How Long is the Blu-ray Runway

bd sales up metueA year removed from vanquishing HD DVD, Blu-ray DVDs are finally getting some retail respect.  At least, so says a forecast from market research firm FutureSource Consulting.  The UK based firm released a prediction (PDF) this week saying consumers will buy more than 100m high definition Blu-ray discs across the U.S., Western Europe and Japan in 2009.  The company expects 80 million units to sell in the U.S. alone.

A large part of the growth is attributed to decreasing prices for both Blu-ray hardware and the discs themselves.  Another lesser reason, FutureSource explains, was preparatory overproduction in 2008.  To “fill the channel” and “enable retailers to build their in-store displays,” the industry produced more than 200m discs in 2008 despite only selling 36m.   Retailers are now ready for a more aggressive sales push.

future source chartBlu-ray “has moved from early adopter phase through to early majority” in the U.S., said Mai Hoang, a sr. analyst at FutureSource.   The company predicts by 2012, 50% of U.S. DVD sales will be Blu-ray.

Some critics are skeptical of these near term numbers. They think the economy – both by pinching consumer spending and by restraining the funds available for big budget movie production – will slow Blu-ray’s adoption.

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Microsoft Splits Zune Group, Emphasizes Broader Entertainment

In early February, Microsoft announced plans to create original video programming for its Zune media player.  The concept seemed a wild tangent and the question at the time was: why? Now, there’s more of an answer: it’s not about the device.

Microsoft has quietly broken its Zune group into two separate units, one software and services focused, the other hardware.

The hardware group will now work out of the Windows Mobile organization.

The software team, which will be under the watchful eye of Enrique Rodriguez, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s TV business, will focus on a broader converged entertainment offering.

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Earnings: News Corp Comes In Low, Takes Huge Charge

earnings wrap metueAnalysts expected 19 cents per share in earnings.  They got 12 cents, and that’s not taking into account an $8.4b writedown.   So much for expectations.

Like other major media companies (Time Warner (PDF), and Disney (article) to name a pair), it’s currently a struggle to balance ad inventory against reduced spending.  In the face of this, News Corporation reported weak earnings Thursday.

In a statement Rupert Murdoch explained saying the “downturn is more severe and likely longer lasting than previously thought.”

Revenue for the company’s fiscal second quarter came in at $7.87b, down 8.4% and below Wall Street’s expected draw of $8.35 to $8.38b.  Factoring in the pre-tax onetime charge related to goodwill and intangible assets, the net loss was $6.4b, or $2.45 a share compared to net income of $832m (27 cents a share) for the same period last year.

The result was News Corps. First loss in more than three years.

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Gone Hollywood. Microsoft Making Original Video Shorts for Zune

zune videosMuch as it seems a wild tangent from core focus, especially given recent financial performance, the news from Redmond today is Microsoft has set up a unit to create original short form video content for the Zune.  Microsoft’s gone Hollywood.

“Cinemash,” the first planned release will launch on the Zune marketplace as an eight episode series in May. Crafted in partnership with MEAN Magazine, the program will feature TV and Film actors re-imagining classic Hollywood roles in three to five minute segments.   All of the episodes will be free but ad-supported.

Microsoft says they will develop additional pilots over the next twelve months that range in focus from live action to urban and music programming. 

Offering platform exclusive content is a strategy that works for selling video game consoles.  Microsoft’s relied on it with the Xbox platform (the Halo series has driven sales), and even explored creating exclusive non-game video content for the Xbox Live environment. 

Will using the approach here help stimulate demand for a portable media player?   There’s no doubt assistance would be appreciated.  Click to Read More

EA Snaps Up License for Ludlum Library

ludlum eaThey say one person’s trash is another’s treasure.  Case in point: Robert Ludlum licensing rights.  Not that it is fitting to call the gaming rights for the book catalog of a bestselling author trash, far from it, but when Activision Blizzard decided to cast the rights off, rival Electronic Arts was all too happy to pick them up instead.

EA announced today that they’ve reached a multi-year exclusive license for all of Ludlum’s written works, including the Jason Bourne series.

Vivendi Games previously held the rights.  Activision Blizzard, the company that resulted from the merger of Vivendi Games and Activision, decided to orphan its license in July.

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New TV Channel Epix to Debut Online in May

epix launch plans metueLast April, in a surprise announcement, Lions Gate, Viacom (Paramount) and MGM announced plans to launch their own, then unnamed, premium cable channel and video on demand service.  Soon after, former Showtime executive Mark Greenberg took the helm and the joint venture, dubbed Studio 3 Networks, began to roll toward a planned Q4 2009 launch.

Little by little, details have trickled out about what’s planned.  In November, it was regulatory filings that revealed some of the initial cost data.  Last month, it was the brand name for the channel, Epix, discovered.  This month, it’s more info on launch plans.

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Netflix Sails Ahead: Q4 Earnings Beat Economy and Expectations

netfilx earnsMany companies are struggling through the economic environment with weak earnings or weak outlook.  Netflix, the mail-order DVD rental pioneer, is so far managing to sail through on smooth waters.  Confirming “strong results” previously hinted, the company announced fourth quarter and year end earnings today ahead of expectations.

Revenue for the fourth quarter was $359.6m, a 19% year over year gain and a 5% sequential improvement.  Earnings, at 38 cents a share, were up 65% year over year.    Analysts had expected EPS of 34 cents on revenues of $354m. 

Admitting the kind of mistake many are happy to accept, CFO Barry McCarthy said on the conference call,  “Our October forecast of slowing growth turned out to be wrong.”

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