News Technology

YouTube to test digital fingerprints on videos

YouTube Fingerprint imageYouTube are testing a method of digital fingerprinting that will identify what clips are copyrighted.

Apparently, it was developed by Google in collaboration with Time Warner and Disney.

Kenneth Li and Eric Auchard of Reuters report:

The technology, developed by engineers at YouTube-owner Google Inc., will help content owners such as movie and TV studios identify videos uploaded to the site without the copyright owner’s permission, legal, marketing and strategy executives at YouTube told Reuters in an interview on Monday.

The so-called video fingerprinting tools, which identify unique attributes in the video clips, will be available for testing in about a month, a YouTube executive said.

“The technology was built with the Disney’s and Time Warner’s in mind,” Chris Maxcy, YouTube partner development director, said, adding that, since early this year, Google has been testing audio-fingerprinting tools with record labels.

These tools will be used to identify copyrighted material, after which media companies can decide if they would like to remove the material or keep it up, as part of a revenue-sharing deal with YouTube, which can sell advertising alongside it.

Once proven to work, the technology could be used to block the uploading of copyrighted clips, YouTube product manager David King said. It aims to make the tools widely available to any copyright owner later this year.

The big question here is: will this work? Obviously big media companies want to protect the content they fund and produce. But whether anyone likes it or not part of the appeal of YouTube is that it has become an unofficial archive for a lot of copyrighted material.

But its not like it has become The Pirate Bay. It is just that a generation of people are increasingly growing used to finding video on YouTube in a way that wasn’t possible in the past. If YouTube filters this out digitally (and that is a big if) then won’t that just lead to clone video sites picking up the slack?

With the notable exception of Disney, Paramount, Lionsgate and MGM‘s bold move in to the world of movies on iTunes, major media companies have been slow to pick up on how their content can be used. At worst, they have been guilty of sticking their head in the sand when it comes to how people want to view clips, trailers or download movies.

Maybe this attempt to work with Google (rather than slapping down lawsuits that will probably go nowhere) is a step in the right direction. But at the moment it sounds like a group of highly paid lawyers trying to force a genie back in to a bottle.

> See the full story at Reuters
> Mark Cuban at Blog Maverick with his take on this issue
> Mark also wrote a very interesting post back in October about the copyright issues behind Google’s acquisition of YouTube

News Technology

Apple to offer movie rentals

Apple ShowtimeMatthew Garrahan of the Financial Times reports that Apple are in advanced talks with the major studios about launching a movie rental service:

Apple is in advanced talks with Hollywood’s largest movie studios about launching an online film rental service to challenge cable and satellite TV operators.

The service could be significant for Apple. If it signs enough studios, the group will get access to more premium film content.

Apple already sells films that can be downloaded and owned, and has distribution deals with Walt Disney and Paramount. Other studios have shied from tie-ups with Apple because of concerns that digital downloading may hit DVD sales.

But studios will be more enthusiastic about joining its video-on-demand service. Films downloaded to rent are unlikely to affect DVD sales.

Apple, which declined to comment, is believed to be aiming for an autumn release.

The price would be $2.99 for a 30-day rental and the DRM software would allow films to be copied from a computer to at least one other device such as the video iPod or iPhone.

This would appear to be a logical move after Apple started selling movies through iTunes last September.

> Check out the original story here at the Financial Times
> Mac Rumors reported a cryptic hint from Steve Jobs about this at a recent shareholders meeting
> Find out more about the iTunes Store at Wikipedia

News Technology

Google acquires FeedBurner

Another smart move from Google, as they acquire FeedBurner and slowly become the modern day Skynet.

Google FeedBurner

> Official announcement from Google
> Find out more about FeedBurner at Wikipedia

Interesting News Technology

Blogs and film coverage

Anne Thompson of Variety posts a smart and lucid piece on how blogs are reshaping film coverage:

Bloggers come in many shapes and sizes. Some are professional journalists. Others are amateur fanboys. A few create original content, but most riff on other people’s blogs. (At, I do both.) Some are erudite and write with charm and brio. Others suck.

But for better or worse, blogs are here to stay. And they’re reshaping the coverage of films today. Movie publicity may never be quite the same.

Until very recently, studio information gatekeepers and press agents could to some degree control the flow of information about their movies and clients. They could confirm and deny facts and spin stories to a select list of reporters who played by the accepted rules of engagement that went along with their privileged access.

But the Internet has changed all that.

Early Web leaks and misinformation are giving the PR community headaches.

When something incorrect is posted, it spreads like wildfire. Too many viral postings from too many unfamiliar sources make it impossible for anyone to return calls, much less ferret out the source of the infection.

And then there’s the problem of timing. Bloggers typically reveal nuggets of film info — usually casting announcements — long before agents and studios are prepared to release the information, often because the deals aren’t done.

In October 2004, when announced newcomer Brandon Routh as the star of “Superman Returns,” it forced Warner Bros. to reluctantly confirm his casting a few days later. And when went full speed ahead and claimed that Emile Hirsch was in talks to star in “Speed Racer,” it turned out to be true. Warners was not happy about either breach.

The line between traditional journalism and indie purveyors of buzz continues to blur.

If you have ever wondered about the impact the internet is having on the film industry, then you should check out the rest of her article here.

Also check out her Variety colleague Peter Bart with his latest “Back Lot” column about blogs and the the film world.

> Anne’s blog at Variety
> Some other movie blogs at

News Technology

Pan’s Labyrinth wins at the Webbys

Webby LogoCongratulations to Picturehouse and Deep Focus for their work on the official website for Pan’s Labyrinth, which has just scooped the Webby Award for Best Movie and Film website.

Not only was it one of the best films of last year, but it had an online presence to complement the marvellous work on screen.

Congratulations should also go to NPR who won in the Best Podcast category. Their range of podcasts is superb and the NPR Movies podcast is worth a special mention as it is excellent roundup of all that is going on in the movie world.

> The winners at this year’s Webby Awards
> Interesting article at iMediaConnection on the work Deep Focus did on the Pan’s Labyrinth website
> Subscribe to NPR Movies podcast via iTunes

News Technology

Flixster hits 10 million users

Techcrunch is reporting that Flixster (the site we told you about on the podcast last month) has now hit 10 million registered users:

You don’t see this every day. San Francisco based Flixster’s growth, which shot up late last year, shows no signs of slowing anytime soon.

Joe Greenstein, Flixster’s CEO, told me by email that they now have ten million registered users and up to two million movie ratings completed daily (380+ million movie ratings to date). That’s a lot of (very valuable) user generated data. Comscore continues to show a sharp rise in page view and unique monthly visitors as well. Compare the charts below (U.S. user data only), which show data through February 2007, to the December stats we published in February.

It is a very useful site and I can only see it getting bigger.

> The original story at Techcrunch
> Flixster
> Wired on Flixster

News Technology Thoughts

Film critics and the world of blogs

Andrew Pulver has written a piece in The Guardian on a BAFTA debate about film critics and the “blogosphere”.

Last night’s Guardian Film Forum at Bafta in London took as its subject “the role of the film critic in the digital age”. Against a backdrop of internet enthusiasm for all things cinematic (which goes back practically to the inception of the world wide web) and old media’s equally enthusiastic embrace of blogging (what you’re reading now would not exist otherwise) – we ask the question: where does that leave the film critic?

Peter Bradshaw deserves credit for his forward thinking stance:

The Guardian’s film critic Peter Bradshaw, the next panellist along, welcomed the rise of the blogger. “I envy the blogger’s freedom,” he says. But in terms of what he writes, he says, it’s not changed the pressure. “You have to fight your corner. It’s the same as it’s always been.”

There is a longer discussion to be had, but I think some people don’t get how rich the online film experience can be. Not only is there a lot more information available through sites like the IMDb but there is more of a conversation going on. Writers such as Rachel Cooke in The Observer seem to hate this development and pigeonhole “bloggers” as certain type of faceless idiot but then she is highly selective in the websites she quotes from.

This is not to say newspapers and magazines should (or will) die out as sources of information and opinion about film. It is just that they should adapt their current skills to a new medium that has a lot of benefits for people who love the medium.

It always makes me scratch my head when old school sceptics (who sometimes seem offended by the very existence of computers) assume anything written about films on the Internet is a geeky discussion at Aint It Cool.

Londonist make some excellent points on this in their reaction to the event:

It was announced last night that BAFTA would be producing a podcast of the event that will be online in several weeks time. Now while we didn’t see anyone liveblogging the event, we did notice remarks were being Twittered instantaneously from a few mobile phones. So perhaps the easiest thing the old guard can do is spend a little more time online to learn exactly what it is that the kids are up to. You won’t get a level playing field if we’re not playing the same game.

What we found frustrating was that both members of the panel and the audience had an incredibly unsophisticated knowledge of blogging and online journalism. More than once online writing seemed to conjure up an image of lonely spotty teenage fanboys, wanking in bad grammar about the movie they had just seen, in between whining posts about how misunderstood they are.

These kind of discussions can degenerate into a pointless argument about how technology is destroying decent journalism (or vice versa) but it is worth checking out the original article and – just as importantly – the comments section beneath it.

> The Londonist with their take on the subject
> A previous article by me on this whole debate

Awards Season News Technology

YouTube take down Oscar clips

Variety are reporting that YouTube are removing clips from last Sunday’s Oscar telecast:

Web surfers will no longer be reliving the magic moments of the 2007 Oscarcast via YouTube. The vid-viewing site complied with a Tuesday request from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences to remove all unauthorized clips of the kudocast.

Several segments of the show, including host Ellen DeGeneres’ opening monologue and musical numbers featuring Will Ferrell and Beyonce, had been among YouTube’s most-viewed content this week.

Ferrell’s musical lament about how comedies never win Oscars, sung with Jack Black and John C. Reilly, had racked up more than 250,000 views on YouTube before it was replaced with the message “This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences.”

Ric Robertson, exec administrator for the Academy, said the organization had its content pulled “to help manage the value of our telecast and our brand.”

In one sense I can understand the fact that the Academy sell the rights to broadcasters and they are upset that clips posted on YouTube violate their intellectual property.

But given that it is a live show, surely the real value is in the live broadcast? Don’t the clips help the Oscars reach a much wider global audience? In that sense shouldn’t A.M.P.A.S make the clips available on YouTube?

And in any case, even if they get YouTube to pull them down (a very difficult exercise that may only encourage people to upload more) won’t they just pop up on other video sites?

The Variety article also quotes Will Richmond, president of Broadband Directions (a market intelligence firm that focuses on Internet video):

“Media companies and content owners have not been that aggressive about two things: offering lots of clips on their sites and offering interactivity, like the ability to include a clip in a blog or email it to a friend. The absence of both of those elements has created this vacuum into which YouTube and others have jumped.”

I think he has a point. Shouldn’t the Academy be partnering with sites like YouTube in filling that vacuum?

Please feel free to post your thoughts below.

Interesting Technology Useful Links


It looks like Amazon have created their own Wikipedia clone. It is called Amapedia and although it is still in beta, the idea is a very good one.

A wiki for Amazon products not only gives us more information about the huge amount of books, DVDs and products they have but also allows Amazon to better to gauge customer responses.

It will be interesting to see how this develops

> Amapedia (link via Read Write/Web)

News Technology

BBC gets into file sharing

The BBC are making programmes available for download via a Bit-Torrent file sharing network.

BBC News reports:

Hundreds of episodes of BBC programmes will be made available on a file-sharing network for the first time, the corporation has announced.

The move follows a deal between the commercial arm of the organisation, BBC Worldwide, and technology firm Azureus.

The agreement means that users of Azureus’ Zudeo software in the US can download titles such as Little Britain.

Until now, most BBC programmes found on peer-to-peer file-sharing networks have been illegal copies.

Beth Clearfield, vice president of program management and digital media at BBC Worldwide, said that the agreement was part of a drive to reach the largest audience possible.

“We are very excited to partner with Azureus and make our content available through this revolutionary distribution model,” she said.

It looks like a big step forward for the Beeb and I have to say that I’m looking forward to what the service actually looks and feels like.

Interviews Technology

The state of the UK film industry

Earlier this week I spoke to Stuart Till, the CEO of UIP – one of the UK’s main film distributors.

We discussed a number of topics including the Leitch review – a government report into skills in the UK and how it affects the film industry, the impact of new technology on distribution and the forthcoming split up of UIP into two separate companies.

Listen to the interview
[audio:stuart_till_ interview.mp3]

Amusing Interesting Technology Thoughts

Back to the Future timeline on Wikipedia

Have ever sat around with friends and discussed the Back to the Future films? When you get past which one is best, conversation usually turns to the impressively complicated logic that underpins the plot of the entire trilogy.

If you need to refresh your memory there is a terrific explanation of the timeline currently on Wikipedia. But as Cinematical have reported, it does beg the question of whether or not it should actually be there:

There is a massive and mind-bogglingly complete Back to the Future timeline on Wikipedia that is the effort of some seriously fanatical fans. It details events that were cut from the original scripts (for instance, did you know that Doc Brown and Marty met in 1983 when Marty showed up to sweep the Doc’s garage?), the animated series, and meticulous picking apart of the films themselves. It’s a real labor of love, and it’s in danger.

Wikipedia has some pretty strict policies regarding verifiability, and that leaves the BTTF timeline somewhere between limbo and a hard place. Check out the discussion page where people are chiming in on whether to keep the article or not. So far is a resounding “keep it!” but if you want to give your own opinion on the matter, roll up your sleeves and dive right in. Wikipedia is by the people, for the people.

I think I’m in agreement with my Cinematical brethren. It should stay, just because it adds to our knowledge of the film (one of the biggest films of the 80s) even though, on the surface, it may seem trivial. And surely knowledge is what the online encyclopedia is all about?

> The Back to the Future timeline on Wikipedia
> Discuss the issue on the relvant Wikipedia talk page
> Cinematical’s take on ths issue

Technology Thoughts

Another Observer article on blogs

Only a couple of months after dismissing “movie bloggers” as “daft” and possessing short attention spans Rachel Cooke is at it again in The Observer. Only this time the subject of her ire is people who blog about books. Although I’m tired of the tedious level of debate that pits mainstream media against new media it is worth repeating that good writing exists in newspapers and on websites.

To merely dismiss an article because of where you happen to find it is just stupid. Plus, the article again highlights the alarming ignorance (or is it paranoia?) amongst some journalists who work for newspapers that have (ironically) responded well to the rapid changes in media production and distribution.

Part of the problem is the way the word “blog” has become a byword for “anonymous and ill informed opinion found on the Internet”, or “hip opinion that tells us something the mainstream doesn’t” depending on your perspective. Whenever individuals who happen to write things online are lumped all into one group (e.g “the bloggers”) part of me sighs.

They are not really one group of people. We are talking about a diverse group of millions of writers who all happen to use online software like WordPress, Blogger or Typepad in order to express their thoughts on something. Some are good, some are bad, some are enlightening and some are awful. But surely it is better to have a wider base of opinions to debate with?

A lot of blogs might look the same or even say similar things but even if you read thousands you would just be scratching the surface. Within this this huge group of people you are likely to find all kinds of opinions ranging from the erudite to the ridiculous. But unfortunately some people don’t see it that way.

They see something downright horrible, even sinister, about the rise of blogging. Which brings us back to Cooke’s piece. She seems to have a real aversion to the whole concept:

For the time being there is room enough for both sets of critics: the bloggers and the professionals. But what if the media one day does as Hill suggests, and gives up on serious criticism, exchanging it for the populist warblings of the blogosphere? This would be easy to do, and cheap. But my God, I hope it will not happen. This is not only because there are so many critics, past and present, that I admire. It is because so much of the stuff you read in the so-called blogosphere is so awful: untrustworthy, banal and, worst of all, badly written.

It is interesting that Rachel appears to be firmly in the “blogs are bad” camp. The basic thrust of her argument would appear to be that opinions expressed by paid journalists must be better than those found on blogs. OK, often this is this case. There are many journalists working in ‘traditional media’ whose opinion I respect, admire and do indeed pay for. In fact I paid for Rachel’s opinions (amongst many others) on Sunday when I bought the Observer.

But what about established journalists who blog? Kevin Sites provided compelling updates from the siege of Fallujah in 2004, Christopher Hitchens regularly writes for Slate in a style that is blogging in all but name and Jeff Jarvis writes intelligently about the impact of new media (amongst other things) on his blog. All three were established journalists whose work I have come to have a deeper appreciation of precisely because they publish online and link to other sites. They are far from the faceless geeks Rachel is so upset about.

I don’t have a problem with part of her argument. There are times when the word “blogosphere” is used to hint that all the cool and clever writing is on the internet. That is clearly not always the case. I’m also sure some of the comments and postings on blogs about her articles on movie and book bloggers were just anonymous and petty insults.

But she probably attracted such ire because her tone is so bitchy and condescending. Dismissing the bloggers she came across as “Pooters ” or “simpering acolytes” smacks of someone afraid of the masses invading the elite media club to which she is a member of.

Beneath her piece were some thoughts from different industry insiders which provided an interesting and welcome contrast. Ed Horrox, A&R manager at 4AD Records highlighted how music reviews could be moving away from print to online:

The web acts as a filter for what we read in print. It gives newspapers and magazines the upper hand by sorting out the wheat from the chaff. MySpace can tell me within seconds what a band are like and if they’re playing up the road, but I still pay attention to print-based fanzines like Sandman, and I still read the reviewers I’ve been reading in print for years because I’m keen to know what they think of a certain record. Of course, great writers will move with the medium, and in time some may move away from print, and the interested music lover will follow.

Film publicist Charles McDonald (CEO of Premier PR) emphasised the importance of newspaper reviews:

Blogs and online criticism are influential, probably more so with a younger audience, but I wonder if they don’t have greater influence on the rest of the media – the people who are covering the films – than on the end consumer. I’m not convinced that even the younger element is massively influenced by what’s said about films online. Look at Snakes on a Plane, for example. You had the huge internet campaign, huge interest, great fun, but people did not go to see the film when it finally came out. They had probably seen enough online.

The Blair Witch Project appeared to herald a new era where the internet would reign supreme in cinema. I don’t think this has happened yet. There’s no doubt that the web helps create an atmosphere and gets the word out about a film. But when it comes to putting review quotes on posters, we still look to the larger newspapers and magazines, outlets that have a certain resonance. I’m not saying websites will never eclipse the print media in this way, but at the moment, internet reviewers still don’t have the weight a national critic has.

I think he is right (for the time being) although whenever people talk about Snakes on a Plane, it is worth remembering that all the hype wasn’t initially generated by New Line (the studio behind the film) and if anything the fan culture that grew up around it probably saved it from being a complete flop.

Plus, what about the clever use of MySpace as a promotional tool for Borat? Because of the enormous financial success of the film people assume it was a slam dunk but I’m sure the word of mouth on that site helped to create a lot of buzz in the target demographic and persuaded viewers unfamiliar with the character to give the film a try.

Worryingly, Nicholas Hytner (a man who has done such a great job running the National Theatre) is more sceptical:

I find looking at the computer screen a depressant so I spend as little time at it as possible. So although I’ve not come across a blog that makes me want to revisit it, I’m not the best person to ask…I don’t think there is yet a London theatre chatroom that anyone bothers with. I never hear anyone talking about them. They do in New York – which bewilders me. Well, maybe in New York people want to share their opinions online and perhaps there is a shift of influence from the handful of theatre critics who wield so much power.

But the most interesting comment is from Richard Charkin – the chief executive of Macmillan no less – who is revealed to be a blogger:

If you think of the parallel of Wikipedia, user content generation isn’t necessarily a bad thing. So why not reviews on blogs? Obviously some of the stuff on the internet is trustworthy and some isn’t, just as it is with newspapers. In the olden days a review in the TLS was extremely important, and even better a review in the Sunday papers. Now there’s so much media, there are so many words, the impact of any review is diluted.

Clearly reviews in major newspapers are more credible than randomly collected reviews on Amazon or on blogs, because there is an editorial process, which tries to ensure quality. But then we all know that the newspaper world is a clique, and there tends to be cross-reviewing: certainly the blogosphere doesn’t suffer from that. The fact that people want to do reviews on the web is great, it opens up people’s views – they can discuss and argue. But if I wanted to be sure I was getting thorough information about a book, I would go to the TLS.

It is heartening to see someone in such an influential position have such an enlightened view. Not only is he still realistic about the importance of a traditional outlets like newspapers and the TLS but he understands and gets the rising importance of things like blogs, Wikipedia and how debate and conversation is part of that future.

When I first wrote about Rachel Cooke’s article on movie bloggers the feedback I got was interesting. After Anne Thompson linked to it a number of people wrote reactions. Some thought I should have posted sooner, others felt Cooke’s piece was “idiocy”. But most interesting was the reaction from blogs I’d never heard of (some of whom now appear in my sidebar links).

They offered perspectives and links to other sites that I wouldn’t have known about or normally visited. And that has to be the best thing about blogging – it can open up your mind to new things. But (and Rachel please take note) the trick is that your mind has to be open to begin with.

The Observer and The Guardian have made some wonderful strides in to the world of new media with their own group blogs and podcasts (incidentally that’s another thing Rachel appears to hate), but if some of their very own writers are so dismissive of these new developments, why do they bother?

In a sense it is good that there are doubters like her around because they do remind you of what is great about reading and writing blogs but couldn’t it be a higher standard of criticism than just the usual cliches journalists use when discussing the internet?

> Observer Review Section
> The latest Cooke Article
> Observer Blog discussion on a related article
> The Literary Saloon discusses the article
> A sensible take on it all from Rob Hinchcliffe
> The Guardian recommends some literary blogs
> The Observer’s John Naughton on “The Genius of Blogging” (2003) and “Journalists must stop being in denial: Bloggers are here to stay” (2005)
> Some arts blogs that even Rachel Cooke may approve of at Arts and Letters Daily

Technology Thoughts

Editors vs Readers at the BBC

How in touch are the BBC with the readers of their news website?

Chris Riley has created a clever site that compares the current stories on the BBC News front page against the most popular stories on it.

It is an interesting exercise in analysing the dynamic between readers and editors. Should BBC News – as a publicly funded service – give us the stories the readers want? After all, they do pay for it. Or would that lead to a glut of stories about celebrity weddings and weaken their core strengths as a broadcaster that can operate outside commercial pressures?

Perhaps they should go down the Digg route and get users in the UK (those who pay the licence fee) to vote on stories. You could then have an option to view the conventional news page or the one with the most popular stories as voted by users. It would be similar to the way you can chose to select a UK or an International version on the current site. 

Not only would it be an interesting snapshot of what BBC editors and readers think but it would involve licence fee payers in a way that isn’t really possible on TV or radio. That is going to be crucial for the BBC in a future where a tax on televisions will surely be untenable (not to say downright anachronistic).

If it is to survive, as well as thrive, in the future (and let’s hope it does – preferably with less bureaucracy) then it has to use its audience as well as serve it. Director General Mark Thompson has spoken about the need to innovate and adapt to the world of Web 2.0, so why not involve audiences in their output?

Closer to home, why not make BBC Film a more interactive and user friendly site? Why not allow users to comment on the reviews? And why not do a dedicated film podcast with their presenters like Mark Kermode and Jonathan Ross?

> BBC Touch
> BBC News
> Digg
The most popular stories on BBC News at the moment
> Thanks to Jeff Jarvis for the link to Chris Riley’s site

News Technology

YouTube PR Blunder

Whoever at the new Google-owned YouTube was responsible for sending Michael Arrington of TechCrunch a legal notice has just committed a rather large PR blunder.

Arrington explains on his site:

Buried in my email this evening I found a cease and desist letter from an attorney at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, representing their client YouTube. We’ve been accused of a number of things: violating YouTube’s Terms of Use, of “tortious interference of a business relationship, and in fact, many business relationships,” of committing an “unfair business practice,” and “false advertising.” The attorney goes on to demand that we cease and desist in from engaging in these various actions or face legal remedies.

Well, crap.

The offense we committed was creating a small tool that lets people download YouTube videos to their hard drives. We referenced the tool in a recent post that walked people through the process of moving YouTube Videos to their iPod.

Has one of the best blogs about new technology really committed an offence worthy of such a letter? I don’t think so. But why would YouTube do this?

Some bright spark may argue that they are just following the law but don’t they realise that many of their users (who probably use extensions to download YouTube videos) will be alienated by this kind of legal posturing? If letters like this were sent out to all sites guilty of doing what TechCrunch did, then YouTube’s lawyers are going to be very busy indeed.

Whatever the implications of the Google acquisition and the brave new legal world the video sharing site may now be in, this could mark the start of backlash they really don’t need.

> Original post at TechCrunch
> Techdirt on the “trigger happy lawyers” at YouTube
> Red Herring think YouTube have “got nasty”
> Russell Shaw at ZDNet thinks YouTube’s lawyers should stop picking on TechCrunch


The new iFilm

Before YouTube and Google Video, there was iFilm. The slow loading times and annoying ads drove me away but the new beta version looks much better. (Link via The Download Squad)

For example this clip of German actor Klaus Kinski going nuts at a press conference loads pretty quickly:


> The new iFilm
> Comparison of different video services at Wikipedia

News Technology

Google buys YouTube

It is now official. Google has bought YouTube for $1.65 billion.

Your thoughts are welcome…

> The official Google press release confirming the purchase
> TechCrunch with all the details
> BBC News on the story
> Get the latest blog reaction from Technorati

Interesting News Technology

Google to buy YouTube?

Techcrunch and the Wall Street Journal are reporting a rumour that Google could be buying YouTube for $1.6 billion. Its overpriced but the Mountain View search behemoth can clearly afford it.

The big question if they do buy it, will be what they do about the potential copyright lawsuits that could be slapped on them by media companies whose content is all over the video sharing site like a huge rash.

I’m sure they know all this but maybe they have a cunning plan that involves cutting deals with the likes of Viacom and Time Warner in return for ads or video channels on YouTube.

> TechCrunch with the latest rumours
> The Wall Street Journal with the story
> The (London) Times with their take

News Technology Thoughts

The price of YouTube?

Fancy buying YouTube? The New York Post and Techcrunch are reporting that site’s current owners value themselves at $1.5 billion.

Sam Gustin of The Post reports:

Internet upstart YouTube, the bane-du-jour of copyright holders everywhere, won’t sell itself for anything less than $1.5 billion, The Post has learned.

But that number far exceeds the price top media execs appear willing to pay for a company many believe lacks a sustainable business model.

“If they were willing to take $200 million to $300 million, I would buy it tomorrow,” a senior industry source told The Post.

Michael Arrington of Techcrunch weighs up the pros:

YouTube is serving over 100 million videos per day, with 65,000 or so new videos uploaded daily. Things are going so well for YouTube that founder Chad Hurley was recently quoted as saying that they have no plans to sell and that an IPO would be “very exciting for us”.

There’s a potentially staggering amount of revenue that YouTube could generate off of those video views. While today advertising is fairly limited to banner advertising on the site, integration of advertising directly into videos is a significant opportunity.

The addition of a simple static or video add into each video that appears at the end (and exactly where viewers eyes are as the video ends) would be easy revenue (see how Revver does this as an example). With 100 million videos viewed per day, assuming 100% sell through (impossible, but useful for analysis) and a $1 CPM, YouTube would generate $100k per day in revenue. As the site grows, this revenue opportunity would grow as well.

And cons:

These 100 million daily video views aren’t people watching kittens fall asleep. Most of the popular videos on YouTube contain copyrighted material that YouTube shouldn’t be presenting in the first place. This isn’t just music videos and Saturday Night Live skits – if music is playing in the background while someone is dancing around, that’s still copyright infringement.

YouTube has some protection under U.S. law since they merely host this material posted by users. As long as they comply with the DMCA and take down copyrighted material promptly when requested, they are protected. That’s why you’ll often find your favorite bookmarked videos have vanished when you go back to the site.

YouTube has made significant efforts recently to reach out to copyright owners and has secured a couple of deals to mitigate the copyright issues they face.

YouTube is a phenomenon and has brilliantly exploited the gap in the market for a video sharing site (something which iFilm and Google Video have, so far, failed to do). But isn’t $1.5 billion asking a bit too much? Doesn’t this smack of the wacky hubris and irrational exuberance that caused the last dot com crash?

It has done very well up to this point but if it wants to become an eBay rather than a Priceline it still has to negotiate some significant hurdles. The main question is still: how can they monetise their vast user base without compromising the qualities that has made them so popular?

Maybe they have a big plan to do this but if a big media company snaps them up then I would guess rivals (who could also be failed bidders) would issue plenty of copyright lawsuits just to create problems. Added to that, if YouTube can grow so fast, so quickly, then who’s to say a cooler upstart won’t eat into their traffic sometime in the near future?

> Techcrunch on the YouTube valuation
> The New York Post with their take

News Technology

Disney sells 125,000 films via iTunes in a week

Gary Gentile of the AP reports that The Walt Disney Studio has sold 125,000 films via iTunes in one week:

The Walt Disney Co. has sold 125,000 digital copies of films through Apple Computer Inc.’s iTunes store in less than a week, generating $1 million, Disney chief executive Robert Iger said Tuesday.

Disney expects revenue of $50 million in the first year from its iTunes partnership, Iger said at an investment conference in New York sponsored by Goldman Sachs.

“Clearly customers are saying to us they want content in multiple ways,” Iger said.

So far, Disney is the only studio selling films on iTunes. Disney was also the first studio to agree last year to sell television shows on iTunes. Other studios quickly followed suit.

The pressing question here is whether or not the big studios are ready to join the iTunes party. Christopher Campbell over at Cinematical thinks that they will as long as this isn’t just a blip:

I doubt that any more studios will announce a jump-on as soon as this week, but if the movies sell another million by this time next Tuesday, the rest of Hollywood should be quick to get in on the profits.

Clearly paid downloads via an established platform is the way forward but it will be interesting to see how it grows from this point, especially if rival studios sign up with different services.

> The AP story on iTunes & Disney
> Mike Snider of USA Today compares iTunes with rival Amazon Unbox
> Apple Insider with more on Apple’s multimedia plans

News Technology

Warner Music to license music videos on YouTube

It seems Warner Music is going to license music videos on YouTube. TechCrunch reports:

YouTube and Warner Music Group Corp. will announce a deal Monday that will put thousands of Warner music videos on the video sharing site and allow user created videos to legally use Warner owned music.

YouTube is reported to have created technology that will automatically detect when copyrighted music is used in videos, give Warner the right to accept or reject those videos and will calculate the royalty fees Warner is owed.

Financial details haven’t been disclosed yet, but may include a cut of advertising revenue in exchange for licensing rights. It’s also unclear who will pay the royalty fees; that payment may come out of the advertising revenue or it may be demanded of the individual users who have put Warner music in their videos.

Could it be that start of a trend where TV shows and even movies are licensed out as well? Will a large media company reap the benefits of the massive YouTube user base? Or will they get cold feet when all sorts of unauthorised mash ups appear? It will be interesting to see how this works out.

> TechCrunch with the story
> MSNBC with their take

News Technology

iTunes to start movie downloads later this month

TechCrunch reports that iTunes will have a movie download service up and running later this month:

Rumors have been swirling for weeks (see here and here) that Apple will soon be selling full length movie downloads on the iTunes service. This morning, Business Week is stating, based on unnamed sources, that the service will launch by mid-September.

And adding color to the story: WalMart is pissed off.

Apple is pushing for, and apparently getting, $14 wholesale movie prices on new releases. They plan to retail new releases for $14.99 and older movies for $9.99. Normal wholesale DVD prices are $17. Walmart pays that normal wholesale rate, and now anticipates losing a significant share of their 40% market share in the $17 billion annual DVD market. Given that it will be trivial for iTunes users to simply burn a DVD of these movie downloads, Walmart has good reason to be worried. Netflix should be nervous, too.

Look for the initial announcement to only include movies from Walt Disney (Apple’s Steve Jobs is Disney’s largest shareholder), and possibly Fox and Lions Gate.

It will be interesting to see how this takes off. On the one hand movies are different from music and I can’t see it duplicating the success Apple has had with music downloads, at least in the short term. But as devices get better and more people get used to downloading films, it seems like the natural thing for Apple to do.

The quality of the first videos may not be great and Apple will almost certainly be getting the biggest slice of the revenues but if movie studios want to combat piracy and flagging DVD sales embracing legal download services is a must.

It obviously won’t replace Netflix or the established DVD retail market but there are clearly people who do want to download films in the same way they do music. The Business Week story that TechCrunch quotes shows the problems different retailers and studios have with issues like pricing, but it is important that the trend is now starting.

> The original story at Techcrunch
> Business Week on the looming battle between Apple and Wal-Mart over movie downloads
> Wikipedia entry for the iTunes Music Store
> Engadget on the Lionsgate CEO who confirmed they will be offering movie downloads


Firefox 1.5 released

The latest version of Firefox came out yesterday and if you still use IE then it’s certainly worth a look.

The main reasons for upgrading to 1.5 are:

  • The the ability to move tabs across the screen
  • An improved pop-up blocker
  • A new search engine list
  • Quicker navigation (especially the back and forward buttons)
  • RSS discovery (a little orange box appears in your address bar and by clicking on it adds the RSS  feed to your bookmarks)
  • OS X support for all you Mac users.
  • Automated updates

I’ve only just installed today but I’ve been using Firefox as my default browser for a while now. The extensions are useful and the live bookmarks are great. Some of the older plugins aren’t fully compatible with 1.5 yet but the ever useful Lifehacker has pointed out there is a way around this.

> Official site for Firefox
> Wikipedia on Mozilla Firefox
> The Better Browser with reasons to switch to Firefox
> CNET on the new release