Friday, January 7, 2011
The Wall Street Journal has this interesting note:
The head of Microsoft's Windows Division Steven Sinofsky joked during a CES presentation that his seat mate on the plane to Las Vegas started the flight on his iPhone, watched a movie on his iPad, did work on his Macbook Air and ended the flight listening to music on his iPad.
"I kid you not," he said, "That's not particularly converged."
From the LA Times Company Town:
The Hollywood awards screener is finally catching up with the digital age. In a first for the industry, Fox Filmed Entertainment will make three current releases from its Fox Searchlight movie unit that were nominated for Screen Actors Guild awards -- "Black Swan," "127 Hours," and "Conviction" -- available as free downloads from Apple Inc.'s iTunes to all of the acting guild's nearly 100,000 voting members.
The move could mark the first step in an industry-wide shift toward making digital copies of movies available to voters for all awards, eventually ending the costly, time-honored practice of producing and sending physical copies of their DVDs.
Fox co-Chairman Jim Gianopulos said his studio is also in talks with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, whose members vote for the Oscars, and with the British Film Academy, about making iTunes downloads available to their voters as well even though they have already been sent DVD screeners.
SAG members will get a code they can use to download the three Fox Searchlight films in high definition and watch them on a computer, iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, or on television via Apple TV. As with any iTunes rental, films can be watched as many times as the voter wants during a 24-hour period. They will be available from Jan. 7 until Jan. 28, the day votes are due. The SAG awards will be presented Jan. 30.
Studios regularly send DVDs with watermarks -- which identify the video as belonging to a specific person in case it leaks onto the Internet -- to voters in various awards groups. However, Gianopulos said his studio had never before found a way to get screeners to SAG members.
"When you're dealing with this large a number of voters, it's extremely difficult in terms of logistics and would be cost prohibitive to produce and ship screeners to every SAG member," he said, adding that it would likely cost "many millions of dollars" to do so.
The deal, which Gianopulos pitched to and struck with iTunes chief Eddie Cue, will quite possibly prompt other studios to make screeners available via Apple or other digital outlets. That could particularly be true for those whose films are also nominated for SAG Awards and that may feel at a competitive disadvantage.
Screeners have always been controversial in Hollywood, as studios have weighed competing worries about piracy and desires to promote their films to awards voters. In 2003, the Motion Picture Assn. of America unsuccessful attempted to ban screeners. Some studios later participated in a failed test to send Oscar voters special DVD players that could play screeners with stronger copy protection than normal DVDs.
More recently, studios have returned to sending normal discs along with watermarks to crack down on any members who allow their copies to leak online.
iTunes downloads feature much stronger copy protection than DVDs, however, and can only be watched during a 24-hour period, making it easier for studios to showcase their films to voters securely. Gianopulos noted that they could also be useful for people who want to watch a movie on a portable device or before watermarked discs have been produced.
"This could eventually be an alternative for all awards voters to give them access to our films at an earlier stage or while they are traveling," he said. "It's what technology is all about: Giving people more choices to view films while still recognizing that we would always prefer that they see it in a theater if possible."
SAG members will receive an e-mail from the guild and a postcard from Fox Searchlight with instructions on accessing a download code from the studio's website.
Photo: A customer with an iPad at an Apple store. Credit: Paul Sakuma / Associated Press.
"Down less" is the new "up" for Hollywood's home entertainment business. Total revenue from DVD, Blu-ray and digital sales and rentals of movies and television shows in the U.S. declined 3% to $18.8 billion in 2010, according to new data from industry trade organization Digital Entertainment Group.
Although the drops, particularly of DVD sales, are worrisome for the entertainment industry, studio executives can at least take some comfort in the fact that the picture isn't worsening as quickly as it did in 2009, when total home entertainment revenue plunged 7.6%.
The overall figures masked a number of disparate trends, however. Sales and rentals of high definition Blu-ray discs were up substantially and digital downloads and streaming were up significantly as well. But, the standard DVD format continued to fall even more substantially, with total revenue down 11% to $14 billion.
In the struggling economy, cash-strapped consumers continued to migrate away from purchasing movies and toward renting them. Rental revenue rose 2% to $7.8 billion, while sales were down 7% to $11 billion.
The total number of home entertainment transactions, including purchases, rentals and downloads, was virtually flat, up just 1% from last year's 3.5 billion. In other words, consumers are watching just as many movies as ever at home--they're just spending less to do it.
"The industry is dealing with both structural and cyclical issues," said Tom Adams, principal analyst at IHS Screen Digest. "This year, as the economy improved, the cyclical factors eased up, which is why the market is fading less quickly. But the structural issue of people buying fewer movies remains."
Total revenue from Blu-ray discs increased 53% to $2.3 billion. In the most promising news for the industry, Blu-ray sales rose an impressive 69% to $1.8 billion. Sales of Blu-ray discs, which usually cost more than $20, are the most profitable home entertainment transaction for the Hollywood studios.
Sales of movies via the Internet increased 17% to $683 million, while Internet and cable video-on-demand grew 21% to $1.8 billion. Studios are attempting to boost the still-small digital sell-through market through a new joint initiative called Ultraviolet, for which launch details were unveiled this week at Las Vegas' Consumer Electronics Show.
DEG did not break out revenue from sales and rentals of standard DVDs, but Adams estimated that sales of DVDs, which fueled a boom in the home entertainment market between 1999 and 2005, fell 16% to $8.3 billion. That's slightly better than the 17% drop in 2009.
The bestselling DVD of the year was James Cameron's blockbuster "Avatar," which sold a total of 15.3 million units in the U.S. and Canada, including 5 million Blu-ray discs. The latter figure is an all-time record.
(This year's decline was smaller than it would have seemed a year ago, as the DEG revised its 2009 sales figures down based on new data from Rentrak. After estimating last year that the home entertainment market was worth $20 billion, DEG now says the total was $19.4 billion, due to $600 million less DVD spending than previously reported.)
-- Ben Fritz