Vid-Biz: Fora.tv, Panasonic, No Good TV

Fora.tv Raises $2 Million; money bulks up the $4 million first round announced by the provider of videos of high-profile conferences back in May. (VentureBeat)
Panasonic and Sanyo in Merger Talks; agreement would make Sanyo a subsidiary of the larger Panasonic, companies looking to complete the deal by the end of the year. (The New York Times)
Mark Burnett Partners with No Good TV; famed reality TV producer to help the online video creators develop a talk show for traditional TV starring Carrie Keagan. (Variety)
ABC Hurts Disney Earnings; revenue was up 6 percent for the mouse house’s fiscal fourth quarter, but operating income dipped 4 percent as the advertising slowdown starts to show in the national market, according to CEO Bob Iger. (Multichannel News)
Piracy a “National Sport” in France; French government moving ahead with a “three strikes” anti-piracy law as a new poll shows 34 percent of people over 15 have pirated content on their media players. (TorrentFreak)
DirecTV Added Fewer Subs in Q3; satellite company added 156,000 customers fewer than the same three-month period a year earlier, total subscriber base now at 17.32 million. (CED Magazine)

Data on Movie Downloads Not Worrisome

The NPD Group released numbers yesterday that made clear DVDs still dominate the movie landscape while consumers are spending just a teeny, tiny sliver on digital downloads. But don’t sound the alarm — downloads are not dead in the water.

NPD found that 41 percent of dollars budgeted for movies and video went to DVD purchases, 11 percent went to buying TV shows on DVD, 29 percent to DVD rentals, and 18 percent on movie tickets. The caboose for this entertainment train, meanwhile, is the digital format, which only attracted .05 percent of consumer spending.

But this number doesn’t matter too much. DVDs are firmly entrenched in the U.S. entertainment scheme; people have been using them for years and are comfortable with the format. Downloads are a new idea for most people; it was only this spring that digital versions of new releases came out on the same day as DVDs. Plus the studios, which provide all that entertainment content, know that it’s not a big market. Variety wrote in April that studios knew the digital business would be small this year, but anticipated big growth by next year.

The technology and consumer electronics side of the equation is placing bets on digital downloads as well. Apple, Amazon and Netflix are all pushing digital delivery of films, while Sony and Panasonic are building Internet connections directly into their TVs to receive digital content.

Chip Growth Proves Wireless and Consumers Rule

This may not come as a surprise to anyone who owns an iPhone or tests set-top boxes, but wireless and consumer technologies are driving the growth of many of the largest chip vendors. According to the latest rankings released for the first half of the year by IC Insights, Intel keeps its top spot, but the most growth came from Qualcomm, which saw its sales increase by 29 percent over the same period in 2007.

Wireless chip vendors Broadcom and Infineon also saw their growth increase, while the No. 2 wireless chip maker, Texas Instruments, remained flat (it’s still ranked as the third largest vendor, though). Fellow blogger Vijay Nagarajan would likely point out that this is less of a wireless industry problem and probably has to do with TI’s non-existent 3G baseband chip catalog (it does do custom chips for 3G). Other than wireless, Nvidia, Samsung, and Panasonic all saw growth rates above 20 percent, indicating the strength of consumer devices.

chart from IC Insights

Roku to Stream Other Video

Roku, the maker of the $99 Netflix streaming set-top box, has told Forbes that it will be updating its software later this year to let the device stream video from other “big name” providers.

While Roku didn’t name names, YouTube obviously springs to mind. The video-sharing site has done deals to get its content on devices like the Apple TV, HP MediaSmart Connect, and Sony and Panasonic TVs.

The bigger question is what does Roku’s news mean for Verismo, the other $99 set-top box (which also streams YouTube content). Roku’s already been flying off the store shelves (though with no hard numbers, we don’t know how many units that actually is), so does even Verismo stand a chance?

For that matter, what will this mean for the ZvBox. Sure the Zv turns your TV into a remote computer desktop and lets you watch any web video. But if all you want to do is watch video why shell out $499 for a Zv when you can get the Roku for $400 less?

The set-top space is changing by the day, with new players coming in and existing players mixing things up. If Roku is any indication, We’ll be updating our Set-Top Box scorecard a lot this year (and driving my wife crazy with all the new boxes under the TV).

Panasonic Pipes YouTube Directly to TVs

Consumer electronics companies like Apple, TiVo and HP either are or will be putting YouTube content on your TV through set-top boxes. But Panasonic’s new PZ-850 plasma Viera TV ditches the box and puts YouTube directly into your TV, and I got to see a demo of it today.

The PZ-850 sports an Internet connection and a dedicated on-screen YouTube section that gives you access to the site’s entire video library. Though the interface is different (built for remote control browsing), it offers pretty much all of the same functionality as the YouTube web site — search for video using keywords, check out the most viewed, rate videos and access your account.

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MWC: Mobile OS Scorecard

It’s not as fun as counting delegates from Super Tuesday, and figuring out which mobile operating system is pulling ahead can be complex, but we’re on it. And while we’re not tallying intangibles such as the “cool” factor of the phone, and have no idea how well each will sell, we are tracking which operating system is being used on the 28 (by our unscientific count) new handsets that have launched at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week. We still have three more days, so stay tuned. Read More about MWC: Mobile OS Scorecard