Will BSkyB turn the screw on UPC Ireland too?

There’s been an interesting squabble going on amongst the British media giants lately (excellent Q and A here), with Sky Digital and Virgin Media (formerly NTL/Telewest and Virgin Mobile) at loggerheads over a new carriage contract between the two.

Basically, the deal that allows Virgin to carry BSkyB’s basic channels (such as Sky News and Sky One) is about to end and the two companies have failed to reach a new agreement.

Virgin claim BSkyB are purposely trying to hinder their offerings (and have asked for twice as much as before) and have no intention of making a deal. On the other hand Sky have said they’re still up for negotiations but Virgin have left the table, something that they’ve said will now impact on their bottom line.

What makes it more interesting is that Virgin have claimed that BSkyB already has an ad campaign lined up to take advantage of Virgin’s lack of the channels, in an attempt to force them into a corner and lure their customers over as a result.
If this can be believed it would seem that Sky have made a swift retort to the recent formation of Virgin Media. While a loss of the deal will lose them millions a year, they may well see it as more favorable than allowing a company like Virgin to become a serious contender in new and existing entertainment markets, as it is shaping up to do. By cutting out some of the best bits that Virgin has to offer, it could make them a non-starter in the consumer arms race. And we know Sky are happy to spend big to limit the company’s aspirations – they’ve done it already quite recently.
Sky Digital has been, by a small margin, the minority player in the Irish digital TV market since the owner of Chorus completed its purchase of NTL Ireland in late 2005. After a year and a bit those two players are all but ready to merge completely, becoming UPC Ireland. Along with this re-brand, the company is likely to put more emphasis on its oft neglected broadband service as well as its VoIP offerings – HD and IPTV is likely to be part of their long-term game plan, no doubt, too.
Just like Virgin, UPC find themselves in a position where some of their more popular channels are run by their digital rivals and losing them isn’t something they’d like to see happen (who doesn’t remember the great Simpsons famine of ’92-’94?).

But with a formerly lame duck player now getting itself together (with massive investment from above), might Sky be tempted to pull the same trick to snuff out a re-emerging threat which will block their attempts to gain Irish market dominance?

The difference is, of course, that Sky would have a lot more to lose than UPC if the did so. The reason why the loss of Sky One is such a big deal for Virgin Media viewers is because the channel had been snapping up a healthy share of exclusive programming recently, including stupidly-popular shows like Lost and 24. Viewers in the UK without Sky One would be waiting on other channels to play catch up months later and it could make some consider a switch in provider.

Ireland is different, of course. As viewers here know, we’re in a fairly position where Irish channels like RTÉ, TV3 and now even Channel 6 tend to snap up rights to huge US shows which then air at the same time as in Britain on their channels. In fact, to remain competitive in a multi-channel market, the indigineous players tend to get out of the gate ahead of the BBC, UTV, Channel 4 and Sky etc., allowing Irish viewers to catch big-draw programming weeks, sometimes months before their British counterparts.
In other words, the loss of Sky One would be of little consequence to Irish viewers – certainly less than it is to British ones. The only things UPC viewers would miss is Sky-made programming like Project Catwalk and new Simpsons episodes, and neither of those are in nearly as much demand as they used to be or as Sky would like them to be.

My bet is Sky will play nice with their rival when it comes to channel contracts – they have no other choice really. That said, don’t expect them to sit by and watch a reinvigorated cable operator assert itself with a fresh mindset, new services and, one may live in hope, better customer services.

I’m LinkedIn, apparently.

While I’m always interested in new (to me, anyway) social media sites and tools, I rarely sign up to them as I see little personal benefit in being a “member”. While the likes of Bebo and Myspace are useful to many, and as a result bafflingly successful, they don’t offer me anything I don’t already have in the old fashioned world of blogging, emailing and texting.

LinkedIn is another kettle of fish. Being at the beginning of my career and always on the look out for new job opportunities, contacts, sources and stories the site comes packed with potential. That doesn’t mean I expect it to have a huge impact on my career, but it is unlikely to do any harm and should even loosen a few hinges if it doesn’t open doors.

I’ll be using it to try and push Dáil30 out there too, although I’m not sure how to be honest. I just see a site full of potential connections between the more web-aware of our world as a step in the right direction to getting interested parties involved wherever possible.
I had set up my LinkedIn account a few weeks ago, but never actually did anything with it. Now I’m taking a pro-active approach, firstly by contacting anyone in my Gmail account’s contact list that has their own account to see if I can link up to them.

Other than that I’m looking around to see what the site has to offer and what I can do with my own profile to put my best foot forward.

If you’re interested (or on LinkedIn) head over to my profile and have a look for yourself – the link is just at the end of the right sidebar. All invitations to link-up are welcome, and any pointers, tips etc. to ensure I’m painting the right picture of myself are welcome too!

On the road again…

Today is my final shift in The Sunday Business Post.

Having started here on one month’s work experience in September, which was extended by three weeks, which was then followed by two weekly freelance shifts until Christmas, which was then followed by two weekly freelance shifts until the last Thursday/Friday in February (which is now upon us) I think it’s fair to say that things have gone far better than I ever could have imagined or hoped.
I came in here to get some experience in a real news environment and got a hell of a lot more than that – the plethora of articles published, the foundations of a good contacts book and (probably most importantly) a far better feel for the paper and what a new story needs than I had before.

As I stated before, my greatest hurdle has been my lack of contacts – something vital in any newspaper, specifically a Sunday – and while I’ve not fully overcome this nor made myself an asset in that regard, I think I’ve gone a long way towards it – far further than I would have under other circumstances.

It’s not to say that I’m happy to be finished, but it’s genuinely hard to be down about the whole situation given the amount I’ve learned from it – I didn’t start here expecting anything and got a tonne more than I figured the best of my luck would allow.

As for the environment – well maybe I was unlucky in that respect – the staff are so damn nice I may get a nasty surprise when I realise that things aren’t as plesent elsewhere… we’ll see though.

While I won’t be working in here any more, I’m hoping to continue to contribute all the same. Fingers crossed on this, but I hope my time here will serve me well as I try to put together some stories or feature (or article pitches) from home start… well, now-ish!

Generally, however, I’m now on the look-out for new opportunities. I’ll be hoping to get articles published in as many places as possible over the coming weeks/months and will naturally be keeping one eye open for any work or shifts available in other outlets.

I guess this whole “career” thing just got a little bit more interesting!

For my consideration

Damien asked me to be one of the judges in 7 of the 21 categories at this year’s Irish Blog Awards, which I was happy to do.

The categories I was asked to be a judge in are as follows:

Best Newcomer
Best Podcaster
Best Podcast
Best Business Blog
Best Personal Blog
Best Blog Post
Best Videocast

Before any of the nominees start sending me flowers and naked pictures of themselves, I can tell you that I’ve made my decisions on each of the above and have sent them on to IBA HQ… feel free to send gifts all the same, but do so safe in the knowledge that it will have zero impact on your chances next Saturday.

Besides this, my voice is just one of many judges putting their own opinions forward, so all my careful consideration may end up completely irrelevant anyway!

I have to say, in some cases the points I gave a blog came naturally to me, but others were not so easy to judge and I often struggled to pick one over the other… I think I was as fair as possible about it though.
But best of luck to everyone in all of the 21 categories, the night should be one to remember.

(Oh, and just a comment on my list of predictions – they don’t necessarily reflect the blogs I gave top marks to – my predictions were not always the ones I thought deserved it most…)

Had a busy week, coming up to a lazier one…

Today’s Sunday Business Post has the most work (probably) I’ve ever had published in one single edition.

Over the last week I was keeping an eye on the Media & Marketing section, a topic I really enjoy writing about, and it also happened to be the week a feature written by myself and another journalist (Ken Griffin, now of the Sunday Tribune) was published.

- Just as a point of information – the feature is aimed at businesses looking to cut their costs by going green, and was an interesting topic to work on – I just hope it’s of use to some businesses out there (and I don’t see why it wouldn’t be).

Then, of course, there were my regular two news shifts – although these weren’t quite as productive as I had hoped, partly because some of Friday was spent writing on the JNLRs for Media & Marketing, partly because (as usual) plenty of ideas proved less than solid.
But now it’s back to normal and I’ve just got the two shifts this week – which is good, because I just bought Rayman and am expecting Zelda in the post tomorrow… it would have been disastrous had I bought those last week!

IBA shortlist announced

Congratulations to all of you who made the cut this year – and the best of luck as 3rd March approaches.

Unfortunately, this blog didn’t make it past the longlist stage, but that was enough for me given that this blog was very hit and miss over the past year.

All that’s left for us Joe Public to do is attend, and attend I will… really looking forward to meeting some of you (the rest, not so much).

For what it’s worth, here are my predictions for winners on the night (some of which are little more than educated guesses as I’m unfamiliar with many of the blogs and as a result may be writing off the best out of my own ignorance):

Best Blog
Blogorrah

Best Blog Post
Annie Rhiannon – Three years too late

Most Humourous Post
Snackbox – AbuseOS from Twinksoft

Best Photoblog
Headphoneland

Best Arts and Culture Blog
Sinead Gleeson

Best Political Blog
IrishElection.com

Best Group Blog
Blogorrah

Best Personal Blog
Annie Rhiannon

Best Use of the Irish Language in a Blog
An Spailpin Fanach

Best Contribution to the Irish Bloggersphere
Cian and Simon for IrishElection.com

Best Technology Blog/Blogger
Michele Neylon

Best Designed Blog
Beaut.ie

Best Sport and Recreational Blog
Tom’s Sporting Almanac

Best News/Current Affairs Blog
IrishElection.com

Best Specialist Blog
Beaut.ie

Best Newcomer
Blogorrah

Best Business Blog
Ask Direct

Best Music Blog
Una Rocks

Best Podcaster
EdgeCast

Best Podcast
Twenty Major – Scientology

Best Videocast
Daniel k. Sullivan – You pay taxes so we don’t have to

Again – good luck to everyone, and may the best blogs win!

A suggestion for the Irish Blog Awards

With the IBA longlist being announced recently and the lot of us selfishly whoring ourselves as a result (including me… by the way, voting closes tomorrow so go over and vote AdamMaguire.com for Best News/Current Affairs blog… please? Thanks), I thought a more noble IBA-related post was in order. So, I figured I’d put forward a small suggestion for this year, which I’ll begin with a little factiod about the list.

For the most part the nominations put forward seem logical – in many instances each of the candidates have just as much reason to win as the other, which will make the shortlisting and eventual jury decision all the harder.

That said, there is one name missing, one that I had figured was a shoe-in for Best Contribution to the Irish Blogosphere.

I’m talking, of course, about the IBA’s Commander in Chief Damien Mulley.

There’s a reason why he’s not there, though, and it isn’t because no-one else thinks he should be. Damien has, understandably, purged the nominations of his name in the interest of fairness, and I think we can all appreciate that.

So rather than suggest we as a community try and talk him into reconsidering (which would only result in cries of ‘fix!’), I’m suggesting we do something else.

The IBAs alone have already had a large impact on blogging in Ireland, and they’re not even two years old yet. They’ve given us a chance to congratulate those amongst us for their efforts, made some MSM take note and perhaps even pushed some bloggers onto bigger and better things.

Then looking at stuff like IrelandOffline, Share IT / BusinessAdvirosry and his involvement in the plethora of conferences we’ve seen in recent years, it’s fair to say that Damien has done more than his bit for blogging.

So here’s my suggestion to show our respect for his work without hindering the IBAs.

Rather than give him the Best Contribution to the Irish Blogosphere award, how about we just name it after him? We don’t have to get his OK on this, he probably won’t give it for fear of appearing as egotistical as we all know he really is, we just have to refer to it as such in future.

So – The Damien Mulley Award for Best Contribution to the Irish Blogosphere? Bit long-winded… how about – The Damien Mulley IBCCA (Irish Blog Community Contribution Award)? Or just – The Mulley Contribution Award? Or ‘Deh Mulley’?

Thoughts?!

The Tribune seem to be re-prioritising

Back in May ’06 I had a go at the Sunday Tribune for their advertising campaign which focused on the worn-out joke that is Ross O’Carroll-Kelly instead of their editorial credentials.

Well, eight months down the line and it looks like they’ve changed tact, with their latest campaign focusing on Justine McCarthy, who made a move to them quite recently.

The advert gives me an unsettling feeling that they plan on making her a media personality rather than letting her do what she does best, but fingers crossed that isn’t the case – and even if it is I suppose the fact that they’re focusing on a human rather than a cartoon is a step up all the same.

No matter what I see it as a good thing that the paper wants us to know about its news (or comment…) pages.

Aside from this new advertising angle, it seems as though the editorial department has been/is hiring at the moment too, and Mulley’s recently acquired slot is more proof that they’re pulling back from the lifestyle side of things and deciding to provide information instead.
There have been plenty of rumours about the newspaper’s demise, but then again these rumours have floated around for a long while. Only time will tell if the axe is about to fall, but all signs suggest that O’Reilly hasn’t abandoned ship just yet.

Maybe Richard can tell us if the mood (and amount of money) has changed inside Tribune HQ, or if this is just the manifestation of something that was already there?

IBA’s longlist announced, voting opened

Damien’s just announced the next round of voting, and your’s truly is one of the fourteen 1st round candidates for Best News/Current Affairs Blog!

Get yourself over there asap and place your vote on the 21 categories for this year – March 3rd is approaching fast and this is the last chance for us random bloggers to have our say in this year’s nominees.

Once voting round two is over, the top five from each category will be put to a panel of judges who will then make their decision on the ultimate winners in each case.

Best of luck to all nominated in each category and I can’t wait for the event, irregardless of my name making the cut or not!

Hello visitors

Well – it looks like I’ve been Blogorrah’d for the first time today, many thanks for the mention!

Being linked by Blogorrah is the Irish equivalent of being Slashdotted, with the site being easily one of the most popular blogs in the country.

The hits for today (most of which came from Blogorrah) are above the 130 mark at this stage – which is pretty impressive for a quiet little site that hasn’t been updated in a week!