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Sundance: Digital Moguls Hawk MySpace and IMDb

by Anne Thompson
January 21, 2009 2:32 AM
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While the Sundance media reports on the beleaguered independent theatrical market, which may never return to its former robust self--even with diminished production over the next few years--various Internet moguls are in Sundance networking and hawking their movie-centric wares.

While NetFlix's Reed Hastings insisted he was just watching movies, Col Needham, the Bristol-based film buff founder of Amazon-owned IMDb, the biggest movie website, is in Park City for the second time, hosting meetings at his suite at the spanking new Hotel Park City. With Without a Box, FilmFinders and Amazon Unbox, IMDb is moving steadily into building a bigger movie community and adding content. Here's its Road to Sundance Page.

Chris DeWolfe, one of the co-founders of MySpace, is in Sundance for the fourth year, holding court at the MySpace Cafe (which has free computers) and looking to push harder on the movie side into some of the same initiatives that worked so well for music. It's about giving people pages and marketing and fan opportunities. The studios are still taking advantage of MySpace for promoting their movies via official movie sites, and any sequel can take off from an established fanbase with a little updating.

Even though Facebook has made inroads with 46 million viewers (I now ignore my ugly MySpace page), according to comScore Media Metrix, MySpace is still huge, with 76 million unique users. Both are growing. "MySpace mirrors the census of the U.S.," says DeWolfe. "You can talk about early adopters when you're 2 million, but when you're 76 million, it's everyone. 40% of all moms are on MySpace. Kirk Douglas is blogging. People are getting more social online. Their engagement, the number of minutes they spend online, is up 40% this year over last year."

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MySpace, like every other movie-oriented site, saw traffic surges related to The Dark Knight: it was the number one destination on the internet to find information about that movie, says DeWolfe, who is partnering with other film sites like Flixter, too.

E-commerce is DeWolfe's new focus: "We're working on selling ringtones, downloads, merchandise, tickets," he says. What about DVDs? "I'm not sure DVD sales are the future of our business. It's not a large profit center, although bands do sell merchandise, tickets, CDs, and DVDs. MySpace is the hub of their entire career. We're looking into the future of download sales. We're selling MP3 downloads. But they aren't large margins, as Steve Jobs will tell you."

Here's my flipcam interview with DeWolfe:

[Originally appeared on Variety.com]

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More: Media, Web/Tech, Festivals, Sundance, MySpace

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