The UpStream (Page 138)

Rovio to Produce Angry Birds Movie, TV Show

posted Sunday Mar 22, 2015 by Nicholas DiMeo

Rovio to Produce Angry Birds Movie, TV Show

Ever get so saturated with a brand or a concept that you never want to see it again, and then a movie comes out about it? Good news: this is exactly what's going to happen with Angry Birds as Rovio tries to revive the franchise and bring in more sales with its name.

The Finnish game studio will be heading up a 3D movie to bring more awareness to the Angry Birds brand, as if we don't already know about it. The company did report a 73 percent decline in profits recently though, which make have lead to this decision. Rovio attests this loss to a lack of merchandising sales and a drop in licensing deals.

Total sales this year have been down 9 percent at $169 million, however mobile revenue is up 16 percent to almost $120 million. The company also saw a loss in operating profit of $12 million. With competition in the market from big players like Disney Infinity, Skylanders and Nintendo's amiibo, virtual games have started to win out over quick-hit mobile titles by adding in the physical touch to an otherwise digital product.

This move into TV is definitely placing Rovio into an entertainment empire over just being a game company who licenses merchandise. The film is estimated to cost around $80 million, and part of the marketing costs will be paid by Sony Entertainment. It's said that the marketing budget will exceed the actual production budget for the movie. On top of the 3D movie, a TV series is being worked on simultaneously.

The movie sales may be the jump Rovio needs in order to figure out where the company needs to focus. Looking at the past two years, the studio has failed to quickly adapt to the market, and still charges for some of its Angry Birds titles, where the norm lately has been around free-to-enter games with paid content inside of it (no matter how much I dislike the idea, save for one). If the movie does well, the public will have more demand in games, and in turn, Rovio will have to create something new to satiate the consumers who just left the movie theaters. If they're smart, they launch a game based around the movie and include a free download link with your paid movie ticket. Just so it's on record, if they do this, I expect to see royalties for the idea.

Sony Posts Third Quarter Net Profit

posted Sunday Mar 22, 2015 by Nicholas DiMeo

Sony Posts Third Quarter Net Profit

For the past few years, we've covered the majority of Sony's downfalls and losses. That's not even counting the massive data breaches and the PSN attack. So it's only appropriate that we also report the good news, like we did last month. This week adds to the rare occurrence of a Sony positive, where the company actually posted a profit.

Sony announced this week that it made $1.5 billion in profit for its third quarter, which is up 2.2 percent from its original estimate and is definitely a sign of the company finally turning the ship in the right direction. The report attributes the success to several heavy cost-cutting measures, as well as strong sales in sensors and in the PlayStation brand. This is also better than the previous year, as Sony doubled its profits this year against last.

For Sony Pictures, the division that was the target of a quarter-billion dollar budget cut that included two movies, as well as the same division that fell victim to the #GOP attack, the studio saw some light at the end of this arduous tunnel. Revenue was up 6.5 percent from last year, which is just slightly over their predictions and estimates for the quarter.

Outlook for the year, however, has not changed, as Sony still predicts an annual loss. The good news is that shares have risen more than 30 percent based off the good news and off the heels on the huge budget cuts the company has done. But despite the cuts to bring profit to the quarter, the story here is that Sony put up a profit for a quarter and is continuing a promising, yet painstakingly slow path to recovery. The PlayStation brand still remains strong and we're seeing changes in divisions that haven't been close to breaking even for some time.

Jay-Z Acquires Controlling Stake in High-Quality Music-Streaming Company

posted Sunday Mar 22, 2015 by Nicholas DiMeo

Hip-hop and business mogul Jay-Z has been known to put his heavily-wealthy hands into a lot of different types of endeavors. He owns clubs, fitness centers, a sports management team and even a basketball team. But now, Mr. Carter had looked towards a music service company that is poised to rival Spotify.

Jay-Z has placed a $56 million bid in order to buy a controlling stake in Swedish technology company Aspiro. Aspiro might be best recognized in the United States for its two streaming companies, WiMP and Tidal. The offer was made in January underneath Project Panther Bidco, a holding entity that he owns. The offer to acquire was made in January, with shareholders having until this week to approve, and over 90 percent approved of the deal.

The important acquisition for Jay-Z is Tidal, which is a high-fidelity music-streaming service. It's not only made for the audiophile, but is made for anyone who has a nice set of headphones or other top audio equipment. Most recently, Jay-Z has been involved in production work for musical scores and soundtracks, so his interest in a platform that can offer higher-quality audio files is certainly justifiable. Not only does Tidal serve up better quality music, but WiMP also offers up a high-definition subscription package. 20,000 of its 512,000 paying customers have signed up for the premium service.

A spokesperson for Project Panther finalized the deal in a statement.

All conditions for completion of the offer have been fulfilled, and the offer is therefore declared unconditional. Accordingly, Panther will complete the acquisition of the shares tendered in the offer.

Aspiro will also be removed from the Nasdaq Stockholm. Jay-Z added to the announcement by saying, "Panther's strategic ambition revolves around global expansion and upscaling of Aspiro's platform, technology and services." Beyond that, Mr. Carter has not mentioned his plans for Aspiro. WiMP and Tidal moving forward.

In the end, more and more consumers are seeking higher-quality audio files for their higher-quality headphones, and many want to take that music on the go. Those files, however, take up a lot more space, allowing less music to be carried with you. Cue the latest entrance of applications like Tidal, Deezer and Pono.

Snoop Dogg and HBO to Produce Family Drama

posted Saturday Mar 21, 2015 by Scott Ertz

Snoop Dogg and HBO to Produce Family Drama

When you hear Snoop Dogg's name, there is never any telling what he might be attached to. While being most famous for his mega career in music, he has worked on a series of children's books, recently appeared on the season finale of Empire and even killed it at Comedy Central Roasts. Coming off his appearance on Fox, Snoop and HBO have announced a partnership to bring a new series to the network.

Little is known about the series, but here is what we do know. It will be a family drama based in 1980s Los Angeles and will follow a family "whose seemingly idyllic life is turned upside down by the collision of their community and American politics." Snoop is currently listed as Executive Producer, but it is unlikely that a series executive produced by Snoop could go on the air without a theme song written and produced by the artist.

The series will be penned by The Boondocks writer Rodney Barnes and directed by The Book of Eli director Allen Hughes. The timing of this announcement seems perfect, with HBO Now set to premiere next month, allowing a new group of consumers to access HBO's content. It is also a perfect pairing, considering Snoop's love for the network's Game of Thrones, even writing a song for a show-inspired mixtape.

We do not currently know a premiere date for Snoop's show, but if it has only just been announced, it is likely we won't see it before 2016.

The FTC Accidentally Reveals Distrust of Google

posted Saturday Mar 21, 2015 by Scott Ertz

The FTC Accidentally Reveals Distrust of Google

In early 2012, it was pretty clear that the Federal Trade Commission was preparing for a lawsuit against Google for anticompetitive practices through its search engine. There had been over a year of investigation that was leading the organization to believe that Google had misused its search dominance in ways that directly harmed consumers. In November of that year, after 17 months of investigation, a small excerpt of a memo leaked that recommended the lawsuit to the commission.

Two months later, in January of 2013, after 19 months of investigation, the FTC decided not to charge Google with anti-competitive practices, despite the information contained in the leaked memo. The change of heart came about with the commissioners after Google agreed to make some changes to their search content, including no longer stealing content from Yelp and presenting it as their own. Part of the end of the investigation was that the original recommendation was to be kept private.

This week, as part of a Freedom of Information Act request from The Wall Street Journal, the FTC accidentally released the rumored document along with the other information requested. As it turns out, the recommendation was 160 pages of information, all leading to the conclusion that the suit against Google should be filed. It said that Google's practices could cause "real harm to consumers and to innovation in the online search and advertising markets."

While the document paints a very clear picture of the FTC's beliefs, it is clear that something very drastic must have happened to cause a complete change of plans. Google has a very different idea of what transpired, however. Kent Walker, Google general counsel, said,

After an exhaustive 19-month review, covering nine million pages of documents and many hours of testimony, the FTC staff and all five FTC Commissioners agreed that there was no need to take action on how we rank and display search results.

So, according to Walker, in a 60 day period the staff of the Federal Trade Commission went from writing a 160-page recommendation for an antitrust suit against Google to being unanimously against that action, and there is absolutely nothing suspect about that move. Referencing Yelp, who was specifically called out for concern in the report, Walker said,

For example, Yelp calls itself the 'de facto local search engine' and has seen revenue growth of over 350% in the last 4 years.

Interestingly, 4 years is almost exactly the amount of time since Google shut down their Yelp theft practice. It certainly makes sense that Yelp's revenue would be up greatly since Google stopped stealing their content wholesale and presenting it as their own.

It is unlikely that we will ever know exactly what transpired in that 60 day period between Google and the FTC, but it is pretty clear from this document that whatever it was, it was major.

Nintendo Forms Partnership for Mobile Games

posted Saturday Mar 21, 2015 by Scott Ertz

Nintendo Forms Partnership for Mobile Games

When Nintendo released their Nintendo DS handset in 2004, the smartphone and tablet markets represented a small enough portion of the overall mobile market that participating in it would have been insane for the company. In fact, ignoring that product segment did well for them, selling over 154 million units of the DS family. Today, however, mobile is a different space and smartphone and tablet gaming is challenging the 3DS family in a major way.

Over the past few years, Nintendo has seen profit losses for the first time in its history. A lot of this has to do with the company's handling of portable gaming in an increasingly smartphone-toting world. After over a year of looking into mobile gaming, Nintendo has officially taken the plunge through a partnership with DeNA.

Rather than trying a straight-forward partnership where DeNA would license Nintendo's characters and produce games based on them for mobile, Nintendo and DeNA will share development responsibilities, product ownership and revenue. This is a change of pace for Nintendo, whose previous partnerships have turned out some real garbage. After being burned so bad in the past, the company has understandably kept its intellectual property close. This is the second major change to the company's licensing policy, starting with a Netflix-produced, live-action Zelda series.

DeNA West CEO Shintaro Asako talked about the excitement behind this news with GamesBeat, saying,

Mobile gaming is our core business, and we definitely wanted to be the No. 1 mobile gaming company in the world - we've wanted to be a dominant player. We were originally focused on the feature phone space and then shifted over to smart phones, and now (we have) a lot of initiative in both the domestic and international markets. But we really want to be leading player.

It is important to note that this deal will only result in new titles - we will not see any ports of existing titles to the mobile platform. The mobile gaming service, however, will be tied to a membership service, which will be available on multiple platforms, including modern and future Nintendo hardware. This is similar to how Xbox Live works, providing content and connectivity to Xbox 360, Xbox One, Windows Phone and Windows 10 devices.

It will certainly be interesting to see how this partnership pans out for Nintendo, and how good the games that come out of the DeNA studio could be.

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