MPAA chief urges criminal sanctions for U.K. piracy

7 09 2007

Tough on piracy, tough on the causes of piracy… Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) prez Dan Glickman has met the new U.K. film minister Margaret Hodge, as well as advisors to Prime Minister Gordon Brown, to ask for a change in legislation to make piracy of copyrighted content a criminal, rather than civil offence, reports the Financial Times.

“The UK is the largest international market in terms of studio revenues [outside the US],” Mr Glickman told the FT. “It’s an extremely important market to us, but piracy is very significant there.”

Hollywood has enjoyed its best summer in years, raking in $4.2bn at the US box office, but the industry continues to lose money to pirates, the report adds. Hollywood’s largest studios lost $6.1bn in 2005 to piracy worldwide, according to the MPAA.

Apple to halve cost of iTunes TV downloads; supplier rebellion brewing?

7 09 2007

Apple is planning to cut the cost of TV downloads via its iTunes service from US $1.99 to just 99 cents, reports Variety.

The move would create a single price point for both audio and TV downloads, which Apple believes will drive consumption for the latter category, which remains completely dwarfed by equivalent music track downloads. Given Apple’s success in dominating the digital downloads sector, any changes to pricing could prove an adrenalin shot to sales of TV downloads.

It’s reported that pricing for movie downloads will likely remain unchanged and there hasn’t been any comment on price points for the recently-launched TV downloads offer via the iTunes U.K storefront, where shows sell for double the existing equivalent price across the Pond.

Reuters builds on Variety‘s coverage, suggesting that other TV networks may be emboldened by NBCU’s move, with a Gartner analyst even speculating that video content may all but disappear from the iTunes service.

News Corp., Time Warner, Viacom and Walt Disney Co. all have contracts with iTunes. One of them is due to expire by the end of this year, and another by next year, according to industry sources, the report adds.

In related news, Apple and partner record labels are to go before the European Commission on 19 and 20 September, to defend accusations of price-fixing across the Eurozone.

Tiscali expands U.K. IPTV service

2 09 2007

Following its £50 million acquisition of IPTV service HomeChoice, Tiscali yesterday announced the expansion of the service to eight towns and cities outside its original footprint of London and Stevenage.

Around 5 million households in Milton Keynes, Hemel Hempstead, Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Leicester, Liverpool, Salford and Warrington will now be able to access the service, offering 50 digital TV channels, including Sky One, Sky News and Sky Sport News. Customers can also pay extra for
Sky Sports 1, 2 and 3 and Sky Movies channels.

Prices start from £19.99 per month, with bundled offer two-megabit broadband, telephony and TV.

The service competes with BT Vision, which now has 44,000 subscribers and is on track to top 100,000 by Christmas. France Telecom-owned Orange is due to launch its IPTV service for the U.K. later this year.

iTunes TV downloads launch in the U.K.

29 08 2007

Apple iTunes users in the U.K. are now able to access a range of download-to-own TV shows licensed from ABC/Disney and Viacom at £1.89 a pop (double the equivalent of the U.S.), the first time the service has been extended outside the U.S since it created a watershed moment for online video in late 2005.

The initial content offer is pretty thin at just 28 U.S. series, many of which in the case of ABC-licensed content have already been offered on Channel 4’s 4oD service, albeit at higher rates. The lack of any U.K.-produced titles could be perceived as a tad culturally imperialist – not to mention a lack of riches.

In the U.S. iTunes users have been downloading an average of one million TV episodes each week (50 million have been downloaded to date); meanwhile two million movies have been downloaded via the service so far. But this still pales into insignificance vs. performance of audio titles: 13 million single tracks and just under a million full album downloads every week.

Whether this latest development will play to Apple’s business model of driving hardware sales (eg video iPods, Apple TV) through offering a compelling range of software (TV and music) remains to be seen. In any event, it’s a big move for the U.K. market which can only serve to stimulate overall demand for licensed, downloadable TV and movies.

BBC iPlayer and the U.K. ISP bandwidth row

17 08 2007

So a typical download of a TV programme (of unspecified duration) costs U.K. ISPs £0.67 at peak times, according to Jeremy Penston on The Register, a site which has selflessly devoted itself to BBC iPlayer-bashing in recent weeks — given that BAA, the operator of London’s Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted airports is outside its reporting remit, probably understandable, given it’s silly season.

While the piece offers a more conciliatory slant on the BBC’s position, highlighting the fact that ISPs with unrealistically-tighter margins are feeling the greatest squeeze, it neglects to mention that the recently-beta-launched iPlayer is but a drop in the ocean of online video usage.

YouTube’s figures grow exponentially month-on-month, for every YouTube there are 100s of lookey-likeys, alongside BBC iPlayer there are also dozens of video download services (most of which got to market before); so why is the BBC’s product singularly responsible for all of this greater usage?

While a major marketing campaign to promote the iPlayer once it fully launches is inevitable, together with the halo effect of other services which don’t have access to the kind of on-air time or impact at the BBC’s disposal, just take a look at the chart below, illustrating daily reach over a one month period: the flatline at the bottom is one of the world’s most popular websites (; which includes BBC iPlayer), barely registering on the radar. The one at the top is another of the world’s most popular websites 🙂 YouTube…


Then there’s the £0.67 figure itself: where does it come from? Regulator Ofcom’s earlier estimates were based on an average user downloading 13 x 40-minute programmes over a typical month. Even at peak times of consumption its estimate was that this would cost no more than £0.50 per hour, per user.

But the clincher is that the average iPlayer user (take as a generic for average user of a video downloads service) would typically cost an ISP £0.24 per hour of usage. That’s tough on operators like Carphone Warehouse and Tiscali, who have chosen to underprice competitors, but perhaps they should be pricing in the exponential growth of other online video, or targeting the offer at market segments which are less likely to reach even average levels of consumption (e.g. research has demonstrated that the 55+ market, an ever-more-active online usage segment, is least likely to warm to the idea of consuming big files, like video downloads).

Bebo becomes U.K.’s favourite social network

17 08 2007

ComScore has released its U.K. internet traffic figures for July, showing visits to Bebo up 63% from the beginning of 2007, making it the most visited social network site in Britain. While Bebo tops last month’s rankings, it’s the growth of rival Facebook which is more astonishing: up 366% from the start of the year.

U.K. ISPs lobby against BBC iPlayer: net neutrality debate lands in Britain

13 08 2007

It started with a bit of BBC-bashing in yesterday’s Mail on Sunday, followed up by pieces in the Financial Times and Independent.

The story: U.K. ISPs are concerned about the strain the BBC iPlayer will place on the IP backbone — the industry concensus, as reported, being that someone has to pay and it should be the BBC for flooding the internet with all of its nasty big video files.

The Mail‘s coverage was rich in motoring metaphors to help 4×4-owning yummy mummys across the nation understand the story in the context of speed cameras and congestion charges. Of the U.K.’s other two nationals which covered the story, stories were restricted to mere coverage of reported fact.

The FT was the only paper to clock the fact that the BBC isn’t the only U.K. broadcaster to have launched potentially bandwidth-intensive services: Channel 4’s 4oD and ITV Broadband to name but two others.

It falls to the non-UK press to offer more intelligent comment, admittedly at a time when the nationals are going to press, but take, for instance, this Washington Post report, quoting industry analyst Jonathan Coham of Ovum: “It’s interesting they are making such a big deal out of the BBC’s iPlayer.”

Not to mention The Register, a site which has done more than its fair share of BBC iPlayer-bashing in recent weeks and by the same token staunchly outside the mainstream media loop, which was the first to splash the story that BT doesn’t (at least at a corporate level) stand by the line reported over the weekend:

“BT has denied reports that it is working with other ISPs to pressurise the BBC or consumers into paying extra for delivery of iPlayer on demand TV shows,” it says.

So given the BT restraction, the critics would appear confined the Carphone Warehouse and Tiscali U.K., two ISPs which have made much of reducing broadband access to the level of mere commoedity, undercutting the competition, and their margins in the process. So who’s laughing now?

Only a fortnight to go before the nationals have some real news to report on and it’ll be the end of the season to bash both the BBC and the British Airports Authority.