It was with great pleasure that we heard billionaire investor Warren Buffett enjoys hours and hours of YouTube watching his favorite videos.
The “Oracle of Omaha” also suggested that YouTube should be charging him “a lot of money” based on the enjoyment he gets from YouTube. We agree and are happy to announce a new subscription offering: YouTube Pro. Pro will be offered for a limited time at the low price of $100 million/year. We don’t expect to sell many, but if Mr. Buffett wants to make sure he’s paying his fair share, we take cash, credit and, for him, personal check.
Metaplace, a social games startup which switched strategies earlier this year after its first business failed, has been purchased by Playdom. Initially intended to be a place where people could build their own virtual worlds, Metaplace shut down that service six months ago saying it wasn’t gaining enough traction and that it would instead put its game-creation technology to use in a different way.
It subsequently launched two games on Facebook—Island Life and My Vineyard—both of which have gained big followings; Island Life has more than 430,000 monthly active users, while My Vineyard has more than 760,000.
Metaplace is Playdom’s ninth investment since it raised $43 million in a first round of funding in November; it added $33 million to that round late last month.
Financial terms of the acquisition were not released, although Metaplace had the most venture capital backing of all of Playdom’s recent buys.
The company, which was founded four years ago by Sony (NYSE: SNE) Online veterans Raph Koster and John Donham had raised $9.4 million in funding from investors including Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz.
After its popular Rock Band franchise saw sales dwindle last year, MTV Networks (NYSE: VIA) has sought to find other ways of building up its gaming holdings. The Viacom company is now looking to capitalize on the social gaming trend and has acquired developer Social Express to continue to build up Nickelodeon Digital’s offerings. Terms weren’t disclosed.
San Francisco-based Social Express, which is only eight months old, will be folded into Nickelodeon Digital, MTVN said in a statement. Social Express co-founder and CEO Tony Espinoza will oversee social gaming strategy and development as VP and GM of Social Gaming for MTV Networks’ Nickelodeon Kids & Family Group. Neil Souza, co-founder of Social Express and FoulPlay Media, will be VP of Technology, Social Games. Both will report to Dave Williams, SVP and GM of Games, Nickelodeon Kids & Family Group. Williams continues to report to Stephen Youngwood, EVP for Digital, Nickelodeon/MTVN Kids & Family Group. The news was first reported by Venturebeat.
Aside from Rock Band, for the past three years, MTVN has been heavily concentrating on building up its gaming offerings, mostly on casual online games and virtual worlds. When Nickelodeon unveiled its major push into gaming in July 2007, it pledged $100 million to develop and acquire nearly 5,000 games by 2009. A month later, MTV said it would invest about $500 million on developing games to match its programming.
The strategy doesn’t seem to have changed much. Social Express, which has been operating in stealth mode since opening its doors in December, will be charged with developing social games based on original shows from MTV, Nickelodeon, and other Viacom-owned brands. Nickelodeon has been at the center of MTVN’s gaming strategy. Its AddictingGames division has sought a balance between ad support and the sale of virtual goods and has explored paid subscriptions in the past.
In addition to AddictingGames.com, MTVN’s other gaming properties include Shockwave.com, Nick.com Games, Nick.com Arcade, Neopets, GameTrailers, and Xfire. Citing May comScore (NSDQ: SCOR) figures, MTVN said its game sites drew over 22 million uniques and ranked as the number one destination in the online gaming segment. Release
AuroraFeint, creator of OpenFeint, has raised an additional $4 million in capital from The9, a Chinese online gaming company, to help expand its popular social gaming network from the iPhone to the Android operating system.
The Burlingame, Calif.-based company said it will duplicate its iPhone network, which includes 9,200 members who can chat and connect with thousands of game titles, for Android this summer. OpenFeint’s decision to develop for Android will both help to validate the platform while also helping to fill some gaps in the application retail experience that has prevented game companies from adopting the platform.
The company said the platform they are building for Android will be similar to the one for the iPhone. It will come with a developer kit that enables both the discovery of new games and also mobile payments—both of those have been high on Android developers’ list of complaints.
Already, it has a number of brand-name publishers signed up, including Astraware, Digital Chocolate, Glu Mobile (NSDQ: GLUU), Hudson Soft, as well as, independent studios like Distinct Dev (Moron Test), ustwo (Dot Dot Dot), Pik Pok (Flick Kick Football) and RocketCat Games (Hook Champ). Jonathan Goldberg, an analyst at Deutsche Bank Equity Research, was quoted in a press release, as saying: “This is a big step for OpenFeint and an even bigger step for Android as it becomes a serious mobile gaming platform. OpenFeint ushered in mobile online gaming for iOS devices and we think they’ll lead the revolution on Android.”
The $4 million round of funding follows an undisclosed amount the company received from DeNA Co., one of the largest mobile-social networking and virtual goods companies in Japan.
The connected-TV space is about to unleash whole new opportunities for video content owners to distribute and profit from their content.
In one of the latest examples, Panasonic is adding a third-party movie vendor, AceTrax, to VieraCast, the connected-TV interface on its TVs and Blu-ray players, in Europe.
Zurich-based AceTrax claims a library of over 2,000 titles from WB, Universal, Paramount and smaller studios and aggregators. Viewers can watch them on up to four different devices, including computers, using a PIN to identify each.
The service will be available on Panasonic TVs in the UK, Ireland, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France and Italy.
AceTrax and Panasonic are making a point of pitching their offering against movies from Sky Movies and Virgin Media (NSDQ: VMED), which require a set-top box, and from the movie rental service LoveFilm, which operates via subscription. AceTrax offers both rentals (£1.49-£3.49) and pay-to-own (£4.99-£11.99) on an a la carte basis, direct to the TVs. Titles are DVD- but not HD-quality.
AceTrax says it has similar deals with other home electronics makers which it will be announcing later in the year.
The likes of Sky Movies will likely need to talk with home electronics makers about carrying their own services on new gadgets, lest their historical advantage be crowded out. LoveFilm had been interested in getting carriage on the BBC-led Project Canvas connected-TV platform, which will offer transactional internet services over broadband.
Who knew Hollywood had such a wry sense of humor? But here’s the evidence: The TV industry folks who vote for the Emmy awards have nominated Conan O’Brien for a statuette.
As in Conan O’Brien, the former NBC employee whose brief stint as host of “The Tonight Show” ended badly, and expensively, for the network. It seems to have worked out okay for O’Brien, though–he got a very big severance check, an infusion of online adoration and, eventually, a well-paid gig at Time Warner’s Turner (TWX).
And while it would be a little, um, awkward if O’Brien actually won the Emmy for best “variety, comedy or music series” (he’s up against Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Bill Maher and “Saturday Night Live”), there is some upside for NBC here. The GE (GE) unit is broadcasting the Emmys in late August, and the potential car-crash nature of the award show might bring in some more eyeballs.
Viacom wants in on the social game market, and it’s going to try buying its way in. The company has picked up Social Express, a 10-person start-up founded in 2009, so it can build out games based on shows that run on its MTV Networks unit. VentureBeat, which reported the deal, doesn’t have terms.
So, maybe a “Jersey Shore” game, where you get badges for visiting the gym, the tanning salon or the Laundromat? I dunno. Work with me here.
Every big media company is enamored with social games these days, in part because users seem to be–see Zynga–and in part because investors seem to be– see Zynga. Not coincidentally, Social Express is staffed with vets from Zynga, the dominant social game company now valued in the billions.
Wait a minute. Doesn’t Viacom (VIA) have a slew of gaming assets, acquired during the last Web boom? It does! And those help generate 22 million unique visitors a month, says comScore (SCOR). But the first Viacom/Social Express games will show up this fall, so we’ll see what Sumner Redstone got for his money.