay for good old-fashioned magazines, there are plenty still on shelves.

7. Big computing news in HP dropping out of the tablet business, which led to a TouchPad fire sale. Plus HP might spin off its PC business, which Erica Ogg sees as a sign we’re at the end of the PC era, and others see as a sign that HP is a poorly-run company. Most companies involved in mobile device manufacturing are busy suing each other over patents, while mobile phone users are busy texting and picture-taking, and nearly a third of young adults are busy pretending to have phone conversations so as to avoid talking to nearby humans.

8. Google+ is the new social media service on the scene, which Facebook claims not be worried about, especially since it saw record traffic in July. Some say Facebook really should be worried, as it’s in danger of losing even more rich suburban parents. At least it’s got the millionaires over Twitter, and the celebrities still haven’t found Google+ yet, but all social media still has about 50% of America yet to get on board for anything. Just don’t ask all of Germany to get on board with the “Like” button.

9. Video game sales were way down this summer, with July bringing the lowest sales numbers in nearly five years. Sales are about to get even worse at GameStop, which has angered some consumers by yanking a coupon from sealed game boxes after determining it favored a competitor. And a planned videogame museum is on the ropes. At least Xbox Live seems to be doing well, and Angry Birds is headed for 1 billion downloads and even better gameplay.

10. Some of the finer News for TV Majors (@N4TVM) links from the past two weeks: Louie’s Magic, RIP iTunes TV Rentals, Summer Viewing Up, TV Ad Problems, British Timeshifting, Fox Defending Wall, TWC Uses Slingbox, Shorter Seasons, Doctrine Gone, State of Network TV, Future Trends, Real Housewives Tragedy, Google Buys Motorola Mobility, Breaking Bad Renewed/Ending.


What Are You Missing? April 17-30 http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/2011/05/01/what-are-you-missing-april-17-30/ Sun, 01 May 2011 13:22:33 +0000 http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/?p=9164 Ten (or more) media industry news items you might have missed recently:

1. Facebook’s Like button is a year old, and while a Dislike button apparently won’t be coming around, you can look for Send and also Deals. Facebook content you used to see might not be there anymore due to bogus DCMA claims (and possibly homophobia). Don’t bother looking for your old Friendster content, because after May 31 it’s gone forever. And there are scary rumors that Twitter will make TweetDeck go away forever (please don’t take my TweetDeck away!).

2. Amazon’s cloud went poof last week (but is fixed now), and apparently we can all learn a lot from this. But some might be scared away from cloud services because of it, especially once they hear that some data lost during the outage may not be recoverable. In other weboopsies, Gawker’s redesign fail shows how mistakes can kill traffic, and the new owners of Delicious hope to rectify the old owners’ mistakes.

3. According to a Freedom House report, as more people across the globe use the internet, more governments are clamping down on internet freedom, none worse so than Iran (sorry Burma, you came up just short), which has inspired Anonymous to strike. The US is the Wild West by comparison (only Estonia ranks as freer in the report), though broadband caps are arriving this week, while within the European Union, net neutrality legislation has been nixed.

4. Netflix is really rolling, yet it isn’t standing pat, as the company plans more original programs, family plans with separate profiles, and international launches. It can also count on rising content costs, plus many new competitors, as Wal-Mart, YouTube, Dish, and perhaps even Spotify (coming to America soon!) plan Netflix alternatives.

5. Though consumers are still clinging to DVDs in significant number, they’re simply not embracing Blu-ray, and Netflix sounds pretty happy to dump discs altogether whenever we’re ready (right as competitors might find shipping them to be cheaper). Search engine stats from Google show that users seek out Netflix info far more than DVD info, and Netflix Instant may be putting a crimp in illicit file sharing activities too. Meanwhile, China is shredding DVDs, though just as a piracy PR stunt.

6. The RIAA music shipment figures for 2010 are in, and both physical and mobile units plunged relative to 2009. But there was at least some nice sales news for independents and vinyl in the form of Record Store Day, plus people are still interested in investing in the music biz, and iTunes continues to post impressive sales figures. Amazon is trying to better compete with iTunes by lowering download prices, but Apple’s already looking to move on to cloud streaming and has the edge over Amazon there too due to label deals, such as with Warner Music.

7. You surely heard about the Sony PlayStation Network debacle (which will start to be resolved this week), but you may not have heard that with Wii console sales way down, Nintendo will unveil Wii’s successor at E3 in June, with retail release schedule for 2012. Also in June, Redbox will launch game rentals. Finally, the video game industry does better than anyone else at keeping minors from buying mature content, though it seems that a young gamer’s best odds are at Wal-Mart. (Not that I encourage the underaged to buy mature content. Just passing out news here, folks.)

8. The premium video-on-demand experiment has begun on DirecTV with Adam Sandler’s Just Go With It, and now Comcast wants in on the action, but it might be tough to determine how many consumers actually demand anything in the end. One thing we can all agree on is that there’s much disagreement over how this will affect the industry. In addition to theater owners, many directors and producers are against premium VOD, fearing the death of theatrical exhibition and much lost revenue. Meanwhile, new MPAA head Chris Dodd is just speaking vaguely about building bridges.

9. Some tough indie film news, as a drop in foreign pre-sales hurts, and the future of specialty theater chain Landmark Theaters is in question, with Mark Cuban putting it up for sale. But Harvey Weinstein at least foresees a very profitable 2011, other indie producers and distributors insist that smart choices and a solid libraries will carry the independent film business along, and streaming sites Fandor and Snagfilms believe that Netflix’s focus on television content boosts their fortunes for reaching indie film audiences.

10. Some good News for TV Majors links from the past two weeks: Royal Wedding Coverage & Wedding Ratings, Time Warner & Netflix, Geordie Shore, Spectrum Plan Illegal, Favorite Channels, Couric Officially Out, Bafta Awards, Upfronts Optimism, OVD Category, BBC Cuts, Who’s Back, Lucy Writer Dies, Dish TiVo Ruling, An American Family, ABC Boycott.


What Are You Missing? April 3-16 http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/2011/04/17/what-are-you-missing-april-3-16/ http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/2011/04/17/what-are-you-missing-april-3-16/#comments Sun, 17 Apr 2011 13:56:57 +0000 http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/?p=9055 Ten (or more) media industry news items you might have missed recently:

1. Theater owners have responded angrily to the studios’ premium VOD plans, with AMC Theaters issuing vague threats and some predicting theaters would curtail in-theater advertising for films with VOD deals, which one investment bank says gives theaters a leverage edge (a intriguing issue to debate), plus theaters now have James Cameron on their side. Meanwhile, theaters are turning to other forms of entertainment to fill seats, plus some better food, but they’re also saying goodbye to projectionists.

2. Dish Network bought Blockbuster, for some good reason, I’m sure. Redbox says research shows that discs will still be the dominant home media format at least until 2015 (seems possible that legal issues with streaming will still be mired in legal arguments then too), and Best Buy says the DVD rental delay has helped sales. MG Siegler argues that Blockbuster’s problem wasn’t the decline of physical media but resting on its laurels as Netflix invaded, a lesson even the biggest of companies today need to heed. Comcast must have read that, getting up on its haunches amid claims that Netflix dominates digital movie distribution, while some indie studios are getting wary of Netflix’s treatment of their films.

3. AOL has once again been unceremoniously awful to writers, this time in gutting Cinematical, thus bringing about the end of an era. The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences says it’s starting a new era with a revamped executive structure, with former Film Independent head Dawn Hudson installed as CEO. And conservatives are yet again trying to forge their own era within Hollywood, but Hollywood’s just worried about targeting the mere 11% of us who attend movies frequently.

4. We were told Guitar Hero was dead; apparently it’s not, it’s only mostly dead. GameStop is trying to keep from dying by forging new digital distribution options, while EA Sports is enabling cloud-stored profiles for all of its games. Also new in gaming is an MTV videogame division for tie-ins with Spike and Comedy Central shows (Colbert-Stewart Mortal Kombat!) and an entry point into the Grammy Awards for videogame music, though Alejandro Quan-Madrid questions the implications of this change (and other Grammys changes are being decried). Finally, the FBI has its eyes on gaming fraud, shutting down three major poker websites with indictments and raiding a college student apartment over virtual currency fraud that might even tie in with terrorism.

5. Music labels and services continue to argue: Amazon insists its cloud service will pay off for labels (and Amazom is totally reputable these days); Spotify has put limits on its free music, which it will similarly have to do once it comes to the US any day now; and Google’s just about ready to give up altogether. Maybe Perry Farrell can save us all. Meanwhile, music sales haven’t been quite as terrible lately, and the bids for Warner Music suggest optimism, but stats showing that kids don’t like to pay for their music are surely cause for concern. Bonus link: a Nielsen study on global music consumption.

6. Internet advertising had a record year last year, and search marketing is expected to grow this year. Bing is claiming an increasing share of the search market (apparently taking away from Yahoo and not Google), while check-in services may decline in 2011. And Congress has plans to meddle with the internet, including on net neutrality, internet sales taxes, and privacy. Looking back, Reuters takes an in-depth look at where News Corp went wrong with MySpace.

7. YouTube draws in more viewers than Netflix, but Netflix keeps them there for longer, and Mark Cuban insists that Netflix is hurting YouTube. Google is thus reorganizing YouTube into more a of TV viewing experience, fostering live streaming partnerships, adding a stage for live performances, and supporting new-generation studios. YouTube is also getting all schoolteachery with copyright violators.

8. Fortune digs deeply into troubles at Twitter, and others agree the service is headed for trouble, but Twitter’s co-founder responds that this is just the press finally getting around to a predictable backlash, and changes are being made, plus Twitter is still growing. A serious competitor may be on the horizon, though.

9. We’re not done with the Winklevii yet, as the twins lost an appeal ruling but vow to keep fighting. That other guy is still going after Zuckerberg for Facebook ownership too. Facebook is ignoring all of this, too busy with counting its increasing ad revenue and forging ahead with apparent plans to conquer China, but Kai Lukoff says Facebook needs to heed lessons from MySpace’s China failure.

10. Some good News for TV Majors links from the past two weeks: AMC & OLTL Cancelled, Women Changing Habits, Univision Plans, Fox Threats, Genachowski Speeches, Oprah Finale Rates, Development Buzz, Cord Shaving, Comedy Central Profile, Cable Mistake, iPad Court Battle, TV Show Complaints, Beck Exiting, Mad Men on Netflix, Couric Leaving.


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