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    Sunday, October 10, 2010

    Reuter site - Apple in talks on fee-based music service: report

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    Apple in talks on fee-based music service: report

    Fri, Oct 08 08:36 AM EDT

    (Reuters) - Apple is in talks with major record labels to provide a subscription-based music service, allowing unlimited access to songs for a monthly fee, the New York Post said, citing unnamed sources.

    A few weeks ago, Apple iTunes boss Eddy Cue discussed with music labels how they could implement this plan, the Post said.

    The service could have tiered pricing ranging from $10 to $15, depending on much music would be included and how long consumers would be able to access the content, one source told the Post.

    Apple could not immediately be reached for comment by Reuters outside regular U.S. business hours.

    (Reporting by Mansi Dutta in Bangalore; Editing by Erica Billingham)

    Reuter site - Apple in talks on fee-based music service: report

    This article was sent to you from bombastic4000@yahoo.com, who uses Reuters Mobile Site to get news and information on the go. To access Reuters on your mobile phone, go to:
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    Apple in talks on fee-based music service: report

    Fri, Oct 08 08:36 AM EDT

    (Reuters) - Apple is in talks with major record labels to provide a subscription-based music service, allowing unlimited access to songs for a monthly fee, the New York Post said, citing unnamed sources.

    A few weeks ago, Apple iTunes boss Eddy Cue discussed with music labels how they could implement this plan, the Post said.

    The service could have tiered pricing ranging from $10 to $15, depending on much music would be included and how long consumers would be able to access the content, one source told the Post.

    Apple could not immediately be reached for comment by Reuters outside regular U.S. business hours.

    (Reporting by Mansi Dutta in Bangalore; Editing by Erica Billingham)

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    Reuter site - Google getting larger in Apple's rearview mirror

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    Google getting larger in Apple's rearview mirror

    Fri, Oct 08 17:11 PM EDT

    By Gabriel Madway

    SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - It seemed Android smartphones was all anyone at a telecoms industry pow-wow in California talked about this week.

    After years alone in the limelight, Apple Inc's iPhone now shares it with a slew of devices built on Google's operating system.

    At the CTIA wireless industry show in San Francisco, Android smartphones, such as Motorola's Droid, Samsung's Galaxy S and HTC's Evo, dominated displays and conversations.

    Sales of the iPhone are still growing at a healthy clip and its annual smartphone launches generate hype that rivals only dream of matching. In addition, Apple could get another boost if Verizon Wireless gets the iPhone on its network next year, as many expect.

    But Android is giving Apple a run for its money in the consumer market, according to research data. Android was the most popular platform among U.S. customers who bought smartphones in the past six months, despite the launch of the iPhone 4 in June, Nielsen reported.

    "Anybody who watches it with a keen eye would be crazy to assume that Android wouldn't gain more share than Apple over time," Pacific Crest Securities analyst Andy Hargreaves said.

    "They've got more devices, they're going to be on more networks across a wider spectrum of price points."

    Android has effectively expanded the smartphone market, which had been dominated by Apple in the consumer space and Research in Motion in the business world.

    ComScore said Android gained 6.6 percentage points of U.S. market share from May through August, while Apple remained essentially flat and Research in Motion -- which makes the BlackBerry -- shed 4.1 percentage points.

    ComScore put Apple's U.S. smartphone market share at 24.2 percent and Android's at 19.6 percent.

    FREE TO AIR

    Hargreaves said that because Android software is free for handset makers to license, it means Apple could have a tougher time generating higher margins on the iPhone than its rivals can on their smartphones.

    Analysts estimate Apple sold about 12 million iPhones in the September quarter, which would translate into roughly 60 percent growth from last year.

    That's despite reports of a faulty antenna on the device.

    But rivals are nipping at its heels. Motorola on Tuesday announced what it called the single largest launch of Android devices at any one time. It also unveiled the Droid Pro, as it aims to make inroads in the enterprise market.

    "The Motorola phones are pretty good. The HTC phones are pretty good," said Sterne, Agee & Leach analyst Vijay Rakesh.

    But Rakesh said much of Android's growth has come because of heavy promotion at Verizon Wireless, the biggest U.S. mobile provider, which is owned by Verizon Communications and Vodafone Group Plc.

    Rakesh expects Android growth to slow next year if Verizon begins to offer the iPhone, as many analysts expect.

    "The only thing Verizon could push was Android. Next year, if Apple gets on Verizon, that should slow," he said.

    The developer community has also increased its support for Android. Apple launched the craze for mobile applications when it opened the App Store in 2008.

    Apple's store now boasts more than a quarter of a million apps for purchase. The Android Market is smaller, with more than 80,000 apps, but can still offer its growing user base access to many of the most popular mobile programs. (Editing by Edwin Chan, Gary Hill)

    Reuter site - Hulu prepares IPO amid battle with Netflix

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    Hulu prepares IPO amid battle with Netflix

    Fri, Oct 08 14:24 PM EDT

    By Clare Baldwin and Nadia Damouni

    NEW YORK (Reuters) - Popular U.S. Web video service Hulu is prepared to raise as much as $300 million in an initial public offering likely to be led by Morgan Stanley, according to sources familiar with the matter.

    Hulu is ready to raise $200 million to $300 million in a deal valuing the company at about $2 billion, and could file a prospectus with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission before the end of the year, one source said.

    Tapping public markets is one of several options under consideration as Hulu, which offers shows such as "Glee" and "Modern Family" over the Web, girds for battle against fast-moving rival Netflix, and better financed big technology companies Google Inc and Amazon.com Inc.

    Other options include attracting other media companies to contribute new programing or raising more money from existing partners, another source said.

    A decision could come by November, the source said, adding that the offering is contingent on the renewal of rights to carry shows, some of which expire in a year.

    The online video service, backed by General Electric Co's NBC Universal, Walt Disney Co, News Corp and private equity firm Providence Equity Partners, was launched three years ago as an ambitious attempt to harness the explosive growth in online video viewing.

    The worldwide online video market is expected to hit $16.1 billion through paid and ad-supported services by 2012, according to ABI Research, which tracks media trends.

    Hulu is now the second-largest Web video service behind Google's YouTube in the United States.

    But with fresh assaults from Google, which secured content deals with Time Warner for its new Google TV service, and Amazon.com, which is considering a subscription video service of its own, Hulu has found itself racing to fill up its coffers to pay for more content.

    Apple Inc, which views the television business as a "hobby," considered launching a lower-cost subscription TV service, but faced resistance from program owners. It launched a $99 Apple TV device that lets customers rent videos instead.

    Hulu has operated a free service, but began testing a subscription video service that offers more shows for mobile devices, game consoles and TV sets in June.

    Hulu was not immediately available for comment.

    News Corp, Walt Disney, NBCU, Morgan Stanley and Providence declined to comment.

    IPO TIMING

    Filing by the end of the year gives Hulu the flexibility to push an IPO out in January or February if the new issue market improves, but also lays the groundwork for an offering in April or May, after first quarter results have given it more time to gauge its financial health and the market, people familiar with the plan said.

    Banks including Goldman Sachs, Bank of America and JPMorgan in August pitched to lead the offering.

    It is unclear if any banks have officially been mandated, but several people said that Morgan Stanley, at least unofficially, has been given the nod for the lead slot.

    It has not yet been decided how many IPO shares will be new and how many will be sold by current stakeholders.

    The offering is too small to provide much liquidity to shareholders, one source said. Proceeds from the offering are expected to be used to bring new shows to the subscription service, a separate source added.

    (Reporting by Clare Baldwin, Nadia Damouni and Jennifer Saba. Additional reporting by Megan Davies, Paul Thomasch, Sue Zeidler and Yinka Adegoke. Editing by Kenneth Li)

    Reuter site - Social gaming sector braces for deal wave

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    Social gaming sector braces for deal wave

    Sun, Oct 10 12:57 PM EDT

    By Alex Dobuzinskis

    LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Gentlemen, start your engines: the fledgling social gaming industry is revving up for a new wave of acquisitions and consolidation this coming year.

    Among those eyeing the likes of Zynga or Crowdstar are Web powerhouses seeking to shore up their social networking credentials such as Google Inc and media giants such as News Corp or Viacom Inc seeking new marketing avenues, industry executives and analysts say.

    As online gaming continues to grow at double-digits -- it became the No. 2 online activity in June -- a growing number of corporations hoping to boost their Web presence have begun to take a serious look at the biggest players in social gaming, including oft-cited targets such as Crowdstar and Kabam.

    "The truth is everybody is talking to everybody, every potential buyer is probably talking to just about every social game company out there," said Tim Chang, principal with Norwest Venture Partners, whose firm invested in Playdom.

    Microsoft Corp could buy a social gaming company to enhance its Web-connected Xbox console platform and an Asian company such as Tencent Holdings Ltd could see a chance to gain U.S. market share, industry executives say.

    And gaming executives may want to reduce their reliance on a single platform -- especially since Facebook tightened privacy constraints this year that make it difficult for users to publicize their in-game exploits.

    That may have made companies such as Playdom, sold to Walt Disney Co for over $563 million, more approachable.

    BEACHED WHALE

    Google's supposed foray into social gaming is the subject of much speculation. Like other Internet leaders such as Microsoft or Yahoo Inc, it is keen to build a social network, but is struggling to find the right touch.

    A popular social game may help by pooling millions of users into a ready-made community -- the first step.

    About 30 percent of Facebook's users now play casual games such as Farmville or Mafia Wars, which unlike traditional video games require interacting with fellow gamers on a network.

    Together, they power a $1.6 billion annual market for "virtual goods" -- goods and services sold in-game, such as a $20 tractor in Zynga's Farmville or $224 for 1,000 experience points in Mafia Wars -- expected to hit $2.1 billion in 2011.

    According to Nielsen, online gaming displaced email as the second-most popular activity among U.S. Web surfers in June.

    Others see media companies, trying to reach new audiences and offset flagging growth in traditional income such as DVDs and advertising, on the acquisition trail.

    Last November, Electronic Arts Inc bought Playfish in a deal valued at up to $400 million.

    Media companies see a chance to put the characters and content they created for television or film in social gaming, said Attul Bagga, an analyst with Think Equity.

    "These guys were hit a couple years ago by a huge dip in advertising across the board," said Maha Ibrahim, a partner with Canaan Partners. "Diversifying away from that to businesses not dependent on ads, that are dependent on virtual goods and in some cases subscription models, is very attractive."

    Question is, with some of the biggest players snapped up, who would remain viable targets. Some experts see smaller deals in the year to come.

    Zynga's price tag -- valued by analysts at between $3 billion to over $5 billion -- is discouraging. Investors await its much-touted IPO, although that could be a while away.

    Others farther down the food chain that have been talked about as targets, include RockYou! and Hong Kong-based 6waves.

    After Zynga, the social gaming company with the highest number of users is Crowdstar, but there is a big gap. Zynga has 223 million monthly average users, while Crowdstar sees 58 million monthly, according to tracking firm Inside Network.

    And Zynga has a revenue run-rate of over $600 million, compared with more than $50 million for Crowdstar, said Lou Kerner, an analyst with Wedbush Securities.

    Peter Relan, the chairman of Crowdstar who owns the company with founders Suren Markosian and Jeff Tseng, would not address speculation Microsoft and other companies had approached him, but said he felt no pressure to sell.

    "With Playfish and Playdom gone, Zynga being unbuyable, we're on the downside of that slope," said Don Rainey, a partner at Grotech Ventures. "We're through the big moves and into the small moves."

    (Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; additional reporting by Clare Baldwin in New York; editing by Edwin Chan and Andre Grenon)

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