Monday, October 7, 2013

Broadway Idiot! From a great idea to the Great White Way!

I'm very lucky, in my life I have met, worked with many people who are far more talented than me. I'm not putting myself down here, it's a truth, sometimes there are people who just make you go wow!

One of these "wow" people is Michael Mayer. Michael is a renowned TV/Film and Stage director.  He brought "Spring Awakening" to life on Broadway, on screen "A Home At The End Of The World", with Colin Farrell, and on TV, too many shows to mention, ohhh and took over The Met Opera to direct Rigoletto last year.  One day Michael was listening to one of his favorite bands Green Day, and their album "American Idiot".  As only Michael can, he started to construct a story from song to song.  The idea captured him and he continued to develop it and when it got to a point that he really thought it could be something he contacted Billy Joe Armstrong from the band, (because Icsuppose when you're Michael you can do things like that).  It was two worlds colliding, literally, theater and punk, a glorious mess of grease paint and eye liner, how could that fail? It didn't!

American Idiot bowed at the St. James Theater on broadway in 2010. Mayer and Billy Joe had approached his producing partners from Spring Awakening Tom Hulce and Ira Pittleman (a double wow), and another ground breaking show hit Broadway,  (if you didn't see Spring Awakening, your loss, you missed the most amazing show that launched the careers of Glee's Lea Michele, The Newsroom's John Gallagher Jnr, and a host of others who were baptized on Broadway and now attend service in Hollywood).  This team had a lot to live up to; three Tonys, three Drama Desk awards, an Olivier award and a Grammy to mention just a few of the gongs awarded to the collective creative force behind Spring Awakening.  It's like stepping out at Yankee Stadium on your first match and getting 10 home runs, what the hell do you do the next game?  So when American Idiot bowed how many home runs could it get?

Grand Slam!

It was and is a spectacular show. Visually stunning, the music...well you know the music, and the cast again amazing. This time though something was happening from near inception that was unique.  Another "wow" friend of mine Doug Hamilton was making a documentary about the whole process.  It covers everything you might never have thought would happen to get a show on the Great White Way, it is a masterful piece of work and truly fascinating.

Check out more information here: Broadway Idiot

The documentary launches this weekend.  PLEASE, if this subject is something that interests you, go see this documentary, support this film.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Apple may be acting illegally, if you've downloaded iOS7 you need to read this!!!

I like iOS7...I know a lot of people have been complaining about it, but I like it and find it elegant.  What I don't find elegant is what happened to me this weekend.  It appears that when you download iOS7 from Apple, it automatically has the back up to the cloud turned on.

This might seem to be a convenient option and provide a useful back up service, but in reality, it's a ploy for you to spend  more money with Apple. You see, with the iCloud you get 5 gigs of space for free.  Five gigs you say, I remember when one gig used to be the size of one of Elton John's wardrobe's, 5 GIGS! that's a HUGE amount of space...well no, not if you have a 64G iPhone.  Your first back up to the cloud, immediately fills the 5 gigs, in fact mine immediately went to 21 gigs!  so here's what happens:

Dear Malcolm Bird,
Your iCloud storage is full. As a result, you can no longer send or receive messages with your iCloud email address, ***, your devices will no longer back up to iCloud, and iCloud-enabled apps will not update documents and data between your devices.
To resume using these iCloud features, you can purchase additional storage on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch:
1.Go to Settings and tap iCloud.
2.Tap Storage & Backup.
3.Tap Change Storage Plan and choose an upgrade.
Or you can reduce the amount of iCloud storage you’re using. Learn how to manage your iCloud storage >
The iCloud Team
Firstly they uploaded my phone details to the cloud without my consent, this filled up my iCloud space and now the email associated with Apple, will not work.  I like / liked iCloud for the simple fact that it synched my schedule, photos and contacts with my other devices.  The rest of iCloud is pretty dismal and fails at many levels, (like being unable to use it to publish work from iWeb which you used to be able to do from MobileMe).  The synch ability is really the only reason I keep the iCloud account, I have never backed up my phone or computer to the cloud, I just don't trust apple to deliver on that type of service.  The fact that they would shut off an email account is just terrible; on top of that the fact that it seems from the email the only solution is to upgrade, means that they are in effect holding your email operations to ransom unless you pay more money.

There is though a solution that I found via a very polite and helpful Apple service person who seemed appalled at what had happened.  If you want to back up your phone to the web then it will happen and I hope you bought enough space.  If you don't follow these steps:

1. Go to Settings
2. Tap on iCloud
3. Down at the bottom of that page tap on "Storage & backup"
4. Slide the "iCloud Backup" switch to the off position
5. Tap on "Manage Storage"
6. If your phone has been backed up you will see a dated inventory of those back ups, tap to delete these and it will free up the space in your account.
7. Scream the following words at the top of your lungs, "Apple you Moth$#&*^g Douches", (that doesn't do anything but make you feel better).

You notice the email Apple sent didn't tell you this, I was not given this option, just that if I wanted to use my @me email I would have to upgrade.  To find this out I would have had to click on their link at the bottom of the email, then three more links to get to the relevant page with this information. My main gripe apart form the up-sell of more space is holding an email address ransom.  If not illegal, (and I suspect it might be), it is certainly immoral, but hey that's Apple, the #1 brand in the world... anyone want a can of Coke?

Friday, September 20, 2013

New iPhone...beware of the hidden charges, I phone not $399 but $435!!!!

                                                                So you want a shiny new iPhone 5S?

Remember that...


If you're like me and an AT&T customer, beware...on top of the $399.00 you will pay for a 64G iPhone 5S AT&T will slap a $36.00 upgrade fee.

What's that for I hear you asking? Well the technical term for this is "fleecing", that is just to fleece you out of some more money, for no actual reason. It costs AT&T no extra money to upgrade you, it's all automated.

It's a charge that will appear on your AT&T bill not in the Apple store, it's a rip off, it has pissed me off.  The only reason to stay with AT&T might be the one feature Verizon and Sprint do not have and that's the ability to conduct multiple activities at once, (so if you're on a call you could also do a web search). I have the $36.00, but feel resentful getting gauged yet again by a large company.

would appreciate thoughts on this.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Crackle - Comedians in cars getting coffee

A while ago I attended a digital upfront and saw brands signing up to sponsor digital content.  This branded content is a good idea for the sponsors, it involves engagement, has a perceived value, and if really successful can develop brand loyalty.  The problem was, as I stood there holding my free drink, the content itself was really obscure and, well, how can I put this sensitively, ...crap.

This seems to be the majority of branded content, where the content plays second fiddle to the sponsoring brand.  This isn't the case though if you have watched Crackles "Comedians in cars getting coffee".  Crackle doesn't get written about very often, always overshadowed by HULU or Netflix, but it's not a bad service at all.  It's Netflix for people without credit cards.

Comedians in car getting coffee is produced and hosted by Jerry Seinfeld.  Its really simple, Jerry, (a car fanatic), each episode turns up in a classic car, picks up a famous comedian friend and goes for coffee.  they talk about life, their careers, things that make them tick, and it's all fly on the wall POV.  This isn't an interview show, Jerry doesn't interview his guest, they go out and have an informal chat, just like you do when you grab a coffee with a friend.  It just so happens that the people he's talking to are very interesting and naturally funny. It shows the intelligence of a comedian's ability to observe life and comment on it.  I have always admired anyone who would stand on a stage and try and make people laugh, it takes guts, but most of all, to be a successful comedian you need to be very smart, and an astute observer.  As Chris Rock says:

"A gourmet meal with an asshole is a horrible meal, a hot dog with an interesting person is an amazing meal, it's all about the company."

Sienfeld is superb in this show, he's funny, but not trying too hard funny, he just enjoys the company he's with and we feel that.  The show has a spectacular list of guests including David Letterman, Larry David, Don Rickles, Ricky Gervaise... the list goes on and on, (the ever reclusive Letterman is very interesting), you see if Seinfeld calls you, do you really say no?

The show is sponsored by Acura.  It's how Acura sponsors the show that is so clever.  They get billboards at the beginning and end of each segment.  During some shows we break for commercial, but not an Acura commercial, a 70's Honda commercial, (there's a great one starring a yet unknown John Travolta).  In some episodes they make a joke of the the product placement, by walking by an Acura in the street and Jerry mentions, "This is my sponsor", Sarah Silverman comments," so this is product placement", and Jerry retorts, "Yes"... "Great car" Silverman says sarcastically.  That's the highest level of integration and sponsorship you get.  Acura seems to understand that it's about the content, not the product placement.

I watch shows like "The Biggest Loser" on NBC and it's just one big infomercial, and to be honest, when they are showing the "Jenny-o" turkey for the fifth time and pretending they really would choose to eat it, reading off a corny script about it's superior benefits, it turns me off completely.  The advertising has gotten in the way of the programming, and I am tuning out.

Comedians in cars getting coffee is a great watch, and you won't feel like you've been sold a car, just enjoyed observing really funny interesting people. By the way, Sienfeld has been nominated for an Emmy, and he deserves to win.

Friday, August 16, 2013

We're all in the wrong business!!!! ...

...unless that is, you're in the baby business.

About four years ago I was approached to run a great wedding website.  It was a blue chip wedding brand,  a great business, but the thing is, I didn't know a thing about the wedding industry, so I passed.

Then I got married!!!

WTF!!!!  The wedding industry is amazing, it literally adds a premium onto everyday things like printing, catering, venue hiring, linen, flowers, everything in fact, is a premium.  You want a DJ, great;  a normal DJ is around $900, a wedding DJ $1500; you want to order a load of flowers, you can get a boatload for $500, but your wedding flowers, they're $5,000!!!  When descending into this financial raping, you see that the whole industry is built on one thing, "it's your special day".  You could get normal printed invitations, OR, for an extra $1000 get beautiful letterpress printing, because, "it's your special day", you spend thousands more than any sane person would in ANY other situation because, "it's your special day"!

There is now though another industry that is even cleverer than the wedding industry.  You see, weddings last for only a couple of days, a baby, it's like a bloody puppy, it's for LIFE!

Today my beautiful wife and I spent a good hour and a half walking around Buy Buy Baby, the aptly called super store for everything baby, registering for everything you need to bring a sprog into this world.  Now admittedly, it's actually a lot of fun, but my god, the prices!

You want a stroller, of course you do, I mean, you have to have one of those... $1,000; a high chair as much as $500; car seat, $200; baby monitor $250; the obligatory BabyBjorn $200...this business is amazing.  In an hour and a half, we dropped over $3,000 and that's without the cot, dresser, table pad, diapers, blankets, clothes, food (OK we got to feed the thing), the list goes on and on.

Not that I am complaining, I'm just so jealous I don't own Buy Buy Baby. There were people lining up to register for their babies, imagine all of those people at $3,000 a time, every day, BAZINGA! No wonder the store is so big and has so many employees, (who by the way can I mention are some of the nicest and most helpful store employees you will ever meet), they can afford them!

So forget entertainment, get into babies, it's never ending gravy train!!!!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Amtrak - The Smell Of Death !

If you have ever traveled on AMTRAK on the eastern corridor you might know what this blog post is about, the smell of death. If you’re posh and travel on the ACELA you will not know what I am talking about but, on their regional trains, the detergent that they clean the inside of the trains with is most peculiar. 

I will put my best wine nose on and try to describe…

There’s a hint of death, musk, formaldehyde, roses, incense, and leather all mixed together.  I have never been to an embalming, but for some reason this is how I think it smells. 

But wait!!!

It seems that the smell has been modified.  I am sitting on the Friday morning regional to Washington and the smell has changed.  It still percolates a slight smell of death in case you were to miss it, but there is a stronger citrus and floral bouquet.  This might be death 2.0, “the funeral”.

Imagine…we have already had the embalming done, and now the neatly preserved, only ever so slightly smelly body is has moved to the viewing room, surrounded for flowers, and sliced lemons, (OK I don’t get that part of the analogy either).  It’s still a very overpowering smell, like the fat woman who gets in the elevator with you who bathed in perfume, only she died a couple of weeks ago.

The one thing I will say though is how pleasant the environment is, (sans smell). I have a roomy reclining chair, more legroom than any business class flight, it’s clean, (the detergent might smell but by god it cleans, I could eat off these seat trays, in fact I just did).  I often think we dismiss the train.  We rush to fly everywhere, and true, a train from NY to LA is not a realistic option, but how many people are lining up at LaGuardia to catch a dirty, cramped plane, that in summer has a very high chance of being delayed and it isn’t in any way quicker.

My train journey:

                        5 minutes to train station
                        15 minutes waiting to board
                        3 hours travel time
                        Arrive center of DC – 3 hours 20 minutes

The flight:

                        35 minutes to LaGuardia (If you’re lucky)
                        30 minutes through security (if you’re lucky)
                        30 minutes waiting
                        15 minutes to board
                        1 hour flight, (if you’re not delayed)
                        20 minutes circling waiting to land
                        20 minutes getting off and out of airport
                        30 minutes driving into center of DC (if you’re lucky)
                        Arrive center of DC – 4 hours 05 minutes

I also have the advantage of a buffet car, large windows with things to look at out of them, two electrical outlets, no turbulence, a clean toilet (test driven), I can go for a walk and stretch my legs, all for $85, (how much was your shuttle ticket?)

I just wish they would get rid of the smell of death, even if it’s ever so slightly improved!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Leap Motion

In 2002's movie Minority Report,  Tom Cruise played the part of Tom Cruise acting as a police officer. The movie was really quite good and worth getting on Netflix.  In the movie, we see Tom looking for evidence on some holographic computer screens, and all he used was his hands to move all that information around.

Cool huh?

Wouldn't it be great to be able to do that...move and control images in thin air?

That's what the Leap does.  It's a tiny little box that plugs into your USB and allows you to control the computer and special "Leap" activated files.

I received mine a couple of days ago and have been playing with what does it do?

Firstly the little box creates a field around it that picks up your finger and hand movements within it.  This is what the Leap sees when you use it...

And here's the "field"...

It's really quite what does it do...

Firstly there's a very cool instructional video introducing you to the movements and utilizing space as a mouse.  There are games like Cut The Rope, The New York times has a very impressive app, and an amazing interactive DNA app that allows you to move the DNA strand as if you were holding it.

The New York Times is interesting. It takes but seconds to learn how to use the app, and then you are pulling stories up, scrolling down the story by just circling your finger, and closing stories by waving over the Leap.  Some of the games are a bit clunky and frustrating if our hand leaves the field and the games stops or in my case with "Fish Run" my fish dies.  But all in all, it's a lot of fun.

There is an app store and it's got quite a lot of stuff in it.  I counted 58 apps for the MAC, including a very cool frog dissection.

So why is this good and is it practical?  At the moment it's a novelty, it's fun and not really practical, it would take less time to access the NY Times from a browser...BUT, this sort of technology is important.  Game play will change because of it.  I think it has immense opportunities for educational content.  The Leap cost $65, shouldn't every school have something like this, it would revolutionize biology, physics, chemistry...and kids would love to learn using it.

Try and get a hold of a Leap, play with it, it's cool, it's very interesting and it makes you look like tom Cruise when you use it, (OK that last part was a lie).

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Pebble

Many years ago, when dinosaurs roamed the earth, television was in black and white, and politicians didn't Tweet nude photos of themselves I backed a Kickstarter campaign called Pebble. The Pebble is a watch that synchs with you smart phone's Bluetooth, and delivers emails, phone call ID, and text messages.  As we all know by now the campaign became Kickstarters most successful campaign to date.

I love Kickstarter.  I have invested and continue to do so in many of the enterprises posted there.  Not only is Kickstarter a superb platform for young companies to get their idea off the ground, but it encourages creative thinking and problem solving. Someone who might have sat on an idea, now has a launch pad to not only try and raise money on an idea, but see the public's appetite for that idea.

Pebble was the ultimate success story.  To date they have shipped over 93,000 Pebbles to 150 countries.  Understandably the scale of their success took the young company by surprise.  They instantly had production problems and logistic problems.  It took a year for my Pebble to ship to me, and after giving that first one to my nephew, I ordered a "pre-order" Pebble for me.  That still hasn't arrived.  What did happen though is that Pebble did a deal with Best Buy to distribute Pebbles.  This has pissed a lot of people on the waiting list off that they would release inventory to the public before fulfilling the remaining 182,000 units, me being one of them.  It clear to say that Eric Migocovsky
and his young management team are trying to keep their heads above water and are not necessarily making the smartest decisions. 

On a whim I ventured into Best Buy yesterday in Manhattan.  They had one Pebble left. It was the last one from  a shipment of 30 watches they had received the previous afternoon.  This is quite impressive, think about it.  a product launched exclusively online with no marketing what so ever sold out their inventory of 30 units within a day in one store, and apparently has been doing so in all stores ever since they started receiving units on July 8th.  The Pebble costs $150, so did Best Buy sell 30 pairs of $150 headphones within a day, or UP bands from Jawbone...I doubt it.  There is definitely an interest in wearable technology, it can't all be early adopter geeks like me.

So what's it like.  I'll break it down into different categories.

Construction:  It feels cheap.  It is plastic, lightweight and feels cheaper than a Swatch.  It is water resistant but not recommended to be worn in hot water, so don't take a bath or shower. It is rated for freshwater and saltwater so you can swim but don't dive with it.  The case is shiny plastic so waiting for the first scratches. The strap a cheap matt rubber.  The buttons on the side feel particularly cheap to the touch.  If Apple has designed this it would feel substantive and of high quality, you notice things like this when you wear it.

Design:  It's not a small watch, (it has to house a lot of stuff), so on my looks OK, but if my wife were to wear one it would look like a Gigantor had lent her his watch.

It has a smart clean look, but again not s sophisticated as one if Apple or samsung had designed it.

Setting up:  The online instructions were complicated and clunky.  It IS easy to setup, but at the same time you find yourself jumping from screen to screen in their app trying to source information on why certain things didn't happen the way they ere meant to.

Synching with an iPhone:  I was able to synch texts immediately, caller ID doesn't work properly, the phone number comes up but no name, which is the main function. It took me into the night to have email synching and to be honest it just started working which makes no sense, but now it does synch with all my accounts and I must say this is the best part of the watch. The watch immediately synched with my iPod/Music on my iPhone and that's a cool feature.  Some of the third party apps do not work as advertised, but as they're freeware, nothing to shout about.

Watch faces: There are a great and ever increasing selection of cool watch faces that you can easily down load.  I have already downloaded seven.

Alerts: The watch alerts you to an incoming message or email by vibrating.  this is really useful as it makes no noise and I can now turn the ringer off on my phone, which pleases my wife immensely.  The alarm also works on vibration and it does wake you up.

Overall this is an exciting product development.  I liken it to when streaming video hit the internet.  Most people had a dial up connection or if they were posh a DSL, and streaming video was in a tiny little player at 4 frames a second.  It was exciting, didn't quite work as advertised, but the potential was huge.  People are going to want to wear and use wearable technology.  This is the tiny rough end of a huge iceberg, it is cool, but what's to come is larger and a lot cooler. One thing I have noticed since synching is an increase in battery drain and my iPhone is a lot hotter than it was, if it explodes I'll let you know.  The Pebble is cool, it will get better.  I predict by the end of the year Apple will at least announce their wearable iWatch, and Samsung also. They will look and feel better than the Pebble and that unfortunately will kill the Pebble business. But for the moment, they own this space, and I think what they have produced is a market changer.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Royal baby

Yes I am I don't give a crap about the Royal baby. I hope the baby is healthy, ( as I would any baby), but when CNN, Fox and it seems every news outlet is turning into Royal Baby central...that's just sad.

At the moment in this world of ours, there's a suspected serial killer in Cleveland, a massive earthquake in China, Egypt is still in complete turmoil, the UK is banning online porn, our economic growth is stalled, millions of encrypted radios for the Marshals service have been stolen allowing terrorists to listen to confidential VIP movements, Detroit is bankrupt, children have been poisoned in India, China has detained an English background investigator, there is a need to stabilize the Chinese currency and their economy... but turn the TV on and what you will see is the Royal baby!

This story should be relegated to a funny spot on the boring shows...and that's it.

More important things happening in life.

End of rant.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Snowden traitor or hero?

We all know the story, Edward Snowden, leaked information he thought was in the best interest of the US public about the US's monitoring of he a hero or a traitor.

Let's look at this another way....

You join a company that is developing a top secret software.  On joining the company you sign NDA's and a binding contract that you will not reveal any secret and sensitive material.  After a couple of months you discover that the software the company is developing is morally at odds with you.  If you reveal this publicly, you would be sued, have restraining orders placed against you and probably end up in court for a long time.  That isn't the material of a hero.

So why is Snowden considered by some a hero?

Is there a difference between the NDA's he signed and contract with the NSA he entered into?

Firstly, unless you believe that you're living in a real life Pleasantville, is it ANY surprise to you that your government is monitoring cell phones, emails or any mass electronic communication?  We're certainly not living in Russia, (and neither is Snowden by the looks of it), but it should be pretty obvious that your emails are being scanned/skimmed for telltale words and word chains that might be an indication of terrorism.  It doesn't mean that some poor government idiot is sitting there reading my emails or listening to my calls.  If I could prevent one incident of terrorism, I say go at it, read away, (you'll be bored to death, but read away).

Snowden betrayed the trust placed in him by the NSA, and therefore the American people.  He is now threatening to release more informations, "that could bring down the government".  Firstly, I doubt he had that level of clearance, but even if he did, to threaten this is purely treason. Every government in the world is doing things that we wouldn't be proud to be a part of, be aware of, or probably condone, but it doesn't mean it's not happening.

People were up in arms about water boarding terrorist suspects, it's inhuman and against human rights...well so is flying a plane into a building and killing 3,000 innocent people. If your son or daughter was killed in 9/11 I would imagine you would be lining up to water board anyone to find Osama Bin Laden or anyone to blame.  My point is, things like this happen, and 99% of these things we know nothing about, nor should we.  If you join a government security organization and agree to be bound by their secrecy rules, that's what you're signing up for.  Making public sensitive information and breaking your confidentiality agreement is not whistle blowing, it's treason.

Again, if this were a private company Snowden would be in court now looking a life changing damages.

So Snowden...hero whistleblower or traitor? I say traitor.

Monday, July 8, 2013


UPDATE: So, I just bought an Apple TV to watch Netflix at home. I just paid $99 to enhance our viewing experience. I already had an old Apple TV with iTunes, but it didn't have the OTT Netflix option.  The world is changing.

So how was your Fourth of July weekend?

My wife and I spent six hours watching House of Cards on Netflix.  Now, I know everyone known to the media god has expressed their opinions on how good House of Cards is, and for $3mm an episode it should be, but I have a different perspective.

Over a 48 hour period we watched six hours of one program.  If you deduct eight hours a night for sleep, (we like to get our full eight hours in), that means we dedicated 19% of our time to watching Netflix!!

As reported in an earlier blog, The Business of The Kids Business a new report from cable channel Pivot claims that 13% of "Millenials", (who are now in their mid 20's), have cut the cord from traditional program suppliers and gone web only. Now admittedly, my ancient 45 year old self doesn't fit into this demo, but look what this 45 year old did this weekend, we watched Netflix, not cable.

Why did this happen? Well, House of Cards really is THAT good!  Both my wife and I are completely hooked.  We used the OTT capabilities of Apple TV in the country and the experience was great, and when we got back to the city on Sunday night, our old Apple TV didn't have OTT capabilities, (I must get a new one), so we turned the TV off and watched on a laptop.  As much as I look like a bronzed young 25 year old, I'm actually  as stated before a crotchety 45 year old, what the hell am I doing watching high quality drama on a laptop???  It's really that good of a show!

I pay $8.00 a month for Netflix. In the two months since I signed up I have watched the new series of Arrested Development, (I don't care what the critics say I loved it), and now I am spending hours watching House of Cards. All of these shows are original Netflix productions, and the more I love them the more I a) spend time on Netflix and b) love Netflix as a brand.

If I didn't watch anything else this month on Netflix each episode cost me $1.33 which I don't think is all that bad, (my wife really screws me on the price of the popcorn and concessions but hey), but you know we're going to finish the series so, that's 13 hours at 61 cents an hour.  Throw in a couple of movies a month and we're down to 50 cents an hour. So, I suppose the question is, what would you pay for advertising free high quality entertainment?  So far I am more than happy to pay 50 cents an hour.

If you haven't seen House of Cards it really is a superbly written and acted political drama. Kevin Spacey is amazing, (as he usually is), and the supporting cast are truly great.  If you have ever lived in Washington DC, (I lived there for five years), you will know how realistic the cynical, corrupt, money exploiting plot lines and characters are. This drama is better than ANYTHING I am watching on TV at the moment.  Let's just think about that for a second...better than any other drama on TV.  As we know network TV is in a dire situation. the networks don't know whether to go gameshow, reality of drama. Ratings are down, and cable is starting to fracture in certain demos.  The only stupid thing is I don't own Netflix stock...yet.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

One too many Cook's in the Kitchen (OK best I could do)

So Apples stock is tanking. My personal stock needs an aqualung. It seems that the WOW factor is leaving Apple, iPhones are no longer the saving grace, is Tim Cook going to be able to hang in?

It's clear that Tim Cook was Steve Job's personal recommendation for CEO, and there's no doubting Cooks ability to manage incredibly complicated supply chains and manufacturing, but is he the visionary CEO, pushing the company to the limit to innovate and provide products that we "might" need but "must" have?

Apple laptops are still far superior than anything else on the market. The OS system on Macs leave MIcrosoft faltering and trying to emulate, the design of the powerbooks and Mac Air is still breathtaking, the speed of the solid state laptops addictive. Apple always had the reputation for building amazing laptops and really accessible cool looking good desktops.  I think the new iMac is a beautiful thing, so is an iMac from ten years ago.  The company is faltering on it's iPhone.

Imagine being the company that completely changed the way we look at and use a telephone.  A sleek touch screen, that allowed you to keep your calendar, contacts, photos, music, weather, texts in one place, oh and you can make calls! It was revolutionary and everyone followed behind.  But now the edge has gone, the iPhone 5 a disappointment, and rumors are that iPhone 5S (please can we kill the stupid "S" thing), the same make up as the iPhone 5. Samsung have come out with a phone that is equal if not better than the iPhone 5, the Galaxy 4.  Friends of mine who have the Galaxy 4 love it and do not miss the iPhone 5.

Today Oppenheimer analyst Ittai Kidron downgraded Apple. The downgrade comes directly from falling iPhone sales. Apple has to do something and do it quickly to start building shareholder confidence. Growth of sales is bound to happen when everyone has a smart phone, it's being a victim of their own success, but now that HTC, Nokia, Samsung and Apple are all fighting it out, what will Apple do to squash the competition and WOW us all?

Getting back to Tim Cook.  Is he really the right guy to be steering the ship?  If not him then who?  Apple likes to promote from within, and apart from Jonny Ive, who certainly is mega talented but not CEO material, who else?  At the developer conference a couple of weeks ago, Craig Federighi certainly turned out to be the star on stage, but who knows what leadership chops he would have in the top position?  For now I think Tim Cook is safe simply because who else would you put in?  But people and the board might start looking soon at alternatives if nothing happens soon.

Monday, June 17, 2013

The business of the kids business...

A new report just came out from new cable channel Pivot, saying that 13% of 18-34 year olds who have broadband have cut the cord to pay TV providers, and rely on broadband content only.  The new “Millenial” generation is cutting the cord, PAY TV and cable as a whole is in trouble, and the area to really watch to see the future of this is kids.  If your kids are spending more time online than watching TV, then guess what they’re NOT going to do when they grow up and decide on the family entertainment budget…pay for cable.

There was a time many years ago when a producer could make millions of dollars producing kids programming. The kids networks were king, and even broadcast networks retained major Saturday morning audiences. The times though are a changing.

The formula used to be easy…produce a cartoon, sell it to a network, retain licensing rights, sell the IP rights to every licensing category known to god, repeat in as many countries as possible, and everyone gets rich. Just ask the master of this Hiam Saban, exactly how much money you can make off one IP.

Let’s look at the kids business today:

Kids TV Networks

Networks are losing audience to online, a recent 2013 Mintel report on Tweens and Teens shows Tweens aged 8-13 are spending more time online than watching TV, 53% say spending time on the computer is their favorite way of spending spare time.  The kids business is going the way the of the record industry, and needs to understand and adapt.  The networks seem to be completely adverse to the second screen mentality, and even less adept to make money this way. 

Yes Nickelodeon FINALLY has brought out an app, and if you can navigate though that app, has some content on it.  What it isn’t though, is Nickelodeon in a true streaming 2nd screen format.   I am very close to Nick, having been part of the launch team for it’s first international channel in 1993, Nick UK, and have witnessed a steady decline in the ratings over a number of years. The most important sales demo in my opinion in the kids business is kids 6-11, and I have tracked this rating for Nick over the past five years and seen a steady year on year drop in ratings.  What has led to this?  There used to be a time when a Nick program was identifiable. There was only one network that would do Ren & Stimpy, there’s only one home for Spongebob Squarepants. Now it seems that Nick is playing catch up to Disney Channel and trying to emulate their success and programming.  It’s interesting to note that they haven’t had a Spongebob sized hit since Herb Scannel left the network six years ago. In my opinion Nick has lost it’s identity with its audience. 

Cartoon Network
Again, I am close to this brand having worked for Tuner setting up international Cartoon Network shows around the world many years ago.  Online, Cartoon Network has a strong offering, mainly thanks to Paul Condoloroa who is an excellent executive. I suspect given more of a runway Cartoon could really forge ahead in this area.  Out of all the networks Cartoon Network has been a more proactive online player.  Programming wise on the network though I just don’t know what Cartoon is anymore, and what its audience is?  It used to be young boys, and they ruled this demo, but now, I give up. Is their programming animated or live action, and how can Cartoon be a live action offering? 

The amazing machine that is the Disney machine. Disney Channel used to be the “baby” channel, no Tween with any self respect would go near them, and then through executives like Adam Bonnett, they developed amazing Tween sit-coms, and now they own that market.  Disney is now cool, and their shows create stars.  The “machine” integrates an amazing cross platform promotion, from Radio Disney, to retail, you don’t launch a show on Disney, you launch a property.  That being said, for the independent producer it’s very still very hard to get a show on Disney.  They tend to develop their own within a community of approved producers, it’s hard to break in.  Digitally, the “Mouse House”, has had trouble getting traction.  From the failed to various online kids platforms, they seem to miss the mark.  Recently though there have been some light at the end of this tunnel, but I do not feel Disney are doing half of what they could online.

Network programming

By law, free to air networks have to provide three hours of educational and informative information a week.  This used to be served through their own Saturday morning blocks, and also used to be a cash cow.  As long as a show contained a supportive educational element, (Zack has a moral dilemma in Saved By the Bell, how will he deal with it?), it was counted as E/I content.  Now the ratings have fallen off, and networks farm out their three hour blocks to producers who try to sell advertising and licensing against the pitiful dwindling ratings. This just isn’t a business anymore.


The economics of making content suck.  To be a producer involves an enormous amount of masochism.  If you make a show for say $300,000 an episode, and if an average large network pays you $60,000 an episode, you have to sell five major territories to break even on your budget.  But reality is, most networks will not pay you $60,000, it’s more like $20-30,000, so you could be looking at ten major broadcasters.  That’s a hard sell.  If you do manage to sell to your broadcasters and break even against your budget, you have probably had to give up licensing rights, have no control over how many times they play the show, where they play the show, IF they play the show.  Home entertainment dollars are in the toilet, (still a market in pre-school but thanks to the iPad that’s declining).  Licensing if you have been able to retain it, have killed advances, (OK if you’re Spiderman that’s a different deal), and will not guarantee the levels of advertising against their product that they used to.  Shelf space at big box retailers like Walmart have declined whilst their expectation per foot of shelving has increased. 

Network economics.  If you’re audience is in decline, the advertiser will do two things.  First they will drop the effective CPM base against your inventory, second they will start to move advertising dollars over to where the audience is going; in the kids case, online.  Networks like Nickelodeon have desperately tried to maintain their bottom line by doing major licensing deals to online services like Netflix and Amazon.  Recently Netflix dropped their Viacom deal, showing the strength of their platform and the lack of strength they place against the Viacom programming.  Viacom has immediately shopped their deal to Amazon.  So let’s think about the logic, or as I ascertain, lack of logic for doing this. You network is in major rating decline and has been for a couple of years, you know the audience is going online, but instead of building your own online presence and capturing the audience under your own flag, you sell out to get dollars in quickly and help build someone else’s platform. They then turn around and leave you standing as a wallflower at the dance,  and move on, “thank you but I don’t need you anymore”, and in order to not show a huge hole in your bottom line you HAVE to do another deal.  What happens when Viacom programming has built up Amazon’s audience?  Do they drop Viacom as a dance partner and move on?

Online Economics

First of all, if you own a library of shows, is it worth doing a network deal hoping it will get a platform? A network deal would pay a small licensing fee for library content and tie your shows up for three years.  So let’s for example say you get $10,000 per episode, over three years that’s  $3,340 dollars a year.  Online, against a $20 pre roll CPM, that equates to 170,000 views.  On  a dedicated online platform with millions of Tweens and the right promotion, could you get say, 300,000 streams per month per episode?  If so you are looking at generating $6,000 in revenues per episode per month, or $72,000 a year, or $216,000 over the three year license period a network would take.  A 30% revenue share against that would be $64,800 per episode.  That is $54,800 better than the network deal, and you keep your rights.  Now of course this all depends on how many streams you get against your show, BUT, it seems like a better deal to me!  This is why I am going online for my next business.

If you make content for the web, you approach the production from a completely different perspective.  Long gone are the $300,000 per episode budgets.  Imagine your starting place being $30,000 per episode.  Return against that would be 1.5mm streams and then you’re in profit.  You own the content to license against in other territories and platforms, all of which is profit.  I successfully did this at KOL.  We made a number of cartoons, Princess Natasha being the most successful. We cleared a profit online, we sold the show to Cartoon Network, did a home DVD deal, and then licensed the IP to 22 separate licensees.  Profit, profit, profit.  This is why I am going online for my next business.

So where does this leave us?

The business is changing.  The dominance of networks has gone, kids cable channels are losing audience share year on year, kids spend more time on iPads and computers than they do sitting in front of TV’s and this will only increase.  Advertisers are growing their online commitment, according to Adweek, last year the Tween space accounted for $17 billion in US ad spend, a greater percentage of that money is going online every month, forget every year!

Networks are never going to get back into the kids world.  Cable channels have to adapt and rebuild their own programming brand, and totally re-think their online offering, or they will loose. But if you were me, and you were starting up a new business, aimed at Tweens, what platform would you go to?

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Print me - literally

First watch the video...

Click here to watch video

We have all seen cool robotics before.  The thing that makes this robot special is that it was printed from an open source file on a 3D printer.

Yes this is the extreme of 3D printing at the moment, but it's really quite amazing.  I am fascinated with 3D printing. For those of you who have not seen a 3D printer, here is the MakerBot:

It prints a thin layer of plastic, layer on top of layer, hollow or solid to make up an object.  You can change the type of plastic used, color and also nice biodegradable plastics made from either corn or, get this...milk!

You can scan objects, with one of these...

This allows you to scan an object then re-print it in plastic. 

You might think this is all a bit geeky and hobbyist at the moment, and to a certain degree you would be right, however this is going to change our lives in a major way.  Just as we buy music online, movies and TV shows online, products from Amazon and other e-retailers, we will buy files to print.  Imagine wanting to have that cool knife block for your new high end kitchen knives, but don't want to pay postage, and wait for it to be sent through the mail.  Just download the file, pay probably $5.00, and print it in whatever color you like. Change the decor of your kitchen, no worries, print a new one in a bright shiny new color and throw the other one away, (you printed it in bio plastic right?).  You buy printable 3D files and print things at's a whole new economy.  

Want to get a new Buzz Lightyear for your kid, Disney should get into the business of selling toy files, ask daddy for it tonight before bed, wake up tomorrow and play with the toy! Break a piece on the toy, just reprint it.

The applications are immense, the ability to scale this type of printing into different materials amazing. Imagine in medicine if you broke a bone and needed a replacement.  You don't get a standard replacement of a bone, you get a complete replica of the bone you broke!

Printers cost anywhere from $600 to $3,000 at the moment, BUT like all technology, as it gets adopted, you will see prices plummet.  The question is...when should i get one?

Monday, June 10, 2013


Yes! It sort of restores my faith in Apple. Compared to how I felt on my previous post, might stick around on Apple BUT, Siri demo was a pile of trash, not exciting and you could tell from the audience reaction that it wasn't in any way interesting, light ripples of applause compared to thunderous applause for iOS7.  It's clear Apple needs Jonny Ive and he is the most important guy in that building. His video got a standing ovation, he didn't even set foot on the stage!  I need Apple to give me an iPhone I could covet, something that will get me back in a line outside the store, something to love, iPhone 5 blah! I quite like the Power Mac trash can.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

I might leave Apple

Yup that's me, the Apple fan boy.  I have been an avid user of Apple products for over 20 years, in fact, one of my first jobs out of college was running ad sales for a listings magazine, and I remember how our lives changed when the Apple Macintosh "I "arrived in our office.  It allowed us to type copy into a layout and save that to a disc, then take the disc down to the saved us days in putting the magazine to bed.

My first Apple computer was their first laptop the "Blackbird". I still have it today, it still works.  It wasn't sexy like Apple products are now, this was before Mr Ive and Co, but the OS beat the crap out of windows.

Through the years a succession of Apple computers, (I'm typing this on an Air), from desktop to laptop, 15", 17" and now 11".  Apple is a brand to fall in love with, a relationship mixed with flushed blood flow due to the sexy design, and practicality over OS and why am I thinking of leaving?

I have an iPhone 4S.  That might not seem particularly enormous news to you, but if you knew me well, you would realize that me not having an iPhone 5 is amazing. I was in line for the original iPhone, and every subsequent upgrade. I paid over the odds for the latest was always exciting, fun and WOW look what you can do now. Then the hype around the iPhone 4S.  Siri turned out to be a joke, (do you know anyone who uses it, do you use it?), it wasn't particularly fast, and the design was identical to the 4.  When the 5 came out, it looked like an oddly stretched 4, and had no feature that made me have to have it.

But why leave?

To be honest the only thing keeping me with Apple is the fact that my content is in their eco sphere. My contacts, music, movies, photos.  There never used to be a real competitor, a company that actually gave the iPhone a run for it's money...then Samsung came along.

Samsung has actually brought out a really cool phone, the Galaxy 4 that makes me for the first time really think about ditching the iPhone.  I will still use Apple computers as the OS still beats the crap out of Windows, but Apple have been failing in other major areas.  The iCloud is terrible, clunky, drops out and limited in use, for some reason the new re-design of iTunes confuses  the hell out of me, I can no longer iChat, I have to FaceTime but that doesn't synch with my moms Apple that is still on iChat, FaceTime drops all the time, iChat drops all the time, is it me or is something broken at Apple?

I own Apple stock.  I would love them to bring something revolutionary out to get that stock price back up, but my confidence is waining.  When was the last revolutionary product, the iPad, three years ago? Where is my Apple TV, (an actual TV not the box that keeps breaking), the Pebble killing wrist watch, a sexy new iPhone?

I might jump to Samsung...and if I'm thinking about doing that, with my love and 20 year relationship with this company, Apple is in real trouble. There's something rotten at Apple, some might say to the core.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Future

People!  I have seen the future and it doesn't involve a combustion engine! Last week I had the distinct pleasure to drive in the Tesla S saloon car. Once you have driven this you will never want to drive another car again...I'm serious.  I am sure by now you have seen reviews, new stories, and maybe the fact that Consumer Reports gave it a 100% rating, something they had never given any car before.

I knew about the car, and had read the stories, but you just don't "get it" until you drive in one.

First of all, it's a beautiful saloon car.  Forget the electric stuff for the moment, it's an amazingly appointed & designed car.  The interior has a lot of room, mainly because there's no engine, gearbox or drive shaft.  The dash is all electronic, the seats are soft calfskin, lots of legroom, and enough room on the back seat to swing (albeit a very small), cat.  The outside styling is classy, it doesn't scream, "look at me I'm an electric car", but it does scream, "don't you wish your Maseratti looked like this". As you approach the car with your key fob in your pocket, (there's no key, just a fob), the handles in the door automatically pop out, then when you close the door they retract flush with the door.

Ok the electric stuff...

The car is never off.  By this I mean, the car has no engine to turn on, it sits there charged, and is always on, just put it in drive and go.  This also means that you can turn the AC on to cool the car or heat it from your smart phone.  The car sends Tesla continuous usage reports via the fitted cell, and the car learns from your driving and adapts to it.  The car is completely controlled from a 17" touch screen. This means that everything from entertainment, (streaming radio stations from anywhere in the world, a real potential Sirius killer), AC/Heat, car settings, diagnostics, seat preferences/personal profiles are all on this screen.  You can also search the web, email, etc. When you put the car in drive, because with a normal automatic car it would creep forward even if your foot wasn't on the accelerator, they have built a "creep" option so that the Tesla will also creep forward, and it's clever attention to detail like that, which really wins you over.  So, in drive, and off you go.  But I expected it to be somewhat sluggish....HA!  This thing throws you back into your seat and if you have the runway to do it, will accelerate so fast that your skin will ripple like an F16 fighter pilot on novocain!  It has amazing torque and speed.  Cleverly, to slow down just lift your foot off the accelerator and the friction of the electric motors winding down slow the car, whilst, charging the battery.  Yes the slowing down of the motor charges the batteries!  The windows on this car are coated with a special film that blocks UVA/B and keeps the interior cooler than normal glass, as I said, attention to small detail really wins you over with this car.

Charging.  How much was your last tank of gas...for me it was $80 to fill empty to full.  With a rapid charger, your Tesla will fully charge in a couple of hours. You can program the car to charge at a specified time, so... with electricity being at it's cheapest after midnight, you can charge your car for $1.00. That's not a typo, you can charge your car for $1.00, which by my basic math, is $79.00 cheaper than my last refill! The car has a range of approximately 250 miles and gives you a continual update on that rage depending on your driving style.  Some restaurants in LA actually have charging stations, so valet, plug in and return to a fully charged car.  Tesla are planing rapid charging stations all over the country by end of 2014.

It's not until you drive this car, see it, feel it for yourself do you get it. It's amazing and if you're a gas company it's very frightening. They have banned the sale of Tesla's in Texas. Not joking here, they have used an old law banning the sale  of any car without a dealership in Texas.  At the moment, the best way to buy your car is to build it online and order it that way, so no dealer, and apparently in Texas that's illegal.  It could have NOTHING to do with the gas companies could it! Tesla will prevail, this car will re-write the automobile industry, the beginning of the end of the combustion engine has arrived.  Next year Tesla bring out an SUV.  It looks beautiful, it will be beautiful and if my wife lets me, it will be mine!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


I would like to pitch you all a business idea...

It involves people paying thousands of dollars, to sit in rooms and listen to other people with years and years of knowledge talking for free.  I get the talent for free and the audience pays thousands for the pleasure, plus they usually travel, stay in a hotel, eat stuff called food then spend hundreds of dollars each getting each other drunk and networking.

This is the most genius business on earth.

Firstly, it plays on all of our egos to get up on a stage and pretend we know more than the people in the audience.  The audience then loves the fact that they get to interact with you, the supposed expert, and maybe a business tie is made.

Attendees sit and learn in various speeches, panels and break outs.  Really?

I once spoke at a conference in NY for marketing to Tweens and Teens.  I stood on stage and said the following, (I paraphrase myself here);

"If you need to take advice from me, and are looking for me to solve any of your marketing problems you're in deep sh*t"."

Now I know this is a cynical post, but really, if you need to drop $3K listening to me on a stage, or anyone, (other than obviously Oprah and Dr. Phil), then you're in deep sh*t!   If you are really invested and involved in your business you shouldn't need to listen to anyone on a stage to learn the business you're already meant to know.

The smartest person in the room and the one we can all learn from is the event organizer...they're the one's driving the Ferrari's lol.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

I just got called by a debt collection agency !!!

Update #2 in BLUE
Updates in RED

Yup it's true, at noon today, a woman called my phone asking to speak to Milcum Bard, and figuring that was me, I answered.  First of all, without telling me who she was she asked me for my address, to verify my identity. I asked if she was seriously expecting me to give her my address out to this complete stranger and she then identified herself as from  a debt collection agency!!! Errrr wot?

I was shocked!  What could this be about, I pay all my bills on time, don't owe money to hear the words debt collection agency like you hear the letters IRS, it sends shudders down your spine. It was Time Warner Cable.  Still shocked, we closed the account under a month ago and paid the final bill on May 10th.  How much did they claim I owed them, I mean, to get a collection agency on my *ss in under a month, that's gotta be serious no?  $124 !!!!!!!

So I call my business manager, and sure enough it was paid May 10th. So i don't actually owe them anything.

This, (apart from angering me), led me to think...who gets a debt collection agency involved in the first place for such a small debt in such a short window of time. I mean, if someone at Time Warner Cable had checked the account, they would have seen a cell phone number, (the same one they passed onto the collection agency), and they could haver called me to discuss and see if by any chance in this world THEY had made a mistake... but they didn't. They would have also seen that I had been an upstanding customer for over five years, paying on average $240 a month to I sound like a collection agency target?

Let me explain why this all started.  If you live in NY you will be aware that most buildings are wired for only one cable and internet provider. The city is divided into areas controlled by cable companies who have a virtual monopoly in that area. In my building it was Time Warner Cable.  I suffered through terrible internet speeds, dropped internet, appalling cable reception with dropped programs, pixelation, freezing programs,it really was in my opinion a sub standard service for five years.  Then, like a knight in shining armor, (or my building board member Pamela in Prada), a deal was made with Verizon Fios for them to wire our building.  I didn't jump to Fios I leaped, and let me tell you, it's been month, and boy so far, all their wondrous claims have come true, incredible picture quality on all TV's,  ( I truly never knew my plasma TV in the living room could look THAT good), lightening fast internet, no drop out, no freezing of programs...what they in fact promised me when I signed up.  All that for $120 a month, saving over $100 from TWC.  We returned the TWC equipment and my business manager in LA paid the final bill.

So you would understand my shock, horror, anger and bemusement when  a debt collection agency called.  I thought I would call TWC to get some answers.  First of all like all large corporations you can't actually get through to their executives, you automatically get forwarded to their answer service.  So, being a crafty chappie, I asked to be put through to the head of corporate communication's Ellen East's assistant, and finally got a human being.  Sadly though Ellen is on vacation, (well let's face it, it's not a sad thing for Ellen, she's probably lying on a beach somewhere and good on her). Ellen's assistant though did forward me to the office of the president 's customer service team, ( this is actually corporate bull for, let's give the caller a fancy title so they think they got through to Glenn Britts office when we all know that Glenn has probably never met them, and has nothing to do with them but hey let's play along with their game, it's fun right?), and spoke to a wonderfully polite person.  This person was so nice it's hard to remain angry at her, she was so nice that even if she had eaten my cat I would still like her...a truly nice, attentive person.  I asked her the following questions:

1: Why did no one from TWC call me?

2: Why did you not check that I had paid my final bill, how can that be transferred to a debt collector so quickly?

3: WTF! ... Ok I didn't actually say that, but I did say who gets a debt collector for a debt that only a month old?

4: What are they going to do to correct and blemishes that will appear on my credit ?

5: What are you going to do to make this right?

6: What's the secret to life and immortality, (OK I didn't ask that but it would have been great if I had).

So the follow up from TWC is quite interesting, a new person from the presidents office of...oh god, it's just customer service, called, also very nice. It seems they have either lost the check or it is still "processing" and we should wait until Tuesday.  That's completely acceptable APART FROM THE FACT that you didn't wait and got a collection agency on my *ss.  They have no answers to the other questions I asked, it seems that no one can actually answer anything.  Will update as this develops but hey, TWC, there's a company for ya!

Jamal, in the TWC collections department called .  You might not believe this but hey let's give it a go.  Jamal informed me that because I was NOT a "High Risk" client, as all my bills had been paid in full for five years, as a policy they wouldn't call me if I defaulted or they didn't receive payment. If I had been a "high risk" client, I would received a call.  Because I did return the equipment on time the account was closed and wasn't an active account so they, instead of calling me, automatically send me to a third party debt collection agency, even though we had paid the debt or thought so, (we're still trying to sort that out). So if I had been a delinquent customer, and if I had defaulted on payments, or not returned the equipment, they would have called.  When I asked Jamal if he understood why I found this process completely remarkable he just sort of said nothing.  When I asked how the third party company operates he said,  "I don't know their process,"  "they're a third party company". When I pointed out that I would expect any company that hired a third party company to work for them, to understand their process and how they were going to represent them, he agreed they should.  

I decided to email TWC CEO Glenn Britt directly, here is what I wrote...


Please take five minutes and read this blog post.  I have perpetually asked the questions contained in the blog and when not ignored, the answers to some are unbelievable.

I would love to hear your thoughts on your companies practices.

With best regards,


Will advise as to any reply.  $100 on a customer service person responding.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


No not me!  Arrested Development, on Netflix, I'm crying Uncle and subscribing!

Why?  Well I used to be a Netflix subscriber and to be honest found the online selection poor.  So I cancelled, and no number of begging emails from them, (forget trying to stop them emailing you, it's relentless), offering free months, first born children, swiss bank accounts would get me back to the service.  I have been happily living with Apple TV for online movies at $4 a rental.  On average we might watch two Apple TV movies a month so it's net net.

Then Netflix then did something really clever, they announced that they had secured the entire cast of Arrested Development to do a new series! Then they had to go away and write, produce and deliver that service so it got filed in the back of my mind.

On the heels of that announcement Netflix produced House Of Cards, starring Kevin Spacey, Robin Wright, Kristin Connelly & Kate Mara. WOW that's some firepower and at $3mm an episode, it must have took balls of brass to green light, but apparently you can hear Reed Hastings clanging as he walks the halls of Netflix.  Not only was it a bold move, but praised by critics and audience alike.

Netflix just announced that it was striking a blow to Viacom's bottom line and allowing their license deal to end.  They might pick up a series here and there on an individual basis but no overall deal.  This is a loss of hundreds of millions of dollars to Viacom, and a lot of content to Netflix, so what's going on?

I think Reed has worked out the HBO model.  Fill 99% of your schedule with "B" list library movies, and swing for the fences with break out home grown shows like "Soprano's" and "Entourage".  As long as you maintain at least one must see show you keep your audience.

So, first House of Cards and now on Sunday, Arrested Development.  They are both masterful moves, but if he wants to really keep it going he has to have a large development pipeline and at least one Arrested Development ready to be released every quarter.  If they can do that, they really could become the HBO of the Internet, well in a way as they have already surpassed HBO's subscription numbers, they already have!

Well they got me, I'm in for the Arrested Development ride, and I'll also watch House of Cards, but what's next?  Can I lobby for Miami Vice?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Do you need a box?

Today Microsoft announced a new XBOX.  It's very nice, web connected, shiny new, makes cappuccino, (OK it doesn't), but my question you need a box?  Are we not at the stage that I go to a menu on my TV and select a game I want to play, subscribe to a cloud based games service, buy that game, play it live on the TV and when I get bored, (around the eighth hour), I can just switch over to TV.  CD ROMS have gone the way of the arc, DVD's have one foot in the grave and the other one slipping, games on CDR must be going the same way.

Will games remain platform unique, if you were a game producer, wouldn't you just make it available on the web and that captures everyone?  I don't think you need a box, drive it all from the cloud, make that game available on your TV, PC, Tablet and smart phone.

The new XBOX does have some cool features, Kinect of course, (but that can be built in a TV); 500 gigs of hard drive, (but that can be cloud driven); a snazzy controller, (should come standard with every new TV); built in SKYPE for conference call playing, (really? they shouldn't need SKYPE for that); voice control, (well that worked so well for Apple); online gaming driven by 300,000 servers, (my point exactly why do you need the box?). And as an added bonus, all your old XBOX games...wait for it...will NOT work on the new box!  hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm how to win friends and influence people Microsoft!

What you could do though is buy one, keep it in the box and wait for it's antique value to grow!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Tumblr the billion dollar company

First Instagram, now Tumblr? Over a billion dollars!!!!

On the face of it, deals like this seem crazy, overpriced and have all of the signs of an internet bubble.  The fact of the matter is, $1.1b for Tumblr is a good deal.

In the world of internet networks, there are two main valuations, revenue and audience. Obviously revenue isn't in play with Tumblr as it only does $12mm a year,  but it has a spectacular audience, most of whom are teens and young adults, interacting and engaged in their blogs.

What does this mean in the bigger picture, well a few observations:

1: Yahoo might eventually kill Tumblr by trying to impose strict revenue targets, (we've all seen this before and even thought they are saying the opposite will happen NOW, we've all seen what happens at the end of the honeymoon periods on deals like this).

2: Yahoo gains instant cred.

3: Melissa Mayer looks smart.  It's a big deal, but it's an incredibly clever and well positioned deal, bringing a new youthful audience to Yahoo.  When Randy Falco and Ron Brant went to AOL their first big acquisition was BEBO, a donkey that everyone had ridden and got off, and they dropped $800mm on it.  This turned out to be one of the most stupid deals in recent history. I think Tumblr is the opposite for Yahoo, it's a smart move and shows Mayer's deal chops.

4: Who sells?  Does Yahoo media sales take over sales at Tumblr? I hope not, buyers want to think that they have an independent line to Tumblr especially if they have built up strong relationships.  David Carp is famous for not wanting too much advertising on Tumblr and so if YMS takes over it could get ugly.

5: Does Tumblr loose cred? If your 18 and on Tumblr because it was the little train that can, loving the indie cred of your favorite blogging company, does being owned by Yahoo kill that, are you now blogging with the big purple "man"?

The thing that I love about Tumblr is that it's a real company. By that what I mean is it has been around for seven years, (in Kardashian years that's 300). It has maintained itself through a very difficult time in our economic history and over that time built an impressive dedicated audience.

So is the Tumblr deal worth $1.1b...yes it is, and kaaaaching to David and his folks! All cash, how did they pull that?