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In Radio News Today…

The DRDB has announced 10m DAB digital radio sets sold in the UK (and Pure has announced that it has sold a cumulative 3m DAB sets worldwide). This comes at the peak time for selling DAB sets – the run-up to Christmas.
David Liddiment, who is leading the BBC Trust review of BBC Radio 2 and 6 Music says in today’s Media Guardian that they’re likely to ask the BBC to protect Radio 2’s appeal to older listeners and “ask the executive to ensure that the average age of listeners does not fall.”
That’s something, as John Plunkett’s piece rightly points out, that’ll come under the spotlight as Chris Evans takes up the reigns of the Radio 2 breakfast show in January.
We’d like Radio 2 to provide the audience with more imaginative, entertaining content the licence fee payer can’t hear anywhere else. We want to preserve the aspects that make it popular but we’d like to give the BBC Executive a mandate to be more ambitious, including during the daytime peak schedule, even though we recognise that this carries with it a risk that audiences fall.
One way or another, this is going to be a very interestingreport when it’s published at the start of next year.

Sky Player

In today’s Observer there’s a Sky ad that reads:
“Want to watch Sky Sports live on your PC?”
Then there’s a picture of a laptop showing some Premier League football.
“Now you can with Sky Player.”
Hmm. I’ve heard that claim before. Yes you can, as long as you subscribe to Sky Multiroom (i.e. pay for an additional box on the same subscription – usually to put in a different room in your home), or Sky Broadband Max (i.e. take their phone and broadband package too).
So I looked closely at the ad. Perhaps they’ve changed their terms?
“PC with Microsoft Windows XP/Vista or Intel based Mac with minimum 2Mb broadband connection required.”
That’s all fine…
“Some programmes are unavailable to show online (see sky.com/skyplayer).”
Understandable. Some programming will sell its online rights seperately.
“On demand content outside of your subscription will cost extra.”
That seems reasonable. But I subscribe to Sky Sports.
“Movies and entertainment to download are unavailable to Mac users.”
They use a Microsoft DRM system.
“Information only applies to residential customers in the UK, Channel Islands and Isle of Man. Further terms apply.”
The devil’s in the detail.
“Further terms apply.”
I log on to Sky Player, and of course I can’t watch the football online, although since I’m sitting in front of my TV, I can watch it there. Sky’s not changed its terms. As I live on my own, I’m not likely to buy multiroom, and as I’m happy with my broadband and telecom providers, I’m not buying their full package.
There are free programmes that I can watch. Lost and 24 are good examples. But even then, I’m forced to download rather than stream programmes. If the BBC iPlayer’s shown us one thing, it’s that streaming’s pretty popular.

Happy New Year

Listening to the New Year’s Day Concert from Vienna is my preferred way of dealing with any hangover. There’s something about The Blue Danube and The Radetzky March that’s intrinsically linked with the day.
If you missed it, tune in tonight on BBC Four…

Old Virgin Radio TV Ads 3

Here are a batch more of Virgin Radio ads from the archives – being put up here in advance of the station’s rebrand in the UK.
The first one features Beau the dog as he goes about his day. Realistic typing I think you’ll agree.

I think this compilation of three ads from 2005 is actually one of the best ads Virgin Radio did.

In 2006 we ran a promotion called the Big Star. Here’s the teaser:

The reveal can be found on YouTube.
Back in 2003 Virgin Radio had the strapline “Better Music – More Of It” and here’s an ad from that time.

Another similar execution can be found here.
By the way, there’s one ad that I can’t find anywhere which was used around the launch of FM in 1995 and featured a fat man dancing with the voiceover threatening that if you don’t listen he’ll go nude. If anyone’s got a copy – I’d love to see it.
More still to come!

DRM Free

2008 really is proving to be the year that we finally lose DRM – in music at least! Earlier this week Sky announced that it had done a deal with Universal to be part of its forthcoming music subscription service. Seemingly, for a monthly fee, subscribers will be able to stream what they like and download a set number of DRM-free tracks. It’s an interesting proposition and I think that the really important part is the "DRM-free" part.

We’ve reached a point where consumers know that when they download music it’s not just going to be for their iPod. Their mobile also plays mp3s, as does their Xbox, their SatNav, their LCD picture frame, their PSP and of course their PC. In the same way that when I buy a CD, I know it’ll work in a number of devices and I can quite readily convert it into a format that works in more devices, consumers expect their music to work beyond their iPods.

It’s no accident that Play.com launched its music download service with mp3s, and Amazon’s forthcoming UK download service will also be mp3 based. eMusic has been around for a number of years solely offering mp3s, and Random House now allows mp3s of its audiobooks to be sold via various suppliers. Naxos offers its music and audiobooks as mp3s, as does Deutsche Gramaphone with its classical music offering. Even Apple has finally got on board offering a so far limited range of tracks in a DRM-free format.

It’s interesting that Universal has taken an equity stake in Sky’s new service. Sky will undoubtedly be looking to sign up the other major labels before launching, but the labels realise that they need to try different things and no end up beholden to Apple’s iTunes store where it sets the price and the rules.

The reality is that physical music sales are falling, and the shortfall is not so far being made up by digital downloads. iTunes maybe the biggest source of music in the US, overtaking Wallmart, but that’s not enough.

Where does this leave non-Apple, DRM’d tracks, and by that I mean the only real alternative DRM system – Windows Media? Not in a great shape to be honest. While there is a wide variety of music players available that support the WMA format, combined they make up only a fraction of mp3 player market share. These businesses to work hard and fast to turn themselves into DRM-free services. That’s all but impossible for those that offer unlimited download rentals while a monthly subscription fee is paid, but that’s only part of the market. Apple is always rumoured to be offering a similar service, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they launched a subscription scheme at some point in the near future with full downloads as part of that offering.

In the end, DRM really doesn’t work anyway. It simply works to infuriate people who’ve legitimately purchased music and then find themselves having to dig out weird and strange workarounds to get their music to play on the players they want to hear it. And it does nothing to stop piracy. Are kids still going to trading CDs packed with mp3s in the playground? You bet they are. Will torrent sites continue to exist full of new and old releases? Yes. The industry needs to work at other methods to stop that (Although it’s instructive that even Feargal Sharkey of the BPI admitted recently that he traded cassettes at school and recorded the top 40 off the radio. Somehow the CD equivalent is different).

One short coda: DRM can and still does work for movie and television downloads. There’s no real demand for the iTunes store to offer its video offerings on a DRM-free basis yet. But the keyword there is "yet."

Heroes on the BBC

The recent news was that the BBC has bought “lifetime rights” to Heroes. This essentially means that Sky or another broadcaster won’t be able to come in and outbid the Beeb. I expect that also means that the BBC is also compelled to buy future series whether they’d like to or not. It was a similar deal to the one that Five did early in the life of CSI that ensured that they’re the primary UK broadcaster for that series and all its spin-offs.
But more interesting is the news that BBC Two will be broadcasting the third season of Heroes in the same week as NBC in the US, or as near to as they can. This is something we’re only going to see more of, and I wonder how much of it is to do with fans of the series either simply downloading shows from the US in advance of watching it in the UK or more simply the fact that with the internet, we know too much too soon if we don’t watch shows like this quickly. It’s obviously been a concern at Sky who’ve ensured that major series like Lost, Prison Break, 24 and Battlestar Galactica all air in the UK as close to their US airdates as possible. Why download if you can watch it comfortably on your TV in a day or so?
In any event, for cult series like this it’s something to be applauded, although I worry about the nature of US networks scheduling patterns being mirrored by the BBC. Is NBC going to give Heroes an uninterrupted run before Christmas without running repeats?
One additional thing the BBC might want to be doing is running the webisodes that NBC.com has running until the series returns. No sign of them on the BBC Heroes website, and yet UK viewers are geo-locked out from seeing the episodes on the US site. Shame.

Adidas Owns Your Stripes

This is incredible.
It’s staggering.
Adidas has somehow won a ruling at the European Court of Justice that says it owns stripes.
“Adidas can prevent other companies using two stripes on the shoulders of their shirts, even though Adidas branding has three stripes.”
I really can’t believe this. Seemingly Adidas owns the rights to stripes. If I want to design a shirt and put some stripes on the shoulders, I have to get Adidas’ permission?
If I was putting an Adidas logo on the shirt then fair enough, but just the stripe motif?
I believe that the ancient Gauls used to wear stripes in times gone by. These days, they’d have to get permission from Adidas first.