Last updated: February 21, 2008 - 12:29am
[SOURCE: Los Angeles Times, AUTHOR: Michael Hiltzik]
[Commentary] Buried not far beneath the surface of Tuesday's media merger announcements was an acknowledgment of two facts of life well understood by oil drillers, pro sports managers, and landfill operators: There are finite riches in the world to be mined, and limited room to dump your garbage. The expanding availability of entertainment in myriad new formats has made it even harder for also-rans to stay in the race, but the phenomenon works differently on different companies. New formats such as iPods, webcasts and video game consoles make inroads against traditional media such as broadcast TV; but they haven't yet presented many opportunities for the sale of new material by content providers like Pixar and DreamWorks. Rather than expanding the market for novel, niche or unheralded material, the new tend to load up on material that has already proven its popularity on the old. Currently, the top 10 TV downloads from Apple's iTunes Music Store for the new video iPod include three episodes of ABC's "Lost" (which was ranked No. 9 on the Nielsen ratings last week), two of ABC's "Desperate Housewives" (Nielsen No. 5), and three of NBC's "The Office" (No. 44, but with desirably youthful and improving demographics). Interestingly, the networks say that the on-air ratings of these shows improve as downloads increase, more evidence that as new viewing modes proliferate, the rich merely get richer. As for the Internet, as a breeding ground of new entertainment talent, so far it's largely barren. Companies from Ifilm to Amazon.com have tried to make a commercial mark with Web-only film clips, but it wouldn't be surprising to learn that the most popular downloaded moving pictures on the Web (outside of pornography) are snippets from "The Daily Show" or "Saturday Night Live."
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