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February 2, 2006

Who Needs iTunes? [7:11 pm]

I guess we’ll get to see — speaking of which, how’s that TimesSelect thing working out?: CBS Cuts Out Download Middleman [pdf]

CBS would be the first broadcast network to sell its shows via its own Internet storefront. The move signals that CBS Chief Executive Leslie Moonves believes the network is a potent enough brand that it can go it alone — without Apple Computer Inc.’s popular iTunes software and website — and thus not have to split the spoils.

In launching the “Survivor” downloads, CBS is endorsing a different purchasing model from the one used by iTunes. On CBS.com, buying an episode would be more like a video rental, because buyers have a temporary window in which to view a show.

A buyer of an iTunes download, by contrast, can replay it endlessly.

CBS is hoping that its system may better safeguard future DVD sales of its shows.

“It’s unclear how [iTunes downloads] will affect DVD sales,” said Larry Kramer, president of CBS Digital Media.

In addition, CBS wants to protect its overseas markets.

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Still At It [5:25 pm]

Sirius Shock: Pirates Hit Howard Stern Show [pdf]

Sirius Satellite Radio Inc., which liberated radio shock jock Howard Stern from the federal decency standards that he felt had shackled him, is finding that freedom’s just another word for $500 million to lose.

Since Jan. 9, when Stern debuted on Sirius, pirated versions of the shows have been made available for free via several online file-sharing networks just hours after Stern signs off. [...]

[...] Just as the rock band Metallica experienced when it first came out against illegal downloads of its music, Stern risks sparking a backlash. After all, this is the man who built his in-your-face persona around flogging federal regulators, who he claimed were the enemies of creative expression.

There already are signs that after dishing out such criticism for so long, Stern better get ready to take it.

“Mr. Freedom of Speech himself. Mr. $500,000,000 has ordered me to shut down my PERSONAL Web site that some people stumbled upon,” wrote the operator of http://www.hearhoward.org , according to the Rocky Mountain News. The site made Stern’s show available for free but with a disclaimer that only Sirius subscribers should use it.

BayTSP, a Los Gatos, Calif., firm that monitors online piracy for the entertainment industry, found digital audio files of every episode of Stern’s Sirius show on every major file-sharing network.

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Digital Distribution: Selling Commercials — Really [2:31 pm]

Advertising: Commercials That Echo

Football fans have always enjoyed watching replays, especially during the Super Bowl. Now they will be able to watch replays of the Super Bowl’s commercials.

[...] In the past, fans of the commercials could see only pirated versions, posted haphazardly and clandestinely. Now advertisers, seeking to capitalize on that interest, want to make the spots widely and easily accessible.

Some advertisers, like Burger King and the Cadillac division of General Motors, also plan to offer films about the making of the commercials, and include deleted scenes — features usually associated with movies on DVD. Some spots will be shown in movie theaters after the game.

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End of the “Greatest Hits” Cash Cow? [2:27 pm]

When All the ‘Greatest Hits’ Are Too Many to Download

[T]he popularity of such songs raises a troubling issue for the music business, which relies in part on the huge profits generated by greatest-hits collections, perennially selling classic albums and the continual repackaging of old material. The question: What if fans who might have paid for a full album of “the very best” of an established act instead choose to pay substantially less and simply buy the very, very best song?

As recording formats have evolved over the decades, the industry has profited from the marketing of previously released music — as fans replaced their vinyl LP collections with compact discs of the same albums, for example. Since the older classics are comparatively inexpensive to reproduce and market, they typically carry higher profit margins than music from new acts. But the migration of music from shiny plastic discs to online services has disrupted the industry’s cycle of replacement, and record labels are only beginning to see the effects.

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A Little Market Research Data [11:31 am]

An Ipsos poll reported by AP: Fan Memo to Music Industry: Lower Prices [pdf]

Eighty percent of the respondents consider it stealing to download music for free without the copyright holder’s permission, and 92 percent say they’ve never done it, according to the poll conducted for The Associated Press and Rolling Stone magazine.

Meanwhile, three-quarters of music fans say compact discs are too expensive, and 58 percent say music in general is getting worse.

More cowbell!

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