MediaFile

Content everywhere? More like content nowhere

Will Big Media and Big Tech companies ever stop punishing their biggest fans?

Like many people, I woke up yesterday and reached for my iPad for my morning hit of news, entertainment and information, so I could start my day. (And like many, I’m embarrassed to admit it.) Padding to the front door to get a newspaper still sounds more respectable, but my iPad gives me a far more current, rich and satisfying media experience than a still-warm printed Times could ever produce.

Except, lately, it doesn’t. Yesterday morning, I saw the exciting news that Bill Simmons, ESPN’s most popular, profane and controversial writer, had secured an interview with President Obama. Simmons published his interview in podcast, text and video form on Grantland, a longform sports journalism website he founded last year under the ESPN umbrella. I clicked over to the story from my Twitter feed and saw three YouTube excerpts of Simmons with Obama. And that’s all I saw. When I hit play on the videos, I discovered ESPN had set them to be “unavailable” on mobile devices.

Moving on, I tried to read a New York Post headline that also found its way into my Twitter feed. But when I tapped in, the Post webpage that loaded was not the story I wanted to read. Instead it was a notice, which I took as an admonition, that to read New York Post content on an iPad, I would have to download the app, which retails for $1.99.

I want to make it clear that I’m not against paying for content. But what I’ve just described aren’t paywalls, where publications warn users that they won’t be able to consume content for free.

The situations I’m describing are blanket denials of content because of a choice I made about which device to use. With these tactics, media companies aren’t creating content paywalls, they’re creating content ghettos. Big Media, set my content free! Stop messing with the user experience to deny readers their content simply because you can detect what platform they’re on. And stop punishing users who are investing in the latest devices to consume your output. In other words, grant my hyper-advanced iOS device or my friend’s fancy new Android phone just as much access to the Web as my mother’s four-year-old Windows XP PC. Which one of us do you think wants to watch Simmons talk crossover dribbles with the Commander-in-Chief?

ESPN’s new Skipper comes out fighting

We had the pleasure of incoming ESPN President John Skipper’s company on Monday at the Reuters Media Summit in New York. Skipper, whose promotion was announced just ahead of Thanksgiving Day, had been the No.2  to George Bodenheimer, now promoted to executive chairman.


In the last few years ESPN has become the 800-pound gorilla in the pay-TV industry through its mix of exclusive sporting licenses with many of the top sporting leagues and events. But those deals cost money — like the eight-year NFL TV rights that cost $15.2 billion. Even Skipper, in his first interview since his appointment was announced, acknowledged the deal as “expensive” but added the caveat that ESPN generates great value from NFL rights.


The high cost of sports programming is one reason ESPN is the most expensive cable network in the US at around $4 per subscriber. Most cable networks charge a lot less than $1.


But Skipper is adamant that ESPN is worth every penny and pushed back strongly at any suggestion that cable companies could create new tiers to help customers pay less if their package don’t include ESPN.



“It’s demonstrably true that ESPN provides more value to our distributors than any other network — by far, there’s not a close second. If you survey cable, telco and satellite customers they believe ESPN provides the most value. The distributors themselves believe we provide the most value.


I reject the notion (that ESPN high cost should see it placed on higher priced tiers). I  think the current package of pay-TV products that comes through on basic cable is a high value proposition to the consumer I don’t think breaking them up is going to provide the consumer better option. If they become broken up in an a la carte world the individual channels are going to more expensive. Consumers would get less channels and pay more money.


Every distributor will do deals with us because they believe the best protection I have against cord-cutting is having ESPN.”


 


 

Disney comes to YouTube and Google TV

Photo: Reuters

When it comes to Hollywood movies and TV shows on the Web, all the focus is on Netflix, Hulu and even BlockBuster’s online ambitions. Yet YouTube, the daddy of the online video space with some 3.5 billion views a day,  has been quietly bulking up its traditional studio content. All this while there’s been a lot written about its $100 million investment to create hundreds of new cable channels of the future.

Since May, YouTube has signed up Sony Pictures, Universal Studios and Warner Bros to offer their movies for rental through YouTube, and on Wednesday it confirmed it has inked a deal to offer initially a “handful” of Disney titles in the U.S. and Canada, with hundreds of titles to be added in the coming weeks.

The Disney movies include titles like the original Alice In Wonderland, the new version of Winnie the Pooh as well as Pixar hits like Cars and Cars 2. The shows will also be available on YouTube through Google TV.

Tech wrap: New Nook Color on the way?

Barnes & Noble sent out invites on Monday to a Nook-related event coming up on November 7. Most tech watchers expect the company to use the occasion to unveil a new version of its Android-powered Nook Color tablet e-reader, which could sport a better screen and upgraded hardware.

As CNet points out, the most anticipated question will be how much Barnes & Noble decides to charge for the new device. “With the Kindle Fire on sale at $199 (it ships November 15), there’s some pressure on B&N to come close to matching that price, though Amazon is allegedly losing money on each Fire it sells (our sources suggest the Fire currently costs around $220 to build). With that being the case, Barnes & Noble is more likely to come out with a faster, more powerful Nook Color that costs $249, though we wouldn’t be surprised to see it at $299,” writes David Carnoy.

Netflix has added a slew of new TV show episodes to its streaming video catalogue through an expanded licensing deal with ABC Television Group, a division of Disney. In addition to extending licensing for popular ABC shows such as “Lost” and “Grey’s Anatomy” that it already offers, Netflix added ABC’s “Switched at Birth,” “Alias” and episodes from past season of Disney Channel’s animated series “Kick Buttowski” to its streaming selection. Amazon.com also unveiled a content agreement with Disney on Monday that will let Amazon Prime subscribers stream shows from ABC studios, Disney Channel, ABC Family and Marvel.

Disney TV heads north to reach millennials

Millennials, the massive generation of teens and young adults aged 15 to 34, are luring Disney television north of the border.

The California-based global media and theme-park giant announced a new, 24-hour network in Canada called ABC Spark targeting that age group - like the successful ABC Family cable channel does in the United States.

A partnership between Disney/ABC Television Group and Canadian media company Corus Entertainment, the new network will broadcast ABC Family shows such as “Switched at Birth,” “The Lying Game,” and “The Secret Life of the American Teenager.” Corus also will provide Canadian original programming,  as regulations require 15 percent Canadian content. The network’s launch is set for spring 2012.Disney knows a growth opportunity when it sees one. There are more than 1.7 billion millennials on the planet, with 85 million of them in the United States and 10 million in Canada, according to a statement from the Mouse House, representing “the largest demographic bubble in both U.S. and Canadian history.” No financial terms of the deal were disclosed.

Advertising weak? Quit worrying so much already

Viacom Inc’s not sweating it, Time Warner Inc. isn’t all that concerned. Why, CBS Corp and Discovery Communications Inc. are cool as cucumbers. Disney certainly sounds confident, as does Scripps Networks Interactive.

So why are investors and analysts — those Nervous Nellies of the financial world — so worried about the advertising market? Besides, you know, the fact that the stock market is getting smacked around, the job picture is just ridiculous, and the U.S. housing market is a wreck. Besides Europe’s debt crisis, which seems to have no resolution in sight. Besides the memories of 2009, when U.S. advertising spending dropped by 16 percent to $163 billion.

It may simply be that advertisers haven’t yet made the decision the cut budgets. But listening to all the top media executives at the Goldman Sachs Communicopia Conference this week left one with the impression that they are feeling pretty upbeat about advertising — and don’t expect any cuts in the near future.

Brace yourselves: (former?) video titan takes aim at Netflix

By Lisa Richwine

It’s getting crowded in Netflix-land.

The field of players battling for customers in the fast-growing online video market may soon get another big-name entrant: Blockbuster, reinventing itself under new owners Dish after a disastrous run, looks ready to launch its long-awaited move into instant video streaming next week, another shot at grabbing customers frustrated with Netflix.

Blockbuster, a unit of Dish Networks, set a press conference for next Friday in San Francisco coyly named “A Stream Come True,” where it promises to unveil “the most comprehensive home entertainment package ever.”

CEO Joe Clayton and Blockbuster President Michael Kelly will appear at the event.

Disney’s channel chief latest Mouseketeer to hit the road

For the second time this month, a senior Disney executive is heading for the exits.

The head of Disney Channels Worldwide, Carolina Lightcap, resigned from the company on Thursday after less than two years in the job overseeing the Disney Channel, Disney XD and Disney Junior cable networks.

Disney didn’t give a reason. In a statement released by the company, Lightcap said “the timing is perfect to move on to my next challenge.”

Disney’s dodgy boyfriend problem

Psst! Wanna buy a cheap stock?

For the second time in just over a year another boyfriend of a Disney staffer has been accused of insider trading.

Yesterday, hedge fund manager Toby G Scammell (seriously, that’s his name, you couldn’t make this stuff up) was sued by Federal regulators who alleged he used secret information obtained from his girlfriend to make $192,000 off the Walt Disney Co’s $4 billion acquisition of Marvel Entertainment in 2009.

Scammell’s girlfriend of two years was an intern in Disney’s corporate strategy department and worked for six months on the deal.

Time Warner Cable’s unique ESPN Web deal

Many media business journalists let out a collective sigh of relief at the news that Time Warner Cable had finally inked its deal WorldCupwith Walt Disney to keep carrying its programming, including ABC, Disney channels and various ESPN networks.  The programming fee negotiations had gone late into the night past their Wednesday midnight deadline and hacks, who had seen this movie before, were just starting to tire of waiting for another midnight watch.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the deal is that Time Warner Cable’s ESPN customers will now have access to ESPN3.com, a website ESPN uses to show more than 3,500 live events, including  matches from the World Cup this summer.

This is unlike other ESPN3 deals which have typically been tied to the cable operator’s Internet service provider. In those cases, ESPN3 would only be accessible to ISP customers of the cable operator.