Contemplating Disruption: Will Internet Evolution Hurt Big Media?

disruptionLooking back through centuries of history only a short list of communication technologies have fundamentally changed the way people and societies share information; things like written language, the printing press, the telegraph, the radio, and television.  Each, over years of evolution, utterly disrupted existing practices, pushing aside the antiquated and expanding the depth of possibilities.  Each, in developmental years, had critics predicting there’d be little long term value.    Each also has had champions who eagerly predicted the innovations would drastically reshape the world.

The Internet falls in to the same exclusive club but its functionality and contribution are still evolving.  It will take decades before the breadth of its impact and transformative power are fully understood.  Still, that won’t stop many  from predicting where things will go or how the Internet will continue to shape our world along the way.

Monday, Lehman Brothers took a stab at such a prediction.  Citing the disruptive power of the Internet, and its likelihood of changing business economics in the entertainment industry, they downgraded stock ratings on several companies.  The recent history of the music industry was cited as one partial justification.

The view seemed extreme.  This METUE review takes an in-depth closer look.

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Marvel Making Magic: Clever Finance Turning into Earnings and Box Office

marvelThe Superhero business is booming.  Marvel Entertainments first self produced movie, Iron Man, dominated the weekend box office earning an estimated $201m in global receipts in its debut.  At the same time, on Wall Street, the company didn’t fare badly either.  Marvel posted better a better than expected quarter and raised 2008 guidance. These numbers are only a small part of a bigger story.

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Cracking Release Windows: Apple, WB Shift the Movie Industry

cracking windowApple announced this morning (press release) they will be getting select videos on iTunes the same day the films are released on DVD.  That news is getting the headlines, and deservedly so, it’s a big story and coup for Steve Jobs and team, but there’s a bigger story locked within the soundbytes.  It’s a story about Hollywood and a modernizing movie industry.   It’s a coming of age film.  It’s a story about distribution technology and profit margins, about the old guard accepting and embracing the new.  If there were a trailer to watch, the voice over would talk about throwing stones through the leaded glass of old traditions.  It might close: “Broken Windows, coming soon to the Internet theater nearest you.”

The “windows” in reference are release windows, the prescribed time gaps between which films are aired over different media.  Click to Read More

Inside Apple and PA Semi Part 1: The Micro Look

PA Semi Last week, Apple made a tiny debit from their enormous cash reserves to buy small semi conductor design firm PA Semi.  At approximately $278m, the deal barely shifts the multi billion dollar cash account on the balance sheet; still it has left many analysts, watchers and writers asking questions.  The first and most obvious is “why?” Why did a company that favors buying companies in the early stages of development buy a company with an established customer list? And why given Apples’ focus and success with consumer-focused products choose to invest in the challenging and cyclical semiconductor industry?

Another more macro set of questions (in a companion post to this article) query whether the deal represents a possible shift in Apple’s acquisition policies.  Was this the start of a more acquisition friendly Apple; one interested in taking advantage of weaknesses in the current financial markets to fortify underlying tech assets?

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Blockbusters Science Projects: Inside the Retail Lab

bbi retailIn early March , Steve Ballmer took a shot at rival Google by telling Stanford students the company was a “one trick pony”; that search advertising was the only venture they knew how to make money at.  It’s a charge that’s been leveled at Googlers more than once.   Whether it proves true or not in the long term, there’s nothing wrong with being a specialist.  A one trick pony can make for a great business; a multi-billion dollar one in Google’s case.  On the other hand, if you’re going to be a one trick pony, operating in a market with a questionable long term future can pose a serious problem once growth plateaus.

That’s the issue Blockbuster’s CEO Jim Keyes faced when he came on board to run the movie rental shop last year.  Not only had the company suffered from mismanagement and corporate bloat in prior years, but it was also facing serious competition (both direct and indirect assaults) over a changing market. 

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Channel X: MGM Paramount and Lions Gate run at Cable

channel xAfter the compensation information revealed in Friday’s proxy filings, Monday morning coffee talk and water cooler conversations might well have been peppered with gossip about hefty executive pay packages at Viacom in 2007. Instead, an oddly timed Sunday announcement marrying Paramount, MGM and Lions Gate in joint venture to launch a cable TV channel of their own played the trump card.  The bigger headline than pay: New Channel coming 2009, news at 11.

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Beyond Gaming: Wii Warfare, Cancer Research and More

wii warWhen you talk about video game consoles the first topics are usually the quality of play and the graphics; it’s the fun factor not the technology.  But beneath the surface of shiny plastic cases and glowing LED’s, these remain powerful devices with impressive technical credentials.  The consoles can do a lot more than gaming and their innovations are carrying into entirely unrelated sectors.

•••Wii Warfare•••
Nintendo’s motion activated controller has proven to be a huge hit with consumers.  The simple, but effective interface, has completely changed the nature of video game play.  It’s expanding audiences, increasing accessibility and just simply: fun.   It’s also turning out to be a lot more powerful.

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