Thursday, June 30, 2005   NMBA expresses concern over Ontario new media budgetThe New Media Business Alliance (NMBA) has expressed concern in a membership newsletter that the budget for the Ontario Media Development Corp. could be cut in the upcoming provincial budget. NMBA head Ian Kelso writes in the newsletter: “With gathering positive momentum at the federal level, I have become very concerned with the situation here at home in Ontario. The Ontario Media Development Corporation (OMDC), the provincial agency that oversees business development opportunities for the cultural industries and that has been a vital partner to NMBA and to the industry, is about to be massively cut. Though there have been no official announcements to date, the OMDC has been forced into a holding pattern since early spring as it reached the end of its mandate and awaited the report from a review by the Ministry of Culture. Now it seems certain that the axe will fall and their annual budget will be reduced by $2 million (20%). What does this mean for our industry? It certainly can’t mean anything good. I will keep you apprised as more information becomes available." Canadian NEW MEDIA will also be following this developing story.Coalition changes name at VIDFESTThe coalition of regional new media associations that has been working together since the April 2003 cuts to the Bell Broadcast and New Media Fund has changed its name. It will now be called the Canadian Interactive Alliance / Alliance Interactive Canadienne. The coalition is made up of the New Media Business Alliance (Ontario), the Alliance numériQC (Quebec), New Media BC, the Canadian Film and Television Production Association, Alberta New Media, the Saskatchewan New Media Developers Association, the Interactive Digital Media Association of Manitoba, and the Innovation and Technology Association of Prince Edward Island.Computer and peripherals prices fall: StatsCanStatistics Canada reports that prices for commercial computers were down in April 0.7% from March. Consumer computer prices – for machines normally purchased by consumers and small businesses – fell 0.8% in the same period. Monitor prices declined 2.1% from March to April, and printer prices rose slightly by 0.2%.Inter-carrier MMS launchesInter-carrier multimedia message service (MMS) will launch on Canada Day, enabling customers of all of the country’s wireless carriers to send and receive rich content. Until now, customers could only send content such as photos, video clips ad audio to other users on their own carrier’s network. The interoperability is made possible on a platform sold by VeriSign Inc. Upstart Virgin Mobile Canada was quick to applaud the news in a media release, writing that “Just as intercarrier MMS has driven real value in picture messaging around the world, we know our customers will be snap happy and really embrace the service.”Topix creates new Canadian information sitePalo Alto CA-based Topix.net has introduced a new dedicated news channel for Canada and local news for over 4,200 Canadian cities and towns. The site will work with a back end that allows localization to the postal code level. “Local search continues to push ahead as an important part of the Internet search equation and Topix.net is continuing to lead the way by delivering our brand into more markets and making great content available to customers through a variety of platforms,” the company writes in a media release.Musicrypt reports increasing revenuesMusicrypt Inc. reports in a media release that its revenues for the first six months of 2005 are expected to exceed all of 2004. The company’s billings have increased for seven consecutive quarters, with revenue for the first quarter of 2005 being 33% greater than for Q42004. Some of the growth is being attributed to a rapid rise in the use of the company’s digital music distribution system (DMDS) by independent labels. “This very encouraging pattern of revenue growth is affirmation of our business model. This growth is being driven by the increased use of DMDS by our major label customers and its rapid adoption by the independent music sector. Musicrypt is not only the technological and commercial delivery leader in its industry, but is also the revenue leader,” said president and CEO John Heaven in the same release.PhotoChannel signs renewed Wal-Mart Canada dealVancouver-based web photo processor PhotoChannel Networks Inc. has inked a deal with Wal-Mart Canada to continue operating the Wal-Mart and SAM’s CLUB online photo services. The contract is for two years, with an option to renew for one. “To reinforce the relationship for another two years just as the current contract has entered its renewal option period reaffirms a relationship that has been most rewarding for both companies. With the digital printing market now hitting mainstream, we look forward to the continued phenomenal growth of online print ordering,” said chair and CEO Peter Fitzgerald in a media release.Sympatico/MSN joins ID!ASympatico/MSN is the first Canadian company to join the Innovations in Digital Advertising Group (ID!A), where it will play a role in contributing to the development of on-demand advertising standards and opportunities for Canadian advertisers. The ID!A is a cross-industry group promoting the development of business practices that will make the market viable for advertisers. Its membership includes over 40 executives from the on-demand television market, including from ABC/ESPN, Discovery, MTV, Turner and TVGuide.Hip delays filing, announces liquidity issuesVideo-game peripheral maker Hip Interactive Corp. will not file its financial statements by the end of the day as required by law, the company announced on June 22. It attributes the delay to the need to resolve some non-cash accounting issues. It currently anticipates that it will show an EBITDA loss of approximately $2 million to $3 million. The company says in a media release that it is experiencing cash-flow problems, and that it is working to borrow additional funds. It currently has $35.2 million outstanding under a previously arranged $55 million credit facility, but is experiencing difficulties borrowing against it due to a lack of eligible collateral.Rogers files for trademarksRogers Wireless has filed for several trademark protections, including to the term “Rogers Telemobile,” related to a TV-to-the-mobile application. At the same time, it filed for protection for the term “Rogers Mobile TV,” which is already in use for the same purpose. The company also filed for protection for the term “Caller Ring Trax,” not currently in use by the company. The application is in connection with proposed wireless interactive services. INTERNATIONAL1.2 billion pirate discs sold in 2004: IFPIThe International Federation of the Phonograph Industry reports in its recently-released Industry Commercial Piracy Report 2005 that 34% of all music discs sold worldwide, 1.2 billion of them, were pirated copies. The level is the lowest in five years, thanks in part, according to IFPI, to greater enforcement in countries such as Mexico, Brazil, Hong Kong, Paraguay and Spain. IFPI says the pirate trade cost the industry US$4.6 billion in 2004. Canada was targeted in the report as one of four countries where “piracy levels are at unacceptable levels and where additional government action is urgently needed.”UN readying report in advance of Information SummitA United Nations-backed panel studying Internet-related issues will submit its report to secretary general Kofi Annan by early July in preparation for a world summit on information later this year. The report will be issued on July 18, with proposals covering areas ranging from spam to strengthening network security and fighting cyber-crime, ready for the World Summit on Information Society to be held November 16-18, 2005. The report is being prepared by a working group of 40 member states formed in 2003.SAG to put video game offer to referendumThe national board of the U.S. Screen Actors Guild (SAG) will send a proposed Interactive Media Agreement (IMA) to members on July 13 for a referendum. The board “reluctantly” endorsed a negotiated settlement with the video game industry on June 8, in cooperation with the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA). The contract has already been approved by AFTRA, according to a SAG media release.