On Sunday 18th March 2018 a 49 year old woman in Arizona was killed by an autonomous Uber car, which struck her as she pushed her bicycle along the roadside. The death was blamed on defective software. Two years prior to this, the first of multiple Tesla driver deaths occurred. There is significant evidence
The entrepreneurs behind the imaginatively-named NewTV, Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman, will be feeling encouraged by their recent round of investment having closed at $1bn. The service promises entertainment providers an avenue onto the world’s billions of smartphones, being specifically designed for mobile use with short-form series of 10-minute episodes. And it seems they have Hollywood and Wall Street convinced, according to Variety:
“Backers include a who’s who of Hollywood studios: Disney, 21st Century Fox, NBCUniversal, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Viacom, AT&T’s WarnerMedia (formerly Time Warner Inc.), Lionsgate, MGM, ITV and Entertainment One. Tech investors include Chinese internet giant Alibaba Group; strategic investors include VC firm Madrone Capital Partners, which led the round, along with Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase & Co. and John Malone’s Liberty Global. The funding officially closed July 31.”
Encouraging, sure. But will it really be enough for to penetrate an already saturated market where similar offerings have since failed? Securing $1 billion from such famous brands is no mean feat but
If you’re not a fan of Drake… well, bad luck, because you can’t get away from him. In an overly-zealous attempt to promote his new album, Scorpion, Spotify chose to include Drake in every single one of its discover playlists over the launch period. This sparked a backlash from music fans, the likes of which haven’t been seen since iTunes snuck a copy of U2’s Songs of Innocence into its users libraries, with Spotify users demanding refunds for the sudden omnipresence of Drake in their lives.
As the BBC pointed out, Spotify’s promotion of Scorpion was undeniably over-egged, with songs from the Canadian-born musician appearing on playlists titled ‘Best of British’ and every genre known to man. As a result some subscribers to the paid-for Spotify Premium, which boasts a lack of ads as a feature, considered that they were being served advertisements for a single artist with the relentlessness of the T-1000.
While the controversy is perhaps overblown – unlike the Songs of Innocence debacle, which necessitated bespoke software to be developed to remove the album from users’ libraries – it actually reveals quite a lot about Spotify’s business model and, in turn, the business models of the artists whose oeuvre appears on the platform.
The outgoing President of the CBI has caused a small storm by saying that parts of British industry could become “extinct” unless a proper Brexit deal – including membership of the customs union, the CBI’s preferred approach – is negotiated.
This has attracted the usual binary comments in the media: the ‘we told you so’ from the Remain camp, and the tedious charges of treason from Leave supporters.
But Paul Drechsler’s interview was actually quite nuanced. There was very little that people of either viewpoint could disagree with: he contended that the debates had been ruled by politics rather than economics; that the uncertainty in government was having a knock-on effect to business, making it difficult to make investment decisions; and that the UK’s economy is growing slower than most of its competitors as a result.
These are pretty much incontestable observations. Growth in the British economy is
With PlayStation and Nintendo holding most of the cards when it comes to popular video game exclusives, people have not only been questioning the worth of owning an Xbox, but whether there was any point in Microsoft making another one. So, all eyes were on Microsoft’s E3 conference last night. Some considered it a do or die
By now we’ve all breathed a sigh of relief at the recent news that movie mogul and serial molester, Harvey Weinstein, has been arrested… and recovered from the disappointment of learning he was promptly released on a bail charge. We’ll also have heard about Benjamin Brafman’s legal defence: his client, he insists, ‘didn’t invent the casting couch.’ Hardly a perceptive observation. The concept of the casting couch is as old as Hollywood itself. But every industry is implicated in this post-Weinstein reckoning, as the viral hashtags #Timesup and #MeToo have demonstrated. We simply cannot
We have long argued that the games industry should be treated as seriously as those other pillars of the entertainment business, film and music. Government seems to be getting the message, and – as we reported last month – the figures certainly stack up.
But perhaps the BBC is still struggling with the idea of games as a grown-up industry in its own right. When the industry does get coverage (on the Today show, for example), the presenters are typically as well informed as, say, a US senator facing a Facebook Chief Executive.
And then there was last week’s broadcast of the BAFTA Games Awards ceremony. If there is one thing
Last week it was reported that Rupert Murdoch, as part of his attempt to buy 100% of Sky, may attempt to sell Sky News to Disney in order to keep regulators happy. It has subsequently emerged that Disney may have to bid for the entirety of Sky if the Competition and Markets Authority quashes Murdoch’s bid. While the debate in this country has focused predominantly on Murdoch’s endgame, relatively little attention has been paid to what Disney would be looking to gain here.
Disney’s ambitions highlight several trends within the wider TV sector; they appear to be realising the hitherto missed tricks of traditional broadcasters when staving off the ‘threat’ of SVOD providers such as Netflix and Amazon. And they have plenty of reason to do so.
During the first quarter of this year, FierceCable reported, “Disney’s media networks operating income fell 12% to $1.2 billion due to sagging performance by Hulu [reported as equity], A+E and the broadcasting segment.” Pay-TV has generally found itself lagging behind
Modern media, to some extent, is just a series of stunts and marketing materials.
News publishers have to compete with digital outlets who, by nature of the race to scale, sell their content with hyperbole and screaming rhetoric of the sort we used to call ‘clickbait’. Even BuzzFeed, whose news wing is consistently breaking some of the biggest stories of any given week, used to indulge in this.
Consequently even the legacy publishers find themselves dragged further towards that hysterical drive to be noticed. Take The Atlantic, the US-based publication whose work and business model other publishers look upon with envy. Last month, it appointed the arch-conservative columnist Kevin Williamson, as a stunt intended to broaden its appeal, though it was dressed up as an attempt to provide balanced coverage. Unsurprisingly,
Earlier this year The Stage reported on an arts council report which stated “BAME and disabled staff still ‘significantly underrepresented’ in theatre.” In 2016 The Guardian reported on another arts council report with the headline ‘Number of BAME arts workers must improve.’
So why is this still a problem?
Theatre has a history of pushing boundaries and opening doors. Broadway’s hit musical Hamilton casts black, rapping performers into the role of one of America’s founding fathers, the white Alexander Hamilton. Graeae Theatre Company champion the inclusion
In a recent blog, we looked at the threat Brexit represents to the future of the UK creative industries, focusing mainly on the games industry – and for a very good reason: the UK games retail market is now a £3.35bn industry, its sales now almost equal to that of home sales for music and video combined.
But this blog perhaps missed the wider, refreshingly positive story about the state of the entertainment market as a whole. For many years, reports have suggested
Last week, it was reported that there are more unfilled job vacancies than ever before in the British economy. As of November 2017, there were 810,000 unfilled vacancies in the UK – an increase of 60,000 on the previous year.
For all employers, that deserves a moment of reflection. But for employers of highly skilled workers, such as programmers, the current situation threatens to become a crisis as uncertainty over the direction of Brexit creeps in.
The challenge of attracting talent to the UK is underlined by the latest Global Talent Competitiveness Index (GTCI), which shows the UK has dropped from 3rd place in 2017, to 8th place this year. The rumours and uncertainty surrounding our future relationship with the European union are evidently making the UK a less attractive place to work.
Viagogo’s decision this week to snub the culture committee’s hearing into secondary ticketing was misguided and likely to imperil efforts at self-regulation.
The secondary ticketing market, which includes online marketplace sites like Viagogo and GetMeIn!, is worth an estimated $8bn a year.
While useful to genuine fans, these sites also make it very easy for touts to sell tickets at hugely inflated prices – and that, in part, is one of reasons why the committee was keen to take a look at the industry.
In my last blog on gaming consoles, I asked whether anyone would be brave enough to launch a new Nintendo magazine in light of the projected success of the Nintendo Switch console. Well, it turns out they have been…
Just days after I wrote that piece, SwitchPlayer magazine received a limited release after funds were raise for its launch through crowdsourcing platform Patreon.
Since the release of its Game and Watch in 1980, Nintendo has dominated the handheld console market. The Game Boy and Nintendo DS are remembered fondly by people who played them in their youth while latest Nintendo 3DS had sold around 60m units by June 2016.
What’s more, a national survey in the 1990s found that Nintendo’s character, Mario, was ‘more recognizable to American children than Mickey Mouse’.
When it comes to home consoles, however, it’s a different story.
The media industry is still too white.
Back in 2001, Greg Dyke said that the BBC was ‘hideously white’ . That was fifteen years ago and was indicative of our industry at that time.
The issue of race and gender diversity in the workplace is not a new one, yet it is still one that needs to be discussed because little is changing and it’s not changing quickly enough.
Earlier this year, the overall value of the UK games market ‘soared’ past £4.1bn for the first time – so we are overdue a look at how publishers and developers achieve growth in the face of a prosperous secondary games market.
For the uninitiated, the secondary market covers the resale of second-hand games and trade-in (often for store credit). Retailers including Amazon, GAME, and HMV re-sell and, historically, this has been considered to the detriment of developers and publishers.
Predictable scorn has been poured on the choice of Bob Dylan as this year’s winner of the Nobel prize laureate for literature.
One high-profile critic of the decision was writer Irving Welsh (a Dylan fan). He said he considered it an ‘ill conceived nostalgia award’ for someone whose best work is long behind them. Really? Doris Lessing and Harold Pinter, the most recent British winners, both won many decades after their masterworks. Like Dylan, both had continued to plough their own idiosyncratic furrows, but their major works were behind them by the time they were recognised.
The general tenor of the debate around the move of The Great British Bake Off from BBC to Channel 4 is that it is a travesty, equivalent to Love Productions selling the Crown Jewels. Bizarrely, even former Channel 4 CEO (and ex-BBC Chairman) Michael Grade has lambasted C4’s behaviour and warned that it was likely to hasten full privatisation.
As the prospect of C4’s privatisation has been on the cards for at least ten years, this seems a red herring. Surely, if it is going to be sold off, it needs to be commercially strong, and so the question should be: does buying Bake Off make commercial sense?
HFootball continues to blaze a trail in the world of unbelievable employment practices.
It’s a world where those seen as failures by many fans continue to get plum jobs, where a manager who has never won any significant silverware can become England boss, and where players are bought and sold with valuations that absolutely defy logic.
Here’s an example: today, Manchester United announced that Paul Pogba would be joining them. They are spending £89m on a player who left them for £800,000 only four years ago. In any other industry, this would be insane; but Man U are not alone. My club, Chelsea, seems keen to pay £60m for Lukaku, a player they sold for £28m only two years ago. And they have history here: in 1997 they bought Graeme LeSaux for £5m, having sold him for £700,000 a few years earlier. In 2015, Chelsea paid £23m for Matic, a player they had swapped four years earlier for a valuation of £3m.
The whole thing is indicative of a Premiership micro-economy which has no relationship with the wider travails of the last eight years. Average wages in the UK have increased from around £15,000 to £25,000 (a 67% increase) since 2000, with inflation pretty much in line. The average salary of first team players in the Premier League has gone from £410,000 in 2,000 to around £2m per year (with bonuses) in 2014/15– an increase of over 400%.
In less than a month since launch, Pokémon Go, the location-based, augmented reality game for mobiles, has become a phenomenon and a record breaker.
It’s the fastest game to ever top the App Store and GooglePlay. In its first week became the most downloaded app of all time, and it’s also become the most actively played mobile game in the US ever.
In under four weeks, the game has been made available in 35 countries and has more than doubled the share value of Nintendo, which made the original Pokémon game in the 1990s, to $42bn.
That’s incredible, not only for the sheer escalation, but because Nintendo doesn’t even produce the new game. It’s made by Niantic, of which Nintendo owns a share and from which it receives a licensing fee.
2016 marks twenty years since I became a headhunter. While that makes me feel incredibly old, it has been a fascinating time to be an observer of the media landscape across the UK and beyond.
When I first started, the internet existed, but was a hard-to-use and limited resource with dial-up access. Email also existed, but not in my office (we relied on faxes). Things were changing, yes; but no-one had really grasped the magnitude of what was about to happen.
If you really want to know how much the media world has changed in the intervening years, imagine saying this back in 1996:
Social media may have brought a wholly new way for brands to engage with consumers – but in an digital environment where attention spans are short and content is abundant, how do you stand out and make an instant connection?
Shira Feuer, head of social media EMEA for The Walt Disney Company, told The Economist’s Big Rethink conference the proposition was simple – to get attention, brands need to create something that is of value to the consumer.
But how does a brand define what is valuable? How does it know what consumers want to connect with across social media?
Thanks to staggered release schedules, we’ve been robbed of a good old-fashioned console war for several years now. But, with Microsoft and Sony launching the Xbox One and Playstation 4 within a few weeks of each other in November, the tail end of 2013 once again presented the opportunity to put the devices back to back. So, which of these two consoles won Christmas?
An unnamed Kotaku source caused a flutter of excitement yesterday by claiming that the PS4 is expected to launch around Christmas 2013, and is codenamed Orbis. While doubts persist as to the veracity of these claims, it’s believed that “select developers” have already received development kits for the new console. It can only be good news for developer and media jobs in the long run.
Apparently, the Orbis won’t be backwards compatible with PS3 games, potentially disappointing millions of gamers. But most intriguing is the news that the PS4 will have some kind of functionality built in that will prevent the use of pre-used disc games – locking a particular disc to a single PSN account.
At the very least it will severely limit the functionality of second-hand games. As an anti-piracy measure you can see their thinking, particularly as full retail games will be available in download-only format. But as someone who grew up eagerly borrowing and lending cartridges in the playground, it’s hard not to feel like something’s being lost here. Regardless of the truth or otherwise of yesterday’s rumours, expect something spectacular.
A day before the RTS awards, it’s good to see the government heavily trailing tax breaks for British TV productions in this week’s budget. Obviously, this is not yet policy; we wait to see how this will pan out on Wednesday. Nonetheless, an article in the Guardian today illustrated the huge impact these – relatively inexpensive – tax breaks can have on the industry. They can, for example, be great for media jobs creation.
Downton Abbey was, of course, a huge success. While it did not
The other day I wrote that “’does this have a robust text inputting interface and lengthy battery life?” is increasingly less of a concern for many consumers than “can I play Angry Birds on this?” Clearly Samsung feel the same way, having twigged that “can I get loads of extra levels of Angry Birds for free on this?” is an even bigger draw.
Not long after I posted yesterday’s entry on the importance of content to mobile OS’s, my attention was drawn to this post from Zombieville developer Mika Mobile. Essentially, the company has decided that it isn’t making enough from Android downloads to merit the time it takes to keep them updated, and is pulling out of Android development altogether:
“We spent about 20% of our total man-hours last year dealing with Android