It’s all about TV, still

bezos.jpgA growing list of non-starters to connect PCs-to-TVs in recent years hasn’t stopped more from trying. Amazon and TiVo are making another run at the idea.

Amazon hopes rejiggering its digital movies download service to add a streaming feature for some 40,000 movies will be the trick to lure viewers, the New York Times reports. Lucky owners of Sony’s Bravia line of TVs will also now be able to access the Amazon’s Video On Demand service directly from their TV without linking up to computers.

Separately, TiVo — which has a separate deal with Amazon to let customers view films and shows downloaded from Amazon’s Unbox store directly on TVs — landed a deal to get YouTube videos on the boobtube.

Add to that list recent developments including Netflix’s launch of a small set-top box that lets its subscribers stream a limited selection of films over the Internet directly to TVs and a deal announced this week to do the same over Microsoft’s Xbox 360 game console.

Seems this is a concept that may yet have legs (or may be the equivalent of a tech/media industry zombie).

AOL, Yahoo, Microsoft talks heat up

bewkes4.jpgTime Warner’s talks with Yahoo and separately with Microsoft have taken on renewed urgency as a pivotal Yahoo annual shareholders meeting approaches, a source tells us.

But are the discussions earnest or is AOL being used as a pawn in an increasingly ugly battle that will ultimately lead to a linkup of Microsoft and Yahoo? It’s hard to tell at this point as a steady stream news, punctuated by public accusations of “misleading” statements come from Microsoft, Yahoo and billionaire investor Carl Icahn, make handicapping the outcome difficult.

Icahn, who holds a 5 percent stake in Yahoo, has waged a proxy battle to remove Yahoo’s board and has aligned himself with Microsoft to seal a deal.

He said, she said

If you’re getting lost in all the nasty rhetoric between Yahoo, Microsoft and Carl Icahn, here’s our primer on what the fuss is all about.

They’re trading insults (again) after the latest deal talks broke down (again). Microsoft’s top lawyer is pressing the antitrust issue in Yahoo’s Google search partnership in Washington today, while Yahoo’s top lawyer accused Microsoft of trying to force a fire sale.

Don’t forget, this comes after Monday’s war of words over the latest Microsoft proposal to acquire Yahoo search, which was floated with the help of billionaire activist investor Icahn and rejected by Yahoo (again). Here’s what they’re saying about that deal:

“I get by with a little help from my friends…”

xbox-360-e3.jpgMicrosoft’s showcase of highly anticipated games for the Xbox 360 was mostly sequels of popular franchises, but all featured a new common element: cooperation.  Reuters games reporter Kemp Powers explains.

Cooperative play, in which several players work together to finish a single-player mission instead of blasting each other, seems to be the mode du jour these days.

It has already been announced that the next installment in the “Call of Duty” franchise, “Call of Duty: World at War,” will include a cooperative mode (the last game did not). “Halo 3,” the last installment of Microsoft’s flagship franchise, for the first time included the ability for up to four players to play the entire game cooperatively over Xbox Live.  

Mii too!

xbox-avatars.pngIf imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Nintendo should feel very flattered by Microsoft’s press conference that kicked off today’s E3 Media & Business Summit in Los Angeles. 

Our video games reporter Kemp Powers points out similarities. 

One of the major announcements at the press conference was a planned overhaul of the Xbox 360 console interface. The new suite of features will include a community games channel to showcase (Warning: media buzzword) user-generated titles.

More interestingly, Microsoft heavily plugged the addition of cartoon-like personalized avatars that can be inserted into a number of upcoming casual and family game titles.

Microhoo latest: Icahn and his Nine Merry Men

He talked, he cajoled, he wrote stern letters, and issued threatening press releases. Now, it’s really on: Activist investor Carl Icahn filed a proxy on Monday to nominate a slate of nine directors to replace Yahoo’s board and to oust co-founder and current CEO Jerry Yang.

This came after a weekend dust-up in which Yahoo’s board on Saturday night rejected a joint proposal by Icahn and Microsoft for Yahoo to sell its search business to Microsoft and fork over the rest of the company to Icahn.

Icahn, who owns around 5 percent of Yahoo, filed a list that included a good share of well known media investor types, including former Viacom chief Frank Biondi and Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks pro basketball team.

Yang having a bad day in Sun Valley?

Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang — the target of a proxy battle by billionaire investor Carl Icahn and a takeover offensive by Microsoft — just arrived in Sun Valley for Allen & Co’s mogul confab. It looks like he wishes he was elsewhere.

Yang was also spotted by the Sun Valley Inn with former Time Warner CEO Dick Parsons, probably asking for advice on how to handle Icahn.


(Photo: Reuters / Rick Wilking / (l to r) Google co-founder Larry Page, Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang, Google co-founder Sergey Brin)

Neither wind, rain nor a classroom will keep iPhone fans away

iphone.jpgHere we go…

Two days before the iPhone’s launch, fans around Asia are queuing up to buy Apple’s latest offering. They don’t seem to care that it’s raining or freezing cold or if lining up early means missing work or school.

The July 11 launch will be the first chance, after all,  for Asian consumers to own an iPhone.

“I’ve told my professor I was going to go buy an iPhone, and he gave me permission,” said Hiroyuki Sano, a 24-year-old graduate student who early on Tuesday arrived in rainy Tokyo from Nagoya to be first in line. Sano, speaking to Reuters, and incidentally wearing a T-shirt with an Apple logo, described his professor as an equally big Apple fan. “He sent me off cheerfully.”

Valley of the moguls

Swan smallerThey call it the Duck Pond, but it’s actually teaming with (vicious) swans. It’s considered a big media and tech powwow, but a broad swath of global corporate titans of finance and politics round out the guest list.

It’s the 26th annual Allen & Co Sun Valley conference, where high-wattage huddles transpiring on the tranquil resort grounds among stunningly rich business people swathed in questionable leisure wear could end up in big deals months from now. The legend springs from the track record: AOL and Time Warner, Walt Disney and CapCities/ABC, Google and YouTube are all said to have gotten started here.

In between knitting (!), yoga, white-water rafting and golfing, and bridge (!) games execs like Google’s trio Eric Schmidt, Larry Page and Sergey Brin mix it up Disney’s Bob Iger, Time Warner’s Jeff Bewkes and News Corp’s Rupert Murdoch.

Happy Monday! Your stock rating has just been cut

nyse.jpg It wasn’t exactly an auspicious start to the week for entertainment companies.

Right out of the box, Lehman Brothers analyst Anthony DiClemente cut his rating on News Corp, Disney, CBS and Time Warner. Not one of them is now rated above “equal weight” by the broker.  And he stuck the whole entertainment sector with a negative rating.

What’s the deal, DiClemente? Well, he points out that television and film companies are barreling toward the same sort of problems that have created such headaches for the music business. Remember how the major music labels seemed so ill-prepared for that whole Internet thing?