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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

My move to Variety ... Snafus With Movie Downloads ... Evolution of Web Viewership Stats

- At a recent breakfast here in San Francisco with Variety editor Peter Bart, we started chatting about the paper's coverage of the San Francisco/Silicon Valley tech scene -- particularly the friction between the fast-moving, creative tech companies up here and the media companies down south that actually produce and own all the content. A little while later, Peter asked if I'd start filing stories for Variety. It was a tough decision, since I've been writing for about a year for The Hollywood Reporter, Variety's main rival, and having fun doing it. But my first Variety piece, `Standards not so straight for Web pix' ran last Monday. The gist:

    If the Motion Picture Assn. of America can sometimes be hazy about its reasons for doling out an NC-17 instead of an R, and the line between TV-PG and TV-14 can be difficult to discern on network television, in the world of Web video, content ratings don't yet exist -- which means each site adheres to its own "I'll know it when I see it" policy about what is acceptable.

My second piece, on YouTube's copyright challenges, ran yesterday. I'd love to hear your ideas about other topics/issues that deserve more (or better) coverage:

- The Wall Street Journal reports on some of the problems that users of Amazon's Unbox and Apple's iTunes have been encountering in downloading movies. Jessica Vascellaro and Sarah McBride write: Inc. and Apple Computer Inc. recently launched highly anticipated movie downloading services, heralded as the juice that would make downloading and watching movies on a computer screen a new consumer habit. A month later, however, the services are off to a rocky start., of Seattle, has had to placate consumers with refunds after some couldn't get the service to work. Customers of both services are reporting problems downloading the software on their machines and complaining of seemingly interminable download times, sometimes in excess of several hours. Picture quality and equipment requirements also are stumbling blocks.

- The Journal also asks, `Who's Watching Those Webisodes?' Emily Steel writes:

    Figuring out how many people are watching TV shows isn't as simple as it used to be. While Nielsen Media Research long has dominated TV ratings, traffic to Web sites is measured by several different firms, each of which uses slightly different techniques. What's more, these firms haven't yet perfected measurement of video streaming.

    And the variety of media venues airing TV programming is growing -- including cellphones, video-on-demand services on cable TV, as well as Web and traditional TV -- but there's no standard way of tracking audiences for most of these broadcasts.

    As a result, with the volume of TV prime-time programming offered on the Web and other venues steadily rising -- highlighted by Google's agreement this week to buy video-sharing Web site YouTube -- it has never been more important to devise a means of accurate tracking.


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