Grapevine: Beatle Mania for Guitar Hero? Subscription iPods?

beatles guitar heroSpring is in the air.  It’s “March Madness,” the time for college basketball’s big tournament. Predicting the outcome has the odds-makers busy.  If they can find some time, they might be equally challenged forecasting another unpredictable event that’s generating March Madness of its own: the digital licensing of the Beatles’ song catalog.

For more than a year the Beatles arrival at iTunes has been an imminent (and recurring) headline grabber.  The prophesies began in January 2007 when Lovely Rita played during the announcement of the iPhone.   They gained credibility when the trademark suit between the two Apples (Apple Inc. and Apple Records) was settled in February.  In June, the speculation surfaced again with the phone’s launch.  Again with new iPods introduced in September.  Then in January, like Punxsutawney Phil it popped up for Mac World only to see its shadow and disappear anew.

Last week, the conclusion of Sir Paul McCartney’s tabloid-fodder divorce fueled a new round of rampant speculation.   Several reports citing sources close to Sir Paul claimed a deal, possibly worth hundreds of millions, was imminent.  Apple summarily dismissed the claims.  "This is not news nor is it a scoop," said their spokesman.

Now there’s a new rumor, a new twist, and this one is much more plausible than the tabloid’s absurd suggestions Sir Paul was driving a deal to seek cash for the divorce settlement.  Click to Read More

Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better: Fighting for PC TV Convergence

retrovision pc convergenceA few years ago there was a Gatorade commercial that pitted soccer star Mia Hamm against Michael Jordan.  Back and forth the two competed in contests to win the title of “best athlete.”  In the background, the song repeated “anything you can do I can do better.”  Today, that commercial can be seen on YouTube.  It’s ironic in a way because today YouTube has become equivalent to one of those athletic tests in a similar battle being fought by aspiring TV/PC Convergence devices like TiVo and Apple TV.  Like Michael and Mia, the two keep leapfrogging past each other to show which can bring more features and internet sourced content to the TV screen.

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EA Extends In-Game Ad deal with Massive

in game adsIn game advertising, the idea of putting dynamic, changeable ads in the background graphics of video game is still an infant industry but it’s one endowed with high hopes (even as some fans cringe at the thought of ads taking over their play space).   According to a recent eMarketer forecast, spending in the sector is poised to increase 133% over the next 5 years (through 2012).  Yankee Group has predicted even more substantial growth calling for a market size of $971m by 2012.  Across the gaming industry, all the big players from Activision to Electronic Arts to NBC Universal are taking steps to participate.  Tuesday, EA made a deeper commitment and extended an agreement made in July with Microsoft subsidiary Massive for two more years.

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Corporate Housekeeping: Closings, Hiring’s and other Short Takes

corporate imageOver the course of a week there are always a few news items that don’t warrant front page attention but still merit a mention; things like new hires or deals that finally closed after being widely reported when first announced.  This week with Electronic Arts hiring a COO,the New York Times proxy settlement and deal closings from Clear Channel and Amazon, there have been a handful that fell into that category. Here’s the roundup in one dose:

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Paid For TV: Feature Licensing Getting Costly and Common

tv auctionsAs TV’s get thinner, bigger and better, people spend more of their entertainment time and money at home.  There’s less allure to the theaters.  For the TV Networks (and also aspiring TV/Net convergence services like Hulu) this changing dynamic represents big opportunity in the form of ad dollars.  It’s also a big risk (lower audience share if they can’t compete with rivals in programming).  To capitalize, networks are acquiring content voraciously.  Movie producers seem all too happy to oblige.  Just how big the stakes are became clearer today when News Corps FX cable network opened its coffers to buy exclusive programming rights.

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Slowing Economy Not Stalling Gaming Sales: February NPD Results In

npd hotIt’s often said that the entertainment industry, movies in particular, are recession resistant.  When the economy gets bad and people start feeling their wallets grow thinner they seek comfort and escape in the movies. They also gravitate toward the lower cost, lower key form of entertainment.  With the movies and gaming industry converging, I guess it’s no surprise to see early indicators that the gaming industry may be similarly resistant to a weakening economy (whether recession or not).   

Thursday retail tracking firm NPD released their monthly U.S. gaming sales roundup.  The numbers, as is becoming all too common, were good.  So far, the economy isn’t affecting the gaming industry at the register.

Overall, total sales, including hardware, software and accessories rose 34 percent versus a year ago hitting $1.33 billion.  The number was also up month to month besting the $1.18b in total sales registered in January.

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Gloves Come Off: TK2 acquisition gets Hostile, EA hits managements wallets

hostile takeoverTake Two may be developing a boxing game but Electronic Arts has a mean left hook.  Today, they showed just how mean by escalating their takeover attempt for the maker of Grand Theft Auto to hostile.  EA also aimed a power punch straight at the jaw of T2’s management team by adding a purchase price adjustment that gives shareholders an ultimatum to decide between fattening their own wallets or those of the company’s management.

At issue is the underlying management agreement through which Zelnick Media is compensated for running Take Two.

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