Oil up, market flat: The price of crude topped $143 a barrel this morning as a new worry crept into the trading pits: an Israeli attack on Iran, perhaps after the U.S. elections in the fall. (Prices have since pulled back a bit.) Meanwhile, stocks are meandering, as traders look for signs of so-called capitulation. That's when stocks get so oversold that investors are ready to get back in. They’re not quite there yet. (Bloomberg)
SAG contract expires tonight: There's no strike in the offing, but much of Hollywood is shutting down anyway. Assuming there's no sudden breakthrough between the Screen Actors Guild and the studios and networks, the next big date is July 8, when the results of AFTRA's ratification vote are announced. SAG officials have campaigned against passage of the new contract, arguing that it doesn't cover many of the biggest issues. If the AFTRA deal is ratified by a wide margin, it will weaken SAG's position. (Variety) On Marketplace: I comment this morning on why a strike isn't likely. Here's the link.
Big movie weekend: Pixar's “Wall-E” raked in $62.5 million, and Angelina Jolie's “Wanted” generated a better-than-expected $55.1 million. Both helped overall revenues for the year move ahead of 2007, though some of that is due to higher ticket prices. (Variety)
Google, "Guy" strike deal: Seth MacFarlane, creator of “Family Guy,” will be distributing a new animation series on the Internet - and he's enlisting Google as his distributor. Called “Seth MacFarlane’s Cavalcade of Cartoon Comedy,” Google will syndicate the program using its AdSense advertising system. From the NYT:
Instead of placing a static ad on a Web page, Google will place a “Cavalcade” video clip. Advertising will be incorporated into the clips in varying ways. In some cases, there will be “preroll” ads, which ask viewers to sit through a TV-style commercial before getting to the video. Some advertisers may opt for a banner to be placed at the bottom of the video clip or a simple “brought to you by” note at the beginning. Mr. MacFarlane, who will receive a percentage of the ad revenue, has created a stable of new characters to star in the series, which will be served up in 50 two-minute episodes.
The partnership with Mr. MacFarlane represents a bold step into the distribution business, one that, if successful, will surely send shock waves through the entertainment business. “Cavalcade” is not only from a high-profile Hollywood talent, but also carries a multimillion-dollar production price tag, by far the largest amount spent on original Internet content to date. “We feel that we have recreated the mass media,” said Kim Malone Scott, director of sales and operations for AdSense. Until now, budgets for original Webisodes have peaked in the low six figures because creators have not been able to figure out a business model that allows for higher spending. Either advertisers have not wanted to pay, or it has been too difficult to attract a large enough audience to support the cost of television or movie-quality work.
Bad times for VCs: Here's a not-so-happy statistic: No company backed by venture capital went public in the second quarter, the first time that's happened since 1978. Market conditions are a big explanation, of course, though there's another factor: Many of the companies now being backed are engaged in technologies that take a longer time to go commercial. From the NYT:
Paul Kedrosky, an investor and the author of Infectious Greed, a venture capital-centric blog, said that there were deeper, more systemic problems for venture capitalists in addition to the cyclical challenges. He said part of the problem was that the industry was backing companies that lack widespread investor appeal, like YouTube clones and dating and social networking sites. “There is nothing that the industry is producing that investors want,” Mr. Kedrosky said. “The stuff they’re investing in is idiosyncratic — it’s fun and appealing to them but Wall Street doesn’t care.” “The Valley is operating in its own little world, and the capital markets don’t care about the things that are getting the Valley excited.”
Still talking at ports: The dockworkers contract with shipping companies expires tonight, and both sides sound confident that a deal will be reached - if not today, then soon. They apparently worked out a health care package, but there are several big issues that have yet to be nailed down. The talks started back in March. (SF Chronicle)