Kerry Washington at Cannes weighs in on moving to streaming and American politics

Kerry Washington, star of political drama “Scandal,” is at the Cannes Lions Festival for a host of events including a breakfast with Twitter and a soiree on Monday evening hosted by streaming media companies Spotify and Hulu at the Chateau St. George in Grasse, France, a little village outside Cannes. 

Washington has a series with Hulu based on the book “Little Fires Everywhere,” which she is executive producing with Reese Witherspoon. 

The Query caught up with her after a performance by singer Miguel and asked for her take on what’s happening in the news. 


Q: Is this your first time in Cannes?

A: It’s my first time at Cannes Lions. I’ve been here for the [film] festival. I’m here speaking with Twitter, speaking as part of the women’s empowerment program. I’m also here with Hulu.

Q: How are things changing in Hollywood for women?

A: People are working really hard at Time’s Up making sure there are more opportunities and more equity and safety and equality in the workplace. That’s a big part of our mission and vision, and that’s what we’re working on confidently at Time’s Up, all people who feel like they are victims of the imbalance of power. Our legal defense fund is for people of any industry to help people in situations of harassment and abuse.

Q: What have you learned at Cannes so far? There are a lot of different industries here: music, tech…

A: It’s interesting to talk about how innovation is impacting all these businesses across the board, for me especially, moving from network television and working in streaming. My next series is for Hulu and I have a series on Facebook Watch called “Five Points,” so I’m working on creating as a producer for multiple platforms. We’re also producing theater. We’re trying to make sure our portfolio of storytelling is diversified. For me, it's great to be here to be in the conversation.

Q: Tell me how it's different working for a streaming company?

A: It’s all different. Every project is going to be different depending on the story and the audience, but definitely fun to work in a variety of ways. The Facebook Watch [series] is 10 episodes about 10 or 12 minutes [each], whereas the series I’m creating with Hulu is a limited series. It’s exciting to be working in the entertainment industry to tell stories to work in so many different ways whether it is short form, long form, limited.

Q: Are you doing anything with Twitter?

A: We’re beginning to talk about content creation over there.

Q: How do you feel about American politics and what’s happening right now?

A: What’s happening right now at the border of the United States is a violation of human rights. It’s far beyond anything I could have imagined on “Scandal.”

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Justice wants a 'swift' review of AT&T appeal

The Department of Justice could slow down the completion of the AT&T-Time Warner merger for at least another three months and possibly longer.

Deadline writes that the Justice Department requested "swift" action in a filing Thursday so that the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals can hear its argument that the merger should be blocked. AT&T’s merger was given the green light by a federal judge, but the Justice Department is protesting that decision, arguing that the merger hurts consumers and competitors.

“AT&T and Time Warner have now closed their merger, but every day that they are allowed to combine aspects of their businesses more deeply will make it more difficult for this Court and the district court on remand to unwind the merger and preserve competition," the Justice brief reads

AT&T’s merger was first agreed in October 2016. Final briefs are due to court by Oct. 18. For now, AT&T has agreed that it will hold off on integrating its Turner unit, which sells the advertising AT&T hopes to revolutionize, until the appeal process has played out.

Separately, CNN Worldwide’s chief Jeff Zucker is taking medical leave for six weeks to take care of a heart condition, according to a tweet from CNN anchor Brian Stelter.

Netflix on an Oscar push?

Goodbye Jonathan Friedland; hello Lisa Taback.

Netflix just hired well-known Oscar campaign strategist Taback who was a long time collaborator with disgraced film producer Harvey Weinstein’s Weinstein Co.

Taback and members of her team will join Netflix, according to a press release on Wednesday. Her appointment appears to point to Netflix's increasing desire to be successful on the TV and film awards circuit and solidify its reputation as the best place to work in Hollywood. 

Taback worked on a host of campaigns for movies such as “Pulp Fiction” and “Shakespeare in Love” before the two went their separate ways after some friction, documented here.

Netflix’s former PR boss left the company after being called out by CEO Reed Hastings for using a racial slur. Taback isn’t directly taking his post, rather she will run publicity for awards campaigns.

Reader revenue tops $130 million at The Guardian

Those annoying yellow banner ads on The Guardian's website suggesting readers dig deep for journalism have worked.

The Guardian Media Group said that it has raised about $130 million in reader revenue, according to a spokesman for the company, helping put the paper on a better financial path.

The Guardian's online coverage of Facebook's Cambridge Analytica scandal along with its journalism about America's heartland have helped convince readers to reach into their pockets to support the paper. The reader revenue figure includes subscriptions, newspaper sales and voluntary donations.

As paywalls have proliferated across the internet, The Guardian continues to give its stories away for free and is still losing money doing it — but is losing much less.

Back in 2016, the newspaper was in a rocky financial situation, closing offices and cutting staff. Last year, the company reduced its losses by two-thirds and is hoping to break even in its fiscal year 2018, which ends in April next year, according to Guardian Media Group chief executive David Pemsel. He set forth the company’s future vision at a soiree held at the home of Richard and Claudia Edelman on Tuesday evening.

The Guardian’s operating losses were $75 million in 2015-16. Now, their losses are $25 million, according to the company. Revenue is up one percent on the prior year to $282 million, according to spokesman Brendan O'Grady.

Pemsel said he was urged to erect a paywall but demurred, noting that the number of supporters (people who pay for a membership or one-off articles) had risen from 10,000 to 900,000 in the latest full year.

"When I started this role, the advice to me and our editor-in-chief Katharine Viner was simple - cut costs and put up a pay wall," Pemsel said. "We wanted to explore a different model, recognizing the huge reach and impact the Guardian has achieved., but also finding a way of asking readers to give us greater financial support."



Discovery CEO Zaslav is getting a raise

Discovery Communications CEO David Zaslav is getting a pay raise and a new contract that will see him  remain at the helm of the company through 2023.

Zaslav, who joined as president and CEO in 2007, will see his target bonus increase next year to $22 million (up from $9 million), though there is no guaranteed bonus amount, according to a company filing.  His base salary of $3 million remains unchanged. Zaslav also has stock grants. 

Zaslav has executed a host of major deals in recent years including acquiring Scripps Networks Interactive, which included cable channels HGTV and Food Network, and this summer negotiated a global rights deal for the PGA Tour, which will involve a new streaming service. The company is already a major shareholder in streaming platform BAMTech Europe, which helps support Discovery’s Eurosport channels.

Netflix's story stumbles

If you believe there is a tech bubble waiting to burst, then you might be paying close attention to Netflix today. Wall Street is not in a good mood after the company added fewer subscribers than expected — the first time that's happened in five quarters.

The streaming giant, which picked up more Emmy nominations than HBO, is one of the market’s best performers. The stock story, largely reliant on collecting more subscribers, fell apart yesterday after it missed a growth forecast.

And as Mediapost’s Alex Weprin pointed out, the company doubled its marketing spend to $1 billion in the first six months.

Eric Schiffer, CEO of private equity firm Patriach, told Reuters: “Investors are devastated by Netflix’s Q2 projection that went down in dramatic flames. Now future projections are suspect and that decimates valuation.”

Rob Arnott, head of fund advisory firm Research Affiliates, told Bloomberg TV that Wall Street may have focused more on the allure rather than the fundamentals of the Netflix story. “They qualify as a bubble," he said.

CNBC noted on Tuesday that analysts are predicting that so-called FANG stocks (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google parent Alphabet) will appreciate just 5.4 percent in the next 12 months, while Netflix will add just 2 percent. Here’s the report. The average return was 64.5 percent this past six months.

News consumption on smartphones continues to grow

The smartphone continues to grow as a force in news consumption. 

A new report from the Pew Research Center found that almost six-in-ten Americans now often read the news on their smartphones — almost triple the amount that did in 2013. 

That growth is particularly impressive in comparison to newsreading on desktop and laptop computers, which is just about flat. 

Pew found that young people more often get news on their mobile devices, but that the growth has been fueled by an uptick in consumption from older people and people with lower incomes.

The charts below highlight the growth in mobile news readership as well as some of the splits between people who read news on mobile vs. desktop. 

Media coverage torches Trump over Helsinki

You know it's bad when both the U.S. and Russian media are declaring Vladimir Putin the winner.

Media from both countries generally gave the Russian president the win over U.S. President Donald Trump after the two met in Helsinki.

One of the biggest news outlets in Russia, Izvestia, headlined its story on the Helsinki summit: “Trump immediately capitulates: Why the world’s press gave victory to Putin." The website added that Trump had “fallen into a trap set by the Russian President Vladimir Putin,” according to Google Translate.

Tabloid newspapers on both sides of the Atlantic went in for the kill on Tuesday. In the U.K., the left-leaning Daily Mirror declared Trump, “Putin’s Poodle: Trump branded a traitor.”

The Daily News cover screamed “Open Treason,” and noted in its coverage that Trump calls stories he disagrees with “fake news” but appeared to buy Putin’s denials about Russia’s interference in the U.S. election without question.

The cover carries a political cartoon showing Trump holding hands with Putin on Fifth Avenue and aiming a gun at Uncle Sam, an allusion to Trump’s comment that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and get away with it.

The more right-leaning New York Post also criticized Trump with its headline — "See No Evil" — describing the summit as a bear hug to “wicked BFF Vlad.” Fox News, generally supportive of Trump, hosted a variety of voices that criticized the president.

One Finnish newspaper simply noted the score: Trump 0, Putin 1. CNN’s Jake Tapper tweeted the front page.

The Russians would no doubt agree, though RT, a Russian TV channel that had to register as a foreign agent in the US and has been banned from selling ads on Twitter, offered a softer take. An op-ed by  Irish journalist Bryan MacDonald published on the RT website declared the Helsinki summit something of a storm in a tea-cup.

“US outlets and pundits would have you believe Trump handed over the family silver to Moscow. Which is nonsense,” he wrote.

“In reality, hardly anything changed. Trump didn't recognize Crimea, threaten to walk away from NATO or withdraw from Syria.”

Fox News and Business voices pull no punches on Trump in Helsinki

Neil Cavuto on Fox Business called it “disgusting." Fox News' website ran an opinion piece with the headline, “Putin eats Trump’s lunch in shocking Helsinki summit.” Fox News anchor Bret Baier called it "almost surreal at points."

President Donald Trump's appearance alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on Monday drew broad criticism from Republicans and Democrats. But even some of the notable faces of Fox's cable channels, which have generally reported favorably on the president throughout his first term, struggled to defend his actions on Monday.

Abby Huntsman, a Fox News anchor and co-host of “Fox & Friends Weekend” (and daughter of Jon Huntsman, the U.S. ambassador to Russia) tweeted: “No negotiation is worth throwing your own people and country under the bus.”

CORRECTION (July 16, 2018, 6:00 p.m.): An earlier version of this article misspelled the first name of a Fox News anchor. He is Bret Baier, not Brett.

Read more here.

Sinclair's attempt to create a local TV behemoth hits a roadblock

Sinclair’s attempt to create a local TV powerhouse just hit a roadblock.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai said on Monday that he has “serious concerns” about Sinclair's plan to merge with Tribune Media and will have the FCC vote on sending the deal to an administrative judge.

Pai focused on Sinclair’s plan to spin-off a handful of stations to parties that he said could remain under Sinclair’s control.

“The evidence we’ve received suggests that certain station divestitures that have been proposed to the FCC would allow Sinclair to control those stations in practice, even if not in name, in violation of the law," Pai said in a statement.

Read more here.

Former CEO of Billboard and The Hollywood reporter resigned amid sexual harassment investigation

The former CEO of Billboard and The Hollywood Reporter resigned amid an internal investigation into sexual harassment, according to the The Daily Beast.

John Amato left the company last week, and the company’s owner Valence Media said it was beginning an investigation about workplace practices at the publishing company.

The Daily Beast’s Maxwell Tani reported that Amato was ousted after employees came forward with harassment allegations against him. The story also notes other complaints from staff about interference with a story about Charlie Walk, a music industry executive and friend of Amato’s who was accused of sexual harassment.

A public relations firm that represents Billboard, Jonesworks, declined to comment. Another firm representing Billboard owner Valence Media and Amato’s lawyer, Joel Katz, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.