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Thursday, March 01, 2007

Thursday News: Blockbuster May Buy Movielink ... Walt Mossberg on Vid Sites ... Cuban on the Oscars ... and More

- The Wall Street Journal reports that Blockbuster is in advanced talks to buy Movielink, the movie download site founded by five of the major studios that launched in 2002. The Journal pegs the acquisition price at about $50 million. Sarah McBride and Matthew Karnitschnig write:

    [The acquisition] would help Blockbuster compete against its main competitor, Netflix Inc., which unveiled its own movie-download service in January. Blockbuster is still stinging from the strategic mistake it made in initially ignoring the shift of consumers to Netflix's DVD-by-mail rental service.

    Blockbuster's management is under intense pressure from its board to quickly turn around the business. Billionaire investor Carl Icahn, a major shareholder who led a successful proxy fight against the board two years ago, now sits on it himself with several allies and has been pushing for radical changes.

    Blockbuster Chief Executive John Antioco has said he believes the company needs to be able to offer a "triple play" of rental options -- in stores, online mail ordering and through downloading. Movielink would give the company the last piece of that puzzle at relatively low risk. Management has concluded that creating its own platform would be considerably more expensive, according to people familiar with the situation. "This is the fastest, safest, most economical way to get into this business," one of these people said.

This'd be a good deal, I think, for both Blockbuster and Movielink. Movielink has never been well-promoted, which is something Blockbuster may help fix. And when I bumped into Movielink CEO Jim Ramo at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, he acted like time was running out (while telling me that time was in no way running out.) The site has reportedly been for sale since last year.

- The Journal's Walt Mossberg looks at Web video sites. He concludes:

    ...My favorite is, run by a team made up of a former systems administrator for the NHL, and a former TV news reporter and producer. (not to be confused with a similar-sounding site called hosts a bunch of these new Web TV series, and also helps them attract funding, sponsors and advertisers. Anyone can upload a show.

    One of my favorite shows available on is called "Goodnight Burbank," a comedy series about the squabbling that goes on behind the scenes at a local TV news show. Another is "Alive in Baghdad," news reports from Americans and Iraqis on how the war affects average Iraqis. "Cube News 1" is a series about life in the office cubicle. Other shows I've enjoyed on include "HotRoast," "The Ministry of Unknown Science" and "Josh Leo."

- Mark Cuban has some ideas about how the Oscars should be using YouTube, rather than pulling their clips from it. He suggests using lots of short clips on YouTube to drive viewers to But the big problem is that the Oscars' main source of revenue, as I understand it, is their TV broadcasting deal with ABC... they haven't yet started selling digital downloads of the show, or really figured out how to monetize it in the realm of new media.

- From the Hollywood Reporter: 'Hollywood too often misses the moment.' Interesting to think whether the very same argument Steve Bryant makes about the Web could've been made about television in the 1940s and 1950s.

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