Watching The Downloads

Do you like watching downloads of TV programs and movies on your computer? Or do you prefer that old-fashioned device known as the television?

Two recent business deals indicate that viewers are still splitting their viewing time between TV and the computer, although one arrangement indicates online viewing may need a new business model.

CBS Corp. and 17 cable networks are joining a trial initiated by Comcast that would provide TV programming online for Comcast Cable subscribers. The plan is to conduct a test run in Philadelphia.

The reasoning behind providing television content online for Comcast Cable subscribers is simple. Online ad revenue has yet to cover costs for putting television programming online. Comcast’s “Philadelphia Experiment” will provide content from the cable company’s OnDemand service for online viewing and will be funded much the same way, with fees already paid by cable subscribers.

CBS Corp. and 17 cable networks have already climbed onboard for the Philly test, scheduled to begin in the coming weeks.
The second business deal involving downloads is the partnership between Blockbuster Inc. and Samsung Electronics.

You gotta admit, the future for traditional video rental stores isn’t all that bright, what with the aforementioned OnDemand service as well as Netflix and legal movie downloads. It’s hard to imagine a future where you must physically visit a brick-and-mortar outlet to watch a recently released movie on your TV. Add that to having to revisit the store to return the films and you have an experience most movie fans would rather forget.

Blockbuster is pinning its future on Samsung and the electronic manufacturer’s popular line of flat-screen TVs. The game plan calls for Samsung’s next generation of high-definition TVs to include a built-in feature that enables viewers to download movies for prices ranging from $1.99 to $3.99 per film, which can be viewed for 24 hours.

The same deal calls for software to be installed on Samsung’s Blu-ray DVD players and home theater systems that also allows viewers to download and view movies on a pay-per-flick basis. However, Blockbuster will have some direct competition from Netflix, which offers a similar service.

What’s really interesting about the Blockbuster-Samsung deal is that it is one of the few hardware-specific television ventures. Television has always been a kind of open-source platform where any special technology, such as cable TV, VCRs and DVD players, was compatible with all TV models. By basing its movie download venture on people owning Samsung TVs and Blue-ray DVD players, Blockbuster is putting a lot of its eggs into one electronic manufacturer while ignoring the rest of the market.

GNR Blogger Sentenced

The blogger who leaked Guns N’ Roses’ Chinese Democracy faced the music July 14, and now has to warn others about the dangers of copyright infringement.

As part of a plea deal, Kevin Cogill was sentenced to a year’s probation, two months of home confinement and ordered to record a public service announcement on behalf of the Recording Industry Association of America. Cogill must also present his computers for government inspections.

Cogill, who earlier this year pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of copyright infringement, apologized for leaking the album Axl Rose spent more than 10 years crafting.

“I never intended to hurt the artist,” Cogill told U.S. District Magistrate Judge Paul L. Abrams. “I intended to promote the artist because I’m a fan.”

Cogill posted the complete Chinese Democracy album on his blog, Antiquiet, in June 2008, months before the long-awaited effort was released, saying the tracks came from an unidentified source. Although Cogill did not make the tracks available for downloading, he did stream the music to his readers and was arrested by federal agents two months later.

Cogill is getting off easy. Shortly after his arrest he was facing a possible prison sentence of up to three years and a $250,000 fine for serving up GNR before its time, an action estimated to have resulted in approximately $371,000 in lost sales.

“It doesn’t help to educate the public of the importance of respecting copyright law when you become too heavy-handed with punishment,” defense attorney David Kaloyanides said.

Cogill will also have some say as to what he tells others in those RIAA public service announcements.
“You need to reach the fans,” Kaloyanides said. “[Cogill] speaks their language.”

U.K. Teens Streaming More, Sharing Less

Is streaming music the answer to illicit file-sharing? That’s the word out of Britain today as two research groups release a joint study claiming song-swapping among United Kingdom teenagers has dropped by a third.

Research outfit The Leading Question, in conjunction with Music Ally, studied the online habits of more than 1,000 music fans and found the overall percentage of people swapping songs regularly has gone down significantly since the last time the company researched the subject two years ago. In this case, “regularly” is defined as sharing songs every month.

For example, in December 2007, 22 percent of those surveyed reported regular song trading. However, in January 2009 that figure diminished to 17 percent, a comparative drop of nearly a quarter.

The new survey also reports the biggest drop was with 14- to 18-year-olds, the most active age group when it comes to song-sharing. The December 2007 findings reported 42 percent of this demo traded songs monthly, but in January 2009 that figure dropped to 26 percent.

However, the survey also points out that the percentage of United Kingdom fans who have ever shared a song had increased from 28 percent in December 2007 to 31 percent in January 2009.

The survey credits the reduction in song-swapping by U.K. teens to the increased availability of streaming, and sites like YouTube and MySpace as the reasons why, saying 65 percent of teens are streaming music from their social-networking profile pages.

What’s more, the number of 14- to 18-year-olds listening to streamed music is almost twice the number of music fans overall, with 31 percent of the teen demo listening to streams compared with 18 percent of all fans.

But that doesn’t mean teens suddenly became copyright-friendly. The same report indicates more fans are sharing burned CDs among friends and are distributing tracks, not by sharing them, but by “bluetoothing” music.

Decreases in the number of teens sharing songs while, at the same time, increases in listening to streams mirrors what P2P defenders were saying about much of the song-trading going on in the early days of the original Napster – that downloaders were “sampling” or previewing songs before purchasing.

With streaming growing more prevalent every year, those looking for a taste of a song or CD before making a purchasing decision are less apt to pirate music than their counterparts who consider P2P networks as a way to get free music and rip off the labels.