Daily Marauder


THIS WEEK: OVER VAGINA’D HBO & INSTAGRAM GOES INSTABOOK by Marauder

THIS WEEK: OVER VAGINA’D HBO & INSTAGRAM GOES INSTABOOK

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Lena Dunham in HBO’s Girls

© Jojo Whilden/HBO. All rights reserved.

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The new series, Girls, comes to HBO this Sunday and I couldn’t be more ecstatic. I watched the first two episodes in Austin at SXSW spawning my lady crush on its writer/creator, Lena Dunham. The show follows a group of NYC Williamsburg hipsters through their daily machinations focusing on the somewhat unglamorous side of their romantic transgressions. I spent my 20’s living in NYC, the latter half in which I was working at HBO, and hence, was especially excited to see this story unfold.

I’ve been watching the critical reviews come across the internet wires and they all boil down to one thing: sex. The sex in Sex & the City was glamorous Jimmy Choo-laced fantasy, thick with witty Samantha-isms and adorable recaps from Carrie. The sex in Girls is uncomfortable to watch and ‘real’ in a way I’ve never seen on screen before. Slate Magazine describes this realness as the “chronicling of bad sex” whereas New York Magazine raves that the sex “isn’t a reward, it’s a revelation.” So which is it? Lena Dunham writes, stars, and partially directs this series. She plays Hannah, a post-collegiate brutally torn from the parental financial purse strings to go out on her own for the first time. The first sex on screen carries out between Hannah and her sex buddy Adam, and while not ruining anything, I’ll just say, that I would never tell a friend about sex that bad.

That said, it wasn’t only the sex that I found so intriguing. It was the comfort level by which these girls interact with each other and by which Dunham herself is comfortable exposing the world to. There is one scene in particular that I have obsessed over, obsessed because I think it indicates some lack of cool on my part and therefore has been a conversation piece for weeks. Dunham’s character, Hannah, takes a bath with her towel-clad roommate Marnie chatting about their lives, a pastime which in most respects would be done over breakfast or perhaps, any other place with clothes on. I’ve obsessed because I’ve wanted to know if this happens in real life. Do women get together naked and talk about what’s going on in each other’s lives? I don’t even like to look people in the eye in the women’s locker room, let alone sit naked in a bathtub and talk about my sex life. Does this make me uncool?

Lena Dunham, as Hannah, with actor Adam Driver.

(Photo: Jojo Whilden/HBO)

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Back to the sex. The attempt to categorize this show at the ‘everygirl’ story would be dangerous. In the same way that Sex & the City did not translate to the lives of most American women at the time it debuted, I don’t think Girls has the intention of direct translation. How many women buy Jimmy Choos on a Monday and Monolo Blahniks on a Tuesday? In the same respect, how many women catch up on their day with their best friend sitting naked in a bathtub and then have discussions about how maybe they really do want AIDS at the doctor’s office? Here’s where I had to reel myself in. Being that you, the viewer, are presented with a woman (Dunham) who looks more real than the skinny plastic surgery-disfigured faces of so many Hollywood actresses, the viewer immediately thinks that what happens on screen will look more similar to their own world. In my case, even though I spent some time living in Williamsburg, the attempt at direct correlation was lost in translation. Frankly, that’s not the point. I think Dunham’s intention is to entertain with her own story and hope that each viewer draws inspiration in whichever way makes sense. Whether that’s making one person feel less embarrassed about their own bad sex moment or more comfortable in simply sharing something with a friend, so be it. So, I’ll attempt to stop thinking about how uncool I am for my lack of bathtub friend time…but seriously, does this make me uncool?! Maybe not, but quotes like this one, make Lena Dunham fresh to death.

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In other news, Facebook acquires Instagram for $1 Billion (scaring the sh-t out of this Instagram user right here and this one over there), Google busts out some augmented reality glasses which sadly bring on the Star Trek jokes, and Bravo announces plans to bring a Silicon Valley reality series to screen.

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Architecture Meets Outdoor Art Projection

Photo Credit: Designboom



THIS WEEK: THE ARTIST MEETS ONE RIGHT LEG by Marauder

THIS WEEK: THE ARTIST MEETS ONE RIGHT LEG

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Monica Almeida/The New York Times

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Is it just me? I can’t be the only person alive who doesn’t understand the intrigue of The Artist…can I? It’s a silent film with a sickly sweet message crammed with actors pouring their emotions out like water from an unbridled hose. Simply stated, I’m not a fan. Clearly, the Academy does not agree; the Artist picked up 5 wins last night at the Oscars. At the very least, actor Jean Dujardin could have given us a throw-back to Roberto Benigni Oscar mayhem, but apparently Italians have a bit more joie de vivre. The Artist aside, the Oscars along with Billy Crystal, just felt a bit washed up last night. I enjoyed the 4 hours of Whitney Houston’s funeral the weekend before far more than the night honoring a bunch of films that, for the most part, were mediocre.

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Maybe the solution is to crowd source the nominees rather than giving the power to the Academy. Maybe then, there would be some actual surprises outside of Angelina Jolie’s right leg. Speaking of that, please Ms Jolie. PLEASE EAT. Till next year I suppose.

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In other news, the Samsung Galaxy Beam projects on walls, Facebook plans to release premium ads, The Oatmeal puts HBO on blast, and HTC releases the One X prompting Gizmodo drool.

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Nerd Alert: Smartphone as Glasses



THIS WEEK: COUNTDOWN TO THE SUPERBOWL & SOPA by Marauder

THIS WEEK: COUNTDOWN TO THE SUPERBOWL & SOPA

 

Barton Silverman/The New York Times


It looks like you Giants fans have something to celebrate this morning with the Giants win last night over the San Francisco 49ers. This will bring the NY Giants to face the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI. Being that I’m from Rhode Island, I just might care about this one. Usually, apart from the Thanksgiving holiday, I’m content to ignore the blatant football around me, instead busying myself with perfecting my latte art skills or hiking in the Santa Monica Mountains. This time, with Facebook before me, it was a bit difficult to ignore the game and the overtime field goal which caused celebrations in the east.

Speaking of the Superbowl, last week Volkswagen promoted their Superbowl with what else, an ad. This one featured adorable pooches howling out the Star Wars theme song in an ad dubbed “The Bark Side.” The ad already has over 7MM views on YouTube which is fairly incredible if you consider that this is simply a teaser for…a Superbowl ad. For an explanation of how it was produced, click here. If you remember from last year’s Superbowl, the VW spot featured a young Darth Vader practicing his force and won big as one of the top-rated ads from the game.

In other news, last week saw the internet retaliate at the legislation on the docket dubbed SOPA or PIPA. Rather than an homage to British royalty, these two insidious pieces of legislation threaten to change the infrastructure of the internet and threaten freedom of speech globally under the auspices of copyright law. As someone who worked for an entertainment company (HBO) for 4 years, I am well aware of the value of content. I have been on multiple sets, I am friends with executive producers, I have welled up while listening to Ross Katz discuss his creative process while filming Taking Chance; I am someone who understands the cost and undertaking devoted to creating quality content. That said, the idea that control will fix the problems ailing the content industry is misguided and frankly a sign that consumers’ needs have lapped Hollywood’s delivery of content. I recently read VC Fred Wilson’s plea to Hollywood entitled ‘Scarcity is a Shitty Business Model.’ This has been shown time and time again to be undoubtedly true.

Consider Napster. When Napster was shut down in 2001 and iTunes came raging onto the scene in 2003, many argued that consumers would not buy music for $.99. However, the slick user interface and sheer online availability of music settled that debate quickly proving that consumers would in fact pay if given an easy process for transacting and lots of content.  Back to Hollywood. The window structure is simply killing the industry. The window models were created based on an infrastructure that not only no longer exists but will trend farther from its origins over the next few years.

I’ve been recently watching the British series Downton Abbey. In one episode, the wealthy Crowley family updates their lavish home with innovative light bulbs replacing their dimmer cousins, the candles. The grandmother, Dowager Countess of Grantham, expertly acted by Maggie Smith, expresses her discord that the new bulbs are burning her eyes and far too bright. Change is always uncomfortable but inevitable nonetheless. To ignore it and try to squeeze and manipulate the inevitability will always fail. In other words, SOPA/PIPA won’t do justice to their objective, protecting the content and its creators. Furthermore, by censoring the internet under the guidelines that it poses, the legislature threatens to impede innovation across the internet simply because the entertainment industry refuses to innovate.

So here’s my plea to the studios. Innovate the business models, with a considerable shift in availability to speak to consumers’ needs. Eradicate the window structure. Yes, I know the drill. So many companies are involved here that eradication is made difficult. The solution to the problem is never easy but it stands just the same. Allow viewers to watch content on any platform they wish all at the same time, but create a revenue model for each. Think long. Don’t think short. The iPod was a gateway drug for Apple to the success they thrive on today. Consider that the revenues won’t immediately signal success when considered back-to-back (I’m looking at you Jeff Zucker and your digital dimes analogy). Become a misfit and make a revolutionary change. Make some waves, shock the other studios, and consumers will follow you to the bank.

Finally, the Super Bowl gets a social media command center and former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno dies at 85 re-igniting the debate of his misconduct in ignoring the abuse of his subordinates.

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THE ONLINE VIDEO GORILLA IN THE ROOM: EPIX by Marauder

THE ONLINE VIDEO GORILLA IN THE ROOM: EPIX

Epix, the new premium TV channel from Paramount, MGM, and Lionsgate, launched on TV and online at the end of October. The launch opened up movie catalogues from each of the three studios to be watched on three separate platforms; the content triple threat if you will. In a world of packed viewing options, how did we get to the point where three movie studios have launched a new pay TV channel?

Here’s the skinny. In 2008, Showtime’s contracts with Paramount, MGM, and Lionsgate expired. You see, in the premium pay TV world, channels like HBO and Showtime manage two streams of content: their original programming including both television series and films, and their movie studio content. These channels pay the studios premiums to air their movies on TV for a determined amount of time. When these contracts near expiration, negotiations settle in.

In this case, the negotiations between Showtime and these studios were fairly contentious. The studios wanted a higher fee than Showtime was willing to pay. So passionate were these negotiations, the studios basically declined revenues from Showtime entirely to instead walk away from the deal entirely. Showtime will now lose Paramount films released after Jan 1 2008 and MGM/Lionsgate films released after Jan 1 2009. That includes heavy box office winners like Iron Man ($318M US box office) and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull ($317M bo).

Instead of negotiating with another pay TV channels, like HBO or Starz, the three studios instead pursued the completely unexpected option: form their own pay television network.

I worked at HBO for the past 4 years and hence was a little more eager than most to try out the product. When I initially heard about the new pay service, I was generally mystified. In a world of disaggregation,with content scattered on premium networks like HBO, online through services like Netflix and Hulu, download-to-own/rent on iTunes, and on demand, I hardly saw the need for additional options. That said, as audiences trend online to watch content, I was most interested in taking a look at the online product. Here’s a break down:


Availability

If you are a Verizon FIOS subscriber, you have access to the product. In addition, Epix is offering 50 thirty-day invitation codes to Marauder readers who are the first to Follow @epixHD on twitter AND tweet “@epixhd Experience Epix #DailyMarauder.”  If you miss your chance, you can also get a weekend invitation code if you visit the site during the month of November.


Content

Emil Rensing, Chief Digital Officer of Epix, tells me that as of today, there are 183 movies on the service. By the second quarter of next year, the goal is 3,000 movies. I asked Emil about Epix’s competition, eager to find out whether the channel views traditional pay networks like HBO and Showtime as competition vs. online movie providers like Netflix. “I’m personally a subscriber to both HBO and Netflix. I love the DVD service that Netflix provides but we’ll have more content online than Netflix. HBO doesn’t yet have the licenses to put all of their movie content online.“ Being that Netflix claims 12,000 streaming titles online, I pushed Emil on his answer. Within those 12,000 titles, Emil claims 2,000 are movies, “The preponderance of those titles is either public domain or bottom tier selections. They don’t have a lot of titles that will drive the subscription nut…We don’t buy content. We buy hits.”


User Experience

Hulu-Like Video Player

The online video itself looks and feels very similar to the Hulu experience. It rocks the same full screen, pop out, and light dimming options. Epix, however, features 720P HD quality for all of its movies, if you have a connection speed which can handle it of course. If not, it delivers the video to you in a quality compatible with your connection speed. Hulu also has films in 720P through their HD gallery although I only peeped 3 TV episodes in the library when I drove through this morning.


Finding What you Want

Either browse or search for content using predictive content options based on what you type in the search box. In this case, I was typing “Valenti” . I wasn’t looking for My Bloody Valentine but instead for the Valentino documentary.

Watching Movies Online with Friends

Here’s my favorite feature. Viewers can watch a movie with up to 4 of their friends, even if that friend is not an Epix subscriber. This is an acquisition and retention play of sorts but a very smart one at that. To make the analogy work a little harder for you, imagine if I could call you, the non-HBO subscriber, and invite you to instantly watch that next episode of True Blood with me from each of our respective houses. Yah, pretty neat. Here, fellow Marauder Martha and I, watch The Curious Case of Benjamin Button from each of our houses in NYC and LA.

Movie watchers can type messages to each other while watching allowing an almost couch-like experience. Martha and I tested this feature three times over the course of a week. Our results varied from seamless to all-out failure.


Portability

The content is currently only available in a streamed model meaning that the viewer can only watch when connected to the internet. Starz Play, the online offering from Starz also available from Verizon FIOS, is instead a download model offering the option to watch movies on a computer screen or portable device even when Google decides not to holiday gift free Wi-Fi to the masses.


Distribution

Currently, Epix only has one distributor with Verizon FIOS giving them access to a pool of only 2.5 million subscribers. The two most attractive cable operators in the US according to audience size are Comcast (25M subs) and Time Warner Cable (15M subs). In July, Comcast publically responded that they were not interested in the service and think that it is in fact, “a bad idea.” So that leaves, Time Warner Cable as the most attractive girl in the room. Rumors have been floating around about a DISH distribution deal, which would pick up just over 13M subscribers and give Epix a bit more to talk about. The other pay TV networks are watching, but not really paying attention until Epix finds someone to carry the channel to more people. And even then, it’s really Showtime which has the most to worry about. It seems as though CEO Matt Blank may agree on this one.


Price

$10 per month. The service was initially offered its first weekend as a free preview.


The Low Down

Epix most reminds me of Hulu at least in the reason for its creation. Hearken back to the days in which Hulu was “New Site” and everyone laughed at its imminent failure. Mr. Techcrunch himself, Michael Arrington, liked to call New Site Clown Co. before it was dubbed Hulu.

Hulu was created as a joint venture between two broadcast television networks (Fox and NBC) which wanted more control (and hence revenue potential) over the distribution of their content in an iTunes world. Let’s just remember how NBC felt about Apple during one painful period in which The Office wasn’t available on iTunes.

Similarly, Epix was built by three movie studios, who in a world of Hulu, Netflix, and Showtime, wanted more control over their content. Both decisions were risky for the companies in question. Just ask Jeff Zucker from NBC how those digital pennies, dimes, or whatever currency he’s using these days are doing.

Here’s the main difference between Epix and Hulu: Hulu acts as a central location for all content even if its not featured in its super slick video player. Epix only offers content from these three studios.

Epix isn’t interesting to me as another pay TV network. We have HBO, Cinemax, Showtime, Starz, and a few others you probably don’t even realize you have. In a world of Movies on Demand, pay TV networks, Hulu, Netflix, and those things we used to call DVD’s, do we really need one more TV channel? In short, no. No we don’t. The cable operators realize this. They have enough to sell you when you call to set up service. HBO and Showtime used to be the cash cow for the cable companies. With the advent of online and digital phone services, this is no longer the case. The revenue potential on these two services far outweighs the opportunity upside on a pay TV network. So, why would I, Mrs. Cable Company, choose to carry another pay TV network that I will have to relegate marketing budget to? Hmmm…

Back to the consumer perspective. To really dig in on this, it’s important to quickly reference the content windows.


Traditional Windows

Time

Platform

Start

Theatrical Release

Theatrical + 4.5 months

DVD Release/Rental

DVD + 1.5 months

Pay Per View (PPV) Rental

PPV + 6 months

Premium (HBO, Showtime, Starz, etc.)

Premium + 15 months

Free TV (ad supported)

Here’s an example of this structure using a recent box office hit: Paranormal Acitivity. The traditional window, previous to Epix, would look like this:

(Please note. Apart from the movie release, these are NOT announced dates, simply a look at traditional movie windows.)

Movie Release: October 2010

DVD Release/Rental (Netflix): February 2010

Cable Movies on Demand/PPV: March-April 2010

Premium TV Channel (Showtime): September 2010

Free TV: December 2011

So, let’s pretend you’re a Comcast subscriber for a moment. You would have been able to watch the movie on DVD first, then buy it through your Movies on Demand service, then watch it through your Showtime subscription, and finally some time close to never watch it on free TV. Head spinning yet?

Well, Epix is now on the scene and Paranormal Activity happens to be a Paramount film. So, now the film will no longer be available on Showtime.

So now, the story goes first on DVD, then Movies on Demand through the cable company, then Epix on TV and online, and finally when hell freezes over on free TV. Confused again? Yup. I haven’t even mentioned that Netflix is considering delaying their DVD rental offerings 30 days to pay the studios less. Oh, and of course, companies like Comcast are pushing day-and-date movies on demand offerings with the DVD window.

All I wanted to know was when and where I could watch the movie again. Crikey…

In short, Epix is interesting to me purely for its online subscription-model offering. They can’t compete with the movie quality of other pay TV networks like HBO. Yes, Netflix is doing online streaming but Epix claims that they will have more and better quality movies online soon. Epix is connected to a distributor whereas Netflix need not rely on one. Both subscriptions cost about the same but one gives you additional access to 100,000 DVD rentals and the other to a TV channel and on demand network. Epix has the closest relationship and pull with the movie studios except in this case, its just three of them.

Epix needs more distribution to make some noise but if they find some, things will start to get a bit more interesting. Game on.

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BROADCAST/CABLE by Marauder

BROADCAST/CABLE

Thursday’s fifth season opener of The Real Housewives of Orange County on Bravo attracted 1.98 million A18-49 as well as 2.58 million total viewers, an increase of 44% and 38% respectively compared to the show’s season four premiere on November 25, 2008. (Cynopsis 11/9)

Seriously, why do y’all watch this show?

Desperate Housewives of Orange County


HBO has a 30m drama series, simply titled T in development involving the gender transition of a woman into a man. The project is from married team Anya Epstein and Dan Futterman who also recently agreed to a third season as showrunners on HBO’s In Treatment. For T, Epstein and Futterman will write the pilot and executive produce along with Ira Glass and Alissa Shipp. (Cynopsis 11/9)

General Electric Co. and Comcast Corp. have settled on how to value NBC Universal now and in the future, clearing a key obstacle to giving Comcast control of GE’s television and movie company, according to people familiar with the matter. (WSJ11/8)

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BROADCAST/CABLE by Marauder

BROADCAST/CABLE

TLC‘s widely popular “Jon and Kate Plus 8” opened its fifth season Monday with a whopping 9.8 million viewers. The show, about Jon and Kate Gosselin and their eight children, was the most-watched show that night on cable or broadcast TV. TVWeek.com (5/26)

Jon and Kate

“The Link,” a two-hour special on History that focused on a 47-million-year-old fossil that could have been a missing link in the human evolutionary chain, attracted 2 million viewers to its May 25 premiere. The much-hyped show scored well in all demos, averaging 904,000 between the ages of 25 and 54 and 756,000 between the ages of 18 and 49. Multichannel News (5/26)

Link

A&E Network opened season seven of Intervention on Monday at 9p with 2 million viewers. Then at 10p, A&E debuted the new original series Obsessed which attracted 1.8 million viewers. (Cynopsis 5/27)

Also on Monday, E! aired the season three finale of Keeping Up with the Kardashians at 1030p, delivering a 1.93 HH rating among metered markets. In E!’s newest reality series, Kendra Wilkinson, former star of The Girls Next Door, headlines her own show, Kendra opening June 7 at 10p with limited commercial breaks. (Cynopsis 5/27)

Kardashians

ABC is said to be preparing for “executive shuffling and pinkslipping,” as Steve McPherson consolidates his power as head of ABC Entertainment Group overseeing both ABC Entertainment and ABC Studios. Layoffs are expected in business affairs, publicity, legal and other areas. (Iwantmedia 5/27, http://www.deadlinehollywooddaily.com/abc-network-studio-shakeup-coming 5/26)

With international TV buyers spending the week in Hollywood, HBO has decided to enter the global distribution fray. The pay-cable channel screened three of its upcoming shows — “Hung,” “Bored to Death” and “How to Make It in America” — for international buyers looking to cut licensing deals. The Hollywood Reporter (5/26)

Bravo announced Tuesday that it would spin off a new version of its “Real Housewives” franchise — this time in the nation’s capital. The news about “The Real Housewives of Washington, D.C.” closely follows the May 12 premiere of “The Real Housewives of New Jersey,” which attracted 1.72 million viewers. Mediaweek (5/26)

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BROADCAST/CABLE by Marauder

BROADCAST/CABLE

With baseball season officially underway, HBO announced a renewal of its baseball-themed comedy series Eastbound & Down for a second season. The Danny McBride-headlining series, about a former MLB star pitcher returning to his home town to teach P.E., will begin production later in 2009 with new episodes scheduled to hit HBO’s lineup next year. (Cynopsis 4/9)

eastboundanddown

FOX is playing off the uncertain economic times with a new reality competition series called Someone’s Gotta Go. The series, from Endemol USA, will go inside real American businesses giving employees the chance to decide which colleague will be laid off. (Cynopsis 4/9)

Leah Remini rejoins the world of sitcoms in the ABC comedy pilot Don’t Try This at Home, per THR. From ABC Studios, Don’t Try This at Home is about marriage and parenting from the perspective of three couples. (Cynopsis 4/9)

Part of AMC’s programming magic over the past few years, according to network chief Charlie Collier, has been to partner edgy original shows with feature films that present a related theme. “When ‘Mad Men’ debuted, we led into it with ‘Goodfellas,'” he said. “The notion was that you’d take this iconic Martin Scorsese piece about a group of guys who thought they could play without rules, and it led to an iconic television program about a group of men who again thought rules did not apply.” The Wall Street Journal (4/8)

Shares of Disney, Time Warner, News Corp. and other media giants are seeing gains. But Wall Street analysts warn: “The rally will meet resistance once the market realizes that the first-quarter results are below consensus.” Within a few months, “things turn ugly again.” (Iwantmedia 4/9, http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/hr/content_display/finance/news/e3i4f09d44ee2455d728c72b6547178e4bd 4/8)

Michael Copps, acting chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, says he intends to “right the injustice” of the lack of diversity in U.S. broadcasting. The agency is OKing a proposal to improve data collection about media owned by women and minorities. (Iwantmedia 4/9, http://online.wsj.com/article/BT-CO-20090408-711361.html 4/8)

Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes was awarded compensation in 2008 valued at about $21.5 million, according to an Associated Press tally of data filed with regulators. That figure is up 11% from a year ago, as the company cut costs and moved to shed assets such as its cable unit. (Iwantmedia 4/9, http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090408/ap_on_bi_ge/time_warner_executive_compensation 4/8)

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