Fate of existing titles uncertain, Disney retains limited social gaming rights
The Walt Disney Company and developer Electronic Arts on Monday announced a new multi-year exclusive licensing agreement to develop and publish globally new games based on Star Wars characters and storylines for the "core gamer audience." Under the agreement, EA will develop and publish new Star Wars titles, spanning all platforms and the most popular game genres, while Disney will retain certain rights to develop new titles within the mobile, social, tablet and online game categories.
LucasArts IP to be farmed out, two newest titles cancelled mid-development
[Update: Raven releases source code for its Star Wars titles] Following its acquisition of Lucasfilm, Disney has shuttered the venerable video game-producing arm of the company, LucasArts. Formerly known as LucasFilm Games, the dissolution of the company will throw approximately 150 people out of work. Rather than develop titles itself, the company is moving to a licensing model with no internal development taking place, and existing titles -- including Star Wars: First Assault and Star Wars 1313 being cancelled.
Apple's intervention efforts unknown
Patent holder Lodsys had added Disney to the list of companies it is pursuing with lawsuits over in-app purchases, reports say. In a new court filing, Where's My Water? and other unspecified Disney apps are said to violate Lodsys' '565 and '078 US patents. "Prior to filing this complaint, Lodsys informed Disney of the patents-in-suit and offered to enter into a licensing arrangement that would allow Disney to continue practicing the inventions claimed in patents-in-suit," the filing continues. "Disney, however, chose not to enter into a licensing agreement. Instead, with knowledge of the patents-in-suit and disregard for Lodsys' patent rights, Disney chose to continue its infringement."
Streaming service yet to receive formal offer for sale
Hulu could come under new ownership, if rumors about its potential sale is true. News Corp and Disney are said to be considering selling the streaming service to one of a number of potential suitors, though they are also considering the option of buying each other out in order to take full control of the company.
Theaters to use satellite, terrestrial service for digital film distribution
Five movie studios have signed an agreement with the Digital Cinema Distribution Coalition (DCDC) to distribute films through its satellite network. Disney, Warner Bros, Paramount, Universal, and Lionsgate will be using the network as a way to delivery movies and other content to theaters across North America.
System part of new 'MyMagic+' initiative enhancing guests' visit
Destination vacation leader Walt Disney World in Orlando, FL is in the process of replacing turnstiles with employees wielding the iPod Touch in a customized case to more quickly and efficiently process incoming guests, according to a report at AppleInsider. More than 50 percent of the company's turnstiles have been replaced with "cast members" with the devices, as part of the "MyMagic+" technology initiative which is intended to tailor a guests' visit and streamline the inevitable waiting that must be done at the park, which sees over 17 million visitors per year.
Google, Amazon fill out top three
For a sixth year in a row, Apple has claimed the top position in Fortune's annual World's Most Admired Companies list. The chart is based on a poll of executives. "Apple has had a rough time lately with its stock price in a free fall and the widely publicized failure of its Maps feature," Fortune writes. "However, it remains a financial juggernaut, posting $13 billion in net income last quarter, making it the most profitable company in the world during that period. The company has its fanatical customer base, and it still refuses to compete on price, making the iconic iPhone and iPad products that are still widely seen as prestige devices. Competition may be stiff, but so far it remains behind: In Q4 2012, the iPhone 5 was the world's best selling smartphone, followed in second place by the iPhone 4S."
Move doubles Netflix stock gains for the year
Netflix has emerged victorious from its negotiations to carry Disney animated and live-action films. The agreement starts in 2016, following the completion of the Liberty Media Corp-owned Starz Entertainment deal. Netflix subscribers will gain exclusive access to movies from Pixar, Marvel, and Disney, with the fate of the upcoming Star Wars movies yet to be determined.
Comes week after selling off one million shares in Disney
On Monday Disney CEO Bob Iger bought $1 million in Apple stock, according to a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission. The transaction comes just a week after Iger's sale of 1 million shares in Disney, pulling in a net $17.9 million. Iger joined Apple's board of directors in November 2011 as the company tried to fill in the gap left by former CEO Steve Jobs.
Existing Disney Movies Online system may be replaced
Disney is shutting down its movie rental service, Disney Movies Online, at the end of the year. The service allowed customers to buy and rent movies from Disney's catalog of films, including those made by Pixar, and also allowed buyers of physical film releases to stream the movies, but appears not to have garnered enough of an audience to make the service viable.
Electrostatic field generator offers multiple touch sensations
A team at Disney Research has created a new wearable tactile technology that effectively changes the sensation felt when touching physical objects, using electricity. Revel can add artificial tactile sensations to almost any surface or object, without having to use the motors and actuators currently employed by touchscreen haptic feedback found in phones and tablets, and force feedback rumbling found in game controllers.
Cable subscriber authentication required, no deal in place
The Walt Disney Company's network executive Sean Bratches said in an interview today that Disney would consider allowing the WatchESPN service application on the Apple TV set top device. Prior authentication of cable access would be required to view. No deal is imminent.
Disney Research turns everyday objects touch-sensitive
A team at Disney Research and Carnegie Mellon University have developed touch technology that could one day see everyday objects become as smart and responsive as the touchscreens people carry in their pockets today. A video on Disney Research's YouTube page shows off the technology, dubbed Touché, as well as a few proof-of-concept applications.
Tests underway involve new RFID system
An unofficial Disney blogger has reported that iPads are beginning to show up at the company's Walt Disney World attractions in Orlando in order to facilitate testing of a new radio-frequency ID (RFID) based "FastPass" system that may replace the current ticket-based system. The testing is said to be going on for the next couple of weeks at Disney's central Florida parks and could allow guests to schedule "FastPass" times well in advance of their visit.
Appeal against iiNet rejected 5-0 in High Court
The High Court of Australia has ruled against an appeal filed by major Hollywood studios in a three year-old copyright infringement case. The studios sued Internet service provider iiNet Ltd. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the case was brought on by 32 members of the Australian Federation against Copyright Theft (AFACT) that include Warner Bros., Disney, Fox, and Paramount Pictures, among smaller, independent distributors and TV networks. The court found that iiNet had no responsibility for copyright infringements perpetuated by its customers and had no technical means of preventing it.
Hulu steps up original video content
Hulu used its turn at upfronts for TV content to reveal that it was adding four original shows beyond those teased earlier in the year. The strategy would be headlined by The Awesomes, a superhero comedy show due in 2013 that would draw on Saturday Night Live actors Seth Meyers and Michael Shoemaker. A nearer-term committed show, the 2012 basketball series We Got Next, would have The Game's Hale Rothstein and Kenya Barris along with The Office's Danny Leiner.
Most money still relegated to stocks
In all Apple CEO Tim Cook pulled in about $378 million in 2011, even if most of that money won't be available to him for years, according to the New York Times. The bulk, $376.2 million, consisted of a one-time stock grant that won't vest unless Cook stays with Apple for 10 years. In terms of immediate pay, his combined salary, bonuses, and miscellaneous perks during the year amounted to $1.8 million.
Choice of inspirational quotes to inscribe
Sony Japan are commemorating the 110th birthday of Walt Disney with the release of a new Walkman S range. Available from today and similar to a promotion in March 2010, the NW-S760 series of audio players include wallpapers featuring Disney characters and a choice between three inspirational quotes from Walt Disney to be inscribed on the reverse.
Kim Dotcom calls indictment MPAA-sponsored
Kim Dotcom, the MegaUpload founder who was arrested and his site shut down by the US government, is now speaking out quite vigorously against the government and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). He stated that Megauplaod wasn't a host for pirates, but instead a legitimate service that was likely shut down for political reasons, TorrentFreak reported. He goes on to call his indictment as being MPAA-sponsored and allegedly has evidence that will prove his innocence.
Aereo expands countering lawsuits
Aereo on Tuesday grew its countersuits against TV networks to include several more networks. Fox, PBS, Univision, WPIX, and WNET were all targeted under a complaint that wanted the judge to rule that Aereo wasn't violating the networks' copyrights. It had already sued ABC, CBS, and NBCUniversal a week ago.
Good news for BSkyB, deadline extended to July
UK satellite TV service BSkyB was given a reprieve as the Competition Commission pushed back its deadline on ruling that BSkyB's deals with six major Hollywood studios were uncompetitive, according to The Guardian. The government watchdog extended the date of its final ruling to July because it has added Netflix and LoveFilm to its investigation. Netflix launched in the UK and Ireland in January, while LoveFilm recently added a streaming service to its rent-by-mail service.
Netflix deal means less content for subscribers
Following an announcement in September that Starz streaming content deal with Netflix would end in February, its content has now been pulled. Starz runs 17 channels include Encore as well as movies from Disney and Sony. Although Starz does not own the rights for all of Disney and Sony films, titles that have been pulled from Netflix include Scarface, Young Frankenstein, Toy Story 3, Big Trouble in Little China, Beetlejuice, Gangs of New York among numerous others.
Recreates magic of Lion King, Tangled
The Walt Disney Company's DigitalBooks division has released two new "storybook apps" for children and parents, each of which offer new perspective and interaction with a classic Disney animated film, in this case the 1994 film The Lion King and the more recent 2010 hit Tangled, based on the fairy tale of Rapunzel. Both books feature a wide range of animated clips from the films and interactive activities.
Comcast tries Internet VOD to fend off rivals
Comcast on Tuesday tried its hand at mitigating the impact of Internet video on traditional TV by launching Streampix. The service will include a mix of movies and TV shows across its own NBCUniversal as well as Disney, Sony, and Warner Bros. Access won't be confined to Comcast's own network and should include mobile and computer access to some content that would normally go through Comcast's traditional video on demand.
Studios continue to push for disc sales
Disney is reportedly considering imposing a 28-day delay between DVD or Blu-ray movie releases and availability through rental chains such as Netflix and Redbox. The company's chief executive, Bob Iger, noted the potential strategy change during a quarterly conference call with investors and analysts.
Amazon now offers Viacom content, library at 15K+
Amazon on Wednesday officially confirmed earlier rumors that it has inked a deal with cable provider Viacom to bring its TV shows to Amazon's Instant Video streaming service. As part of the deal, Amazon will allow customers to access thousands of episodes from MTV, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, TV Land, Spike, VH1, BET, CMT, and Logo. This will include past seasons of shows like Chappelle's Show, Hot in Cleveland, Jersey Shore, Yo Gabba Gabba, and iCarly, among others.
Disney and NTT DoCoMo parter on exclusive phones
Disney has partnered with NTT DoCoMo to release a pair of new Android-powered smartphones. The phones are part of a new range of smartphones to be sold exclusively under the 'Disney Mobile on DoCoMo' brand. The first of the two models (F-08D) will be launched in late February with the second (P-05D) due to follow in March, both Japan only.
MPAA only now edging towards balance
A new exposé of some of the actions behind the scenes of SOPA's rejection has shown the fundamental disconnect between the MPAA and differing points of view as well as signs that there may be progress, if slow, on an alternative. MPAA president and former Democratic senator Chris Dodd explained to The Hollywood Reporter that he had been "assured" there would be no major opposition from the White House and was caught unawares when the administration suggested it would veto either SOPA or its Senate equivalent PIPA if they passed a vote. MPAA members had started to "pick up signals" of resistance at the start of January, but they sincerely thought they had made concessions and felt "bitterly betrayed" as a result.
Jobs family to keep stake but not board seat
The Walt Disney Company in its 2012 proxy statement (below) indirectly confirmed that the late Steve Jobs' family or his trust won't be seeking a board position at the Disney shareholder meeting on March 13. Although the family is the largest individual shareholder with a 7.7 percent stake, no mention is made of them in the filing beyond their investment. It also shows that Jobs' option holdings were gone at the end of Disney's fiscal year.
Lovefilm to begin streaming ABC TV show seasons
Online UK movie service Lovefilm has signed a deal with Disney UK to bring a library of TV series from ABC Studios to its subscribers. Branded as ABC TV On Demand, the portal will give members access to full seasons of shows such as Lost, Castle, Desperate Housewives, and more. Shows will air as full seasons soon before the next one airs on UK paid or free TV networks.
Hulu starts up own online-only TV series
Hulu followed in Netflix's footsteps Sunday by launching its first fictional, original TV series. Battleground covers a fictional political campaign in Wisconsin and is produced by JD Walsh, 500 Days of Summer's Marc Webb, and Hagai Shaham. It should be followed up by more documentaries, including a second season of Morgan Spurlock's A Day in the Life and Richard Linklater's new Up to Speed.
Comcast and Disney sign new 10-year TV, web deal
Cable provider Comcast has renewed its distribution deal with Disney, signing on for another 10 years. Programming from ABC, ESPN and 68 other channels or services is included in the deal, as is streaming to portable devices such as notebooks, iPhones and iPads through dedicated apps. Under the deal, Comcast will pay more money to Disney with each successive year as license fee schedules are introduced over time, which will more than likely translate to increased bills for Xfinity users.
Amazon may put Instant Video on UltraViolet
Movie studios are trying to get Amazon Instant Video on to the new UltraViolet cross-platform movie rights system, insiders divulged Wednesday. At least Sony and Warner Bros. were said by Bloomberg sources to be negotiating a deal. In ideal circumstances, a viewer could buy a Blu-ray or a digital format movie and have rights to play it on the Kindle Fire or another Amazon-friendly device.
Purchased on open market, not a bonus
Disney CEO and President Bob Iger, who was recently appointed to Apple's board of directors, has bought a million dollars' worth of the stock out of his own pocket on the open market, according to an SEC filing. Iger fills the seat vacated by Arthur Levinson when he became Chairman of the company in October. He bought 2,670 shares at around $375.
May be used for philanthropic work
Before the death of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, he had begun moving his assets into trusts in order to avoid undue tax liabilities. According to securities filings reported by Yahoo Finance, Jobs' 138 million shares of the The Walt Disney Company -- a majority of his fortune, worth about $4.6 billion -- will go into a trust managed by his wife, Laurene Powell Jobs. What will happen to the rest of holdings, such as his $2 billion in Apple stock, remains unclear.
YouTube rentals get Disney and Pixar
Google's YouTube rentals saw the slightly unexpected addition of Disney movies on Wednesday. Both its live and animated movies, as well as Pixar's CG movies, are now available on the web- and Android-based store. Key rival DreamWorks is also making the leap.
Split between common, restricted stock
In all Apple's newest board member, Disney CEO Bob Iger, has actually received about $84,376 in Apple stock, notes Fortune. The 142 shares mentioned previously actually represent only restricted ones. On top of this Iger is getting 75 shares of common stock, hitting the $84,376 total based on a closing price from Tuesday, when the executive was awarded his investments.
Stocks, other perks not included
The newest Apple board member, Robert Iger, will reap at least $50,000 a year from his added work, an Apple SEC filing reveals. Iger is slated to get a "standard $50,000 annual retainer" for his position, paid in quarterly installments. He is also however being granted 142 Apple shares, which vest in February. At current prices, the shares are together worth almost $55,000.
Videos include series based on Where's My Water?
Disney and YouTube announced they are working on a collection of co-branded family-friendly videos that will be available online. Disney Interactive will produce and program the videos for both Disney.com and YouTube. Free online video tailored to Disney's core audiences will be made available on both outlets in early 2012. The first project will be a short-form original video series based on Disney Interactive's hit mobile game "Where's My Water? ($0.99, iTunes) and its main character Swampy.
Google may use traditional TV to upturn system
In an odd decision, Google may go into traditional TV, insiders may have divulged Thursday. The YouTube owner would use its Google Fiber in both Kansas City rollouts to include TV and possible VoIP phone service, the Wall Street Journal was told. Early talks were said underway with Discovery, Disney, and Time Warner to supply content.
CBS says Apple planned stream TV with shared cash
CBS chief Les Moonves may have inadvertently confirmed Apple's negotiations for a streaming TV service during the company's fiscal results call. He claimed that CBS had turned down a deal for a service because it would have split ad revenues. The executive didn't give details of what the service would have involved.
ABC and Disney stay online with Amazon, Netflix
Disney and its ABC division on Monday recommitted themselves to Internet video Monday with separate deals for Amazon Instant Video and Netflix. Both deals give it access to all prior seasons of both active and recently ended shows as well as back catalog access. Amazon's deal gives it both access to on-demand Instant Video as well as unlimited access for Prime subscribers.
Hulu still talking to Google on sale?
With yesterday's report that Hulu is no longer for sale, a new report from SAI sources suggests it's still considering a sale to Google. Google did make the largest bid for the streaming service, though it also wanted concessions that Hulu wasn't willing to make. Google's bid, at about $4 billion, was more than twice as big as Dish Network's $2 billion.
Hulu says studios see it as too valuable
Hulu in a brief note said it had decided to stop its attempted selloff. The statement, which had the support of Disney, investor Providence Equity Partners, and Fox's parent company News Corp., claimed that each of the owners though there was too much of a "unique and compelling strategic value" for each of them to sell. It would instead center on existing plans.
Yahoo rumored jumping ship from Hulu deals
Yahoo is reportedly out of the increasingly uncertain bidding process for Hulu, a claimed leak said late Sunday. The search engine has allegedly been identified by the WSJ sources as the original mystery bidder but also to have exited entirely. The internal turmoil following Carol Bartz' firing and the possibility of a sell-off were attributed to the departure.
Hulu owners may back out of sale after low bids
Earlier rumors of Hulu going back on its decision to sell itself off are proving true, two sources have told SAI. The bids, while they are still rolling in, aren't as high as initially hoped. Hulu's parent companies are reportedly looking for $2 billion for the online service.
Cars 2 Appmates iPad game coming in October
Disney Mobile will soon launch a series of apps called Appmates that will turn Apple's iPad into a game board. The first is a rolling road that can be used in conjunction with toy cars from Disney/Pixar's Cars 2 blockbuster movie. The app requires special toys the iPad will recognize rolling across the screen, but the interface is touch-based, and there is no Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or cables needed to play.
Netflix gets DreamWorks movies for 30m
DreamWorks late Sunday revealed that it had struck a deal with Netflix to provide its animated movies. The deal, unofficially estimated by a consensus of NY Times analysts to be worth $30 million, will bring movies like Monsters vs. Aliens or the Shrek series to the streaming service. It's not evident how long the deal will last other than multiple years, starting in 2013.
Roku, Disney team up on short videos
Roku has added some Disney-made short video segments to its online lineup, ZatzNotFunny learned. The on-demand mix includes entertainment and advertisement clips or promos for Disney's feature-length movies and is free to users. The content numbers in the hundreds thus far, but is said to expand in the months to come.
Gowalla apps get social guides, new features
Check-in service Gowalla has announced on Thursday the release of new iPhone (App Store) and Android (Market) apps that include a feature called Social Guides. They include places friends recommend, advice from experts and the best of what's local in particular cities, parks and other regions. The launch covers 60 cities and shows off photos, highlights and experiences from friends and experts.