Oscar Sunday Gets Social on Facebook

As most of you may know, this Sunday is the 82nd Academy Awards.  While I’m not happy with some of the retro changes (let’s be honest and say that the ten Best Pic nominees could’ve been whittled down to four films, including one that was completely overlooked, The Informant) we’ll see in this weekend’s ceremony, I thought it was worth pointing out some new social media promotion tactics the Academy is trying out this year.

For the first time, the Oscars will broadcast red carpet coverage online, thanks to their partnership with Facebook, and will give users like you a chance to ask your favorite actor a question.  According to their page:

“We know you’re used to seeing stars at the Academy Awards®, but now for the very first time you can get involved! Oscar.com has partnered with Facebook to bring you Oscar.com Live from the Red Carpet, a very special online pre-show that allows you to watch the stars walk the Red Carpet and answer questions from fans like you. Yes, you read that right!

Join hosts Lisa Guerrero and Brett Chukerman as they cover all the action unfolding outside the Kodak Theater. Using your Facebook account, you can send a message to them on the Red Carpet, and they’ll pass along the best questions and comments in real time to the stars that sashay by. But that’s not all! Rico Rodriguez (Manny from the ABC hit comedy Modern Family) will also be on hand to meet and interview fans in attendance, as they experience all the glitz and glamour right from the Red Carpet.”

For viewers who like options and have either Facebook or Twitter log-ins, they can go to APLive and see streaming coverage there as well.   APLive is also making this available on their Facebook page, but users will have to become a fan in order to see the coverage, so it’ll be interesting to see if the 1,373 fans of the page jumps to a significantly higher number over the weekend** (See update).   This streaming event is the first of many for the year-long partnership between APLive and Livestream.

If you really feel like you need more connection to this year’s awards, there are a few iPhone Apps available for download for this (again, let’s be honest) very crowded awards year.   One thing I probably will be checking out this weekend is Adam Shankman’s Twitter feed, one of the two being promoted on Oscar.com.

I don’t want to sound pessimistic or snobby.  There were some great films this year and I’ll take a moment to throw out my top picks for Best Picture:

  1. Up (Pixar just knows how to pull at the heartstrings)
  2. Inglorious Basterds
  3. The Informant (what movie? Netflix it when it comes out later this month)
  4. An Education (probably my pick of the year)
  5. Honorable Mention: Drag Me to Hell (I’m not being cute here. It really is a great film.)

Update:  We all know the winner’s from last night’s ceremony.  Another Update**: AP Live’s Facebook page now has 7,672 fans.

Tribeca Enterprises Launches Film Distribution & Online Premium Movie Ventures


Tribeca Enterprises, the parent of Tribeca Film Festival, has launched two new multi-platform ventures in time for the upcoming festival next month. The first one is called Tribeca Film, a distribution arm for indie films year-round, with day-and-date releases on VOD through various cable cos as well. The first acquisitions include 10 feature titles, seven of which will be screened day-and-date during TFF, through VOD deals with Comcast, Cablevision and Verizon FiOS.

The more interesting effort it is launching revolves around digital screenings: It is launching Tribeca Film Festival Virtual (TFFV), with a free and premium offering. The free part will have short films from past festivals, conversations with filmmakers, red carpet coverage, and a highlight reel of the biggest moments from TFF in NYC.

The premium pass, which is priced at $45, gives users access to movies premiering simultaneously at the festival in New York, shorts, an HD player and live webcasting of panels/Q&A from the festival, among other features, for the duration of the festival, from April 23-30. As far as movie subscription services go, it is on the higher side, but considering the niche appeal, topicality and the extras, probably appealing enough to the target.

Tribeca has done some previous digital efforts, including a deal in 2008 with Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) to sell/screen 500 indie films, but TFFV is its biggest effort yet.


Blockbuster CEO: ‘We Certainly Don’t Think We’re Late For The Digital Side’

Movie Rentals

Blockbuster’s stock is trading at under a dollar, its net losses are widening, and it’s in the midst of closing nearly 1,000 stores—but on CNBC Thursday CEO Jim Keyes insisted that the company had a bright future in digital because of its strong brand. “When you’re driving down mainstreet and you see that Blockbuster (NYSE: BBI) brand you know it’s the place to rent movies,” he said. “The same experience we think will be true on the internet. Blockbuster is a very reliable brand so we think the future is bright for us once we are able to make that transformation.” Keyes also insisted that while Blockbuster’s current competitors might include Netflix (NSDQ: NFLX) and Redbox, in the long term they will be the “Apples, the Amazons.”

Wishful thinking? Under Keyes, Blockbuster has been talking about a digital reinvention for almost two years now—and plans for a wider rollout of the ‘Rock The Block’ prototype stores that Keyes mentions so enthusiastically have been scuttled because of the company’s lack of cash. But Keyes does do a strong job at countering the doubt thrown at him by CNBC’s anchors.


Roger Ebert Makes Pay Play: The Ebert Club

Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert thrives on the web. Now he’d like to get paid for it but not by blocking access to the site or its 10,000-review archive. Instead the Chicago Sun-Times movie critic—a master blogger and tweeter—is going the value-added route, launching The Ebert Club: annual subscriptions $4.99 through the end of March, $5.00 as of April 1.

Call them friends with benefits including a private discussion thread; quick links to his free-standing “special pages for Twitter” and occasional members-only pages; select tweets from his prolific @ebertchicago; advance notice of Eberfest tickets; and more. The list includes “helping enormously to support this web site”—which may sound whimsical but could be the biggest “benefit” of all for some. The price is less than a movie ticket, small enough to be an impulse buy and large enough to possibly create some meaningful income without creating a lot of extra work for Ebert. (Heck, I just stopped writing long enough to sign up.)

Ebert’s explanation and introduction to the club doubles as a survey of paid content models. He recalls being used by Nicholas Negroponte in the 90s as an example, along with Gene Siskel, of how micropayments might work at two cents for two reviews. It would take 250 micropayments to make the same $5 Ebert is charging now.

He writes: “As you know, micropayments went nowhere. In 2009 Google (NSDQ: GOOG) unveiled a plan to run them through Google Checkout. We will see. The web that we surf every day is not paying for itself, and we sure as hell aren’t paying for it. You read me for free, and I read everybody else for free. This is not news. To save you the bother of reading to the end of this entry, I don’t have a brilliant new scheme for changing things.”

Despite his prominence and influence, Ebert doesn’t get big Hollywood money either. “Yes, I have ads. Quite a few over the course of a year. Distributors who actually open good films (you know the kind I mean) have been kind to me. But have I run a single ad this year from an Oscar Season campaign? I believe not.”

If micropayments and advertising aren’t the answer and a pay wall is out of the question, that leaves adding value for users: “Keep the site free for everybody, and find out how many readers might be willing to pay a little extra for an additional resource.” Ebert would have to hit it very big for this to make major money; then again, he launched the club the same week he was on Oprah so you never know. Longtime reader Marie Haws will oversee the newsletter; she should have a good grasp on what adds value to the Ebert experience.

For those considering similar models, read the comments from Ebert’s fans here and towards the bottom here. Very educational.

Sony’s Comeback Plan Includes PlayStation Smartphone

Silver PS3

The long-rumored Sony (NYSE: SNE) Playstation phone is now becoming a reality.

Sony is developing a new lineup of handheld products, including a smartphone that would be capable of downloading and playing PlayStation games, as well as connecting to Sony’s online media platform, reports the WSJ, which quotes people familiar with the matter.

The Japanese electronics giant is clearly feeling the heat from new consumer electronics, ranging from Apple’s iPhone to other devices like e-readers and netbooks. The project under way would create one device that would be capable of handling multiple functions, much like Apple’s upcoming iPad, according to the sources. Sony’s interest in building a smartphone doesn’t necessarily mean that its handset joint venture with Ericsson (NSDQ: ERIC) will be completely left out of the picture. In fact, the sources say Sony Ericsson will be working on the new handset, but that Sony will be taking a more active role, given how important smartphones are becoming to the company’s overall strategy.

The new products are expected to launch this year, although there’s still a lot of unknowns, including price or device specifications. A Sony spokeswoman declined to comment for the story.

Just recently, Apple’s CEO Steve Jobs made a point to say that Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) is now a larger mobile devices company than Sony, Samsung and Nokia (NYSE: NOK). Indeed, Sony Ericsson has struggled recently, and has seen global shipments drop 41 percent in 2009. In addition, Sony slashed forecasts for PSP shipments last month.

Sony’s media platform, which for now is called Sony Online Service, is expected to launch in the U.S. later this month. The iTunes-like service will offer movies and TV shows and older game titles originally released for the PlayStation console.


RealNetworks Gives Up On RealDVD; Will Pay Studios $4.5 Million


Rob Glaser is still chairman of the board but it looks like the post-Glaser era at RealNetworks (NSDQ: RNWK) is well underway. The latest unraveling: Real is giving up the fight over RealDVD, the software deemed a copyright killer by the studios because it allowed users to store an image of copy-protected DVDs. After the market closed Wednesday, the company said it is dropping its appeal against a U.S. District Court preliminary injunction—and accepting a permanent injunction “that will prohibit RealNetworks from distributing or supporting RealDVD or any other technology that enables the duplication of copyrighted content protected by the Content Scramble System, ARccOS, or RipGuard.” The action is part of a consent judgment settlement approved today by U.S. District Judge Marilyn Patel.

In his statement, acting CEO Robert Kimball once again talked about the need for Real to focus on its “core” business—a constant thread over the last few months as Real plans to spin off Rhapsody America, among other steps—and to placate the studios: “Until this dispute, Real had always enjoyed a productive working relationship with Hollywood.  With this litigation resolved, I hope that in the future we can find mutually beneficial ways to use Real technology to bring Hollywood’s great work to consumers.”

As part of the settlement, Real also will:

—cover the studios’s costs and fees to the tune of $4.5 million; those suing included movie studios owned by Disney (NYSE: DIS), Sony (NYSE: SNE), NBC Universal (NYSE: GE), Viacom (NYSE: VIA), and Warner Bros. (NYSE: TWX) The DVD Copy Control Association also was a party. In his statement, Jacob Pak, the president of DVD CCA, called the legal message clear: “Making a DVD copier is a breach of the CSS license.”

—Turn off a metedata service feeding DVD cover art and info to the roughly 2,700 exiting RealDVD customers and refund there money.

RealNetworks launched RealDVD in September 2008 and the squawking commenced. By Sept. 30, Glaser was suing the studios claiming antitrust and the MPAA was suing Real; by early October, a temporary restraining order was in place. The notion of challenging the studios’ lock on how copyrighted content is delivered wasn’t all bad but it was a distraction Real didn’t need. Next time they could just try Bejeweled. Release.

Here’e's the full order courtesy of Digital Daily.

RealDVD CourtOrder -