MediaFile

from Fan Fare:

Note to Netflix: There’s a recession on

NETFLIX/ Netflix Inc <NFLX.O> apparently didn't get the memo: there's a recession on.

The online DVD rental company is aiming for "at least" 12 percent net earnings growth in 2009 and will invest any "surplus profit" -- terms not heard much on Wall Street these days -- in growing its subscriber base and streaming content, Chief Executive Reed Hastings told investors on Monday.

The comments, made amid a storm of bad news from other U.S. media companies, came as the Los Gatos, California company posted a 45 percent rise in quarterly profit that even its own executives weren't expecting.

"Our October forecast of slowing growth turned out to be wrong," Netflix CFO Barry McCarthy admitted on a conference call with analysts. "We continue to see strong momentum in our business, quarter to date."

And then there was this: McCarthy said so many Netflix users are streaming content to their PCs and set-top boxes that they aren't ordering as many DVDs online. This equals fewer costs and more profits if this streaming thing takes off.

The relentlessly cheerful news continued: Netflix is still hiring! It is testing weekend shipping in some markets to speed service! It is within 0.4 percent of the 10 percent improvement it sought in its movie recommendation algorhythm!

Holidays bring much-needed cheer to Hollywood

Christmas was good to Hollywood.

The top holiday movie, “Marley & Me,” sold an estimated $37 million worth of tickets during the traditional three-day weekend beginning on Friday, and overall Christmas Day sales reached $75 million, up about $10 million from last year.

While that’s good news, particularly during the downturn, it won’t be nearly enough to salvage an otherwise rough year in the movie business, as Reuters points out.

Still, Hollywood is on course for a down year. With three days left, year-to-date sales are off about 1 percent at $9.5 billion, while the number of tickets sold has slid 5.2 percent, Media By Numbers said.

We need our music videos!

For all of you expecting a slow week at work, and looking forward to killing some time by watching your favorite music videos on YouTube, we have some bad news for you. Warner Music Group ordered YouTube on Saturday to remove all music videos by its artists. So, in other words, you’re not going to find the Red Hot Chili Peppers or T.I. on YouTube today — or at least you shouldn’t.

Essentially, the disagreement boils down to Warner seeking a bigger share of the huge revenue potential of YouTube’s massive visitor traffic. “We simply cannot accept terms that fail to appropriately and fairly compensate recording artists, songwriters, labels and publishers for the value they provide,” Warner said in a statement.

But all is not lost, according to the Wall Street Journal, which writes: “In the wake of Warner’s move, people close to the other major labels said they didn’t anticipate taking down their content in the immediate future. These people say they are discussing new, more lucrative ways to do business with YouTube. The four music companies don’t necessarily have the same terms with YouTube, which could explain the discrepancy in their stances.”

Cell phones still No. 1 movie irritant for Regal CEO

People who talk and text on cell phones are still the number one source of movie theater complaints tracked by Regal Entertainment Group, Chairman and Chief Executive Mike Campbell told the Reuters Media Summit on Wednesday.

Campbell made news at a the 2006 Reuters summit by disclosing that Regal, the largest U.S. theater chain, had armed patrons in a few test theaters with gizmos that summon ushers to deal with problems ranging from rowdy audiences to a freezing auditoriums. Back then, Campbell reported that some patrons were “getting into physical battles in the theaters” over cell phones and that the chain had “had people assaulted with bats, knives and guns” over their electronic umbilical cords.

The program worked so well that Regal has now expanded it to 100 of its highest volume locations, and cell phone talkers and texters seem to be getting the message, Campbell said.

Blockbuster throws its hat into the set-top box ring

Blockbuster got into the set-top box game right in time for the holiday season with a new digital media player that brings fewer but newer titles from the Web to TV six months after arch rival Netflix launched its $99 Roku set-top box. Netflix followed that launch with similar partnerships with Tivo, Samsung, LG Electronics and Microsoft.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. While the number of people who watch movies or TV via the Web is still small, media and technology executives believe a host of new technologies will make Web to TV a mainstream staple. Vudu already sells a $299 set-top box that lets users download TV shows, while Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and Sony’s PS3 game consoles can also be used to download programming from the Web for TV viewing.

Apple of course is trying to take a bite of the market with its Apple TV device that lets viewers download shows from their computers onto their TVs.

Netflix sponsors its own Clockwork Orange

chariots_of_fire.jpgRemember that scene in the movie “A Clockwork Orange” when they force open Malcolm McDowell’s eyes and make him watch and watch and watch the screen some more?

That’s got to be what it’s like for the remaining two of the eight original contestants in the Movie-Watching World Championship.

The gang has been sitting in a tent in Times Square since Thursday (on the island formed by 43rd St and Broadway and Seventh Ave) doing nothing but watching movies and trying to stay awake. The winner gets $10,000 in cash, a lifetime membership to Netflix, the movie delivery service that is sponsoring the contest and the “Netflix Popcorn Bowl” trophy. (Netflix for its part cut its fourth-quarter forecast for revenue growth and subscriber on Monday, which took a Berlin Alexanderplatz-sized bite out of its stock price, so the contest might have proved escapist fun for the company’s executives.)