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Harvey Weinstein goes to London and praises Sarkozy, whales on Silicon Valley

Kris Connor/Getty Images for The Weinstein C

Harvey Weinstein has had just about enough of you Internet content pirates and proposes a draconian "French" solution.

If, in the aftermath of the Stop Online Piracy Act/Prevent IP Act (SOPA/PIPA) battle, you thought that only the most intense financiers of Silicon Valley continue to obsess over threats to the "open Internet, we give you...Harvey Weinstein! The Hollywood Reporter catches up with the outspoken producer in England, where he took the occasion of addressing the BFI London Film Festival to absolutely lay into Big Tech.

But first, he heaped praise on recently dethroned French President Nicholas Sarkozy (who awarded Weinstein the prestigious Légion d'honneur prior to leaving office):

"Whether you like his politics or not, this law was good," Weinstein said, "because people are disincentified to steal."

He said the results also could be seen in a country where 260 French movies were made last year, and difficult funding propositions, like the €14 million ($18 million) black-and-white silent film The Artist, could find people to fund it.

"You get a robust local industry from it," he said.

Weinstein's speech was full of humor and barbed observations.

"I love it when these Internet dudes say to me, ‘Hey man, we just want to be 'content neutral,' " Weinstein noted. "Next time, I'll say, 'Sure, I'll get my tie-dye shirt and come and sit in your billion dollar mansion in San Francisco or Silicon Valley for a while, soak it up.'"

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Copyright Wars: Google does what Hollywood wants

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The Google logo is seen at the Google headquarters in Mountain View, California. The company has announced a change to its search rankings, intended to protect copyright.

Last week, Google announced that it's making a change — or more accurately perhaps, a modification — to its search algorithm. This is the explanation, from Google's search blog:

Starting next week, we will begin taking into account a new signal in our rankings: the number of valid copyright removal notices we receive for any given site. Sites with high numbers of removal notices may appear lower in our results....

Only copyright holders know if something is authorized, and only courts can decide if a copyright has been infringed; Google cannot determine whether a particular webpage does or does not violate copyright law. So while this new signal will influence the ranking of some search results, we won’t be removing any pages from search results unless we receive a valid copyright removal notice from the rights owner.

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Hollywood needs Netflix, but Netflix is struggling

Netflix Reports Third Quarter Earnings

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Netflix disappointed Wall Street with its second-quarter earnings. It's trying to get out of the business of delivering DVDs by mail while it grows in online streaming.

In a world where people watching movies and TV shows online is a trend that's absolutely taking off, you'd expect that the biggest name in the streaming space, Netflix, would be doing quite well. And you'd be justified — but also quite wrong.

First, the streaming part. This is from The Wrap, referencing a recent report from the Digital Entertainment Group and looping in Netflix's major business-model change:

The five-fold spike in subscription streaming is largely due to Netflix’s shift away from CDs. Spending on subscription streaming hit $548.6 million in the first half of 2012, up from $85 million in the first six months of 2011. [my emphasis]

How could Netflix lose with increases of that magnitude being posted? Easy: All that demand for streaming means Netflix is going to have to spend and spend hugely to feed the demand. Wall Street is concerned about this — as well it should be given that the former darling of the Silicon Valley tech world just saw second quarter earnings call by a whopping 91 percent. USAToday does the numbers:

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Microsoft unveils Surface tablet in Hollywood

Microsoft Surface

Microsoft

The new Microsoft Surface tablet PC was unveiled today in Hollywood. Should Apple and the iPad be worried?

As expected, Microsoft unveiled its new tablet, called "Surface," in Hollywood today. The device is designed to attack the market-leading iPad's only real weakness: the perception that it's a device for consumption rather than creation — for reading and watching rather than getting things done.

Unlike the iPad, Surface is less a pure tablet than a sort of collapsible PC. It runs Windows 8, the latest version of Microsoft's well-known operating system. There's an integrated stand and two covers that double as full keyboards, one of which provides a more conventional, tactile typing experience. The whole thing weighs in at about a pound and a half. It's sleek and black and has a ultrabook-esque selection of ports. (Covers come in a range of colors.)

A relatively subdued but kind of intense Steve Ballmer, Microsoft's CEO, called the tablet "a tool to surface you passions, ideas and creativity." He also stressed that it's all about Windows 8, a piece of software that "deserved its own hardware innovation."

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Chris Dodd wants Hollywood and Silicon Valley to patch things up

CinemaCon 2011 - Day 2

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Former U.S. Sen. and new Chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America Chris Dodd speaks at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace during CinemaCon, the official convention of the National Association of Theatre Owners, March 29, 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

You could say that it's the great business question of our era. Certainly it is in California. Why can't Silicon Valley, seat of the tech industry, and Hollywood, capital of the entertainment business, join forces and create a juggernaut of technotainment that will establish the Golden State as the most important place on Earth for innovation and global media?

In theory, it should be a no-brainer. But in practice it's a case of colliding business models. Big Content has built up its ownership of media over the course of a century. It's not going to share the goodies without claiming its cut.

Big Tech, on the other hand, wants all that content to be free, free, free. Chris Anderson pretty well laid it all out, in detail horrifying to Hollywood, in 2009, in his aptly titled book "Free: The Future of a Radical Price." Why? Because the ability to fragment and share content is a critical piece of Silicon Valley's overall business model. Users need to be able to do this by the millions if not billions, so that various Web companies and appmakers can sell ads against the — wait for it — free labor of those users. 

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