Entertainment Industry

Category: Digital Entertainment

Nielsen study finds 'second screen' viewing enhances TV experience

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When viewers watch a TV program with a tablet device, they tend to check their email, hunt for sports scores or seek additional information about the show or a commercial they were watching on the big screen.

A new report by Nielsen Co., released Friday, underscores what network television researchers have been preaching for more than a year: that "second screen viewing" appears to augment the TV viewing experience rather than steal away viewers.

Nielsen's State of the Media: Advertising & Audiences report found that men, when watching TV and using a tablet simultaneously, were more likely than women to look for information related to a TV program they were watching (39% versus 34%). Women were more inclined to seek information related to a television commercial  (24% versus 21%).

Not surprisingly, teenagers with tablets were far more apt to visit a social media site while watching TV than were older baby boomers and seniors (62% versus 33%). 

The report also found cultural differences in TV watching and the use of digital video recorders. Nielsen said that white TV viewers use digital video recorders on a daily basis twice as much as any other group, while Asian Americans appear to spend a higher proportion of their overall TV time watching their previously recorded programs.

Adults age 25 to 54 appear to be heavily influenced by advertising. Nielsen said that demographic group was 23% more likely than the average U.S. Internet user to follow a brand through social networking sites, and 29% more likely to purchase a product online that had been featured on TV.

Finally, teenagers used a game console for eight minutes a night, on average -- more than twice as much as the general TV population.

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Photo:  Klarysa Clark, a teenager from Eagle Rock, checks out a 3-D television at the Atwater Village Best Buy in Los Angeles in June 2010.  Credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times

Bravo: 'Silicon Valley' reality show is part of digital push

Icanhazcheezburger

Move over "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills." Here come the geeks of "Silicon Valley."

Bravo Media, the cable network owned by NBCUniversal, on Wednesday unveiled two digital-themed reality shows it hopes will click with younger viewers. In its upfront presentation to potential advertisers, the network announced two new series called "Silicon Valley" and "Huh?"

Yes, you read that correctly. "Huh?" will follow Ben Huh, the founder of Cheezburger Inc., the Seattle company that operates Icanhascheezburger, FailBlog and other whacky sites fueled by millions of users who upload an estimated half a million pictures and videos a month.

The sites' irreverent vibe is expected to appeal to the younger viewers that Bravo is eager to attract in increasing numbers. "Bravo delivered its sixth consecutive record-breaking and youngest-skewing year in 2011, ranking No. 11 in prime time among all cable entertainment networks with adults 18-49," the network breathlessly boasted in a news release announcing its push into programs that click into digital culture.

With "Silicon Valley," Bravo is bringing in Randi Zuckerberg, the sister of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, as executive editor. According to the handouts Bravo gave advertising executives, the show "captures the intertwining lives of young professionals on the path to becoming Silicon Valley’s next great success stories."

Will one of those be Zuckerberg, who left her post as director of marketing at Facebook in August to start her own media company? Tune in this season to find out!

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Photo courtesy of Cheezburger Inc.

Xbox now used more for online entertainment than online gaming

HBO Go on Xbox Live

In a significant milestone for a device once known only for blasting "Halo" opponents, Microsoft's Xbox 360 video game console is now used more for watching movies and TV shows and listening to music online than playing video games online.

Microsoft has long attempted to use the Xbox 360 and its predescessor, the original Xbox, as a "trojan horse" that would use video games as a way to become the digital entertainment hub for families in the living room.

"The original vision for the Xbox was for it to be the heart of connected digital entertainment and it has been amazing to watch the arc," said Otto Berkes, a senior vice president of consumer technology at HBO who helped to launch the Xbox at Microsoft.

Yusuf Mehdi, who heads up marketing and strategy for Microsoft's Xbox business, said households now spend an average of 84 hours a month on the Xbox Live online service playing games, watching videos and listening to music. That's up 30% from a year ago. Just over half that time is spent on videos and music.

By comparison, the average household spend about 150 hours a month watching television.

"What we're seeing is that people are turning on the Xbox to play games and then keeping it on afterwards to get other types of entertainment," Mehdi said. 

Over the past few years, Microsoft has added number of entertainment applications to the 360, including Netflix, ESPN, Hulu, Vudu, and YouTube.

On Tuesday, it is adding new video applications from HBO Go, Major League Baseball and Comcast Corp,'s Xfinity on demand video service.

The additions bring the total number of music, television and movie services available on Xbox Live to 36.

The new applications require that users be paying subscribers to Comcast's cable service, the HBO premium network, or MLB.tv. Those who pay will be able to watch more than 2,400 baseball games or more than 1,000 of HBO programming, including every episode of its original series like "Game of Thrones," "Boardwalk Empire" and "The Wire." Comcast subscribers will have access to thousands of movies and television shows from a variety of channels via Xfinity.

The launch of HBO Go on the Xbox is a big step towards the premium cable network's digital on-demand service becoming a direct alternative to its linear channels. While HBO Go is available on computers and a variety of digital devices like iPads, Xbox 360 owners will be able to watch it on televisions. Previously, the only way to get HBO Go on a TV was via the Roku box, which is far less popular than the Xbox 360.

"The Xbox has an extremely broad user base that can deliver a rich visual experience, which is a pretty big differentiator," said Berkes.

More than 20 million people are paying Xbox Live subscribers who can access the console's entertainment services. A total of 66 million Xbox 360s have been sold worldwide.

Microsoft previously said it would launch HBO Go and Comcast's Xfinity on its console before the end of 2011.

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Producer Mark Burnett invests in Youtoo

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Screenshot of HBO Go on Xbox Live courtesy of Microsoft. 

Producer Mark Burnett invests in Youtoo

Mark Burnett and Vimby executives
Some technology and entertainment companies expect "social TV" to be the next wave in digital entertainment.

That means money has been flowing to start-up ventures that investors hope will become the next Facebook, Twitter or Zynga. On Thursday, Dallas technology company Youtoo (not related to YouTube) announced that Mark Burnett, the television producer behind "Survivor" and "Celebrity Apprentice," has made an undisclosed equity investment in the venture, which launched in September 2011.

Youtoo makes interactive TV and games for the television industry. Last year it launched its social network, Youtoo.com, and Youtoo TV, a cable channel available in about 15 million homes. Users can record 15-second videos of themselves on Youtoo.com and submit them to run on the television channel.  

Youtoo CEO Chris WyattChris Wyatt, chief executive of Youtoo, said Burnett hopes to incorporate Youtoo's interactive features into some of his TV productions. Youtoo plans to license its technology to TV networks and producers so they can augment their shows with interactive elements. The additional platform is designed to serve as a vehicle for advertising.

Burnett has been getting increasingly interested in the digital entertainment space. He also invested in Vimby -- short for Video in My Backyard -- a network of producers who create original short form video for the Web, segments for television and sponsored programming for major advertisers.

"In the next few months, you are going to see an entire pipeline of producers who will be using our technology," Youtoo's Wyatt predicted.

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Photos: Top: Producer Mark Burnett, center, is flanked by Vimby CEO Dean Waters and Vimby Chief Creative Officer David Goffin at Sony Studios in Culver City in 2011. Credit:  Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times

Lower right: Youtoo CEO Chris Wyatt. Credit: Youtoo

Nielsen's new Digital Consumer Report examines 'Generation C'

Studentphones
At the start of the decade, Nielsen talked about "Generation C," or the connected generation.

It was a group of teens and 20-somethings who came of age in the time of Myspace and Facebook, who used mobile devices and social media platforms to remain constantly in touch with their "tribes" --  people who share common interests, causes or movements.

Nielsen's and NM Incite's newly released State of the Media: U.S. Digital Consumer Report underscores just how connected this group truly is. Americans ages 18 to 34 make up just 23% of the population, but they represent an outsized portion of consumers watching online video (27%), visiting social networking/blog sites (27%), owning tablet computers (33%) and using a smartphone (39%).

Radha Subramanyam, Nielsen’s senior vice president of media analytics, said this group is instantly recognizable: They're the ones furiously texting, even while sitting in a roomful of people. They don't think twice about pulling out their mobile phones in a fancy restaurant.

"When we start marketing them, we have to think differently," Subramanyam said. "They're consuming all different kinds of media, and they expect a direct relationship with brands.... This voracious device usage, which is almost an extension of their fingers, is tied to [their] expectations for instantaneous gratification and instantaneous response from brands."

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Photo: A group of friends play on iPhones and an iPad outside the Pasadena Apple store in October 2011. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times.

Fox Digital stakes out Web territory with 'Wolfpack'

Fox Digital Entertainment has joined the growing pack of companies creating high-quality content for the Internet. The 2-year-old unit of 20th Century Fox movie studio this week released its first made-for-the-Web series called "Wolfpack of Reseda."

The 12-minute inaugural episode revolves around Ben March, a hapless car insurance salesman (played by Tate Ellington), whose life is transformed when he thinks he had been bitten by a werewolf at a San Fernando Valley park. The show, which consists of eight episodes with a new one released each Thursday, is something of a dark comedy.

"The key challenge in this space is the storytelling," said Matt Glotzer, senior vice president at Fox Digital Entertainment. "And then the challenge becomes about breaking the show. How do you make sure people see it?"

Fox Digital turned to Myspace, which is trying to transform itself, as its primary distributor. Myspace plans to create its own content, acquire other series and become something of a digital "farm system" to find new talent.

Kia Motors America is sponsoring the series. Tim Chaney, Kia's director of marketing communications, said the car company was attracted by the show's transformational theme. The story line felt like a good fit for its funky Kia Soul vehicle, he said.

The emergence of Fox Digital Entertainment and "Wolfpack of Reseda," highlights the trend of major media players stepping up their game when it comes to creating Web content. Online video has become the fastest-growing advertising segment, according to eMarketer Digital Intelligence. 

"Marketing and advertising is about going to where the eyeballs are, and increasingly those eyeballs are online," said Rebecca Lieb, media analyst with the Altimeter Group.

Read the full story in the Los Angeles Times.

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Hulu surpasses 1.5 million subscribers

Alec Baldwin HuluHulu finished 2011 with 1.5 million customers enrolled in its 14-month-old subscription offering, Hulu Plus.

The Santa Monica-based Internet company also notched $420 million in revenue for the year, an increase of 60% over 2010.  That was slightly less than initial projections. Early on, Hulu predicted that it would approach $500 million in revenue for the year.  However, the advertising market slowed during the third and fourth quarters, putting a crunch on the company's ambitious estimates.

"We exceeded our plan despite the soft advertising market (economy) in the second half of 2011," Hulu chief executive Jason Kilar wrote Thursday in a blog post.  "Overall the Hulu ad business grew aggressively and Hulu Plus materially exceeded our plan."

Hulu — a joint venture of media giants Walt Disney Co., News Corp. and NBCUniversal and private firm Providence Equity Partners — does not break out its earnings.  A Hulu spokesperson said the service has become profitable in the U.S. 

However, the company ramped up spending in 2011 to start a service in Japan, which likely was a drag on earnings.

This year should be healthier for Hulu and other media companies because of the rebounding ad market. What's more, Hulu has been concentrating on building its subscription service, Hulu Plus. The original Hulu online video site is still a free offering. Hulu Plus, launched in November 2010 is a more exclusive and expansive offering that costs consumers $7.99 a month.

"We expect our subscription services to account for more than half of Hulu’s overall business later this year," Kilar wrote in the post.

 Hulu CEO Jason Kilar
Hulu said it was spending about $500 million for programming in 2012.  It recently announced a Hulu Latino service with Spanish-language programming as well as locking up online syndication rights for the quirky sitcom "Community."

"Hulu’s content offering grew approximately 40% versus 2010; Hulu Plus’ content offering grew more than 105%," Kilar wrote.

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Photos:  Top Center:  Alec Baldwin stars in Hulu's inaugural television advertisement in 2009, calling Hulu "an evil plot to destroy the world."  Credit: Hulu.  Bottom right:  Hulu Chief Executive Jason Kilar at the company's West LA offices; Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times.

Live Nation acquires BigChampagne

Eric Garland00463

On the Internet, data is king.

So, it's no surprise that Live Nation Entertainment Inc. has acquired BigChampagne, an online measurement company that has provided a window into digital media consumer habits, particularly for music, since 2001.

Terms of the acquisition, announced Wednesday, were not disclosed.

Bc_logoEric Garland, founder and chief executive of BigChampagne, said the deal arose from a meeting he had this year with Live Nation executives to request access to the Beverly Hills concert promoter's customer database so that he could analyze the live entertainment business.

Also based in Beverly Hills, BigChampagne is a 26-person boutique market research firm, specializing in how people use and pay for digital entertainment, particularly music.

"I came begging for their data," Garland said. 

Based on sales volume, Live Nation, which owns Ticketmaster, is one of the world's largest and fastest-growing online retailers, moving billions of dollars worth of tickets and merchandise through its online storefronts annually. In the first nine months of this year, the company sold more than $5 billion worth of goods through its online channels, up from $4 billion during the same period last year.

In addition, Live Nation has been quietly beefing up its online presence, forging partnerships with social network site Facebook as well as the streaming-music service Spotify in order to bolster its connections with music fans.

In September, Garland ran into Live Nation Chief Executive Michael Rapino and Ticketmaster CEO Nathan Hubbard at a Facebook event in San Francisco. The three hit it off.

"They asked me what I thought," Garland recalled. He responded that what made Facebook so powerful was the personal information that the social network had about its 750 million users, including their musical tastes, their locations, their age, their level of education, what games they played, their favorite authors and so on.

"Our company focuses on making sense of all that data and extracting the relevant thread from the mass chaos," Garland said. Live Nation and Ticketmaster have "collected billions of points of data about their customers, and they were interested in finding out ways to use that data to connect fans with the music experiences that they were offering. In the end, they bought my company."

Rapino, in a statement, said, "BigChampagne brings us a great technology platform and an innovative team to help us better understand our fans and deliver insights across all areas of our business.”

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Twitter/ @AlexPham

Photo: Eric Garland, founder and chief executive of BigChampagne. Credit: BigChampagne.

Hulu launches Latino service with Spanish-language programming

LaFuerzadelDestino

Hoping to attract a rapidly growing U.S. Latino audience, online video site Hulu has launched a Spanish-language programming service with popular shows from networks Univision, Estrella TV and Azteca America.

Until now, Spanish-language programming has been scattered across different Internet sites. And some of the most popular programs, including the spicy telenovelas produced by Grupo Televisa of Mexico, were not available online in the U.S. 

Hulu -- which has ramped up its offerings this year -- saw an opportunity.

"The demographics of the U.S. Latino audience are very interesting to us, and until now there was so little Spanish-language content available online in an aggregated form," said Andy Forssell, senior vice president of content at Hulu, based in Santa Monica.

The U.S. Latino population is the nation's fastest growing demographic group. The median age of the Latino audience also is younger than that of the general market, which has helped to attract blue-chip advertisers who prefer younger viewers. 

The Hulu Latino service is being sponsored by five Hulu advertisers: Corona, Modelo, Toyota, Pantene, and Volkswagen of America.

Advertisers and Hulu, owned by media companies Walt Disney Co., News Corp. and NBCUniversal, are particularly interested in reaching bilingual viewers who watch programming in English and Spanish. They believe a large percentage of that audience can be found online.

Hulu has spent the last few months negotiating agreements with 11 Spanish-language content partners, including Univision, the largest Spanish-language media company in the U.S., and other Latin American media companies.

Spanish-language programming will be available on the free Hulu site and through the Hulu Plus subscription service. Hulu Plus will offer hundreds of hours of current and classic shows, including entire seasons of the enormously popular telenovelas, including those produced by Televisa, Venevision and RCTV of Venezuela.

Much of Univision's programming has been slow to arrive online because the company did not have the online rights to the popular telenovelas produced by Televisa until late last year. Two months ago, Univision announced its arrangement to provide its programming to Hulu.

The Hulu Latino service launched Tuesday. Users of the free Hulu service will have access to several episodes of current season programming, including recent episodes of such Univision shows as  telenovela "La Fuerza del Destino" (The Power of Destiny), newsmagazine "Aqui y Ahora" (Here and Now) and late night talk show "Noche de Perros" (Guys' Night Out).

Hulu has rolled out several new offerings this year, including a service in Japan in September. It also has been working to bolster its library with foreign programming including Japanese anime, Korean dramas, and British television programs, including "Misfits" and "Mongrels."

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Photo: Actors from "La Fuerza del Destino," which airs on Univision in the U.S. Credit: Univision Communications

MPAA's Dodd says Hollywood is pro-Internet but anti-piracy

MPAA CEO Christopher Dodd
Motion Picture Assn. of America chief Christopher J. Dodd sought to counter criticism that Hollywood is trying to censor the Internet via pending legislation to crack down on online piracy, telling a liberal Washington think tank Tuesday that the industry's fate is tied to technology.

"Hollywood is pro-Internet," the former Democratic senator from Connecticut told the Center for American Progress. "So I want to make it clear right at the outset that our fight against content theft is not a fight against technology. It is a fight against criminals."

His comments came as the House Judiciary Committee is poised to approve legislation Thursday  aimed at shutting down foreign websites that offer pirated movies, music, medicine and other products. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved similar legislation in May.

Hollywood strongly backs the legislation, which would grant new authority to the Justice Department to block so-called rogue sites. The legislation also would give movie studios, music companies and other copyright holders the ability to seek court injunctions against Internet companies they believe are aiding in copyright theft.

But major Internet companies, including Google, Yahoo, EBay and Facebook, are fighting to water down the legislation because they fear it opens the door to censorship on the Internet. They argue that the piracy bills are too heavy-handed and would even threaten the technological stability of the Internet through new mechanisms to block access to piracy sites.

Speaking in Washington on Monday, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt said the content industry has "over-reached" in the legislation and filtering technologies that companies would have to develop could be used by some countries to curb free speech.

Dodd has taken heat for recent comments that Internet censorship by China showed that blocking rogue sites was possible.

"When the Chinese told Google that they had to block sites or they couldn't do [business] in their country, they managed to figure out how to block sites," he told Variety.

But Dodd said Tuesday that the industry opposes censorship of free speech by repressive governments and that any comparison of the legislation to such efforts was "absolutely reprehensible."

"We stand with those who strongly oppose foreign governments that would unilaterally block websites, and thus deny the free flow of information and speech," he said.

But Dodd said that a free and open Internet also must contain strong copyright protection.

"There is a difference between believing that the Internet should be free and open, and believing that just because something's on the Internet, it should be free," he said.

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Photo: MPAA chief Christopher J. Dodd. Credit: Associated Press

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