Universal said to be in contract negotiations, wants Spotify to weaken free service
Universal Music Group (UMG) wants Spotify to add more limits to its free streaming service, according to reports. The record label is apparently having issues with the freemium music offering and its apparent lack of revenue, and hopes that restricting the number of listens for songs will push Spotify users to the more lucrative paid subscription service.
The official Gmail app gets iOS 8 update, but still needs more
Google has released an update to its universal iOS email app, Gmail 4.0, and it adds good new features that exploit iOS 8. The new features are welcome, and the app is a must-have update if you're a Gmail user.
Fassbender as Jobs, Rogen as Wozniak, Daniels as Sculley spotted
[Updated with October 9 release date] A few photos have emerged from the principle photography that is in progress for the Universal Studios biographical drama Steve Jobs, showing actors Michael Fassbender (as Jobs) and Seth Rogan (as Steve Wozniak), with another photo capturing actor Jeff Daniels portraying former Apple CEO John Sculley. The film, which saw numerous changes and drop-outs while still in pre-production, is filming in and around Cupertino.
Crew sets up garage where Apple Computer was born in 1976
The long-planned and long-awaited "official" biographical movie on Apple co-founder and former CEO Steve Jobs is finally underway, now in the hands of a different studio, director and star than was originally envisioned. Crews began setting up the former Jobs family home in Los Altos, California to shoot scenes in the famous garage where Apple was officially born on April 1, 1976. Originally developed by Sony, Universal Studios is now in charge of the production.
Would take on 'major' role
Actress Natalie Portman is in negotiations to join Universal's Steve Jobs biopic, according to Deadline. Who she might play is unmentioned, but the role is said to be a "major" one. Given Portman's age and the resemblance, that role is likely to be Lisa, Jobs' first daughter.
Project has seen original director, star, now studio drop out in pre-production
The Sony-backed Steve Jobs biographical movie, based in part on Walter Issacson's biography of the Apple co-founder, has proven to be nearly as mercurial as the reputation of its subject. In recent weeks, not one but two rumored stars of the project have dropped out, the original director was replaced with an Oscar-winning substitute, and now -- according to trade magazine Deadline -- Sony has put the film in "turnaround," offering it to sale to other studios, with Universal said to be making a play for it.
Keyboard works on iOS, Android, Windows, new wireless mice also on the way
Microsoft announced a slate of new accessories with wireless features today, one of which is ready for use with three of the major mobile operating systems. A universal keyboard, wireless mouse, Bluetooth mouse and a PC-ready Xbox One controller are expected to make their way to consumers, starting in the fall.
Company paying for band, Universal's marketing
Apple's giveaway of the latest U2 album cost it over $100 million, sources tell the New York Times. The company is said to have paid the band and its music label, Universal, a blanket royalty fee, and on top of that promised a marketing campaign worth up to $100 million. That includes a worldwide TV campaign, which kicked off with a commercial shown during Apple's livestream on Tuesday.
Theaters to use satellite, terrestrial service for digital film distribution
Five movie studios have signed an agreement with the Digital Cinema Distribution Coalition (DCDC) to distribute films through its satellite network. Disney, Warner Bros, Paramount, Universal, and Lionsgate will be using the network as a way to delivery movies and other content to theaters across North America.
Deal expected to complete with little interference by end of 1Q
Comcast has announced today that it is acquiring GE's 49 percent common equity share of the NBCUniversal joint venture. The deal, worth $16.7 billion -- plus $1.4 billion for 30 Rockefeller Plaza and the CNBC headquarters -- will be funded with $11.4 billion in cash, $4 billion of unsecured notes, $2 billion in new debt, and $725 million of stock issued to GE as terms of the agreement.
Agreement blocks Netflix from Universal content
HBO has signed a deal with Universal Studios that extends its exclusive rights to Universal Pictures' and Focus Features' films for another ten years. The extension prevents competing video-on-demand services such as Netflix from gaining access to content, keeping it on HBO's TV, mobile, and online services until the year 2022.
Apple terms leaving record labels 'cold'
Apple is nowhere close to completing a deal with the major record labels for a music streaming service, say music industry sources contacted by CNET. The people say that the terms Apple has been offering for the service, nicknamed "iRadio," have left the labels -- Sony, Warner, and Universal -- unsatisfied. It's believed that even if one side or the other changes its position, it could take a long time to complete agreements.
European Commission approves Universal/EMI deal but requires concessions
The European Commission approved Universal Music's takeover of EMI Music, though it required some concessions. Universal agreed to divest nearly one third of EMI assets, including its Parlophone flagship music label in Europe. There are other stipulations, such as agreeing to a set of market controls that dictate how Universal handles contracts with digital music services.
Lovefilm to stream Universal Pictures films in the UK
Lovefilm has signed a multi-year agreement with NBC Universal to stream Universal Pictures films to its Lovefilm Instant users. The addition of Universal extends the roster of films that currently includes movies from Disney, Sony Pictures, Warner Bros, Entertainment One, and Studio Canal. The streaming agreement would help the Amazon-owned movie rental company fight off Netflix, which launched in the UK in January.
Depositions by Steve Jobs, Eddy Cue at heart of controversy
Apple is fighting a discovery request in a class action lawsuit brought by musicians like Rick James and Rob Zombie against Universal Music, The Hollywood Reporter reports. Specifically the plaintiffs want access to trial exhibits, expert reports, depositions, and other material from a suit by FBT Productions against UMG subsidiary Aftermath, filed over money owed from music by rapper Eminem. During the case, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that FBT was right in saying that a contract between the parties should be read as treating digital music as "licenses" instead of "sales." The dispute is still set to go to trial in the near future.
Hulu steps up original video content
Hulu used its turn at upfronts for TV content to reveal that it was adding four original shows beyond those teased earlier in the year. The strategy would be headlined by The Awesomes, a superhero comedy show due in 2013 that would draw on Saturday Night Live actors Seth Meyers and Michael Shoemaker. A nearer-term committed show, the 2012 basketball series We Got Next, would have The Game's Hale Rothstein and Kenya Barris along with The Office's Danny Leiner.
Sony to now publish much of EMI music
A group led by Sony on Thursday won its side of a joint bid on EMI assets. The alliance, which includes the Blackstone Group, David Geffen, Mubadala Development, and Raine Group, was cleared by the European Commission to buy EMI's publishing wing for $2.2 billion. The deal is contingent on Sony's group selling off catalog rights for Virgin's European, UK, and US divisions, along with Famous Music UK.
Apple gains a studio for cloud video downloads
Apple edged closer to having a complete iTunes in the Cloud on Saturday with previous holdout Universal adding support. Movies from the studio can now be re-downloaded on any device with an Apple ID, or streamed directly to an Apple TV. The expansion adds hundreds or more videos to those from existing supporters like Sony Pictures.
Good news for BSkyB, deadline extended to July
UK satellite TV service BSkyB was given a reprieve as the Competition Commission pushed back its deadline on ruling that BSkyB's deals with six major Hollywood studios were uncompetitive, according to The Guardian. The government watchdog extended the date of its final ruling to July because it has added Netflix and LoveFilm to its investigation. Netflix launched in the UK and Ireland in January, while LoveFilm recently added a streaming service to its rent-by-mail service.
Fox, Universal, WB tapped for initial deals
HBO is relaxing terms on streaming content to services like iCloud, according to a company spokesman. To attract viewers, the cable network regularly buys exclusive rights to movies; these windows usually start six months after a title's disc release, and persist for roughly a year. HBO's terms frequently prevent movies from being sold online or through video-on-demand services during a window.
iTunes in the Cloud and 3G App Store get new limit
A studio veteran divulged Wednesday that the iTunes in the Cloud access coming hand-in-hand with the new Apple TV and iTunes 10.6 doesn't include Fox and Universal. Either was tangled in HBO deals that gave the premium cable network brief exclusives that conflicted with the re-download rights, AllThingsD heard. HBO confirmed the issue but expected to find "common ground" that would clear full access.
Redbox deal with Universal lasts until mid-2014
While it recently ended its agreement with Warner Bros., budget DVD and Blu-ray rental kiosk operator Redbox has now signed a deal with Universal Studios. The deal extends until August 2014 and keeps the 28-day delay window Redbox had with Warner Bros following a home entertainment release. Redbox and Warner argued about the delay window, with the studio arguing 28 days is too early considering the $1.20 daily rental price for the movies.
YouTube filter makes false positives
YouTube's anti-piracy screening has both come under fire and gotten some relief on Friday. The system is now known from an anecdote at Vice to generate false positives if enough of a song is improperly attributed to the wrong group. When Universal-backed group Yelawolf took a sample from an After the Smoke track and had its adaptation leaked, the Universal takedown claim not only brought down the Yelawolf leak but the original track the sample came from.
Megaupload may skip Universal for individuals
Megaupload's lawsuit opposing a takedown of a promo video may have taken an unusual turn. The company was claimed by a Hollywood Reporter source with access to the case to have dropped Universal, which orchestrated the takedown, from the suit. Only a number of unnamed people who had participated in the takedown remained.
Anonymous carpet bombs Megaupload opponents
(Update: FBI too) The forced closure of Megaupload and accompanying arrests may have backfired on proponents after Anonymous launched one of its largest attacks ever in retaliation. Multiple statements from the hacking collective confirmed they were responsible for successful denial of service attacks against the websites of the Department of Justice, MPAA, RIAA, and likely arrest instigator Universal Music. All of the sites were partly or completely unresponsive as of early Thursday evening.
Megaupload forced closed
Megaupload's troubles were magnified Thursday after word emerged that it has been shut down by Federal prosecutors in Alexandria. The site is currently inaccessible. Reports have also emerged that company staff have charged with violating piracy laws, allegedly contributing to $500 million of lost revenue.
Hosting services protected from liability
A federal appellate court today upheld a lower district court ruling that the safe harbors created by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) did protect video hosting site Veoh from copyright liability. The case originated in 2007 when the Universal Music Group sued Veoh for allegedly allowing the site's users to upload protected Universal music videos. Ironically, Veoh filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2010, in part due to the financial burden of defending itself against the charges.
Sony, Warner join in on Grooveshark lawsuit
Sony Music and Warner Music have now joined the copyright infringement lawsuit Universal Music started against online music service Grooveshark. The lawsuit was first filed in November and alleges that Grooveshark execs uploaded copies of songs to which they didn't have rights and thus broke the DMCA. The lawsuit was also amended with a detail that claims Grooveshark knew it needed a license for the material it offers, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Universal pulled video under private YouTube deal
The argument between Universal Music Group and Megaupload over a YouTube-hosted music video from earlier this week has raised some new issues. UMG now claims that it had the right to take down the video from YouTube not under the DMCA but rather thanks to a private contract with YouTube, Ars Technica revealed on Friday. If this holds up, it could bring a dangerous precedent, as the deal would effectively get around the DMCA's abuse protection.
Sony wants live Internet TV for PS3, TVs, players
Sony may be in an unintentional race with Apple to bypass the limits of traditional TV providers for its own live TV service, multiple sources might have disclosed on Tuesday night. The electronics giant is believed by the Wall Street Journal to be talking to media firms to get rights for streaming TV channels. The focus would be on Sony's own devices, ranging from Blu-ray players through to TVs and the PS3.
Google music store event may go minus Sony, Warner
Google's November 16 music event is still likely to see it go without some potentially critical deals. Follow-up details reportedly slipped to AllThingsD still had Sony and Warner holding out and unlikely to reach a deal in five days. EMI was the only certain prospect, and Universal was very likely, but not certain.
EMI publishing, music to be sold off separately
(Update: confirmed) Citigroup is splitting EMI in two for a sale that's about to be imminent, according to claims Friday. Pointing to sources, the Wall Street Journal's Dana Cimilluca said that the publishing wing, EMI Music Publishing, would be sold off to a Sony consortium for $2.2 billion. The pure music label would go to Universal for $1.9 billion.
Google music shop may be days away
A handful of more details about Google's music store may have emerged on Monday. The service is now thought by unofficial WSJ sources to be going live within the next two weeks, and possibly this week. "At least two" major labels are unlikely to have signed on, however, with only EMI probably onboard and Universal in discussions that might not make the release date.
TWC defies theaters with same-day movies
Time Warner Cable's On Demand movie streaming service claimed a rarity Friday by offering movies the same day as they appeared in theaters. Both Trespass and Marginal Call are arriving on the same day as they appear in theaters, starting today for Trespass and a week later for its equivalent. A third movie, Lars Von Trier's Melancholia, is already available even though it won't be in US theaters until November 11.
Universal backs off of same-as-theater rental plan
Universal has quietly dropped its plans for $60 same-day-as-theaters movie rentals. The test, which would have started with the November 4 release of Tower Heist, was shelved after movie theater chains threatened to withdraw the regular movie. It would have had minimal impact with just Atlanta and Portland having the option.
Universal to trial $60 rental of Tower Heist
Comcast, the parent company of Universal Pictures, is testing a new premium home movie rental concept that will see customers being able to rent a film that is currently screening only in theaters. However, there will be a catch for the privilege – a $60 price tag. The test will center on the new Eddie Murphy and Ben Stiller comedy Tower Heist that is due November 4.
iTunes Replay may be months off
Talk of iTunes Replay bringing cloud movie streaming might have come too soon. Insiders claimed Monday that Apple didn't have deals with at least four of six major movie studios. Any deal would be months off at best, CNET was told.
Qriocity coming to Xperia minis on Monday
Sony on Monday, August 1 will begin the phased roll-out of its Qriocity service for Xperia smartphones. At first, the Xperia mini and Xperia mini pro will get access. Available content to rent or buy will include movies and TV shows from NBC and its partner Universal, Paramount, Sony, Fox, and Warner Bros., in addition to local and more independent studios.
Offered free to Amazon Prime customers
Amazon has come to an agreement with NBCUniversal Domestic TV Distribution to stream movies to its customers. Under the terms of the digital video licensing agreement, Amazon will now have access to selected movies distributed by the entertainment giant. The online retailer will be offering its Amazon Prime members the streamed motion pictures at no additional cost through its Prime Instant Video service.
Judge approves class-action status
US District Jude Loretta Preska has allowed a class-action lawsuit against RIAA music labels to continue forward. The lawsuit, which accuses major labels of conspiring to fix prices for digital music distribution, will be pursued under the Sherman Act to explore potential antitrust violations of federal law. Similar antitrust actions under New York state law will also be investigated, as well as other claims related to consumer protection and unjust enrichment.
Anonymous hacks Universal Music, Viacom
Anonymous is reported to have hacked into the Universal Music and Viacom servers. According to the Wall Street Journal [sub. req.], the group has released a cache of files that it claims represents the passwords and other user data stolen from a Universal Music affiliated site, as well as those from Viacom networks. The group is also thought to have absorbed members from the recently dissolved LulzSec, ‘Antisec’ group.
Bloomberg complains against Comcast-NBC deal
News company Bloomberg has filed a complaint with the FCC regarding the deal Comcast made with NBC Universal. It argues the largest cable operator in the country violated terms of the deal by moving the financial news TV network to Siberia, which is far away from existing news networks such as MSNBC, CNBC and Fox. This mirrors earlier objections, which state that Comcast may use its power to favor its own channels instead of rivals, including Bloomberg TV.
Spotify gets Universal and close to EMI
Spotify has landed what might be its most important deal for the US, sources claimed Friday. A deal was reportedly struck with Universal this week and left just Warner to come onboard. That deal was said by AllThingsD to be closer than before, although it wasn't expected to start anything until July at the earliest.
iCloud gets all publishers at last minute
Insiders said late Friday that Apple had managed to secure all its publisher deals just ahead of its iCloud music launch. Having already secured labels, it got the distributors after agreeing to give both major and indie publishers a 12 percent cut, higher than their usual 10 percent. The deal seen by Reuters should clear Apple to show the song-matching music streaming service knowing all its key rights are in place.
Apple gets last iCloud music deal with Universal
Insiders slipped word Thursday afternoon that Apple had completed the last of the major deals it needed to fully license iCloud. The deal would have all four major labels onboard. At least "some" of their publisher partners have signed on as well, CNET understood.
Amazon took voluntary 3.2m loss on Lady Gaga MP3s
Amazon's two days of its 99-cent Lady Gaga album promo were costly but may have paid off in a market share battle with iTunes, both official and unofficial sources said Friday. Music industry contacts said that about 440,000 copies of the pop star's album sold in the two days of the promo, almost all of which were the less extensive but much cheaper sale version. Since Amazon was still paying Universal and Interscope the full $8.39 cut, Billboard estimated that Amazon MP3 took a loss of $3.2 million on all its sales.
LimeWire ends lawsuit with 105m settlement
LimeWire on Thursday agreed to pay $105 million as part of its lawsuit settlement in what may be the last chapter in the company's history. The payout comes a quick week after a trial to determine the amount that should be paid to music label owners such as Sony, Vivendi, and Warner. The former peer-to-peer company said only that it was glad to be rid of the lawsuit.
Meredith Baker to lobby for Comcast-NBC
Comcast has announced that it has hired Meredith Attwell Baker, an FCC Commissioner. The Republican Commissioner will join the cable provider as Senior Vice President of Government Affairs for NBC Universal, a leadership position in the company's Washington DC-based lobbying division. The move has raised eyebrows, considering the Commissioners recent role in approving Comcast's acquisition of NBC Universal.
YouTube may intro major movie service
YouTube's largely public plans for a major studio movie service could be realized as soon as this week or next, studio executives purportedly said Monday. The service would initially work through a video-on-demand rental system, presumably streaming, rather than permanent sales. Some studios like Lionsgate, Sony, Warner, and Universal would be onboard, The Wrap heard, but Google has allegedly had trouble getting support and would have to forsake movies from Fox and Paramount for the initial unveiling.
Movies to be available two months after theaters
Movie studios Warner Brothers, Sony, Universal and 20th Century Fox have finally confirmed plans to launch a new video-on-demand (VoD) service that bridges the gap between theatrical releases and standard rentals. The service, which will be labeled Home Premiere, will allow users to rent new movies for $30 as early as two months after the titles first arrive in theaters.