Comedy.Com: Funny or Laughable startThe high volume of Internet video sites begs the question “why more?” each time there is a new launch or venture financing in the space.  The spate of comedy focused sites begs a punchline.  Yet even with sites like HBO’s This Just In failing in July, Revver selling out on the cheap this month, or Grouper changing its name and business objectives over the summer, more video sites still appear like chickens waiting to cross the proverbial road.

The latest entrant into the fray has the benefit of a memorable name:  The question is will that make a difference?  Will their effort turn out to be another equivalent of amateur night at small town bar or will they headline with must-see footage before a packed house on a bigger stage?

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Reed to Sell Variety and other Publications

rbi saleBracing for the possibility of further economic downturn and to reduce exposure to related volatility in the ad markets, Anglo Dutch media powerhouse Reed Elsevier announced a surprise plan to sell off their publishing arm, Reed Business Information (RBI), Thursday.  The group is home to a number of high profile online/offline specialty news outlets including the entertainment industry staple Variety and the publishing trade magazine Publisher’s Weekly.

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Disney Online: Reorg Increases Focus

disney staffWith the gaming industry setting records at retail, content creators are increasingly looking to bring development activity in house instead of having to share the revenue pie with  third party developers.  To that end, it’s been previously reported that video game tie-ins for the next installment of Disney/Pixar’s Toy Story franchise will be developed inside Disney instead of with previous partner THQ.  Now, to keep on top of similar online and casual gaming initiatives, and streamline internal management, Disney has announced they will create a new division within the Disney Online Internet Group. 

The new organization will be called Disney Online Studios.   While not exciting news to those uninvolved, the reorganization hints at Disney’s recognition of the increasing value of their online entertainment offerings and shows a concerted plan to accelerate development of new offerings.(Disney made related moves to strengthen its M&A focus in late November. )

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Wii Fit Gets US Release Schedule

wii fit US LaunchOn July 11, 2007 famed video game designer Shigeru Miyamoto took the stage at a Santa Monica gaming convention to reveal a peripheral and game designed to bring exercise and fitness to the Nintendo Wii gaming platform.  Wednesday, Nintendo took advantage of another trade show, this time in San Francisco, to announce the Wii Fit launch schedule for the U.S. and Europe.

Part of Nintendo’s ongoing strategy to expand the gaming market by appealing to mainstream audiences, the Wii fit package uses a specially designed balance board controller to turn exercise into games (or games into exercise).  Like the Wii’s other innovative controllers, the board (which is primarily designed to be stood on) senses motion and movement.  The device is also sensitive to shifts in weight.   Reportedly its scale-like design was inspired by Sumo wrestlers who often need to weigh themselves with two scales.

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RIP HD DVD: Toshiba Officially says Goodbye

rip hd dvdWith the expectation that Internet video will eventually replace DVDs, many have viewed the battle to set a high definition standard as an anti-climactic, largely irrelevant, marketing experiment.  To them it’s been a fire drill in an empty building.  To the studios and hardware manufacturers standing to make billions in revenue in this intermediate period (which could last five, ten or fifteen years), it’s been anything but trivial.  Now, it’s official.  HD DVD will join Betamax and Laserdisc in the pantheon of displaced technologies.  Blu Ray disc has won.

Toshiba, HD DVDs primary, backer announced Tuesday they will officially, and deliberately, exit the market.  Click to Read More

Milking the Franchise: Activisions Guitar Hero Spinoff Stories

activision2.jpgMuch like in the movie industry, the brand awareness associated with a popular franchise title can decrease marketing expenses, reduce customer acquisition costs and lower market adoption risk (e.g. hedge against high production and development costs).  So long as a game sequel offers enough new challenge or enhancements over the prior version, it stands a high probability of commercial success. 

A game like Guitar Hero can be phenomenally expensive to develop across multiple platforms.  According to a report on an edition of radio station KCRW’s “The Business” program, rival title Rock band cost Electronic Arts and Viacom’s Harmonix/MTV Games approximately $200million to develop.  By the same token, however, successful titles can be famously lucrative.  The various sequels in the Guitar Hero franchise are regular visitors to NPD’s monthly top ten sales lists.  Combined, in total, they’ve generated more than $1b in retail sales. 

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NPD January: Stats on the State of Gaming

game numbersPost holiday sales notwithstanding January is typically a soft period for the retail industry when compared to the results November and December holiday rush.  The monthly NPD numbers released last week, showed the skyrocketing returns for the gaming industry weren’t immune.  Hardware sales, in particular, were off but overall, there was plenty of value to be mined from the latest monthly results report from NPD.

Total U.S gaming sales were $1.18b in January, a 6% drop versus the same period a year ago (though that has largely been attributed to an extra week of reporting included in last year’s tally).  Taking into account the calendar adjustments, NPD notes that sales were up about 18% on a week by week accounting.

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