SAG, PRODUCERS RESUME CRUCIAL TALKS

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers resumed negotiations with the Screen Actors Guild on Wednesday following the AMPTP's tentative deal with the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. In the end, the producers acceded to AFTRA's demands that they obtain consent before using a clip of an actor's performance online. The producers had earlier insisted that the costs of obtaining such permissions would outweigh any potential revenue from such use. Analysts suggested that in the end the producers decided simply to forgo using such clips online -- and the minimal revenue that they were thought to represent -- rather than prolong the dispute over them. Nevertheless, it was uncertain whether SAG would accept a similar deal with the AMPTP, which, in virtually all respects is otherwise a copy of the agreement hashed out earlier with the Writers Guild of America and the Directors Guild of America. Currently, the movie industry is already experiencing what many are calling a de facto strike, with studios unwilling to greenlight any film that could be shut down after the expiration of the current contract on June 30.

TIVO SUBSCRIBERS TO GET DISNEY MOVIES

Subscribers to the TiVo service will soon be able to "rent" movies from the Walt Disney Co. via their digital video recorders and view them on their television sets, the company announced Wednesday. It said that some films will be available in high definition. The service, which will require an Internet connection, will compete with similar services from Amazon, Apple, and Netflix. (The TiVo service involves a partnership with another online movie provider, CinemaNow.) Meanwhile, TiVo, which rarely displays black ink in its quarterly reports, said Wednesday that it had earned $3.6 million during its latest quarter, up from $835,000 from the year-ago period. It attributed the result, the best in its history, to lower operating costs. The number of its subscribers, however fell to 3.8 million, versus 4.3 million during the same period a year ago. It also said that it expects a net loss of $2-4 million in the current quarter.

VOD AND DVD RELEASES WILL SOON COME ON SAME DAY, SAY MOGULS

Walt Disney Co. chief Robert Iger and News Corp Chairman Rupert Murdoch each predicted that movies will be released on video-on-demand platforms on cable and the Internet at the same time they are released on DVD and Blu-ray disc. Speaking to a conference on digital technologies in Carlsbad, CA, Murdoch said that simultaneous releases are opposed by "vested interests in the distribution chain." He presumably was referring to large DVD retailers like Wal-Mart and Best Buy, which have threatened to shut out studio releases if they are sold online at the same time they are released on home video. Speaking separately at an investor's conference in New York, Iger predicted that the demands of younger viewers will force studios to close the window between DVD and home-video releases. "I think it has to be day and date with the DVD business and the home video business and we've done that in some markets as a test," Iger said. "I think you have to have a rich library, not only the newest stuff but you have to have a lot of older stuff. I think we'll get there."

BLOCKBUSTER UNVEILS MOBILE VIDEO KIOSKS

Blockbuster Chairman/CEO Jim Keyes displayed a test model of the company's planned in-store kiosk that will allow customers to download movies directly to mobile video devices in a matter of seconds. The test model -- there will be two of them initially -- will currently work only with the Archos Generation 4 portable media player, which Blockbuster will begin selling in its stores and online, but eventually the kiosks are expected to be compatible with virtually any portable video device, including Apple's iPhone and video iPod and Microsoft's Zune. Keyes indicated that Blockbuster's biggest hurdle will be securing rights from the studios, who, he observed, will insist on vetting the kiosks' digital rights management technology to prevent their films from being pirated.

Brian B. at Movieweb
Brian B.