Plasma displays have taken a big leap toward affordability. On June 10, <A HREF="http://www.plasmavision.com/">Fujitsu General America Inc.</A> announced a major reduction in the price of its Plasmavision 42 at the InfoComm International '99 confab in Orlando, Florida. The new price of $6995 is a 30% drop from the former suggested retail of almost $10,000---and half the price of the 42's predecessor, which was introduced at CES in 1997.
News Corporation's <A HREF="http://www.fox.com/">Fox Network</A> and the <A HREF="http://www.nab.org/">National Association of Broadcasters</A> have gone their separate ways. Fox made the announcement on June 8 in protest over the Association's refusal to lobby against legal limits on the number of television stations one company can own. The limit is now defined by Federal law as a total number of stations that reach no more than 35% of the more than 100 million homes in the US. Three weeks earlier, <A HREF="http://www.nbc.com/">NBC</A>, a unit of General Electric, had threatened similar action over the NAB's refusal to change its policy.
Last week, <A HREF="http://www.panasonic.com">Panasonic</A> announced that it will market hard-disk video recorders with <A HREF="http://www.replaytv.com">ReplayTV</A> technology under the Panasonic brand. The company expects to be one of the first outside Replay Networks, Inc. to market hard-disk recorders with ReplayTV, which allows television viewers to record shows "on the fly" directly onto a built-in hard disk.
Last week, <A HREF="http://www.directv.com">DirecTV</A>, a subsidiary of <A HREF="http://www.hughes.com">Hughes Electronics</A>, announced that its direct-broadcast satellite (DBS) television service acquired 110,000 new customers in May. This figure is a record for that month, the company reports, and a 57% increase in net customer acquisition over May 1998. An additional 145,000 customers---who previously subscribed only to programming from US Satellite Broadcasting---were gained last month by DirecTV when Hughes completed its merger with USSB on May 20.
According to the <A HREF="http://vsda.org/">Video Software Dealers Association</A>'s weekly VidTrac reporting service, <I>Saving Private Ryan</I> has debuted as the top-renting video ever. In its first six days of release, the report says, <I>Saving Private Ryan</I> has been rented by more consumers than any other film in the same opening-week time period.
W<I>arren Beatty, Halle Berry, Don Cheadle, Oliver Platt, Paul Sorvino, Jack Warren, Isaiah Washington. Directed by Warren Beatty. Aspect ratio: 1:85:1. Dolby Digital. 108 minutes. 1998. 20th Century Fox 4110398. Rated R. $34.98.</I>
Most Net-connected movie fans have heard of downloading films. They have sampled AVI files and found the results less than satisfying. The digital video is jerky, out of focus, and suffers from terrible pixelation effects---all caused by slow microprocessors and low frame rates. The present typical state of the art isn't high enough for most folks to take Internet video seriously.
In the wake of a rash of horrendous school shootings, President Clinton has ordered a federal study of marketing strategies used to promote movies, music, and video games. The <A HREF="http://www.ftc.gov/">Federal Trade Commission</A> has been given a $1 million budget and 18 months to complete the study, which will be "designed to lift a veil on whether production companies deliberately use violent imagery and language to lure young consumers," according to a June 1 report by the <A HREF="http://www.washingtonpost.com/"><I>Washington Post</I></A>.
Last week, <A HREF="http://www.microsoft.com">Microsoft</A> and <A HREF="http://www.wink.com/">Wink Communications</A> announced an agreement to promote interactive content and commerce based on the <A HREF="http://www.atvef.com/">Advanced Television Enhancement Forum</A> (ATVEF) specification for interactive television. Wink Communications says it will optimize its Response Network Service (which provides the broadcast and cable-television industries with viewer-response services) to support ATVEF-compliant content for television devices that use the Microsoft television-software platform. In turn, Microsoft claims that it will use Wink's Response Network to handle certain ATVEF-based advertising direct-response services. As part of the agreement, Microsoft invested $30 million in Wink Communications.
A bout of box-office flops might have run its course at <A HREF="http://www.universalpictures.com/">Universal Pictures</A>. <I>The Mummy</I> has surprised skeptics by pulling in more than $118 million in ticket sales through the week of June 4. The remake of the classic horror flick is helping to pull the struggling studio out of its prolonged slump. The film division of <A HREF="http://www.seagram.com/">Seagram Ltd.</A> was the conglomerate's worst-performing division last year.