Sony Vision: Will Tablets be Key to the Future of TV?

  • Rob Wiesenthal, chief financial officer of Sony America and chief strategy officer of Sony Entertainment, says TVs will get access to video content through tablets which would enable, for example, Sony’s Video Unlimited subscribers to go to a friend’s house and “throw” a film to the TV set.
  • “If you think back five years, it was all about the boxes; Tivo, Slingbox, Roku,” he said. “I think consumers really had box exhaustion.” Apple’s AirPlay, for example, allows iPads and iPhones to wirelessly connect to TVs.
  • Sony is using the Digital Living Network Alliance standard to interoperate with different manufacturer’ devices without the need for a box.
  • “Other benefits include the lure of offering more targeted advertising through an IP-enabled tablet than has proved possible through set-top boxes, and the advantages of finding content on a tablet rather than by aiming a remote control at a TV 10 feet away,” reports Financial Times.
  • In order for this approach to work, however, home Wi-Fi networks will require the capacity to transfer large video files without interruptions and cable providers will need to be willing to make content available this way.

Netflix Teams with Facebook to Offer Social Movies (But Not in the U.S.)

  • Netflix announced a partnership with Facebook to allow members to share what they are watching on Netflix with their family, friends and associates via the social networking site. However, this feature will NOT be available in the U.S. (only in Canada and Latin America) due to a 1988 law that makes sharing that information illegal.
  • The Video Privacy Protection Act (VPPA) was created to prevent “wrongful disclosure of video tape rental or sale records (or similar audio visual materials, to cover items such as video games and the future DVD format).” Congress passed the law after Robert Bork’s video rental history was published during his Supreme Court nomination.
  • “Unfortunately, we will not be offering this feature in the U.S. because a 1980’s law creates some confusion over our ability to let U.S. members automatically share the television shows and movies they watch with their friends on Facebook,” explains Netflix Director of Government Relations Michael Drobac. “The good news, however, is that some forward-thinking members of Congress have introduced legislation, H.R. 2471, that would allow you to make this choice… If you want the choice to share with your friends, please email Congress to urge them to pass this modernizing legislation.”
  • According to Wired, Netflix currently has 24 million subscribers inside the U.S. and only a million subscribers internationally.

Darwin Award: How the FBI Discovered an Actor Uploading Movie Screeners

  • In April, the FBI raided the apartment of Screen Actors Guild member Wes DeSoto who was suspected of uploading Hollywood pre-release screeners to The Pirate Bay.
  • DeSoto had reportedly uploaded torrents including “The King’s Speech,” “Rabbit Hole,” “127 Hours,” “The Fighter” and “Black Swan” (the actor had access to DVD-quality screeners via the use of special codes on iTunes).
  • According to reports, DeSoto has now agreed to plead guilty to breaching the Family Entertainment and Copyright Act of 2005 (for “Black Swan”) and possibly faces three years in prison.
  • The actor’s IP address was apparently discovered by Deluxe Webwatch using Google after DeSoto responded to criticism in The Pirate Bay’s comments section. According to Torrent Freak: “After several users questioned the authenticity of the file, mf34inc weighed in with ‘SAG now send out iTunes download codes for screeners’ and the utterly priceless ‘I’m a SAG member and thought i’d share these.'”
  • The article describes in detail how “an almost unbelievable series of amateurish mistakes” helped the FBI work its way from Deluxe Webwatch’s initial discovery to DeSoto’s apartment.

Crowdsourcing: FilmFunds Wants You to Greenlight Film and TV Projects

  • FilmFunds, a new venture launching this week at the Toronto International Film Festival, will use a crowdsourcing approach to help determine whether a film or TV show would draw an audience.
  • FilmFunds’ test group of some 60 million moviegoers will review synopses, trailers, artwork and other marketing materials and vote whether to “Like” a project. The results can help put a project into production and get it completed, distributed and marketed.
  • According to Variety: “Site divides projects into three categories — materials of projects members can help put into production, completed projects member votes can help get finished or distributed, and a marketing portal where studio pics can gain support and members can recruit friends and pre-sell tickets through websites like Fandango.”
  • A FilmFunds mobile app provides more information after a user takes a snapshot of a poster, trailer or film title.
  • The article also references Emotional ID, which “translates real-time facial reactions and emotions during test previews into measurable results.”
  • The FilmFunds site allows users to enter as a Filmmaker (“Get your projects seen and potentially produced”) or a Fan (“Promote projects and interact with filmmakers”).
  • According to the site: “FilmFunds enables you to choose what you want to see and then we get it made. Our connections in the industry finalize deals but your vote is the catalyst. The more you participate the bigger the rewards. A few ‘suits’ used to call all the shots. FilmFunds puts YOU in charge. We’re just here to help!”

Miramax is the Latest to Offer Facebook Movie Rental App

  • Miramax is following in the footsteps of Warner Bros., Paramount and Universal by making its films available on Facebook.
  • The Miramax eXperience will initially offer 20 titles in the U.S. and 10 each in Great Britain and Turkey (available films include “Good Will Hunting,” “Spy Kids,” “Chicago” and “Cold Mountain”).
  • Movies will be made available for 30 Facebook credits (equivalent to $3) and can be viewed on Facebook, the iPad and Google TV.
  • Miramax hopes to build its reach to 150 million+ Facebook friends in the next 18 months.
  • “The iTunes-like nature of Miramax’s Facebook movie rentals (i.e. per-movie charge, rather than a subscription fee) could prove very effective,” reports Social Times. “A lot of online movie watchers aren’t ready to commit to a subscription service like Netflix or Hulu Plus. Renting a single movie from Facebook may be more their style, and a $3 movie rental sounds like a pretty good deal, if you ask me.”

20th Century Fox will Offer Movie Downloads for Android

  • Twentieth Century Fox has announced a new service that will offer Fox movie downloads on Android devices as early as October. This is a first for the Google Android OS.
  • Due largely to the lack of playback and copy-protection technologies, Android has so far taken a backseat to Apple’s iPhone and the convenience of the iTunes store.
  • These issues should be addressed now that Google has acquired rights-management company Widevine.
  • Digital Trends points out that the service won’t enable downloading directly to phones: “Customers will need to initially buy a physical Blu-ray disc of a Fox movie. Afterward, they will be allowed to download a digital Android-friendly copy of the movie from Fox’s website to a computer, which can then be side loaded onto the Android device.”

Rovio Planning Angry Birds Feature Film, Acquires Animation Studio

  • Rovio, creator of the game app “Angry Birds,” is planning the next step for its popular IP: a feature-length motion picture.
  • The expanding franchise has already proven successful with plush toys, iPhone cases, a Mattel board game, a cookbook, and an interesting tie-in with 20th Century Fox’s feature film, “RIO” (Rovio launched mobile game “Angry Birds Rio” to coincide with the film’s release).
  • In order to facilitate its next steps, Rovio has acquired Finnish animation studio Kombo and has attached former Marvel Studios chairman David Maisel as special advisor.
  • Based on the global popularity of the app and the “emotional connection” that gamers experience during play, Maisel sees continued success for “Angry Birds” as an entertainment brand.

The Future of 3D Looks Bright, According to New Studies

It should come as no surprise to our audience that industry opinions regarding 3D entertainment are mixed. Despite technological advancements we’ve seen in recent years to gaming, theatrical film exhibition, television sets, production processes and a variety of consumer products — a number of significant questions continue to spark debate: Glasses or glasses-free? Active or passive? Standard feature or gimmick? Strong or slow consumer adoption? However, a number of recent studies agree on one thing — the near future of 3D will see some tremendous growth.

In a report released this week, digital entertainment market researcher In-Stat predicts global 3D TV shipments will be up nearly 500 percent this year, compared with 2010. The report also suggests that all televisions with screen sizes 40 inches and above will soon be 3D-enabled. The In-Stat forecast is joined by another report from NPD Group subsidiary DisplaySearch that suggests 3D TVs will account for approximately one-third of all 120 Hz LCD sets in 2011. DisplaySearch also explained that 3D TV penetration will expand as the 3D feature is added to more basic models in upcoming years. Researcher IHS iSuppli adds that 2012 will be another year of triple-digit growth for 3D TV shipments.

“In a major recalibration effort, television brands are changing strategies this year following lukewarm response to 3D in 2010 when consumers balked at the high price of sets and the lack of 3D content,” explained Riddhi Patel, director for television systems and retail services at IHS. “In 2011, however, brands are marketing 3D not as a must-have technology but as a desirable feature, similar to the approach they have taken with Internet connectivity.”

This week’s In-Stat report offers the following numbers:

  • Households with 3D TV sets will eclipse 300 million in 2015.
  • In 2011 Europe will boast the most 3D TV unit shipments at just over 7 million.
  • By 2015 Asia/Pacific will have the largest share of 3D TV unit shipments at 32 percent.

Additionally, an industry survey recently conducted by crew booking and payroll company Media Services indicates that 3D is becoming a “predominant mode of production” — as nearly half of respondents indicated their businesses will emphasize 3D film and television production in the next five years.

The question regarding consumer adoption may soon be impacted by increased production numbers and lower prices from manufacturers (and if the shipment predictions above prove accurate, it may not matter). As CNET reports, “NPD found that 45 percent of people who won’t buy a 3D TV cite price as the barrier and 42 percent say its the special 3D glasses. But as In-Stat’s study has found, consumers may not have much of a choice. Vendors are continuing to add 3D capability, especially to bigger-screen sets. And if folks want bigger screens, they will soon get 3D capability whether they seek it or not.”

Related Below the Line post: “Study Reveals Shift to 3D Over the Next Five Years” (5/17/11)

Related Advanced Television article: “3D TV shipments up 500% in 2011” (5/6/11)

Related TV Technology post: “RealD, Samsung Partner in 3DTV Display Project” (5/17/11)

Related Engadget post (and videos): “Intel will mass produce 3D transistors for all future CPUs, starting with 22nm Ivy Bridge” (5/4/11)

Related PCMag.com article: “3D Transistors, EUV, and the Future of Chipmaking: Why it Matters” (5/6/11)

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