Communications-related Headlines for 1/2000

Gary Handman (ghandman@library.berkeley.edu)
Fri, 7 Jan 2000 16:32:41 -0800 (PST)

VIDEO

DVD TAKES A BIG STEP IN COMPETITION WITH VHS
Issue:
About 3.9 million digital videodisc (DVD) players were sold last year,
vastly exceeding industry projections. DVDs, which resemble compact discs
that play music but are also capable of storing enough additional digital
information to provide moving images as well, are now expected to overtake
videotape in a few years as the home entertainment format of choice. Some
even predict that the DVD reinvigorate the video retail business "It's
making people interested in video again as a medium of entertainment," said
Michael Becker, the owner of the Video Room stores in Manhattan.
[SOURCE: New York Times (), AUTHOR: Terry Pristin]
(http://www.nytimes.com/library/tech/00/01/biztech/articles/07video.html)

INDIE FILMS FIND THE WEB A GOOD ALLY
Issue: Internet/Film
Many independent filmmakers are hoping that the Web will allow them to
bypass Hollywood and reach viewers directly or drum up huge publicity, as
seen with "The Blair Witch Project." While most filmmakers will never see
the kind of success of "The Blair Witch Project," some experts predict that
the Internet will have a profound effect on the movie business. New digital
video technology and Internet distribution sharply reduce the cost of making
and distributing independent films. "As you lower the bar, more voices can
be heard and be profitable," said Ray Price, president of American Zoetrope,
the studio owned by Francis Ford Coppola. One way around the technical
limits of the Internet is to use it to sell videocassettes. "We're
sidestepping the whole movie business," said Sam Sokolow, a fledgling
filmmaker who has sold more than 800 copies of his first film on Amazon.com.
"I don't need Hollywood anymore to have 35 million people take a look."
[SOURCE: CyberTimes, AUTHOR: Andrew Pollack]
(http://www.nytimes.com/library/tech/00/01/biztech/articles/04indi.html)

THIS YEAR'S BIG BETS
Issue: InfoTech/Media
Executives in the media and technology industries are feeling lucky. They
are making big bets this year, risking fortunes to find success in something
we have not seen yet. AT&T's $100 billion investment in cable television
systems may be the biggest bet ever in American business. Fatbrain.com and
iUniverse.com want to help authors publish their own work. Globalstar
Telecommunications has invested $3.3 billion in a new satellite telephone
system -- two other companies have already gone bankrupt trying to do the
same. ABC is betting we wouldn't be able to get enough of "Who Wants to be a
Millionaire?" What's the final answer? See the URL below for more.
[SOURCE: New York Times (C1)]
(http://www.nytimes.com/library/financial/010300media-bets.html)

>AOL'S NEW SCREEN NAME ENDS IN TV
>Issue: Television/Internet
>America Online is teaming with electronics maker Philips for a set-top box
>that weaves the online service into TV signals. AOL's announcement follows
>Microsoft decision to collaborate with Thomson/RCA on several projects,
>including a personal digital video recorder. Microsoft already owns WebTV.
>The first AOLTV device, due to hit the market in late spring or early
>summer, will connect to an antenna, cable or satellite feed, a phone line
>and a TV set. A setup procedure configures the AOL log-on process and an
>on-screen programming guide. Users, armed with either a remote control or a
>keyboard, will be able to send instant messages to other online users. The
>Thomson/Microsoft set-top box will offer WebTV's service and Internet
>access, plus an on-screen programming guide and a hard disk for storing and
>replaying video. Microsoft and AOL are logical partners for electronics
>companies "because you need a content provider," says Steve Booth of
>industry newsletter Television Digest.
>[SOURCE: USA Today (3D), AUTHOR: Mike Snider]
>(http://www.usatoday.com/usatonline/20000106/1820908s.htm)

BROADCASTING

HIGH-DEFINITION TELEVISION FACES A FUZZY FUTURE
Issue: DTV
Digital TV, specifically high-definition TV--has maintained a puzzling
existence in the market. While HDTV displays pictures of amazing clarity the
prices for those sets are staggering at $3,000 for a "cheap" high-definition
TV. More than 100,000 "digital-ready" sets have been sold to dealers and
predictions are for 600,000 sets to be shipped this year. Many of these sets
however are high-frequency or high-scan products without digital tuners
built in. Theoretically, consumers can adapt the set later by buying a
set-top box. Without the equipment, an "HDTV-ready" set can make existing
programming and DVD movies look much better, but it can't show any of the
high-definition pictures being broadcast by the major networks. Broadcast
networks, aided by subsidies from TV manufacturers, have put a portion of
their schedules on the air in digital form although cable companies have
largely declined to carry digital programming.
[SOURCE: Washington Post (E10), AUTHOR: Rob Pegoraro]
(http://washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/business/feed/a15985-2000jan7.htm)

NOW SHOWING ON AN E-MAIL SCREEN NEAR YOU: YOUR CONGRESSMAN
Issue: Political Discourse
Representative Bob Riley of Alabama (R) sent his constituents a special
holiday email message. Upon clicking an icon in the message, up popped Riley
in a video message. The message was created by a company called
Ecommercial.com of Mission Viejo, Calif., which has had more than a dozen
members of Congress as clients since July. Vice President Al Gore has
already used a similar video message to invite supporters to campaign
events. In July, House Republican Conference Chairman J.C. Watts of Oklahoma
asked the House for permission to let members use their office budgets for
the "compelling new technology." This privilege covers the cost of the video
and sending it, about 15 cents an address, charged by Ecommercial. A
controversial aspect of the Ecommercial product is its ability to track, for
a dime extra, whether the recipient forwards the message to someone else or
visits a connected Web page. (Rep. Riley, a privacy advocate, did not take
advantage of this feature; he also claims not to send unsolicited e-mail.)
[SOURCE: Wall Street Journal, AUTHOR: GLENN R. SIMPSON]
(http://interactive.wsj.com/articles/SB947201170157366926.htm)

SPECTRUM

FCC SETS RULES FOR AUCTION OF SPECTRUM THAT COULD BE TECHNOLOGICAL SPEEDWAY
Issue: Spectrum
The Federal Communications Commission has set the ground rules for an
auction this spring of valuable electromagnetic spectrum that may be used
for high-speed Internet access and other new technologies. The FCC said it
would open most of the spectrum for flexible usages such as broadband
services and next-generation wireless telephones, as long as they meet
certain technical parameters. The auction will involve 36 megahertz of
spectrum originally allocated to television broadcasters as UHF channels,
which are no longer needed. Congress said it expects the auction to bring in
$2.6 billion, but the figure could be much higher given the wide corporate
interest.
[SOURCE: Wall Street Journal (A6), AUTHOR: Kathy Chen]
(http://interactive.wsj.com/articles/SB947211071985899370.htm)

Gary Handman
Director
Media Resources Center
Moffitt Library
UC Berkeley 94720-6000
http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/MRC

"Everything wants to become television" (James Ulmer -- Teletheory)