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Mix: Ford, iTunes Germany, 1GB nano, Toyota, Flipsyde

Slate’s Seth Stevenson takes a look at the use of an iPod in Ford’s TV commercial for its Fusion sedan.

The Financial Times reports that the German iTunes Music Store is now the market-leading service in the country, selling over 15.5 million songs in 2005.

UBS Investment Research analyst Ben Reitzes is the latest to speculate that Apple will release a 1GB iPod nano.

Toyota has posted a sneak peek of its new Super Bowl commercial, entitled “Hybrid,” in iPod video format.

NBC and Apple are offering Flipsyde’s “Someday” music video featuring Winter olympic highlights for free on the iTunes Music Store.

GEAR4 intros LeatherJacket for 5G iPod, nano

imageGEAR4 today announced the LeatherJacket case for the fifth-generation iPod and iPod nano. The leather case comes in black or pink and features velvet lining, a detachable belt clip, lanyard, magnetic button closure and allows for full access to screen, click wheel and ports. The GEAR4 LeatherJacket for the 5G iPod and iPod nano sells for $35.

ESPN relents to complaints, offers TV ads for free

Following complaints from several customers, ESPN is now offering its SportsCenter TV commercials on the iTunes Music Store for free. The short ads, recently added to iTunes along with a bulk of ESPN/ABC Sports programming, were previously being sold for $1.99 each despite being advertisements for the network and most being less than 30 seconds long. Six ads were originally offered, but only three remain as free downloads.

Cingular offers Motorola SLVR phone with iTunes

imageCingular is now selling and promoting Motorola’s SLVR L7 with iTunes. The ultra-slim device, modeled after the popular RAZR phone, features a VGA camera with 4x digital zoom, video capture and playback, Bluetooth wireless, built-in stereo speakers, and mobile email and web browser. Like Motorola’s ROKR phone, the SLVR comes with a 512 MB Micro SD card and imposes a 100-song storage cap. The Quad-band GSM phone (850/900/1800/1900 MHz) sells for $200 with a two-year service agreement.

Advertisers target video iPod users

Unlike TV and other traditional media, the iPod and the shows sold on the iTunes Music Store come advertisement-free. But the device won’t be devoid of ads forever. The Wall Street Journal reports that marketers are feverishly experimenting to figure out what ad content is appropriate for the iPod. [paid sub. required]

“Some companies are attaching recycled TV spots to the beginning of video files, or podcasts, that can be downloaded from popular Web sites. Others are creating new, subtler pitches to bracket shows attractive to their target audiences,” reports the Journal. “And still others are creating their own podcasts that blur the line between entertainment and advertisement in hopes of enticing people to watch the commercials for their own sake.”

Large firms are currently trying a range of different concepts. Nintendo is reusing 15-second Mario Kart DS TV commercials at the beginning of video podcasts on GrindTV.com. Anheuser-Busch is blending entertainment and advertising with its humorous Ted Ferguson Bud Light campaign, and GM’s Hummer division sponsored a GQ magazine video podcast with two 15-second spots.

The companies appear to be taking an outside-the-box approach to the iPod ads. “The content has to be unique and different,” says Marlene Coulis of Anheuser-Busch. “Advertisers have to free themselves from the 30-second ad,” a Nintendo representative said. And “It’s not about hard-sell on the iPod,” according to Liz Vanzura of GM.

XtremeMac offers TuffWrap Accent cases for 5G iPod

imageXtremeMac has announced its TuffWrap Accent cases for the fifth-generation iPod. The multi-color silicone cases feature ribbed sides, screen protector and play-through click wheel protector, and are available in three color combinations—black/red, black/yellow and blue/white. The cases will begin shipping in mid-February for $30.

“Unlike other cases that use uncontrolled color mixing or multiple layers to achieve a multi-color look, TuffWrap Accent is manufactured with two colors in distinct, contoured areas of the case,” explains XtremeMac. “With this unique design, TuffWrap Accent offers both the style and protection that iPod owners look for.”

Amazon readying full-length digital movie service

Online retailer Amazon.com reportedly plans to launch a new service this spring to sell downloadable, full-length versions of feature films. Variety reports that Amazon’s new service will likely marry downloads to DVD sales.

Customers could stream a digital version of the film for a fee and then apply that charge as a credit toward the purchase of the DVD. Another plan would let a customer buy a DVD, and while waiting for it to arrive, he could stream it over his computer.

“What they are serving up is a direct companion to the DVD,” explained one senior Hollywood executive. “Everything is being leveraged to sell more DVDs. When you go to a product page on the site, it will say all the variations about how you’d purchase that video—stream, buy or maybe a combination (of options).”

While the service will launch with at least two major studios, Amazon is currently working to convince indie studios, including Image Entertainment, Ardustry Home Entertainment and First Look Entertainment, to provide content.

Mix: BusinessWeek, Belgacom, NAPP, Case-mate

Stephen Baker of BusinessWeek gives the fifth-generation iPod three out of five stars in his review of the device. Baker states, “...my advice is to get one of these devices—and hold onto it tightly while catching the coming mobile video boom from a front-row seat.”

Belgian telecoms firm, Belgacom has entered into an agreement with Apple to offer its online music services through the iTunes Music Store. Belgacom had previously sold music online through its Skynet Music Club.

The National Association of Photoshop Professionals has launched a new daily video Podcast titled Photoshop Killer Tips, which will feature Photoshop Guru Matt Klowkowski, one of the co-hosts of the weekly Adobe Photoshop show “Photoshop TV.”

Case-mate is offering a Valentine’s Day special for iPod owners: now through February 14th, Case-mate is offering 25% off on all its Sienna Red and Peony Pink cases for 4G and 5G iPods and iPod nano.

New ESPN/ABC programming prompts complaints

Apple’s iTunes Music Store has been updated with new programming from ESPN and ABC Sports. The new content includes “Best of the X Games” highlight clips, “SportsCentury Shorts” with famous athletes, “Streetball” episodes, “The 2006 Winter X Games” highlight programs and six quick SportsCenter television advertisements.

The pricing on ESPN’s “This Is SportsCenter” commercials irked some iTunes users. “Seriously? $1.99 for 30 second or less commercials. Come on now. With the exception of the ‘Card Sharks’ one, you can watch them streamed in the preview. There has to better content from ESPN than commercials,” said one user in the customer reviews section. “ESPN and ABC should be ashamed for charging this much for so little. Yes, the commercials are funny, but not worth $2 for 30 seconds of video,” said another user.

There were also complaints about the shortened “SportsCentury” features. “The full SportsCentury episodes would be worth $1.99. Why not offer those instead of these abridged versions?” asked another iTunes user. The Gordon and Marino episodes are bad enough at around 15 minutes, but $1.99 for less than 10 minutes of Agassi and Roddick ridiculous.” [via Micro Persuasion]

Networks test ‘iTunes Episode Premieres’

As part of the major deal announced yesterday between MTV Networks and Apple, select episodes from Comedy Central and Nickelodeon shows are being made available on iTunes in advance of their network airing.

On Monday, January 30th, a new episode of Comedy Central’s hit-animated reality series “Drawn Together” will be released on iTunes for free—three days in advance of the February 1st network debut, making it the first “iTunes Episode Premiere.”

A paid download of a new episode of Zoey 101 called “Girls Will Be Boys” is available today, in advance of its January 29th network debut. Zoey 101 is Nickelodeon’s “tween” hit starring Jamie Lynn Spears.

Apple seen as ‘nexus of digital lifestyle revolution’

Bear Stearns analyst Andrew Neff believes Apple is emerging as the “nexus of digital lifestyle revolution” and sees the iPod as a starting point for several new products. The analyst expects Apple to incorporate iPod technology into an HDTV device to offer a “big iPod” in the living room. Neff also expects “a new type of phone,” an iPod camera and advances in car audio connectivity.

“In a sense, Apple is becoming what Sony always wanted to be: a visionary that seamlessly integrates the best-of-breed hardware with content to fundamentally alter the way we life—and iPod is just the beginning, like Walkman before it,” Neff wrote in a research note this week.

Mix: Norway council, Creative sales, PSP sales, PortalPlayer

The Consumer Council of Norway has filed a complaint to the Norwegian Consumer Ombubudsman, asking that he review the iTunes terms of service, which the council considers to be illegal.

A struggling Creative Technology reported a 31% drop in second quarter net profit. The company said it sold only 2.6 million MP3 players during the holiday quarter, compared to Apple’s 14 million.

Meanwhile, Sony reported positive earnings for the busy quarter and said it shipped more than 6.2 million PSPs. More than 15 million PSPs have now been shipped worldwide.

PortalPlayer, whose chips are used in iPods, said Thursday that its fourth quarter profit more than doubled. The company’s earnings rose to $23.8 million from $10.5 million a year ago.

iTunes TV sales incremental, not cannibalistic

Hit television shows on the iTunes Music Store will generate more revenue per consumer for content providers than is possible with the traditional on-screen advertising model, according to two analysts.

JPMorgan Chase analyst Spencer Wang says that shows such as “Desperate Housewives” and “Lost” command about $440,000 per 30-second spot, with one episode generating about $12 million in ad revenue. By comparison, “even in the worst-case scenario” with 20% of viewers opting to download from iTunes, the digital episodes can generate about $15 million in revenue.

“The main reason is that the $1.44 in download revenue per user (or 70% of the $1.99 per download) is greater than the estimated 57 cents in advertising revenue per user generated under the current model,” Wang said.

Forrester Research analyst Josh Bernoff says the same. He also notes that a popular series can generate significantly more gross revenue for a TV network from a downloading model. Bernoff estimates that an episode generates $1.20 per user, compared with 45 cents per episode per viewer generated by advertising sales.

“Even if 20% of the audience shifts its viewing from broadcast to iTunes (iPod) downloads and ad revenue drop as a result, ABC makes an incremental $1.8 million,” Bernoff said in a recent report.

Analyst: ‘Google Tunes’ could be next iTunes competitor

Google may be looking to launch a digital music store that would compete with Apple’s iTunes, according to one Wall Street analyst. Robert Peck of Bear Stearns predicts that the search engine giant will roll out such a service within the next six months.

“We believe that Google is in the midst of creating its own iTunes competitor, which we’ve dubbed ‘Google Tunes.’ We think this is a logical step, now that the nascent Google Video product has been introduced,” Peck wrote in a research note sent to clients Thursday. “We would expect Google to rollout a Beta service within 3 to 6 months. We note that Google has not confirmed our expectations, and that our thinking is based on Mosaic theory. However, we do think this fits with Google’s recent moves and its ultimate goal of organizing the world’s information.”

Noreve announces new leather case for 5G iPod

imageNoreve has announced its Tradition B leather case for the fifth-generation iPod. Available for both the 30GB and 60GB iPod, the case features a screen protector, chamude interior lining, and metal hook. It provides access to all controls and ports, and comes in four colors—black, pink, ocean blue and white. The Noreve Tradition B leather case for the 5G iPod is priced at $45 and will be available next month.

Report: Microsoft planning iPod rival

Microsoft may take on the iPod with a new portable device that combines music, video and gaming, according to BusinessWeek. While the device is still in the planning stages, the software giant has reportedly formed a team to consider the project’s chances.

“After getting trounced for four years in the digital music business by Apple, Microsoft finally seems poised to do something about it,” reports the publication. “BusinessWeek has learned that the software giant is working on plans to develop its own digital media device to rival the iPod, rather than just providing technology to partners. Microsoft hasn’t decided if it will go ahead. But sources inside the company and at its partners say Microsoft has put together a team that’s considering the business end of such an initiative.”

Xbox boss Peter Moore says a Microsoft device would have to do more than music and videos—it needs to leverage the company’s Xbox brand and offer video gaming capabilities. “It can’t just be our version of the iPod,” says Moore. “I think the brand is an opportunity.”

Marware Remote Docking Station announced

imageMarware today announced the availability of its new iPod Remote Docking Station. The $75 accessory allows users to connect an iPod to their home entertainment system and enjoy music, videos and photos. It includes “everything you need to enhance your home theater experience in one affordable package: the docking station, remote control, an A/V cable for use with a television or stereo system, a USB cable for charging and syncing, a power adapter, and S-video compatibility.” The Remote Docking Station works with the 4G and 5G iPod, iPod nano and iPod mini.

MTV, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon now on iTunes

Following iLounge’s report yesterday, MTV Networks and Apple today announced that television programming from MTV, MTV2, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon and The N is now available on the iTunes Music Store.

A total of 14 new shows have been added, including MTV’s “Laguna Beach,” “The Gauntlet 2,” “Beavis & Butt-Head,” “Jackass,” “Punk’d” and “My Super Sweet 16”; MTV2’s “Wonder Showzen”; Nickelodeon’s “Dora the Explorer,” “SpongeBob SquarePants,” and “Zoey 101”; Comedy Central’s “South Park” and “Stand-Up”; and The N’s “South of Nowhere.” iTunes now offers over 40 TV shows.

Major-label band debuts free iPod-ready music video

imageIn an unusual example of a major-label band seeking specifically to cultivate the interest of new iPod owners, Capitol Records recording artists SOUND team have debuted “The Fastest Man Alive,” a free downloadable music video from the EP “Work.” Edited by an alumnus from the 2003 remake of the movie Texas Chainsaw Massacre, footage from the video was filmed over a two-year period using the classic Super 8 format, and has a distinctly throwback look and sound. According to a representative, the band is among the first major-label artists to have released a free video of this sort for fifth-generation iPod users.

MTV show appears on iTunes Music Store

The first television show from MTV has been quietly added to the iTunes Music Store, despite no announcement coming from Apple or the popular music network. The first season of MTV’s real life teen soap opera “Laguna Beach” can now be found on iTunes for $1.99 per episode.

While the show’s page on the store currently does not load and direct links result in error messages, users are able find the show by searching and can watch previews and purchase and download the episodes. There has been no indication from Apple about a deal with MTV beyond its vague statement last week that there is more downloadable content on the way for video iPods.

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