- - Thursday, October 6, 2011

Studio experiments with at-home viewing of new films

Movie studio Universal Pictures and its new parent, cable TV giant Comcast Corp., will try giving film buffs a chance to watch a movie that’s still in theaters from the comfort of their living rooms, the Associated Press reports. But the price tag for a single movie could have consumers spitting out their popcorn: $60.

The test involves “Tower Heist,” a PG-13 rated comedy caper starring Eddie Murphy and Ben Stiller due out Nov. 4.

Subscribers to Comcast Corp.’s digital cable service who have a high-definition TV and live in Atlanta and Portland, Ore., will be able to rent the movie starting Nov. 23 and watch it unlimited times in a 48-hour window.

The two cities’ residents regularly go see movies in theaters, making the cities perfect petri dishes for testing whether people take up the offer without cutting back on theatergoing. The idea is to target families who might pay just as much on tickets, popcorn and a baby sitter, but have chosen not to because they’d rather stay at home.

Studios are looking for ways of generating new revenue as DVD sales sag but want to avoid hurting box office revenue.

Xbox 360 to stream on-demand, live TV

Owners of the Xbox 360 soon will be able to watch a broad breadth of TV shows and other content through their gaming consoles — though most of it won’t be free, the Associated Press reports.

Microsoft Corp. said Wednesday that it’s partnering with Comcast Corp., HBO, Bravo, Verizon’s FiOS service and others to bring on-demand and live television content to the Xbox.

This doesn’t exactly replace the set-top boxes currently used to access TV programming, but M2 Research analyst Billy Pidgeon said it’s likely a good option for families who want to able to access TV content in different rooms of the house. With the Xbox, they won’t need a second set-top box.

What they still will need is a subscription to Comcast or other pay-TV services. In some cases, you’ll also need a subscription to the Xbox Live Gold online service, which costs $60 a year.

Besides on-demand shows and movies, some live TV channels will be available. For example, Verizon said it will bring a selection of popular live TV channels to the Xbox. The key word here, Mr. Pidgeon points out, is “some.” Verizon subscribers will still need a set-top box to access all channels and digital video recording services, he said.

The deal helps Microsoft position the Xbox 360 as more than a gaming console.

‘Good Morning America’ chipping into ‘Today’ ratings

The ratings showdown between morning TV shows has heated up early this fall season as the lead that NBC’s “Today” has enjoyed over “Good Morning America” has narrowed, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The “Today” show earlier this year celebrated its 800th week in the top ratings spot, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

During last month’s fall season premiere week, “Good Morning America” inched to within a daily average of 397,000 viewers of “Today,” according to the Journal. That compared to a “Today” viewer advantage of 1.1 million and 1.4 million during the same week in 2010 and 2009, respectively.

Last week, “Today’s” viewership lead on average was around 270,000, the paper said, citing preliminary Nielsen data. “Today’s” ratings have rebounded in recent days, however, and it continues to dominate among the core viewers age 25 to 54 years, the Journal said, pointing to more preliminary ratings data.

Jim Bell, “Today’s” executive producer, told the Journal that he is pleased with the show’s performance after an anchor switch from Meredith Vieira to Ann Curry.

Television ratings giant, Arthur Nielson Jr., dies

Arthur C. Nielsen Jr., whose family company has been the final word on whether television shows are hot or not for more than a half-century, has died in the suburban Chicago community where he lived most of his life. He was 92.

Nielsen, who died Monday in Winnetka, suffered from Parkinson’s disease, his son said.

It was the company founded by his father and then run by Nielsen that created the measurement system under which the entire multi-billion-dollar television industry is based and, from the late 1950s on, the name synonymous with U.S. television viewing habits.

The numbers have taken on a greater significance, and are watched more carefully for accuracy in recent years, now that there are so many networks slicing viewership into smaller segments.

Compiled from web and wire reports.

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