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!

from Summit Notebook:

Your Blockbuster guy is really Movie Cupid

In tough times, perhaps the maxim "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" is even more true.

In the eyes of Blockbuster CEO Jim Keyes, your local video rental joint is a kind of temple for story-loving consumers anxious to find just the cinematic gem they most desire, so they can "Go Home Happy." That's what makes it different than online video rental shop Netflix, right, Jim?

Reuters:

Given the economic concerns, and as you eye staff costs, might you perhaps automate the in-store movie checkout process? Maybe eliminate the kid behind the counter?

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.)

Ask.com goes for revamp — but will it work?

diller.jpg

Barry Diller is not backing down. The media mogul’s IAC/InterActiveCorp has once again relaunched its Ask.com search engine — aiming to increase its share of the lucrative Web search market.

Ask.com Chief Executive Officer Jim Safka told Reuters in an interview  that the revamped site — with its faster, better searches — would keep customers coming back for more. He said early tests showed a 16 percent increase in the rate at which customers returned to the search page.

The problem is that Ask.com has a long way to go. Google is the dominant Web search service in the United States, growing in August to more than 63 percent market share, according comScore, a Web audience measurement firm. Yahoo was second with a fall to 19.6 percent share and Microsoft dipped to 8.3 percent. Ask was fourth, growing slightly to 4.8 percent.

Amazon spills (some) beans on the Google phone

google.jpgThanks Amazon! The online retailer put out a release this morning with some juicy details about Google’s new mobile phone — even as we’re still waiting for the official unveiling later today.

So, here’s what they say about the phone…

“The T-Mobile G1 is the world’s first Android-powered mobile phone in an exclusive partnership with Google. The T-Mobile G1 combines full touch-screen functionality and a QWERTY keyboard with a mobile Web experience that includes the popular Google services that millions have enjoyed on the desktop, including Google Maps with StreetView, Gmail, YouTube and others. ”

Amazon, which has a deal with Google related to the phone, also says that the phone will have “one-touch access” to Google Search and will allow access to Android Market, “where customers can find and download unique applications to expand and personalize their phone to fit their lifestyle.”

Google, Viacom privacy accord leaves unanswered questions

masks.jpgGoogle and Viacom reached a late night accord on safeguarding the anonymity of Google YouTube viewers. Google will no longer have to hand over the user names and IP addresses of its viewers.

But what of the scuffle around the viewership data of Google and YouTube’s own employees? CNET’s Greg Sandoval reported last week the negotiations stalled on Google’s unwillingness to turn over information on its own employees, citing unnamed sources.

In other words, how would Viacom’s $1 billion copyright infringement suit against Google turn out if the data showed YouTube co-founder Chad Hurley viewing and uploading “Colbert Report” videos?

Microsoft searching for answers

microsoft.jpgThe secret is out: What Microsoft wants is Yahoo’s search business. Reuters has reported that the deal now under discussion would have…

1). Microsoft buy the search operation.

2). Yahoo sell off its Asian assets.

3). Microsoft buy a chunk of what remains of Yahoo.

Microsoft and Yahoo representatives declined to comment on the Reuters report. But clearly these talks are all about search.

And that really shouldn’t come as a surprise. After all, search is crushing all other types of advertising in terms of growth and Google is threatening to run away with market share, leaving Microsoft and all others in the dust.