Ecuador gives Assange Asylum, HBO and Netflix Launch in Scandinavia and European videogame conference gamescom kicks off with a new record. Here is THR's look at the top media stories making headlines around the world this week.
Ecuador set up a confrontation with the U.K. government this week when it officially granted asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Assange fled to the Ecudorian embassy in London two months ago after his attempts to avert extradition were rejected by the British courts. The Swedish government has demanded the U.K. hand over Assange to face questioning on allegations of rape and sexual molestation. But Assange fears Sweden could ship him to the U.S. where he could face charges of treason for releasing classified documents. Ecuadorian foreign minister Ricardo Patin said Assange's wouldn't get a fair trial in the U.S. and suggested his freedom of speech and even his life might be in danger if he was extradited.
Bell Canada Opens Wallet To Oppose Takeover
Canadian phone giant Bell Canada opened its big wallet this week to overcome opposition to its pending $3.38 billion takeover of Astral Media. Bell said it will sweeten the pot with $80 million in new financing for Quebec radio and TV production as it fends off a Say No to Bell campaign waged by rival phone giant Telus Corp. and cable operators Cogeco, Eastlink and Quebecor Media. Bell is seeking a greenlight from the CRTC, Canada’s broadcast regulator, and the federal Competition Bureau, for its takeover of Astral Media. Industry critics contend the Astral takeover will hand Bell Canada and its Bell Media subsidiary a 38 percent share of the Canadian TV market, and usher in higher prices and poorer consumer choice.
Olympics Dominate Euro Ratings
The London 2012 Olympic Games, which wrapped up with a star-studded closing ceremony Sunday, set ratings records around the world. NBC's controversial tape-delay coverage drew more than 219 million viewers over 17 days, making it the most watched event in U.S. television history. It was a similar story in Europe, where London 2012 become "the most watched Olympics in history," according to the European Broadcasting Union, with coverage on European public broadcasters easily beating out ratings from Beijing 2008 and online viewing skyrocketing to record highs.
Nordic VOD – Netflix and HBO launch VOD services in Scandinavia
The VOD market in Scandinavia just got a lot hotter, with both HBO and Netflix this week announcing plans to launch their own VOD services in the Nordic territories. Netflix's Scandinavian expansion follows the group's international roll-out to Canada, Latin America and the U.K.. Time Warner's HBO has agreed to launch HBO Nordic, a multi-platform video distribution joint venture with European pay TV veteran Peter Ekelund and his company Parsifal International, that will serve Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark.
Digital Music Sales To Top Physical Sales
Global digital music revenue will rise 17.8 percent this year to cross the £5 billion ($7.8 billion) milestone, according to a new forecast. Strategy Analytics’ latest "Global Recorded Music Forecast" predicts that digital music sales in the U.S. will for the first time exceed physical sales for the year 2012. On a global basis, territories including Sweden and South Korea are forecast to have a similar rapid transition to digital sales while in other international territories, including the U.K., digital sales will only overtake physical sales in 2015. Globally, digital music, meaning online and mobile, spending will increase by $1.3 billion to $8.6 billion this year, while physical sales will decrease 12.1 percent ($1.9 billion).
"The Girl From Nowhere" Wins Locarno
Jean-Claude Brisseau’s low-budget and self-financed self-discovery drama La fille de nulle part (The Girl From Nowhere) officially turned a profit Saturday when it received the cash award that came along with Locarno’s prestigious Golden Leopard honor. Bob Byington’s comedy Somebody Up There Likes Me won the special jury prize, and Cate Shortland’s war drama Lore won the honor voted on by the public as the best film to screen in the Piazza Grande. But it was The Girl From Nowherethat emerged as one of the most intriguing storylines of the Locarno festival. The film was made on a budget of just $77,000 from Brisseau’s savings and set in Brisseau’s Paris apartment.
Belafonte At Locarno
Harry Belafonte, at 85, proved he is as active and activist as ever, launching into an attack on Mitt Romney, global capitalism and media moguls in an exclusive interview with THRat the Locarno Film Festival, where Belafonte received a lifetime achievement award. Belafonte said "unbridled capitalism" and the concentration of power in the hands of a few, including media moguls very small group such as Rupert Murdoch and SilvioBerlusconi was "the most dangerous thing that has ever happened to civilization." Belafonte also called out younger black artists, including Jay-Z and Beyonce, for not using their fame to speak out more on social issues.
Former 'News of the World' Employees Face Phone Hacking Charges
Seven former staffers of News Corp.'s U.K. newspaper unit News International briefly appeared in a court this week to face phone hacking charges. They were the first people to appear in court on actual phone hacking charges since the scandal reignited last summer and led to the shutdown of the News of the World tabloid. They included Andy Coulson, a former editor of the tabloid who later also was prime minister David Cameron's communications director, and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire who has been another key figure in the hacking scandal.
Gamescom Kicks Off With Record Attendance
Europe’s largest video game conference, gamescom, kicked off this week with a new record as 600 gaming firms from around the world descend on Cologne for the four day gamescom event. Organizers expect at least 250,000 visitors over the next four days as the gaming industry and ordinary fans fill the halls checking out the latest tech and titles. While there are fewer big blockbuster titles on offer at gamescom this year, they are still the games generating all the buzz. Among the highlights is the interactive thriller Beyond: Two Souls from developer Quantic Dream, which stars a virtual Ellen Page.