Distressed Carver Corporation announced August 31 that founder Bob Carver has signed a letter of intent to return as chairman and CEO of the company he founded 20 years ago. The letter also spells out conditions for a possible merger of Carver and Sunfire Corporation as early as 18 months from now. Sunfire, manufacturer of the highly regarded Sunfire power amplifiers, is Bob Carver's privately held company.
A few years ago, when media pundits began discussing the possible ramifications of 500 channels of television, the concept of "narrowcasting" quickly became the buzzword du jour. The idea was that programming in the future would be aimed at increasingly better-defined markets. Rather than an all-sports channel, an astute broadcaster would operate multiple channels devoted to individual sports: an all-basketball channel, for example, or round-the-clock motor sports. Advertising tailored for a tightly defined market might prove more efficient than its shotgun-effect equivalent.
Some optimists in Washington, on Wall Street, and elsewhere predicted that the Asian economic crisis wouldn't reach the United States. But in late August, the financial flu infecting that part of the world, and the ongoing monetary instability in Russia, finally affected North America. As of Friday, August 28th, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was hovering just above 8000, down from a record high of 9337.97 on July 17th. The market decline has affected the whole economy---traditional industries as well as hot-ticket ventures like Internet stocks.
The Federal Communications Commission is fighting an epidemic called "microradio." The agency has closed 250 unlicensed stations in the past year, most of them low-powered urban pip-squeaks with less than 100W of power and broadcast radii of 10 miles or less. The typical microradio station offers an off-center perspective on local, national, and world events to a listenership of a few hundred people, and loses money in the process.
In June, while the Recording Industry Association of America was collecting fat settlements from unauthorized CD compilers, its Canadian counterpart was busy shutting down Purple Dot, a custom-disc operation in Calgary, Alberta. The Canadian Recording Industry Association e-mailed a cease-and-desist order to 18-year-old Robert Clark, owner and operator of Purple Dot, which had been advertising on the Internet in the Yahoo! directory.
Up from the deep: Torrance, CA-based Wherehouse Entertainment announced last week that it will purchase Blockbuster Music from Viacom Inc. for $115 million. The merged operation will have 598 stores throughout North America, second only to Minnesota-based Musicland. The deal comes at the end of a prolonged slump for the music industry, one that was particularly hard for Blockbuster.
Enhanced Compact Discs (ECDs) are one of a host of hybrids and mutations popping up in the garden of digital infotainment. Many ECDs have added biographical text, still pictures, short video clips, and garish graphics to bulk up the content of basic music CDs. Others provide links to fan clubs, to an artist's website, or to the record label's home page. Most such efforts could be categorized as "art for art's sake"---experimental projects undertaken without any clear idea as to how the finished product will be used. "Value added" is usually the justification, but rarely the result.
Some products inspire unwavering loyalty among their owners: Gibson's "Les Paul" Guitars, for example, or Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Only a handful of audio manufacturers have been lucky enough for their products to attain this kind of cult status. McIntosh is perhaps premier among them. Individual products---Audio Research preamps, Marantz tuners, Linn turntables---also have deservedly loyal and sizable followings.
Protection for the creative community or job security for lawyers? These are but two of many interpretations of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which won approval by voice vote in the US House of Representatives August 4. The bill will implement into US law the treaties signed by 157 signatories at the World Intellectual Properties Organization conference in Geneva in December 1996. A separate version was passed by the Senate in May. Differences between the two must be ironed out before a final version can be signed into law by President Clinton.