March 25, 2008

Hey, “I Remember Babylon,” Too [9:35 am]

Fox Refuses to Pay Fine for Reality Show Sex Scenes

Fox Broadcasting said on Monday that it would not pay fines totaling $91,000 for broadcasting a reality show episode that included graphic sexual scenes at a bachelor party.

(Aside: Arthur C. Clarke, I am sure, would have had something to say. — “I Remember Babylon” synopsis)

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Monopoly? Not! [9:29 am]

And waterboarding isn’t torture, either: Justice Dept. Approves XM Merger With Sirius

The Justice Department’s antitrust division announced Monday that it approved the merger after determining that prices were not likely to rise, in part because of competition from other program sources, like high-definition radio as well as iPods and other MP3 players that can be connected to home or car audio systems. The deal, the agency said, was unlikely to hurt competition or consumers.

“In several important segments of their business, with or without the merger, the parties simply do not compete today and therefore the merger would not be eliminating any competition between them,” Thomas O. Barnett, assistant attorney general, said in announcing the decision.

In other segments of the market, XM and Sirius compete fiercely and, according to their balance sheets, unprofitably; both companies are saddled with debt.

Later, from the Washington Post — Out of Tune With Consumers (pdf)

It took some doing — and more than a year of “investigation” — for the Justice Department to come up with its undisclosed evidence and tortured logic to justify this strikingly anti-consumer decision. As precedent, it could be used to justify the merger of ABC with both CBS and NBC, Clear Channel with the Bonneville radio network or even Coke with Pepsi. The message it sends to business executives is clear: If you find yourself in a tough competitive environment, the best strategy is not to find a way to offer better products and services at a better price, but rather to call your investment banker and negotiate a truce with your biggest rival.

Sure sounds like the Yoo memo (pdf), doesn’t it?

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Marketing and Life [9:21 am]

The new Batman movie promotion moves into new territory: Teasing Batman (pdf)

So to stand out, “The Dark Knight’s” alternate reality game (ARG for short) is mashing up advertising, scavenger-hunting and role-playing in a manner that variously recalls “The X-Files” and the play “Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding,” “The Matrix” and the board game Clue — all in the name of galvanizing a community of fans to bond (with the new Batman and each other) over the course of a wild goose chase.

Or to be more precise, a wild Joker chase — one that so far has involved clues spelled out in skywriting, secret meeting points, cellphones embedded inside cakes, Internet red herrings, DIY fan contests and even fake political rallies. Moreover, last week several players were nearly arrested in Chicago while engaging in civil disobedience to promote the movie; others have even been “kidnapped” and “murdered” over the course of the game.

Befitting the campaign’s covert-ops M.O., neither Warner Bros. nor 42 Entertainment would comment for this story. But as Jonathan Waite, founder of the Alternate Reality Gaming Network (www.argn.com) sees it, “The Dark Knight’s” multifaceted promo push transcends marketing to exist as a standalone cultural event.

“This is looked upon as viral marketing, but you have to look at it as an engrossing experience — you have people getting very attached to the game,” Waite said. “You’re not a passive onlooker, you’re taking an active role. And any time you take an active role, you’re emotionally connecting. That’s why people keep coming back: You make personal connections with others and a community gets built.”

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