Home Entertainment Spending Hits $20 Billion – U.S. consumer spending on all pre-recorded media content reached $20 billion in the U.S. during 2009, down 5% from 2008. Blu-ray disc products sales hit $1.5 billion for the first time. Blu-ray sell-thru was up 70% and rental up 48% in the fourth quarter. Blu-ray new release sales rose 35% and catalog sales doubled in the fourth quarter. The number of Blu-ray playback devices in U.S. households is now 17 million, up 76% from 2008. 22.8 million standard DVD players were sold to U.S. consumers in 2009, and 67% of DVD owners have more than one player. Digital distribution without physical discs also grew in 2009. Consumer spending on electronic sell-thru and video-on-demand went up 32% to $2.1 billion, with VOD growth accelerating 63% in the fourth quarter. More than 71 million HDTV sets have been sold, bringing the number of HDTV households to nearly 48 million (An estimated 33% have more than one HDTV set.) These figures come from the Hollywood-based Digital Entertainment Group (DEG) and were announced yesterday at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
Skype Online Video Calling Service on New TVs – Two of the top TV makers – LG Electronics and Panasonic – have introduced at CES Internet-connected HDTVs integrating the free online calling service Skype. If those who buy the TVs also get an extra Web camera and mike designed for the living room, and the person they want to video-communicate with has the same at their end, they can conduct free live video chats from their respective couches. The domestic TV market has done OK in the recession, shipping 33.86 million units in 2009 – up 17% from 2008. Internet-enabled TVs generally run about $300 more than TVs without the connection, and haven’t yet proved a hit with consumers. They have also only been able to access a limited number of online services – not the entire Internet. By adding other services – including Skype – TV makers want to change the identify of the primary screen in the home, making it into a two-way communications device – a portal into other people’s lives. TV programs will stop when a Skype call comes in or is made, since TV processors are not yet powerful enough to allow users to chat while watching a show. The specially-designed webcams will cost $100 to $200, customized to work in the technically-challenging environment of the living room, with people further away from the camera than with computer webcams. About 520 million people around the world already use the Skype service to place free phone calls and have video chats with one another from their computers. The service’s income comes from people calling regular phone numbers and for add-on services such as voicemail. The latest Skype software – though only for Windows PCs and HDTVs – will support 720p HD format if the webcams support it.
Marian McPartland Awarded “Officer of the Order of the British Empire” – 91-year-old legendary jazz pianist and host of the NPR series “Piano Jazz,” Marian McPartland has been award the prestigious “Officer of the Order of the British Empire” honor by Queen Elizabeth II. The UK honors system recognizes exceptional achievement and service to the nation. She received the citation for services to jazz and for aspiring young musicians in the United States (and incidentally because she was born in the UK). McPartland and her program have already been honored with a George Foster Peabody Award, a Gracie Allen Award, a National Music Council award, and a Grammy Trustee’s Award for lifetime achievement. She has been inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame, and her “Piano Jazz” recently celebrated its 30th anniversary on the air. St. Martin’s Press will shortly be publishing her first biography.