MediaFile

from Summit Notebook:

More or less fun in a recession? It’s a tough call

EA_Jens_Uwe_Intat_SVP_Reuters_Summit_Paris_2010_17_May_30pctStill unsure whether economic recession is good or bad for video-games sales, more than a year in? If so, you're in good company -- neither does the world's biggest games publisher. Electronic Arts' head of European publishing says the company still hasn't figured out whether people cut spending on big items like housing and cars first, or whether those kinds of decisions are just too hard.

"We really wonder, hmm, in economically difficult times would people in order to have SOME fun actually play more games or less games, and then, would they spend more or less?  It's really, it's impossible to say," Jens-Uwe Intat told the Reuters Global Technology Summit in Paris.

In the early days of the downturn, the industry was widely thought to be recession-proof as people chose cheap stay-at-home entertainment over pricey nights out. That assumption was later turned on its head.

EA, whose franchises include Need for Speed and The Sims, was flummoxed last year when it was hit with a 10 percent drop in the market for packaged games, instead of the 7 percent increase it had been expecting, Intat said. It has since become shy of making forecasts.

Frankfurt Motor Show tickets going once… going twice…

Some say the Frankfurt Motor Show, which started on Sept. 15, has lost a bit of its lustre amid the crisis that has hit the global car industry with an economic baseball bat. But there are still people out there who are willing to shell out the big bucks to go see the new car launches. One lucky bidder, identified only as i
l on www.ebay.de paid 158 euros ($232) for two tickets to get into the car show today, days before other mortals are allowed to pass through the big white doors leading into the halls of the show. There are 150 separate auctions for tickets to the car show, with sale prices starting at 7 euros for tickets valid on the days that are open to the public, which start on Sept. 19. So it looks like there are still plenty of people out there who are just wild about cars even though the government has to pay tightfisted consumers to buy a new one with their cash for clunkers programme. Would you pay that much to get a glimpse of  what the automotive industry has in store before others can?

Frankfurt Motor Show features babes and beasts

Photo by Edward Taylor

The Frankfurt Motor Show is bustling with scantily clad models in high, high heels who present carmakers new models. Volkswagen‘s Skoda decided against the models and opted for a more furry mascot. To present its new 4×4 crossover Yeti model, it hired the abominable snowman! Mom is never going to believe this…

Disney hikes theme park prices — necessity or confidence?

Magic, Disney’s way, just got a little more expensive, as it does every year around this time when Walt Disney World raises its admissions prices.******WIth its prices generally tracking the national economic exuberance or lack thereof, the fact that Disney raised prices this week for, among other things, its “Magic Your Way” multi-day tickets, appears to reflect expectations for some recovery at least in consumer spending somewhere on the horizon.******With the recession still weighing on family vacations, Disney hiked the resort’s most popular multi-day passes by a relatively gentle 2.5 percent to 5.3 percent this week, compared with a rise of more than 16 percent in the boom year of 2006, according to data compiled by Pali Capital analyst Rich Greenfield.******This price hike, whatever its size, may simply be aimed at mitigating a 7 percent lag in hotel bookings at its domestic parks in the current quarter, as well as margin-gouging discounts at its Walt Disney World hotels, which boosted attendance but saw revenue drop by 9 percent last quarter.******Disney CEO Bob Iger himself expressed a glimmer of optimism on a conference call to analysts  last week, saying he say signs of ”economic stabilization”, but would not commit to ending the hotel discounts that have been propping up park attendance since last year’s market crash.******A spokesman for Disney Parks and Resorts said the price increases resulted from the company’s “continuous monitoring” of park prices relative to other forms of entertainment like football games, skiiing or concerts – and by that calculus, a park visit, at $79 for a one-day, one-park adult ticket was still “great value for the money.”******So if having fun is getting pricier again, that’s a good thing. Right?

Hangin’ with USA Today’s new masthead

Gannett Co Inc has not been too generous lately with making its executives available to media reporters. And why would it? Few newspaper publishers have because there’s little good to say about the business.

Ad sales are tanking, as usual. Debt is looming (what else does it ever do?). Lots of self-styled media experts can’t let a day go by without writing a few blog posts telling publishers that they brought it on themselves and they deserve to die.

With that merry backdrop, I was surprised to get invited to a press conference and an interview with Gannett’s latest picks for editor (John Hillkirk) and publisher (Former Detroit Free Press Publisher David Hunke) of USA Today. Gannett brought them to New York to meet the insular Manhattan media world, which is responsible for writing all those obituaries that you’ve been reading about newspapers lately.

from UK News:

Nostalgia makes a comeback in TV ad-land

The recession is bringing back the strangest characters.  Rising from their graves like the zombies in Night of the Living Dead are people we thought had been buried decades ago.

The Milky Bar Kid is one, Persil mum is another and, inevitably, the Hovis bread delivery boy struggling up his cobbled hill while the brass band plays on.

What next? Bing Crosby singing about Shell perhaps or the famous Smash-peddling Martians who thought it was so funny that Earthlings bothered to peel potatoes?

from Left field:

Will Major League Baseball strike out?

jeter1Pity Major League Baseball.

The U.S. sports league will be the first to face the recession from the beginning of its season, and team officials are bracing for a decline in attendance of as much as 10 percent.

Two-thirds of the 30 MLB teams have frozen or cut their ticket prices and many have made similar moves on their concessions and souvenirs, team officials said. Combine that with the cutbacks in spending on suites and blocks of tickets by companies and the sport's revenue also could slip.

Baseball officials are especially worried about teams in California and the Midwest.

from MacroScope:

So many ways to say goodbye

It takes a delicate touch to make job cuts sound more palatable. As U.S. companies reduce payrolls by the thousands, the press releases seem to be getting more and more creative.

Check out today's announcement from The Reader's Digest Association, which is eliminating 8 percent of its global workforce and suspending matching contributions to employees' 401(k) retirement accounts. Somehow it stings a bit less when you tell employees that it's all part of a "Recession Plan" right?

"We have announced a comprehensive 'Recession Plan', which is our internal roadmap for dealing with the extraordinary effects of this recession on consumer spending," Mary Berner, president and CEO, said in a statement.

from Shop Talk:

Neiman asks, did the media steal Christmas?

neimanNeiman Marcus chief Burt Tansky had some choice words for retail reporters last night, saying they had unfairly influenced the outcome of the 2008 holiday shopping season well before it even started. He was referring to stories that came out as early as September, like this one, predicting that holiday sales could be the worst in up to two decades because of the bad economy.

"I think the media have done us a terrible disservice," Tansky said at an evening event sponsored by Financo Inc during the annual National Retail Federation conference in New York, attended by our own Karen Jacobs. "The media, I think, should start thinking about the impact they are having on retail."
    
Many of these media stories were based on predictions from leading research groups, such as Deloitte, who gave gloomy forecasts due to the global financial crisis, the U.S. housing slump and credit crunch. 
    
And when retail chains finally began to take down the tinsel after the holidays, their performance proved even worse than that, with sales dropping for the first time in the nearly 40 years they have been tracked.
    
We didn't know it last night, but Tansky may have had other reasons to be piqued than our role in bringing the bad news. Neiman today said it would start making interest payments on some of its senior notes by issuing more debt, rather than using cash, and planned to fire 3 percent of its workforce.
    
The news comes barely a week after Neiman posted a 31.2 percent drop in same-store sales at its unit that is home to the Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman stores.

(Photo of a Neiman Marcus gift book from a Christmas past: Reuters)

Sony Exec: Don’t worry, buy happy

Give the “Glass is Half Full” award to Stan Glasgow, Sony’s top U.S. electronics executive, ahead of what could be the most crucial (and potential painful) “Black Friday” shopping weekend in many years. It’s normally a happy time of year, filled with family gathering, gifts, etc.

This year its different. Read the papers, or a blog. Things look pretty gloomy.

Perhaps, just perhaps, things aren’t as bad as they seem, Glasgow told a gathering of journalists on Thursday, suggesting that there are great bargains to be had on cool gadgets and big TVs, if consumers can overcome their apprehension.

Glasgow, a passionate engineer-by-trade, whose casual briefings with the tech press are usually chock full of geek-y chatter about flat screen TVs, Digital SLR Cameras and OLED displays, took on the economy, such as it is.