Redbox Looking at Blu-Ray, Trending Up

Redbox parent, Coinstar, built its core business offering frugal customers a convenient way to liquidate their spare change.  Similar focus on frugality and convenience has helped turn the company into a movie rental powerhouse.

While Blockbuster and other brick and mortar rental shops are struggling, Redbox’ kiosk approach is  booming. 

The company is adding tens of new machines a day and expects its yearend inventory to top 30,000.  Studios have taken notice and gone from critics to partners.

A month ago, Redbox signed deals with Universal and 20th Century to bring the studios’ movies to Redbox kiosks 28 days after their street debut.    In the next month, the company expects to start adding Blu-ray at a price of likely $1.50 a night, slightly higher than the $1 per night charged for standard definition.

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Earnings Watch: Viacom and DreamWorks Animation

viacom earns graphicTuesday, Viacom delivered some good news. The company said its premium movie channel joint venture, Epix (developed jointly with Lionsgate and MGM), has signed a carrier deal with VerizonViacom also said it was “very pleased” with advance bidding (called “up fronts”) for commercial time on its cable properties in the upcoming TV season.  The ad sector, CEO Philippe Dauman suggested, is showing signs of recovery.  What was less positive, however, was Viacom’s performance in the quarter ended June 30th.

Adjusted earnings (earnings less severance charges of 3 cents per share) came in at 49 cents a share for the second quarter, the company reported.   Down 23% year over year, that was just good enough to beat analyst’s consensus expectations of 48 cents (Thomson Reuters) but revenue numbers missed. 

Analysts projected revenue of $3.5b.  Viacom totaled up $3.3b in revenue for Q2, a 14% drop over the same period last year.

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World of Warcraft the Movie?

Electronic Arts has an agent, movie project and deals with Steven Spielberg and Zack Snyder.  MTV Games is tied up with Jerry Bruckheimer.   James Cameron is working with Ubisoft.  Activision Blizzard now has Sam Raimi, well, sort of.  Activision announced Wednesday the Spiderman director signed on to produce and direct a film based on the company’s hugely popular World of Warcraft online fantasy games.

Raimi’s deal is not a game development deal like some of the other Hollywood heavies have, it’s a traditionally movie contract.  Still,  the agreement is another demonstration of the increasingly frequent crossover between film and interactive games.

Legendary Pictures, which produced Batman Begins, 300 and Watchmen, will co produce the movie along with Charles Roven’s Atlas Entertainment (Batman Begins, The Dark Knight and The International).

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Crowd Sourced Knowledge: Netflix Prize Won?

netflix prize awardLog in to Netflix and rate a movie you watched on a scale of one to five and Netflix’ computers will try to suggest other titles you’re likely to rank the same way.  This algorithmic pairing process has been marketed as a key differentiator between Netflix movie rental service and that of competitors.  It’s been touted as an achievement. 

For two and a half years, Netflix challenged the public to try and create a better mousetrap.   A million dollar prize was dangled as bait for the first person (or team) to create a program capable of beating Netflix’ Cinematch algorithm by a margin of ten percent or better.   Nobody succeeded.  Developers inched close but couldn’t quite hit the mark. Seven percent, eight percent, nine…but not ten.  The so called "Netflix Prize" went unclaimed. Until now, that is.

On Friday, a group created from a combination of four independent teams that had been vying for the prize submitted a solution that they claim resulted in a 10.05% improvement over Netflix’ Cinematch ranking algorithm.

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Hulu Offers Application Alternative

hulu labsGo back a few years ago and companies pushing net video streams out to proprietary applications were all the rage.  IP TV had the hype of a key convergence technology.  It was the next new thing. With companies like Joost there was massive venture funding, and talk about how their plans would change the face of TV distribution.

That didn’t happen. The buzz faded, staff left  and many of the companies that were yesterday’s darlings have faded from tech culture stardom (at least for now) like the backup singer to a one hit wonder.  Two notes hummed and forgotten.

The problem may have been timing, or programming, but it was also in no small part because the offerings required a change in consumer behavior.  They required applications downloaded to a desktop when consumers were used to (and comfortable) working within their web browser. 

It’s ironic given that, that today’s web video stars, companies like Hulu that have gained audience traction with browser-based video distribution are exploring stand alone players. Click to Read More

Real Networks Accuses Big Hollywood of Antitrust Violations

copyright crosshairs metueIt was a case of now you see it, now you don’t.  Last fall, Real Network’s then newly launched DVD copying software platform, RealDVD, went from controversial to contained in the blink of an eye.  Just days following the program’s launch, with litigation already filed by both sides,  U.S. District Judge Marilyn Patel issued a temporary restraining order blocking all sales of the program pending a broader review of the software’s legality.  The program has yet to resurface and now the ongoing copyright litigation is poised to expand.

Designed to enable consumers to create digital to digital archival copies of DVDs, the program was intended to allow owners to store DVDs on a computer for viewing, or backup, without the need to have the disc in the drive.

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Hollywood Connection: Bruckheimer Games Moves Ahead

You don’t have to look far to see the overlap between Hollywood and the video game industry.  Game companies have bought movie effects shops and traditional movie studios have expanded into game development.  Tomb Raider and Resident Evil started as games and had box office (and DVD) success.  Star Wars and other series started in theaters and found added success in  gaming.    Famed directors from Spielberg and Peter Jackson to up and comers like Zack Snyder have signed game development deals.  Game studios even have Hollywood agents.  These days, whether it’s animated, family friendly, action driven or effects laden – chances are there is crossover or could be.

It’s not exactly a mouth opening surprise.  All the synergy, marketing efficiency and business buzzwords aside there is much common ground. Both mediums share a foundation in their methods of visual story telling.   Both share costly and long development processes.  Both market (often) to similar audiences. Both need blockbusters to offset the lost causes of bombs. In a way, interactive video games are the choose your own adventure equivalent of Hollywood’s visual story telling tradition.

But just in case all the references and obvious points of confluence aren’t enough evidence of the increasing convergence between the two, add Jerry Bruckheimer to the list. The mega producer whose credits include films from Top Gun, to Beverly Hills Cop, and Black Hawk Down or Pirates of the Caribbean announced a partnership with MTV Games in December of 2007.  And now after 18 months of silence, that gaming adventure is officially moving ahead.

Jerry Bruckheimer Games announced Tuesday that it hired two industry veterans to lead its organization and chaperon the company’s entry into the marketplace. 

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