It isn’t exactly the FTSI 100 but Netflix has joined a rather exclusive club. The UK Office of National Statistics added the subscription video service to its basket of consumer goods and services watched for the rise and fall of prices. Video on demand subscription services, including Netflix and Amazon Instant Video, will now be part of the Consumer Prices Index calculation. Cut from the statistics were DVD rental prices as well as wallpaper paste and hardwood flooring.
Separately, the UK Entertainment Retailers Association (ERA) reported video on demand subscription sales in 2013 – that would be Netflix, LoveFilms, et.al. – exploded 120% over the previous year. Music streaming subscription sales – that would be Spotify, Deezer, et-al. – rose 34%. Overall, the home entertainment business saw its first annual sales gain in five years, up 4% over 2012 to GPB 5.3 billion (about €6.3 billion), with web-driven services up 13.9% to GBP 3.18 billion (about €3.8 billion).
“The entertainment revolution has been driven by new and existing retailers taking huge gambles and investing in technology and new delivery mechanisms,” said ERA director general Kim Bayley, quoted by the Guardian (March 12). “This is stark evidence of the revolution in entertainment consumption being driven by entertainment retailers. The fact that 60p in the entertainment pound is now spent online and 26p in the pound is for access to content rather than ownership is a testament to the huge investment and technological ingenuity of retailers in providing consumers with new ways to enjoy the music, video and games they love.”
“Unknown armed men” disabled the last Ukrainian radio stations in Crimea by the middle of Friday afternoon, said National Television and Radio Council deputy chairman Larisa Mudrak, quoted by Telekritika (March 14). On Monday (March 9) Ukrainian analogue television channels were pulled off the air and from cable networks, replaced by Russian channels. Forces of the Russian Federation have occupied the Ukrainian Crimea peninsula ahead of a hastily called and internationally unrecognized referendum on joining the Russian Federation scheduled for Sunday.
TRK Breeze, located in Kerch, lost transmission from “damaged electrical cables and electric part of the radio tower,” said the station’s website, about 14h00 local time. Radio ERA, which rebroadcasts Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), lost FM transmission in Krasnoperekopsk and Kerch, replaced by “propaganda broadcasts spreading anti-Ukrainian appeals…to support the illegal referendum,” said the station’s website.
“We have appealed to the police and prosecutors to immediately take steps to protect our radios and restore law and order,” said Ms Mudrak.
Austrian authorities confirmed the arrest of Ukrainian billionaire Dmitry Firtash in Vienna on an international warrant issued by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Mr. Firtash is principal owner of Ukrainian TV broadcaster Inter as well as much, much more. He was arrested Wednesday (March 12) by officers from the Austrian Office of Organized Crime and the EKO Cobra counter-terrorism unit.
“As a result of year of investigation by the American FBI and a warrant by a US Federal District Court, the Vienna Public Prosecutor issued a national arrest order against the person,” said Federal Criminal Police spokesperson Mario Hejl, quoted by Vienna newspaper Kurier (March 13). The US warrant charges Mr. Firtash with international business bribery and forming a criminal organization. He currently sits in a Vienna jail while Austrian courts and the Ministry of Justice consider extradition. (See more on media in Ukraine here)
The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry indicated embassy officials in Vienna are prepared to offer consular assistance, reported Telekritika (March 13). Austrian officials insisted that the arrest was entirely coincidental to sanctions against former Ukrainian officials. Mr. Firtash was once aligned with the former government then seemed to switch sides.
A major challenge in sorting through media developments is identifying the most reliable sources. The dismissal this week of Russian news portal Lenta.ru chief editor Galina Timchenko was, then, disturbing. Lenta.ru has been a reasonably reliable source for news from Russia – media-related and otherwise.
Ms Timchenko was apparently fired a few days after internet censor Roscomnadzor sent a warning about links to an interview with Ukrainian dissident Dmitry Jaros. No reason was given at the Wednesday morning meeting with Playbill Rambler SUP co-owner Alexander Mamut. She was immediately replaced by company public and governmental relations executive Alexei Goreslavsky, known as a social media specialist for political campaigns. (See more on media in Russia here)
Editorial staff at Lenta.ru posted on the site (March 12) that Goreslavsky is “controlled directly from the Kremlin offices” and that several would follow Ms Timchenko out the door. Playbill Rambler SUP is a joint venture formed last year when Interros owner and billionaire Vladmir Potanin reduced his media footprint, selling the ProfMedia broadcasting assets to Gazprom Media and merging internet assets – including Lenta.ru – Mr. Mamut’s SUP Media.
Ms Timchenko worked for Lenta.ru since the launch in 1999 and was named chief editor in 2004. Earlier she had worked for business daily Kommersant.
Completely unrelated (winky blinky), Kommersant CEO Pavel Filenkov announced the closure Kommersant Ukraine for financial and editorial reasons. “We require absolute coverage of all points of view, presenting the views from all sides,” he said, quoted by Telekritika (March 13). “We understand that now in Ukraine presenting a completely Russian point of view can lead to risks. These risks can be for the company, for the brand and for individuals.” Kommersant is owned by billionaire Alisher Usmanov who also heads the Gazprom investment arm.
Media Investors, Bright Lights And Fading
Companies move through stages, entirely predictable. Financial investors also have their phases. Circumstances, certainly, dictate much of the flow but, like the sun rises and sets, investors move on to newer opportunities. Companies either evolve or fade away.
For Press Freedom There Is Only One Tune
As a legal concept press freedom is meant to enshrine a separation between those who deliver news to the public and those who might impose limits. The purpose is to mind the principle of an informed public enabling democracy. Though inscribed in the grand conventions on human rights, not everybody agrees on the purpose.
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Technology is magic, things appear and then disappear. Molecules, figuratively speaking, are sometimes rearranged. The media realm embraces all, except when it doesn’t. People, though, know what they want.
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