3 DAYS = 1 MILLION iPHONES!!

Apple: More Than 1M New-Model iPhones Sold

Associated Press

June 23, 2009 NEW YORK — Apple Inc. sold more than a million units of its latest iPhone model in the first three days, making it the most successful debut for a smart phone yet. The iPhone 3G S went on sale Friday in the U.S. and seven other countries.

When Apple Inc. launched the previous model last year, it also sold one million units in the first three days, but that model launched simultaneously in 22 countries.

Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster had expected the Cupertino, California, company to sell half a million 3G S in the first three days.

“Customers are voting and the iPhone is winning,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO.

It was the first time he was quoted in a company statement since he went on leave for unspecified medical reasons in January. The company has said that Jobs, who has battled pancreatic cancer, is returning to work at the end of the month.

The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday that Jobs had a liver transplant two months ago in Tennessee and that he will likely work part-time, at least initially. Apple has not commented on the report.

The launch of the iPhone 3G last year turned messy, as Apple and phone company servers failed to cope with the load of new customers trying to activate their phones.

That problem recurred Friday with the launch of the 3G S, but to a smaller extent. Some customers who tried to activate the phone at home got messages that the process could take 48 hours to complete.

Some customers got e-mails on Sunday promising a $30 credit at Apple’s iTunes store as compensation for the hassle.

Apple did not break down where the million units were sold. Dallas-based AT&T Inc. is the iPhone’s exclusive carrier in the United States and has said it sold hundreds of thousands of phones via pre-order.

The sales figures demonstrate that the iPhone’s cachet is intact, and even growing, despite reinvigorated competition.

Other manufacturers are putting out phones that mimic some of the iPhone’s signature features. In particular, the newly released Palm Inc.’s Pre, available exclusively for now through Sprint Nextel Corp., has generated a lot of buzz and favorable reviews.

The iPhone 3G S has a faster processor and a better camera than the 3G, among other differences. The 3G is still on sale, for $99. The 3G S costs $199 or $299 depending on the memory capacity.

A service of YellowBrix, Inc.

Changing Channels: 10 memorable web TV series

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arts-internet-tv-392.jpg Neil Patrick Harris stars in Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, which received 2.2 million views in its first week online. (Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog)

CHANGING CHANNELS: WHAT’S UP NEXT FOR TV
Reinventing television
10 memorable made-for-web TV series
By Greig Dymond, CBC News

This past March, a cluster of Hollywood celebrities headed to an awards show. Lisa Kudrow was there; so were Neil Patrick Harris and Joss Whedon. But this wasn’t the Oscars or the Emmys; they were attending the first-ever Streamys, a night devoted to honouring “outstanding achievement for shows produced originally for broadband distribution.” Does the world need a new awards ceremony? Probably not. But the birth of the Streamys is yet another sign that made-for-web television is gaining legitimacy.

Original episodic content created specifically for the internet has been around since at least 1995, with the debut of a dramatic series called The Spot. But over the last couple of years, production has exploded in the U.S.

“There are definitely thousands of shows,” says Liz Gannes, co-editor and founder of Newteevee.com, a San Francisco website devoted to the world of internet video. “Really, it’s with the arrival of these free and globally accessible platforms for distributing content that episodic web shows have taken off. Today, when you make your show, you can have it posted it online within a few hours. I remember [pre-YouTube] some videos used to be just passed around as an email attachment. So the ability to refer people to a link that they can access on nearly any computer just really increases the viral potential for these things, and therefore the audience.”

There’s an entire alternate TV universe online, with talk shows, comedy, drama, even reality programming; most episodes run between three and 10 minutes. Granted, the production values are wildly divergent — there’s a lot of amateurish web-geek material out there, but it’s relatively easy to find some quality product, too.

Web series aren’t ready to challenge traditional television just yet – and they’ll continue to lag far behind in viewership until TV manufacturers start marketing sets with internet connections – but many of them have devoted followings. High-profile actors, directors and producers are gravitating toward the medium in greater numbers, drawn to the creative freedom, lack of network interference and short turnaround times. Here are 10 episodic shows that have made their mark during the brief history of web television.

Lonelygirl15

Back in the Jurassic era of web series – a.k.a. the summer of 2006 – lonelygirl15 caused a media sensation. It all looked fairly unassuming: a 16-year-old named Bree just sitting in her bedroom, uploading earnest confessions onto her YouTube video blog. She’d talk about her strict parents and her nascent romance with a friend named Daniel. Thousands of viewers became addicted to her perky awkwardness, but many of them also started to suspect that the lighting looked a bit too professional, that her revelations seemed a bit too rehearsed. By that September, the ruse was over. It turned out that “Bree” was a 20-year-old actor named Jessica Rose, and the whole thing was scripted. Despite the sense of betrayal they felt, many audience members stuck with the program until it ended in 2008. Bree got caught up in an ornate religious conspiracy when a cult-like group called The Order went after her “trait positive” blood.

The acting certainly wasn’t Oscar-worthy; still, lonelygirl15 demonstrated the breakthrough potential for episodic storytelling on the web. If this format continues to evolve and grow in popularity, people might look back on this as a tipping point: internet video’s equivalent of Gunsmoke or I Love Lucy.

Fred

Lucas Cruikshank is a Nebraska teenager with a quirky talent – he can talk like a six-year-old who’s inhaled way too much helium. He’s parlayed that ability into superstar status on YouTube as Fred Figglehorn, a hyperactive brat who sounds like one of the Chipmunks. Each no-budget episode in this children’s series runs about three minutes, with Cruikshank/Figglehorn addressing the camera about a specific topic: Fred Loses His Meds, Fred On Father’s Day … you get the picture.

The show also looks as if it’s edited by a six-year-old with ADHD. Although the pacing is deeply unsettling for adults, kids are lapping it up: Cruikshank’s channel holds the record for most subscribers on YouTube (over one million) and the episode Fred Goes Swimming has accumulated over 27 million views.

You Suck at Photoshop

Produced by Troy Hitch and Matt Bledsoe for MyDamnChannel.com, this is an ingenious way to spin a narrative on the web. Hitch voices the character of Donnie Hoyle, an embittered, condescending Photoshop whiz who gives a series of online tutorials about the photo-altering software. The viewer never sees Hoyle; instead, we’re watching his cursor move around the computer screen while he dispenses hateful barbs about his wife, his boss and life in general. You Suck at Photoshop reinvents the comedy shtick of Don Rickles and Rodney Dangerfield for the digital age. Brilliant.

Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog

In some ways, this tongue-in-cheek musical feels like a lot of other online series. For example, the main character employs the familiar plot device of recording his thoughts on a video blog. But Dr. Horrible breaks the mould with superior production values, smarter-than-usual writing and spot-on performances. Neil Patrick Harris stars as a low-rent villain who aspires to join the Evil League of Evil. But his desire to wreak havoc gets in the way of his unrequited crush on the benevolent Penny (Felicia Day), a woman he met at the local laundromat. Dr. Horrible’s rival for her affections is a narcissistic superhero named Captain Hammer.

Shot in just six days, this was the brainchild of creator Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer). His massive following helped make the 42-minute opus a smash when it rolled out in three installments in the summer of 2008, garnering 2.2 million views over a five-day period. Whedon told TelevisionWeek, “It did teach me that there is this no man’s land between the YouTube videos and a TV series and independent movies, that is not bound by restrictions of budget or length or structure or genre.”

The Guild

Many web series feature internet-obsessed characters. Felicia Day (of Dr. Horrible fame) is the creator, writer and star of this clever show about six people who meet through an online role-playing game (clearly inspired by World of Warcraft). Day plays Cyd Sherman (game name: Codex), a self-doubting underachiever who spends six hours a day in the virtual world – avoiding her real-life responsibilities in the process. After Zaboo (played by Sandeep Parikh) misinterprets her online flirting, he shows up at Sherman’s house, expecting a relationship. The Guild is primarily a comedy that contains some dark observations about the difference between interacting with someone online and meeting them face-to-face. And talk about audience participation: the show’s first season was largely financed by besotted fans who made donations via PayPal.

Quarterlife

Back when it aired on MySpace and Quarterlife.com in the fall of 2007, this received more media hype than any previous web series, largely due to its pedigree. Co-creators Ed Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz had already struck gold with thirtysomething and My So-Called Life. Here, they were launching a show online – the first time producers with such an esteemed track record were seen to embrace this new format. Quarterlife is an earnest look at a group of twentysomethings living in the same apartment complex, a la Melrose Place (which feels like Chekhov compared to this tripe). The narrator, Dylan Krieger (played by Bitsie Tulloch), is a frustrated writer forced to work in a menial job at a women’s magazine because no one recognizes her alleged genius.

Once again, the show uses the main character’s video blog as a structural device, but her online ramblings betray so many personal details about her roommates you wonder how she manages to keep them as friends. Quarterlife became the first internet show to migrate to a major American network when it debuted on NBC in early 2008. But after getting dismal ratings, it was quickly cancelled.

Sanctuary

Shot in Vancouver, this sci-fi show developed a loyal following when eight webisodes – running a total of about two hours – aired on Sanctuaryforall.com in 2007. The series stars Amanda Tapping (Stargate: SG-1) as Dr. Helen Magnus, a researcher who protects strange creatures (beasts, a caveman, a mermaid) in a secret lab. (Oh, and there’s also some kind of portal to Victorian England.) Starting out as an internet-only venture was a conscious attempt by writer/creator Damian Kindler to connect with science fiction devotees where they live and breathe. TV networks took notice; a beefed-up version of Sanctuary now airs on the Sci Fi Channel in the U.S. and The Movie Network in Canada.

Between Two Ferns

Funny or Die is a humour video site that specializes in one-off comedy shorts like Will Ferrell’s The Landlord. But one of its gems is this five-episode “talk show” featuring a simple, fern-adorned set and an even simpler premise: comedian Zach Galifianakis is unbelievably rude to his celebrity guests. In the interview with Michael Cera in the first episode, Galifianakis pretends to snore, imitates the actor’s high-pitched voice and even plays the sound of a crowd booing on a tape recorder. Like dozens of web comedy series, it’s based on one joke. Still, there’s something liberating about seeing the fake hospitality of chat shows skewered in such a straightforward way.

Diggnation

Diggnation comes across as an internet-era version of the McKenzie Brothers’ epochal The Great White North: two guys sit together on a couch and consume plenty of beer. Hosts Alex Albrecht and Kevin Rose are ostensibly there to comment on the most popular news stories on the bookmarking site Digg, but they regularly veer off into discussions of jock itch and the hippie-ish inclinations of their camera guy. If you always dreamed of listening to two guys talk about tech toys while getting slightly sloshed, this is the show for you. Rose (a co-founder of Digg) and Albrecht have a significant (and largely male) fan base, and are often hailed as heroes whenever they take their San Francisco-based show on the road in front of a live audience. Web-savvy TV host Jimmy Fallon recently had them as guests on his new late night show.

The Shatner Project

He wasn’t asked to do a cameo in the new Star Trek movie, but William Shatner can take solace in winning a Streamy award for “Best Reality Web Series.” The Shatner Project takes a behind-the-scenes look at one of pop culture’s greatest self-promoters. You can hear his open-wound musings on that J.J. Abrams movie snub, reminiscences about previous roles and even his business degree at McGill University. Most of the interviews are conducted by his daughter Lisabeth, who’s softer on her dad than Pravda was on Brezhnev. Celebrities post this kind of video material all the time, but this site is unique because the egocentric Shatner is a loose cannon – pushing 80, he says whatever he wants to, with little regard for the niceties of Hollywood.

Greig Dymond writes about the arts for CBCNews.ca.

Another Move towards Mobile TV: Flo TV

by Gagan Biyani on June 10, 2009

audiovox-flo-tv-01TV on the go has been a reality for awhile. What with Verizon and Sprint offering their users streaming TV on their cell phones for more than a year. Today, though, a large third party player enters the fray: a Qualcomm subsidiary, FLO TV, has just announced that they are expanding their service nationwide. The launch date is slated to follow the DTV transition this Friday, June 12. (If you’re wondering what DTV is, you probably won’t care much for FLO TV, and you can read more about DTV here.

FLO TV will launch in 39 new markets, and offer “its service to an additional 60 million customers with a total reach of more than 100 major markets and more than 200 million potential consumers nationwide by the end of 2009.” This is great news for AT&T customers, always the last to get any sort of decent new technology on their phones (except the iPhone!). But, don’t rejoice yet – iPhone users; Apple isn’t allowing any streaming video applications on the App Store. Arrrgh. Doesn’t that make you want to break something?

A Problem of Volume

Mark Cuban on why Internet video has been so disappointing

Mark Cuban has a wide range of interests in the entertainment business. He owns basketball’s Dallas Mavericks and co-owns the Landmark Theatres chain and Magnolia Pictures. And he is the co-founder and chairman of HDNet, a cable network that provides high-definition news, movies and other entertainment.

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He also was a pioneer in online video, co-founding Broadcast.com, an early provider of streaming live music, sporting events and news. Outspoken on, well, just about everything, he famously called the Internet “dead and boring.” He spoke with Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher about high-definition video and its online counterparts. Here are edited excerpts of that discussion.

Not Stupid, Just Dead

MS. SWISHER:Let’s start by talking a little bit about Internet video, where you started off. How do you look at it? You write various things: The Internet is stupid.

MR. CUBAN:I just say dead, not stupid. I think it’s been a real disappointment to see in the last 10 years how far Internet video has come.

MS. SWISHER:Why is that?

MR. CUBAN:I have no idea.

MR. MOSSBERG:Because certainly there’s video everywhere on the Internet.

Asa Mathat

MR. CUBAN:If you have to pinpoint one thing, you’d have to say when Google bought YouTube. They didn’t get into it with a focus on monetizing it immediately. As a result, it just took off, and the message was ubiquity and volume. And if your focus is ubiquity and volume without an understanding of how you’re going to make money off of it, you don’t pay attention to all [the things that go into that].

MR. MOSSBERG:So instead of saying it’s dead, why doesn’t it occur to you that it’s an opportunity for you again?

MR. CUBAN:Because it’s like fighting Microsoft. YouTube has gotten so big that you’re not a standard unless YouTube adopts you. And that’s a big fight.

Back in Broadcast.com days, we used to say there are no hits, because there’s such enormous fragmentation of media that it’s expensive to get anything to stand out.

It’s ten zillion times worse today than it was back then. So unless you think you can create a platform that out-aggregates YouTube, it’s going to be very difficult. Now Hulu’s done some great things, and they’re focused on monetization, and I think they’ll very quickly get to the point where they’ll be setting the commercialization standards. But they’ve got some big pockets that they have to appease and it’s going to be tough to create the balance there.

MS. SWISHER:Do you imagine there could be hits [online]?

MR. CUBAN:No.

MS. SWISHER:It’s not possible because what?

MR. CUBAN:There are hits, but they’re one-off hits. On the Internet, there are an unlimited number of competitors. Anybody with a Flip camera is your competition.

What makes it even worse is that YouTube is willing to subsidize the cost of your bandwidth. So anybody can create and distribute for free basically, but the real cost is marketing. And that’s always the big cost—how do you stand out and what’s the cost of standing out? And there’s no limit to that cost.

The Net as a Testing Ground

MR. MOSSBERG:Do you watch any Internet video at all?

MR. CUBAN:I go to “Funny or Die” [a comedy video Web site]. We’re doing a show with Svetlana, the Russian Whore and Ambassador, that we’re going to convert to HDNet.

MR. MOSSBERG:It’s a reality show?

MR. CUBAN:No, it’s not a reality show. It’s a scripted show.

MR. MOSSBERG:You’re putting that on HDNet?

MR. CUBAN:Right. That’s what video for the Internet has become. It’s become a testing ground for mediums that actually have revenue.

Where TV Is Going

MR. MOSSBERG:There’s been a big search for merging the television set and the Internet, and now for the first time some of the big TV guys are bringing out beautiful HD sets that have routers in them. Yahoo has done a reasonably nice job with this widget thing. How can that take off?

MR. CUBAN:Being able to take a traditional cable-television subscriber and give them new widget type applications to me is huge. Not only do I think there’s a need for it now and there are unique application opportunities, but (a) people aren’t looking there and (b) that’s really where the bandwidth is.

MS. SWISHER:Where do you imagine television going right now?

MR. CUBAN: We can’t ever forget that the Internet now is just a staid utility. The exciting platforms are software applications that are very, very simple.

That’s where we are in the Net. It’s evolutionary applications, not revolutionary applications.

We’re moving those applications to new platforms, mobile platforms, TVs, which allows us to interact with them far differently than we ever have, and it’s life-changing.

MR. MOSSBERG: So the excitement has moved to the mobile platform. You’re saying TV can be in the same space.

MR. CUBAN: Right, because now a social network in front of your TV using Tru2Way [a technology for delivering interactive services over cable networks] on your Verizon or Time-Warner or whatever it may be, now you’ve got four people sitting there and you can create different types of applications with multiple people sitting there. There’s more bandwidth to create new types of applications.

Make-or-Break Time for Online Video Players


Online video was scarcely discussed during the recent round of TV upfront presentations. But the 2009 upfront season is shaping up to be make-or-break time for the crowded lineup of pure digital video purveyors, said industry insiders, as many look to aggressively court advertisers during this traditional time of heavy video spending.

The next few weeks will be key. On June 3, Digitas will host its second annual NewFront event in New York, headlined by former U.S. Vice President and Current TV co-founder Al Gore. And on June 9 the digital content trade pub Tilzy.TV will host Onfront NYC. Both events gather a mix of original Web video producers, aggregators and networks—the Crackles, Next New Networks, Revision3s and BBEs of the world—to showcase their offerings to advertisers.

There ought to be optimism in this space as Magna Global recently forecast that spending on online video ads would surge by 32 percent in 2009 to $699 million. However, Magna and other analysts anticipate that the majority of those dollars will go toward professional TV content on the Web. “It’s a very, very tough marketplace for [independent] producers,” said Jamison Tilsner, co-founder of Tilzy.TV. “Now is crucial for them to develop a business model.” Tilsner said the fledgling market—particularly original, Web-only series—continues to be challenged by poor metrics and a lack of breakout hits, and that agencies are still adapting to buying this sort of content.

Jordan Bitterman, senior vp, media, marketing, content at Digitas, who’s organizing this week’s NewFront, agreed the market for online video hasn’t materialized as quickly as many had expected a year ago, and he wants to use the event to explore why. “We feel there is an opportunity to get a large number of clients thinking about the digital content space,” he said.
“We want to lay some context down and ask tough questions such as, ‘Why hasn’t it reached critical mass like we thought it would?’ The medium has lots of benefits that broadcast doesn’t have. But let’s face it, it hasn’t exploded.”

Bitterman said he knows full well Web video won’t steal away a huge chunk of broadcast upfront dollars. But the timing is right to capture brands when they are thinking both about content and budgets, and the plan is for the NewFront to serve as facilitator. “We are thinking about this as a marketplace, and we’re trying to match up clients with content creators… Hopefully we’ll see some packages come together.”

Jordan Levin, CEO of Generate, who will attend both events and deliver a keynote at Onfront, sees the situation as somewhat dire for many pure Web video companies. He fears that given the state of the economy, many clients will stick with TV. “In anxious times, people inevitably retreat toward security,” he said. “This will be a reminder that institutions and people are resistant to change.”

That’s why he’s approaching the events with a sense of urgency. “Nobody’s asking marketers to risk their jobs,” he argued, “but the case can be made to invest in nurturing original content now. Otherwise the segment is going to devolve into a small set of players.”

Most buyers do expect a shakeout in online video, which grew quickly and created an inventory glut. “There are too many of these companies to hold individual meetings with,” noted Margaret Clerkin, CEO, North America, MindShare Interaction. “It’s an efficiency driver to do all this in one place.”

Still, Clerkin remains particularly bullish on opportunities for brands to integrate ads within Web series from conception. “Bad economy or good economy, clients are very interested in that,” she added.

But as dozens of Web video entrants struggle to break out, what about the two biggest players in online video? Andrea Kerr Redniss, senior vp, managing director, Optimedia, said that while YouTube “is not really going after TV dollars…Hulu’s been out in full force.”

Meanwhile, despite Hulu’s recent growth and aggressiveness in the marketplace, Redniss said that its broadcast parents NBC, Fox and now ABC hardly mentioned Hulu during their upfronts. “They sort of flew over the Hulu thing,” she said. “They are excited about it and distancing themselves from it at the same time.” In fact, each network has the option to purchase back up to 20 percent of its Hulu inventory to sell, but they seldom if ever do, said Redniss.

Regardless, buyers say there is little pressure to lock up deals in online video at the moment, even for top TV content. Said Redniss: “Despite talk of tight inventory, you can always go out in the market with a few million dollars and get great video and good rates. And clients want flexibility more than anything in this market.”