Universal Music Takes Matters into its Own Hands



It seems that Universal Music Group has finally gotten tired of the declining number of outlets for their "product." From Clearchannel’s consolidation of FM radio to the shift of MTV away from, well, Music Television, distribution channels for Universal’s music — outside of the dreaded P2P — are becoming fewer and further between.

They have long been complaining that cable channels no longer play their latest music videos. So the music behemoth did what all the labels should have done when they realized their channels were narrowing (1996 forward):  They are creating their own satellite TV music channel.

Here’s an excerpt from today’s NYT:

"Universal Music, a unit of Vivendi, is in talks to put [an MTV like] channel on Dish Network, owned by EchoStar Communications, executives said. Universal is aiming to have the channel, which would feature videos from its roster of acts, on screens in the first or second quarter of next year, they added.

Universal has been developing the idea with Andy Schuon, who resigned in January as the head of programming for the Infinity radio unit of Viacom Inc. and who once worked as a top programmer at Viacom’s MTV network, the executives said.

Entrepreneurs inside and outside the music business have been exploring whether viewers would embrace a new outlet in a music video market that MTV has dominated for more than two decades. Cablevision’s Fuse channel, introduced early last year, quickly earned a following but lacks MTV’s wide distribution. Fuse is also carried on the Dish Network, which says it has more than 10 million subscribers.

Record executives often complain about how MTV has discarded its original focus on music. MTV executives say shows like "Punk’d" attract a bigger audience than a basic rotation of music videos, and they note that a spinoff channel, MTV2, emphasizes lesser-known acts."

Interestingly, the labels tried this same idea before (1994), but it was nixed "amid a Justice Department antitrust inquiry." Considering that this was BEFORE any radio consolidation began, and while MTV was still playing music videos. Given the industry’s long history of anti-competitive behavior, its not surprising that the DoJ looked askance at the idea.

Now that competition in the space has faded, there should be no objection to a new entrant into musical programming / broadcasting; Consider the film/TV distribution model established by Disney/ABC, Universal Pictures/NBC, and Paramount Pictures/CBS. There shouldn’t be an issue with Unoversal estabishing a similar TV channel outlet for promoting their music.

Its amazing that 10 years later, they are finally getting around to this again; I have yet to hear of anyone mentioning a radio network — an "Air America" for new music type thing. It just goes to show you how little the industry actually understands about their consumers, products and distribution. Quite astounding, when you think about it . . .


Universal Music Is in Talks to Create Satellite TV Channel
New York Times, December 1, 2004

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An Energy Illusion of the Highest Order


"We are living with an energy illusion of the highest order,"

So warns oil banker Matt Simmons, 61, whose "bold and often prescient pronouncements have won him followers — and detractors — in the course of his 30-year career."

According to Simmons, whether the Saudis have overestimated their crude reserves or not is the key question for energy prices the next decade or so.

In an interview with Barron’s, Simmons lays out the Bull case for Oil:

"With global demand for oil on the rise, and prices hovering near $50 a barrel, the Saudis’ production profile is more than academic. The No. 1 oil producer, Saudi Arabia pumps 13% of the world’s oil and boasts 23% of its oil reserves. Moreover, the Saudis alone claim to have excess production capacity and the ability to increase output if demand continues to rise.

Barrons_oil_11262004_1 Simmons’ conclusions are based largely on his analysis of the high water content and other signs of aging of Saudi oil fields. Not surprisingly, they have caught the attention of Saudi Aramco, the kingdom’s national oil company, which has dismissed his views and remains committed to previously published numbers of the size of Saudi reserves.

Because the Saudi oil industry is state-run, and there is no independent auditor of national reserves, it is impossible to determine just how large — or small — the Saudis’ are.

If the Saudis’ numbers are correct, the kingdom could continue to produce at current levels of about 10 billion barrels a day for the next 50 years, or more. That would give the industrial world time to develop alternative energy sources and prepare for a graceful transition.
If Simmons is right, however, the world could face a dangerous imbalance between rising oil demand and diminishing supply, perhaps within the next 10 years. Oil prices could soar, economies could suffer, and oil-dependent nations, such as the U.S., China and Japan, would be forced to scramble for additional energy sources."

Consistent with my long term view on this sector, Simmons may not be that far off.

Field Theories
Barron’s, NOVEMBER 29, 2004

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