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Becky: Hello, and welcome back to EnglishClass101.com. This is Culture Class, Season 3, Lesson 12 - The Top 5 Biggest Duels in Entertainment. I’m Becky.
Eric: And I’m Eric. Hello everyone! The companies we are going to look at in this lesson are some of the largest in the entertainment industry.
Becky: That’s right! You’ve probably heard of all of them, but we bet you’ve never heard about them like this.
Eric: Yeah, this should be interesting. Let’s get to it!
Becky: Number 5 in our Top 5 Biggest Duels in Entertainment is Sony vs. MGM.
Eric: This duel is probably not what you’d expect. These two companies are in different stages, but they compete in a very interesting way.
Becky: That’s right. MGM is one of the most well-known film studios in the world. They’ve been around since the 1920s and have produced and distributed classic blockbuster films like Ben Hur, all the James Bond films, and Fiddler on the Roof.
Eric: For those of you who like classic television, MGM is also responsible for Gilligan's Island and were the inventors of the Tom and Jerry cartoons.
Becky: If you haven’t noticed, all of these films and TV shows are very old. And that’s the reason these two companies are in a strange kind of duel.
Eric: That’s right. MGM used to be the largest film studio in the world, but has since had significant financial trouble, and in 2010 it filed for bankruptcy. It reemerged less than 2 months later and is still actively involved in film production.
Becky: Sony, on the other hand, is a very young company by comparison. Sony started in the 1970s and has since grown to be a large multinational, multibillion dollar company.
Eric: Sony is involved in many aspects of entertainment, but their film subsidiaries are about the same size as MGM. Sony has had a few big successes like Spiderman and Men in Black. These obviously aren’t classic movies, partially because they were made quite recently. But who knows, maybe someday one of Sony’s movies will be as well loved as Fiddler on the Roof.
Becky: Currently, MGM is making a comeback by producing new films like 007 Skyfall and the three Hobbit movies.
Eric: So if this duel was a movie, Sony would be the young upstart and MGM would be the established guy who has to change in order to stay relevant.
Becky: Sounds like a good movie.
Eric: Yeah someone’s probably already made it.
Becky: Which brings us to our next topic.
Eric: Number 4 of our Top 5 Biggest Duels in Entertainment is Hasbro vs. Mattel.
Becky: This is a different kind of entertainment because Hasbro and Mattel make toys. In fact, these two companies are the largest toymakers in the world.
Eric: Mattel focuses on toys, particularly toys for children, though they do make other things. Hasbro, on the other hand, makes toys as well but are known for their many board games.
Becky: Specifically, the most successful board game of all time, Monopoly, is made by Hasbro.
Eric: Hasbro is also responsible for other board games like Chutes and Ladders, Twister, and The Game of Life. These games are very common in American households and many Americans grew up playing these games with their friends and family.
Becky: Mattel, however, is the larger of the two companies. Mattel produces Hot Wheels, all things Fisher-Price, and their queen of success, Barbie.
Eric: It’s sometimes difficult to know which of these two companies made the toy that your children are playing with. Mattel and Hasbro have multiple subsidiaries, such as Fisher-Price, Matchbox, My Little Pony, Playskool, and Milton Bradley.
Becky: These two companies compete heavily over action figures. For example, Hasbro won the rights to the Star Wars action figures as well as G.I. Joe and the Transformers. Not to be left behind, Mattel won the rights to Batman, Avatar, The Lion King, and many others.
Eric: Which brings us to our next duel.
Becky: That’s right! Number 3 in our top 5 biggest duels in entertainment is Sony Vs. Microsoft.
Eric: Here we are again with Sony. Sony is a giant multinational corporation and is involved in many aspects of entertainment, as well as electronics. Microsoft is also a giant multinational corporation that is involved in many aspects of everything.
Becky: But the point that we want to focus on and where the real rivalry exists between Sony and Microsoft is in the video game division.
Eric: That’s right! These two companies have been fighting over who has the best gaming console and who makes the best games since Microsoft launched the Xbox in 2001.
Becky: Sony released the PlayStation many years before the Xbox, but the PlayStation was getting so powerful that Microsoft was concerned the PlayStation might be used as a computer, or that Sony might move into the computer software business.
Eric: To defend its position as the largest software company in the world, Microsoft created the Xbox. To date, Microsoft has made no money with the Xbox as it exists solely to keep Sony occupied and out of the software market.
Becky: However, Sony is not backing down and they have consistently produced a more versatile gaming console in the PlayStation, which also doubles as a Blu-ray player, as well as continuing their development into the software industry.
Eric: However, Microsoft does have one game that is making all the difference. That game is Halo. Some people say that this single game has been the only reason the Xbox has been able to last so long.
Becky: Only time will tell which gaming console will win out as the better console. The two companies fight constantly about which is less expensive or which one is faster.
Eric: And we shouldn’t forget PC gaming, which could make consoles obsolete altogether.
Becky: Okay, that brings us to our next topic.
Eric: That’s right. Number 2 in our top five biggest duels in entertainment is Universal versus iTunes.
Becky: Just to be clear, iTunes is owned by Apple Inc., a technology company. Universal used to be a large multinational corporation involved in many aspects of entertainment. But its movie division, Universal Studios, is now owned by Comcast and its music division, Universal Music Group, is owned by a French Company.
Eric: However, both of these ex divisions of Universal compete with iTunes in three different industries- music, TV shows, and movies.
Becky: iTunes has revolutionized the way that music is bought, distributed, and listened to throughout the world. Currently, iTunes is the largest music vendor in the world.
Eric: This has been very difficult for Universal Music Group, because they own music labels and would like to charge very high prices for CDs. Universal and iTunes often conflict because iTunes has fixed pricing and will not allow Universal to sell their CDs for higher than that amount.
Becky: The same thing applies to TV shows and movies. Universal Studios is involved in producing, distributing, and selling many TV shows and movies. However, one of the largest markets for buying TV shows and movies is iTunes. And again, iTunes has fixed pricing on each show and on each movie.
Eric: So, if Universal wants to sell a special edition extended version of some movie for twice the price of the normal DVD, they can’t do that in iTunes.
Becky: This has caused a lot of conflict between iTunes and Universal. For several years, Universal restricted which TV shows and movies it would allow to be sold on iTunes. For a short while, it even blocked all of their TV shows from being sold on iTunes.
Eric: During that time, Universal – along with several other major TV and film companies, created the website Hulu.com. Hulu.com is kind of like an online TV.
Becky: You can go to the website search for the TV show that you want to watch, find the episode that you want to watch, click play, and watch it. There are commercials during your program and you have to have an active Internet connection to watch.
Eric: This is in contrast to the iTunes store, where the TV show is bought, downloaded, and then can be watched at any time by whoever bought the TV show. Also, since the person has bought that episode or season pass, iTunes does not allow commercials in the download.
Becky: This is another point where Universal, who gets most of its income from advertising, became very resistant to the iTunes model.
Eric: Currently, the situation is far from resolved. Hulu.com continues to get more subscribers and more TV shows, but Universal also allows all of its TV shows to be sold on the iTunes Store.
Becky: This is one of those examples of how competition created an excellent service, which in this case, is Hulu.com. Even though many people may never use Hulu.com, the people who do benefit from it because they don’t need to purchase anything, just subscribe.
Eric: Speaking of buying, that brings us to our number one topic.
Becky: That’s right! Number 1 in our top 5 biggest duels in entertainment is Blockbuster vs Netflix.
Eric: This dual was one of the most dynamic in recent years. For decades, Blockbuster was the largest movie rental store in the United States. Then Netflix came around and changed everything.
Becky: Netflix was not only cheaper than Blockbuster, it was more convenient, which made people stop going to movie rental stores all together.
Eric: Most of the movie rental stores in the USA have closed because they couldn’t compete with Netflix. Blockbuster has held on in many places, but they had to radically change how they do business.
Becky: That’s right. In order to compete with Netflix, they had to shut down hundreds of stores all around the country and created a service that is almost identical to Netflix.
Eric: This was a hard change for the industry and profits fell drastically. Well, for everybody except Netflix. They have consistently increased their market share and their profit for almost 10 straight years.
Becky: Blockbuster now offers a monthly movie rental subscription service. Both Netflix and Blockbuster offer an on-demand video service like the Hulu.com website we talked about before.
Eric: Again, this is another example of how competition and market changes forces companies to improve and adapt. Sometimes that change is difficult, but in the end it’s usually better for everyone.
Becky: Well I love netflix, but sometimes I miss being in an air conditioned store where I can browse lots of movies and get recommendations from actual people.
Eric: Yeah, it all depends on the person. Okay, that’s all for this lesson.
Becky: Thanks for listening, and see you next time!
Eric: Bye!

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What's your favorite duel?