Apple pulls NBC shows from iTunes lineup

NbcOn their website today Apple announced that they will not carry the next season of NBC television shows on their iTunes store. NBC shows made up 30% of iTunes TV show sales. Although NBC’s contract with Apple officially ends in December, Apple decided to pull the shows now rather than take them out of the store mid-season.

The move follows NBC’s decision to not renew its agreement with iTunes after Apple declined to pay more than double the wholesale price for each NBC TV episode, which would have resulted in the retail price to consumers increasing to $4.99 per episode from the current $1.99.

As noted by TechCrunch, the decision may have had something to do with NBC’s controlling stake in the newly-named Hulu, a YouTube-competitor offering professional video (examples found on the Hulu placeholder page include popular shows such as Bones and Family Guy). Hulu, slated to launch in October through portals such as MSN and Yahoo, is a joint-venture between NBC and News Corp that earlier this month received $100 million from Providence Equity Partners out of Rhode Island. In return, Hulu gave up 10% of the company, meaning it was valuated at a staggering $1 billion. As far as NBC being scared of Apple, Michael Arrington weighs in:

The last thing the TV networks want to see is Apple having the kind of control over TV content that they do with music - 76% of online music sales come from iTunes.

Is this a good decision by NBC? It remains to be seen whether the revenue from Hulu’s ad-based model will rival what the shows generated through iTunes. If NBC were to continue to distribute their television lineup through the iTunes store that would mean that at Hulu’s launch their shows would be available via three different delivery methods. Surely some cannibalization would occur here, but to what extent? If Apple were to release statistics on how many iTunes users sync television shows they purchase to iPods, it would be an indicator of how much they value the portability feature that only iTunes delivers. These customers would most likely continue to watch the show on television with friends and family, and would likely check it out on Hulu as well. In my opinion, NBC shouldn’t cut the iTunes contract until they roll out their own pay-to-download delivery system.

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RedMango faces off against PinkBerry!

red mango frozen yogurtRed Mango , a retail chain offering frozen yogurt treats, has gotten funded by Los Angles based Stone Canyon ventures, for an undisclosed amount, according to SoCalTech. Red mango just opened its first branch in Los Angeles, in July of 2007 (they have plans for 7 more). Based upon an image of hip health, the Red Mango chain started 5 years ago and has stores in New York, Nevada and Washington state.

But in Los Angeles is where it is going to get interesting! Here they go head to head with upstart Pink Berry. Pink Berry has fast become an LA icon - it is not uncommon to see lines 10-20 deep at some of their stores, waiting to get a scoop of their vanilla, and distinctive green tea.

In the Frozen Yogurt Face Off, Pink Berry is the slightly wounded champ, and the local favorite. Red Mango is the better bankrolled (for now) outside challenger.

1. Round one: Pink Berry becomes one of the hottest frozen yogurt stores. People who like the product (not all do - the taste is very different from the ice-cream like frozen yogurt we are used to), really love it.

2. Round two: A legal brouhaha ensues, as the California Food and Agriculture Code says that the concoction is not really “yogurt” so Pink Berry re-christen’s its food as “dessert”. Red Mango has taken pains to point out on its website that it “Meets National Yogurt Association Criteria for Live and Active Culture Yogurt”.

3. Round three: Red Mango joins the fray with a national reputation, and now local VC funding.

In the end, this is LA we are talking about, where paparazzi click pictures every time a limousine door opens, in the hopes that someone important will step out.

The company that is going to win this face off will be the one which manages to grab the imagination of the “cool” seeking population, the fastest.

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SpaceX receives NASA approval for Commercial space cargo vehicle

SpaceX, a company which is developing commercial space vehicles, received a safety go ahead for its Dragon spacecraft, from NASA. A year ago, two teams form SpaceX and Rocketplane Kistler won the $500 million prize put up by NASA for the demonstration of new space ships that can ferry crew and cargo to resupply the space station.

“To date, no other group has passed the Hazard of Collision report the first time through or completed the overall review in such a short time,” said Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX. “The fact that we passed in under a week speaks well of our team’s capabilities.”

Elon Musk is also the co-founder of PayPal.


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Cubic Telecom to provide global mobile service

CubicCubic Telecom announced via a press release yesterday that they will be providing world-wide low-cost telephone service for mobile phones, claiming to be “the world’s first truly global mobile service provider“:

Cubic Telecom’s service aims to eliminate the high cost of international roaming charges by focusing on introducing simple, high-quality telecommunications services. Their breakthrough technology intelligently uses existing mobile phone network resources to drive down costs. Its core target market is aggrieved customers across the globe who don’t understand why they can’t get value for money when making international calls and roaming. Cubic is working towards free speech.

At at time when almost all of the buzz surrounding voice communication startups has to do with VoIP, Cubic is attempting to set themselves apart from the crowd. Instead of relying on technology existing outside of traditional mobile networks (such as Skype), they are taking a shot at changing the mobile landscape from the inside out by cutting deals with service providers allowing them to offer reduced prices on talk time worldwide using existing telecommunications networks. As Cubic’s CEO Pat Phelan explains, “When most people think about driving down the cost of telephone calls, they think of calling from computer-to-computer. We don’t. We deliver simple, high quality, high value telephone services direct to the devices that people like to use - their mobile phones.�?

Skype-1This approach comes at an interesting time as Skype, one of the leading VoIP providers, recently found itself in the news earlier this month after a complete service outage left its 220 million users without service for 24 hours. eBay, which owns Skype, took a 2.58% hit on the day of the outage, erasing over $1 billion from the company’s market cap. Phelan was quick to discuss the outage on his blog, writing that the Skype downtime “made absolutely no difference in the Cubic world as we talk on phones not on computers.�? While Skype has since fixed the glitch that caused the downtime (ars technica: “Skype itself says that it was an algorithm error with their own service�?), the fact that it occurred brings to light possible issues with using a VoIP service as your primary mode of communication.

Cubic Telecom recently raised $6.8 million US from private backers, and offers service to over 160 different countries. The company was founded by Pat Phelan in 2005 and is headquartered in Ireland, with additional offices in Vermont, Canada. Pat Phelan’s past projects include Yak4Ever and Roam4Free.


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