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ABC News alums slam Trump in an open letter
A group of former ABC News employees, including former correspondents and executives, have added their names to an open letter denouncing President Donald Trump’s “sustained attack on the free press.”
“We denounce Donald Trump's behavior as unconstitutional, un-American and utterly unlawful and unseemly for the President of the United States and leader of the free world,” reads the letter, which had nearly 100 signatures on Facebook as of Tuesday afternoon.
The organizer, Meredith Wheeler, a former writer and producer who worked with several ABC News anchors, asked for members of an ABC News alumni Facebook group to share the letter with current employees and friends at other media outlets. She even suggested the possibility of crowdfunding to take out a full page article in The New York Times or The Washington Post.
The letter comes in response to the death of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi and Trump’s recent praise of Rep. Greg Gianforte, R-Mont., who assaulted Ben Jacobs, a reporter for The Guardian, last year after Jacobs asked a question about healthcare.
Several current ABC News employees contacted by NBC News expressed caution about putting their names on an open letter denouncing Trump, at least while they work in the news division.
But one insider said they would be willing to put their name on the letter, “depending on how it was presented within the organization.”
The current version of the letter, posted in the ABC News alumni Facebook group, reads:
"On the heels of the recent brutal murder of a The Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, President Donald Trump chose to celebrate the assault of The Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs by an American congressman—an attack that occurred while the journalist was simply doing his job, posing questions to a politician.
Montana Congressman Greg Gianforte (R) body-slammed Jacobs, knocking him to the ground and beating him severely enough to send him to the hospital. Although Gianforte pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor assault and was fined, the President of the United States praised this violent behavior at a Trump rally in Missoula, Montana, on October 18.
Trump’s condoning of political violence is part of a sustained pattern of attack on a free press—which includes labeling any
reportage he doesn’t like as “fake news” and barring reporters and news organizations whom he wishes to punish from press briefings and events.
One of the pillars of a free and open democracy is a vibrant free press.
At his inauguration the President of the United States swears to protect the U.S. Constitution, including the First Amendment.
This President is utterly failing to do so and actively working not simply to undermine the press, but to incite violence against it as well.
In a lawsuit filed by PEN, the writer’s organization, against Donald Trump, they charge him with violating the First Amendment. We, the undersigned, past and present members of the Fourth Estate, support this action.
We denounce Donald Trump's behavior as unconstitutional, un-American and utterly unlawful and unseemly for the President of the United States and leader of the free world."
Katzenberg reveals name of short-form video project
Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman have revealed the name of their highly anticipated new short-form premium video platform: “Quibi.”
The name, a contraction of “Quick Bites,” hints at what Katzenberg and Whitman are trying to do: create high-quality, HBO-caliber content that people watch on their mobile devices in minute-long snippets.
Every major Hollywood studio has invested in the project, but there’s still a great deal of skepticism among Hollywood and Silicon Valley insiders over the viability of their effort. There is also little available evidence that consumers want to watch “quick bites” of shows like "Game of Thrones" or "Stranger Things” that have traditionally run for an hour.
In an appearance Wednesday at the Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit in Beverly Hills, both Katzenberg and Whitman sounded bullish about the demand for premium short-form.
“You’re looking at two old dogs,” Katzenberg said. “We got a new trick.”
Condé Nast loses another top executive in digital re-org
Fred Santarpia, Condé Nast's chief digital officer, is leaving the company, the executive said in a post on Instagram.
"From launching Conde Nast Entertainment's digital video business to leading the acquisitions of Pitchfork and Citizen Net, I’m proud of the lasting contributions we've made to one of the most iconic companies in all of media," Santarpia wrote on Tuesday.
"Unfortunately, there’s never a good time to say goodbye, but with the company’s digital foundation set, this is the right time for me to say farewell."
Santarpia, who had been with the company for seven years, is the latest executive from the luxury magazine house to depart in recent months after a round of reviews by outside consultants focused on cost cutting and re-organizing the company.
Other executives who have departed in recent months include Dawn Ostroff, the president of entertainment at Condé Nast, who joined Spotify as chief content officer. Her departure was announced in June.
Josh Stinchcomb, the former chief experience officer at Condé Nast also stepped down in August to join Dow Jones as chief revenue officer.
Condé Nast said it would sell Brides, Golf Digest and W magazine earlier this year. The company had been working with Boston Consulting Group, and had lost about $120 million in 2017, according to The New York Times.
Read the memo from Condé Nast chief executive Bob Sauerberg:
As Jonathan and I continue to align our core areas and functions of our business we are realizing how much this collaboration is benefiting both organizations.
Underpinning this success has been the collaboration between Co/lab and Condé Nast International’s product and technology teams. This has been 18 months in the making and has enabled the roll-out of Copilot as part of Condé Nast InternationaI’s platform Compass, which launched in Germany, France and in the coming weeks Italy.
This effort represents months of hard work by our people both here and around the world and signals the start of a new era, where our digital and technology innovation can have global impact. In the coming months, Condé Nast International will be lighting up 59 additional sites across the world on our single, global proprietary platform. And this is just the beginning.
We want to build on this success by formally mobilizing our product and technology organizations to work towards a set of common goals for both Condé Nast and Condé Nast International. By deepening our collaboration through the joint platform development, product and technology support, global supplier negotiations and the continued development of our Fashion Show products; we can unlock unlimited opportunities to scale our expertise and drive significant growth.
To that end, today we are announcing the joint leadership of our Product and Technology teams led by Ed Cudahy (Condé Nast) and Lee Wilkinson (Condé Nast International) who will report to Wolfgang Blau and me. They will lead their respective teams with the goal of closer collaboration of our technology function. This move presents a huge opportunity to create a Global Product and Technology team that will enable both companies to grow and thrive in the coming years. I want to congratulate our teams led by Ed and Lee on what they have achieved so far and what we will accomplish together in the future.
I also want to share with you that Fred Santarpia will be leaving us on November 2. Fred has been a great digital leader shepherding our nascent business through the continued development and iteration of Copilot and Spire and laying the cultural foundation from which we evolved. Through dramatic upgrades to our digital products and performance, the ability to scale and monetize our audience and the development of critical digital partnerships, he successfully helped pave the way for a cohesive global effort and we will build on that foundation. Before Fred leaves, we will be working with his leadership team to ensure a seamless transition and their continued impact on our business. Please join me in thanking Fred for his contributions and wishing him well.
I look forward to our continued collaboration with Wolfgang and the team at Condé Nast International as our collective expertise and capabilities are unmatched.
Showtime's David Nevins describes his own 'beach week'
CBS interim CEO Joe Ianniello is making sure he's showing support for his senior executives.
Ianniello, who was chief operating officer at CBS before taking over after the departure of Leslie Moonves, attended the annual Center for Communications lunch in honor of Showtime Network's CEO David Nevins on Thursday.
He was also out earlier this week attending an event honoring colleague Jo Ann Ross, president and chief advertising revenue officer.
Nevins, who has overseen hit shows such as "Homeland," "Billions" and "Ray Donovan," has been floated as a potential CEO candidate at CBS alongside Ianniello, according to Variety.
But if there was any competition between the two men, it wasn't evident at the lunch. The two shared several laughs sitting together at the same table, as "Homeland" actress Claire Danes said at the luncheon that she'd broken away from breastfeeding her newborn to speak to the audience. "Ray Donovan" star Liev Schreiber also joked that he'd soon be going back to filming in the rain in Yonkers.
The lunch wasn't as well attended as in previous years, with some media executives glued to the Senate hearing on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. The hearings kept CBS News President David Rhodes from attending the lunch.
Nevins said he was also from Bethesda, Maryland like Kavanaugh but went to public school. He referenced Kavanaugh's calendars joking that, "beach week" for him, meant "one night on my own in a car." Nevins also urged attendees to lend a hand to those less privileged and help them get their start in the entertainment business.
"TV is the last bastion of oral culture," he said, adding that millions of dollars get invested on the basis of a pitch.
Just a few hours later, CBS submitted SEC filings revealing that Gil Schwartz, CBS chief communications officer under Moonves, is retiring from the company with an exit package worth $7.3 million. Schwartz is also an author and wrote a long-running column for Fortune under the name "Stanley Bing."
Fox News fires contributor after 'reprehensible' comments about Kavanaugh accusers
Fox News on Thursday fired contributor Kevin Jackson after he called Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and other women "lying skanks" for accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct.
Jackson, who has 67,000 followers on Twitter, posted a string of highly offensive tweets over a period of hours as the Senate Judiciary Committee interviewed Dr. Blasey Ford and then Brett Kavanaugh.
The conservative pundit and author, who as of Thursday night still identified himself in his Twitter bio as a Fox News contributor, tweeted: "Dang girl, stop opening your legs and OPEN A BOOK!”
He also tweeted: "Holy Cow, a woman suffering from PTSD hosts STUDENTS from Google. FBI please investigate SEX PARTIES at #ChristineBlaseyFord house."
He capped it off by saying that "Leftist women are skanky for the most part."
In a statement, Fox News said late Thursday: "Kevin Jackson has been terminated as a contributor. His comments on today's hearings were reprehensible and do not reflect the values of Fox News."
The firing comes just days after Fox News' Martha McCallum conducted an exclusive interview with Brett Kavanaugh on Sept. 24.
The topic of sexual assault is a delicate one for Fox News, part of 21st Century Fox, since its late CEO Roger Ailes and former anchor, Bill O'Reilly, exited the network after accusations against them. Both men denied the allegations.
Another Fox News personality, anchor Tucker Carlson, also questioned sex assault victims this week, saying in an segment with liberal radio host Ethan Bearman: "Sex offenders tend to commit serial sex crimes. Doesn't she have an obligation to tell someone to stop him from doing it if he is a fact a sex criminal? Where's her obligation here? What about the rest of us?"
That drew howls of protest from pressure group Media Matters which suggested an advertiser boycott.
HBO pivots away from live boxing
AT&T-owned HBO said on Thursday it would no longer program live boxing, at least in the short term.
The network said in a statement: "Going forward in 2019, we will be pivoting away from programming live boxing on HBO," adding that it could still look at events in the future.
"We're a storytelling platform. The future will see unscripted series, long-form documentary films, reality programming, sports journalism and event specials and more unique standout content from HBO Sports."
The news, first reported in The New York Times, suggested that live boxing wasn't a big reason that people subscribed to the premium TV service.
AT&T has said it will spend more money on programming, but also told Wall Street that it would find $1.5 billion in annual cost synergies within three years of the deal's close.
It also comes as other players are doubling down on combat sports with ESPN buying UFC rights in order to bring it to a more mainstream audience, and Fox Sports and Comcast sharing rights to WWE. Comcast owns NBC Universal, which is the parent company of NBC News.
Another service, DAZN, is also looking to spend serious money to compete in the sports world. The service, backed by billionaire Len Blavatnik and run by former ESPN president John Skipper, just offered a boxing match as part of a $9.99 monthly subscription — far cheaper than the typical pay-per-view price.
Fox sells its stake in Sky to Comcast
Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox said on Wednesday it would sell its shares in the U.K.-based pay-TV platform Sky to Comcast, removing any shadow of a doubt about the satellite broadcaster’s future ownership.
Comcast emerged as the winner of a recent auction for Sky, bidding around $40 billion for the satellite broadcaster, which has 23 million subscribers in Europe. Comcast owns NBCUniversal, which is the parent company of NBC News.
The winning bid left open a question as to whether Fox would opt to take the Comcast offer or remain a shareholder. Fox owned about 39 percent of Sky.
Fox’s decision-making process was run in conjunction with Disney, since Fox had pledged to sell its Sky stake as part of a separate deal to sell assets to Disney.
Confirmation of Murdoch’s decision to give up the stake ends an era for the global media entrepreneur, now aged 87. Murdoch, the executive chairman of Fox, had a hand in creating Sky when satellite TV was in its infancy.
Sky CEO Jeremy Darroch issued a statement saying: “Nearly 30 years ago Rupert Murdoch took a risk to launch Sky and in the process changed the way we watch television forever.”
Darroch added: “Our aim is to make the next 30 years as exciting for customers, colleagues and all our stakeholders.”
Sky owns sports rights including, Italy's Serie A soccer league, and England's Premiere League and the European Champions League. Sky also has new partnerships with Netflix, Spotify and Italian media company Mediaset.
In a statement, Fox said it had accepted roughly $15 billion for its shares after obtaining Disney’s consent. Comcast had secured 37 percent of Sky's shares as of Wednesday morning, according to a company spokesman.
The Fox stake gives Comcast more than 50 percent of Sky's shares. Sky shareholders have until Oct. 11 to accept the offering.
Fox confirmed the news of its stake sale and in said a statement: “We bet -- and almost lost -- the farm on launching a business that many didn’t think was such a good idea. Today, Sky is Europe’s leading entertainment company and a world-class example of a customer-driven enterprise.”
Just eight years ago, Fox (then known as News Corporation) made an $11.6 billion bid to control Sky. That was scuttled by a phone hacking scandal and scrutiny from the British government.
Comcast, meanwhile, becomes the biggest pay-TV provider in the world with 52 million homes. The acquisition also has the potential to create a global presence in news. Comcast will take control of Sky News and already owns Euronews, based in France, and NBC News and CNBC in the U.S.
Former managing director of Sky Ventures, James Ackerman, told NBC NEWS: “21st Century Fox transformed the media landscape in Britain in a way no other organization has since the creation of the BBC. This is a tremendous opportunity for Comcast (as a platform company) to diversify overseas and unlock further growth for their content divisions. And anyway, it’s about time [Murdoch] cashed out on something.”
AT&T believes in ad targeting and privacy: can the two coexist?
Is AT&T looking to establish a new national ad platform for the TV industry?
The company renamed its advanced advertising business on Tuesday with a promise to offer Madison Avenue something new — targeted advertising at scale. The new unit is called Xandr, after Alexander Graham Bell, who invented the telephone and established The Bell Telephone Company and the American Telephone and Telegraph Company.
AT&T acquired Time Warner’s content business for $85.4 with a stated intention of getting TV and online viewing data and marrying it with ad targeting capabilities — a combo the company says will allow it to charge more for its ad inventory.
Here’s how AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson explained it to Recode’s Peter Kafka.
In a statement about the new branding, the telecom giant noted that it has signed deals with regional cable companies Altice USA and Frontier Communications to aggregate and sell their national addressable TV advertising inventory.
Addressable advertising means ads that are targeted to identifiable consumers. TV and telecom firms have struggled to compete with internet companies simply because online players are much less regulated in what data they can share. “Xandr’s unique differentiator is its commitment to personalization," the company said in its statement.
Still, the departure of Oath CEO Tim Armstrong doesn’t bode well for that kind of data mash-up in the current political climate. Oath is part of Verizon.
In the press release, AT&T said: “This initial step starts to create the foundation of a national TV marketplace for advertisers and premium content publishers.”
With TV measurement firm Nielsen exploring a sale, it appears AT&T is making a bold effort to reshape video ad buying with its extensive data and distribution capabilities.
“I have not been exposed to many industries as reluctant to change as the media industry in terms of business models and changing how you deliver the product," Stephenson said. "It is an industry that has about as much inertia as any industry I’ve been part of.”
While the phone company wants to have a closer relationship with their customers and viewers, it’s not clear consumers — or politicians — feel the same way. Privacy remains a huge topic of public concern and the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation has a hearing Wednesday about that very topic. The Los Angeles Times lays out who’s attending the high profile event: AT&T, Amazon, Google, Apple, Twitter and Charter Communications, but no consumer advocates.
Stevenson is arguing for the government to step in to regulate privacy, largely to avoid the states doing it themselves.
Craig Newmark backs news site to take on big tech
Craigslist founder Craig Newmark confirmed on Monday he is spending $20 million to back The Markup, a journalism project led by reporter Julia Angwin aimed at pointing out the serious deficiencies in tech platforms and their impact on society.
Angwin, a former Wall Street Journal reporter, most recently worked at ProPublica, where she looked at how Facebook ads could be used to exclude racial groups from housing, which is against the law. Here’s the story.
“The effects of foreign bad actors on our election, that’s been the most shocking to me,” Newmark said when asked about the most surprising negative effects of technology on society.
But rather than criticize the tech platforms, Newmark is choosing to play diplomat. He wants tech giants and the news media to play nice in order to fend off Russian interference in future elections.
“I can say first hand, a great deal of good is coming from all three major tech platforms," Newmark said. "I’m engaged in quiet diplomacy, getting together a platform of people with constructive critics of the platforms. I've been doing it for some years without much traction, but as I get a little louder, I’m becoming more effective.”
Newmark added: “I have a great deal of confidence in what Facebook, Google and Twitter are doing.”
Some might see some irony in journalism funding coming from Newmark, who also gave a $20 million gift to the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. After all, Craigslist's free online bulletin board drew classified ads away from newspapers, helping kickstart a difficult run for print media that continues.
Newmark pushes back against that narrative, pointing to research that shows the newspaper industry has been in decline for decades.
John Skipper's DAZN looking to punch its way into OTT
Some people might know billionaire Len Blavatnik as the owner of Warner Music and France’s streaming music service Deezer, but he’s also behind a company attempting to upend the direct-to-consumer sports business.
Blavatnik, together with former ESPN president John Skipper, operate a company called Perform Group, which runs DAZN (pronounced "Da Zone"). The streaming service is getting its a big test this weekend, streaming its first major sports event — a boxing match between Anthony Joshua and Alexander Povetkin.
The service is $9.99 per month (first month is free) and offers live and on-demand streaming of boxing matches and mixed martial arts as well as other library programming. Joseph Markowski, head of DAZN North America, told The Query the company is aiming to compete with the pay-per-view boxing matches that typically cost $70 to $100. The streamer is advertising this weekend's match via digital media to win sign-ups.
“We’re not just competing with ESPN+, we’re competing with ESPN,” Markowski said.
He said the firm’s exclusive focus on streaming gives it a leg up versus other broadcasters who have to worry about cannibalizing their TV distribution revenue.
DAZN aims to be in the ring when it comes to negotiating for big sports rights when they are available, though Markowski declined to name any. He said DAZN has plans to grow well beyond its origins in the fighting realm, and we should expect to hear a lot more about their sports offering in the coming months.
Can it challenge a plethora of sports streamers already in the market both from the leagues and their TV partners as well as a possible move by a Facebook, Google or Amazon? Blavatnik’s pockets are pretty deep.
The Hollywood Reporter's power list is changing, thanks to #MeToo
The #MeToo movement and the broader push for diversity in the entertainment industry are starting to have an effect on power dynamics in Hollywood.
The Hollywood Reporter's annual 100 list released on Thursday is missing a host of influential names felled by the #MeToo movement. No longer on the list are former CBS Chief Executive Leslie Moonves, Pixar's former chief John Lasseter, producer Brett Ratner and Amazon's former studio head Roy Price.
Matthew Belloni, Hollywood Reporter editorial director, said that the list includes 35 women and people of color, a big change from prior years. He said the list was less a reflection of the magazine's desire for inclusion and more about who's got "juice" in the entertainment industry.
"Women and people of color are having big success. Ryan Coogler (director) and Michael B. Jordan (actor) from 'Black Panther,' that's a reflection of the massive success of that film. They are two names that constantly come up," Belloni said. "Tiffany Haddish and Lin-Manuel Miranda are the same. Roy Price is off the list, and that allowed Jennifer Salke to go up." Salke is the head of Amazon Studios.
The New Yorker's Ronan Farrow, who has arguably had a bigger effect on who's up and down in Hollywood than any other force in the past 12 months, joined the magazine's top 100 for the first time, after Moonves was taken off the list at the last minute after he left CBS.
Disney CEO Bob Iger tops the list for the third time in a row.
Belloni said he has spent the day fielding angry emails and complaints about the list.
"Some in old-school Hollywood think there are personal agendas and there's back room dealing," he said, but added that the people at the top of the list, such as Netflix CEO Reed Hasting are there because they are buying. "They're excited about people who are spending a lot of money.”
Woodward book on Trump is a record breaker
"Fear," is officially a record breaker.
Bob Woodward's book about disarray in the Trump White House recorded first-week sales of 1.1 million in all formats, a record for publisher Simon & Schuster.
The last record holder was Walter Isaacson's "Steve Jobs" biography, according to the publisher. That book sold 379,000 copies back in November 2011.
"There is only one word to describe the sales of 'Fear' - and that word is huge," said Jonathan Karp, president and publisher of Simon & Schuster, which is part of CBS Corporation. "What's especially gratifying is the appreciation readers and reviewers have for the integrity and importance of Bob Woodward's reporting."
The publisher has ordered a 10th printing, bringing the number of hardcover copies in print to 1.2 million. First day sales were 900,000, the company said in a statement.
Still, the book, only its second week on sale, is already fading from the news cycle as another title about President Donald Trump has emerged — this one from Stormy Daniels, who claims she had an affair with Trump more than a decade ago. Her book, "Full Disclosure," published by St. Martin's Press, is now attracting headlines after The Guardian wrote about its contents.
And there's more Trump-related books on the way. Earlier today, the Associated Press reported that former FBI official Andrew McCabe has signed a book deal for "The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump," out on Dec. 4.
Will more tech investors step up for print media?
Staff and former editors of Time Magazine are celebrating the news that Marc Benioff, the Salesforce CEO worth $6.6 billion, and his wife Lynne Benioff are acquiring the iconic magazine from Meredith Corporation.
Richard Stengel, who ran the newsweekly between 2006 and 2013, told NBCNews.com that was happy to hear about the acquisition.
"It sort of like a dream come true in the sense of here's a tech billionaire who believes in the brand and in impartial news coverage and growing Time both domestically and internationally and doesn't want to play an editorial role," Stengel said. "It's the best of all possible worlds."
Nancy Gibbs, who was the first woman editor of the magazine from 2013 to 2017, said: "I'm over the moon, because obviously we've been living with uncertainty for a long time and hoping for the best outcome.
"What struck me, is this is not some bloodless business transaction," Gibbs said. "You can feel the passion and the purpose that he and Lynne bring to this."
Gibbs said she met Benioff, who is spending $190 million on the magazine, at a dinner in Davos, Switzerland, when she was running the Time Inc. news group.
Gibbs, who is now the Edward R. Murrow Chair of Press, Politics and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, added: "When it comes to imagining a new future, I can't imagine a better steward. I'm thrilled for my colleagues and readers and everyone who spent so much of our careers there and rooting for the best possible outcome."
Time magazine's editorial staff were also celebrating the change in ownership on Twitter. Chris Wilson, the director of data journalism, tweeted: "I'm delighted that it will be in wise and benevolent hands with the Benioff family."
Columnist Susanna Schrobsdorff tweeted: "There's no better owner for Time and no better time to own Time."
Recode noted the magazine sent the famed bar cart around the office to celebrate.
Benioff said in a text message exchange with a New York Times reporter — conducted while he was receiving a massage — that Time is still in a strong financial situation. "It's a very strong business," he reportedly texted. "Very profitable."
The WSJ reported on Monday that Time is projected to see a 9 percent decline in revenue in 2018 from $173 million in 2017.
Jennifer Grygiel, assistant professor of communications and magazine at Newhouse School, wondered about the all-round rejoicing given tech's role in wrecking the traditional economics of publishing.
"I am not one of those people who are celebrating the sale of legacy publishing to a tech insider," Grygiel said.
While she says Benioff is well liked because of his stance on human rights and same sex marriage, legacy publishing has been decimated by tech disruption.
While Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and philanthropist Laurene Powell Jobs have shown what investment and expertise can do for publications such as The Washington Post and The Atlantic, other wealthy individuals have found publishing a tough road and have given up their investments.
Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes sold The New Republic after a rocky period of ownership, and billionaire Joe Ricketts folded DNAInfo after he couldn't find a way to make it profitable. Peter Barbey, a wealthy investor, said he would sell The Village Voice just three years after buying it.
Still, Grygiel said there may be more Silicon Valley luminaries headed for the publishing world. Alibaba's Jack Ma acquired the South China Morning Post, while Pierre Omidyar, the eBay founder, created The Intercept.
Meredith is looking to sell other major magazine titles including Fortune, Money and Sports Illustrated.
Take-Two Interactive CEO on challenges in China
The CEO of games publisher Take-Two Interactive, Strauss Zelnick, used his perch at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia conference on Thursday to launch a broadside against China.
Zelnick, a newly appointed board member at CBS, told investors of the many hurdles of growing the gaming business while Chinese companies can operate without any challenges.
"We have a completely odd and unequal situation where Chinese companies can come to the U.S. and buy companies no problem in our space," he said. "And if they don't want to do that, they can bring a title here and market it and keep all the proceeds."
Zelnick added: "In order to go to China, we've have to have half our business owned by a local company in China. The good news is they provide expertise. We are in business with companies like Tencent and we are thrilled to be in business with them, but we don't have a choice to be clear."
The Take-Two chief executive added that the firm needs government approvals to launch games in China, which in itself is a political process, and added: "China's been stealing our intellectual property for a really long time. Those things just have to change."
So far, the tariff wars with China have not included any measures involving the entertainment sector to any large extent, but Zelnick wants to see some changes. "I'm not sure why the U.S. government thinks that it's an OK thing to do with our sector."
Zelnick also used the stage to promote his new book, “Becoming Ageless,” which drew a few laughs from the crowd.
Survey shows Kaepernick campaign has already taken a toll on Nike
Nike’s new ad campaign featuring former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick is tanking the company’s favorability ratings, according to a survey from Morning Consult, a polling company.
The company, which surveyed more than 8,000 people before and after the print and TV ads were released earlier this week, said that Nike’s favorability ratings have dropped sharply.
"Before the announcement, Nike had a net +69 favorable impression among consumers, it has now declined 34 points to +35 favorable," Morning Consult wrote in its report.
The ad campaign features Kaepernick, the athlete-turned-activist who knelt during the national anthem to protest mistreatment of minorities in the U.S.
The ad copy reads: “Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.”
Kaepernick has not played for an NFL team since opting out of his contract with the San Francisco 49ers in March 2017. Since then, the NFL has been dealing with an ongoing controversy over players protesting during the national anthem.
President Donald Trump even tweeted about the Nike ad campaign.
"Just like the NFL, whose ratings have gone WAY DOWN, Nike is getting absolutely killed with anger and boycotts," the president tweeted. "I wonder if they had any idea that it would be this way? As far as the NFL is concerned, I just find it hard to watch, and always will, until they stand for the FLAG!"Morning Consult’s First Poll released on Thursday morning found:
- Only 2 percent of Americans reported hearing something negative about Nike recently. That number jumped to 33 percent following the announcement.
- Republicans had the biggest swing, with those "like to purchase Nike goods" declining from 51 percent to 28 percent.
There's a book about Matt Drudge on the way
Investigative reporter Matthew Lysiak has just signed a new book deal to write about one of the biggest names in conservative media: Matt Drudge.
Lysiak signed a deal for the book with his publisher, Benbella Books, he and the company confirmed on Tuesday.
There's been a lot of ink spilled about influential figures in conservative media from Infowars' Alex Jones, to Fox News' Roger Ailes, and talk radio's Rush Limbaugh, but not much is known about Drudge, a relatively anonymous figure despite his eponymous website.
DrudgeReport.com hit the national consciousness in January 1998 after he published an allegation that Newsweek was sitting on a story about then-President Bill Clinton's affair with a White House intern, Monica Lewinsky.
Back then the format looked like a word processing tool. Here's a link to the original Clinton/Newsweek story. Now, Drudge Report has one main story with a photo and giant headline and three columns of links to the most gripping stories of the day.
The website remains one of the most-read news websites, with Drudge's own website on Tuesday touting 22 million visits within the past 24 hours and some 817 million visits in the past 31 days. For many journalists, a link on Drudge means a guaranteed audience.
Lysiak, the author of "Newtown: An American Tragedy," said: "This is a man who dictated the stories we read more than any person in history. It is not just a revolution in the way we consume news. He has seized a narrative and little remains known about the guy."
Lysiak, a former New York Daily News reporter, is however having trouble reaching the man himself. He has sent a number of certified letters, he said, and reached out to friends who say they are too afraid that he'll cut them off.
The book is due out in 2019. Drudge didn't return an email request for comment.
Owner of The National Enquirer stays silent on Michael Cohen plea
American Media, Inc., owner of The National Enquirer, has so far kept silent about the implications of Michael Cohen’s guilty plea.
Cohen, President Donald Trump's former personal attorney, pled guilty in federal court on Tuesday and said he had paid an executive from a media company to keep allegations of an affair out of the public eye — a violation of campaign finance laws. He said he did so at the direction of a federal candidate, which Cohen's lawyer later said was Trump.
Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model that has alleged she had a relationship with Trump, and her lawyers have said that the National Enquirer paid her $150,000 in August 2016 to keep her story about Trump from circulating.
Calls to American Media CEO David Pecker and the publisher’s public relations staff made Tuesday night were not returned.
AMI executives were reportedly subpoenaed as part of the Southern District of New York’s case against Cohen.
Court documents suggest that Pecker had an agreement to keep an eye out for damaging stories against Trump as early as 2015, according to the New York Times.
Cohen's guilty plea puts the company in an awkward position. The owner of the supermarket tabloid has been shopping around high-yield bonds with the help of bankers to raise as much as $450 million to pay off debt, according to Debtwire. The company recently spent $80 million acquiring competitive titles from Bauer Publishing, including InTouch, Life & Style and Closer.
But audiences for The National Enquirer are on the decline. According to the Magazine Publishers Association’s 360 Report, National Enquirer’s print and digital numbers are down 19.8 percent year-to-date through June versus the same period last year.
Whether American Media is in any legal jeopardy remains to be seen. Cohen reportedly created a shell company to pay McDougal for her story about a long-term affair with Trump and then didn’t run it, according to a 2016 article in the WSJ.
The practice is known as “catch and kill," and American Media's relationship with candidate Donald Trump is thoroughly detailed in this The New Yorker article.
Media group to FTC: rein in the tech giants
One of the biggest media trade groups has a message for U.S. regulators — it's time to act.
The News Media Alliance, which represents 2,000 news and media organizations, told the Federal Trade Commission it is fed up with big tech platforms hampering their digital businesses, and it wants the government to rein in their anti-competitive behavior.
The NMA made the comments in a letter issued ahead of the FTC's upcoming hearings on "Competition and Consumer Protection in the 21st Century."
“The news industry receives 80 percent of referral traffic from the platforms but only about 14 percent of revenue on average comes from that traffic," Danielle Coffey, vice president of public policy at NMA, said in a statement. "Something is not translating.
The filing stated that Google and Facebook dominate both the distribution and the monetization of news, since most online users get their news via search and social media.
Among the NMA's arguments:
“Dominant platforms use secret and unpredictable algorithms to determine whether and how content is delivered to readers."
The platforms have grown by serial acquisitions and exclusionary conduct. “Action by the FTC is thus needed and justified to rein in the tech giants’ anticompetitive conduct.”
The tech platforms are forcing policies on the news industry that threaten its viability. Google, for instance, asked news publishers to provide news stories under a "first click free" program. When the WSJ declined, its traffic fell.
The News Media Alliance had a stark warning for the FTC if no action is taken: “If the news industry is permitted to continue deteriorating as the technology platforms take over, it is almost impossible to exaggerate the consequences.”
Netflix hires 'blackish' creator away from ABC
Is Netflix on a mission to hire all of the Disney/Fox talent?
On Thursday, the streaming video giant said it signed Kenya Barris, the creator of ABC's "black-ish," to a multi-year deal to produce new series exclusively at Netflix.
The new deal comes after Netflix signed Ryan Murphy, the former Fox producer behind "American Horror Story," and ABC's Shonda Rhimes, the creator of "Grey's Anatomy," to wide-ranging content deals. Variety quoted an unnamed source saying the deal is worth $100 million to Barris.
CNBC's Michelle Castillo explained why so many producers want to work with Netflix these days — producers get more money upfront including their initial production budget plus 30 percent on top while agreeing to take less of the back-end (money made from the show after it’s released).
The Wall Street Journal's Joe Flint noted that Barris exited his ABC Studios deal after tensions about an episode involving athletes taking a knee. (ABC and ESPN are both owned by Disney.)
A casual Netflix watcher might be having a bit more difficulty locating shows given the vast amount of originals to choose from. The company is on track to make 1,000 original movies and shows by the end of the year.
Barclays analyst Ross Sandler pointed out in a July investor report that too much content could affect the Netflix user experience: "The deluge of originals on the service can worsen user experience by making content discovery more difficult.”
One TV agent told The Query that they're starting to observe early signs of a backlash with some clients wondering about whether their content will find an audience with so much competition.
'The Meg' highlights growing movie teamwork between U.S. and China
“The Meg,” the gleefully dumb shark thriller that took a bite out of the weekend box office, isn’t your average Hollywood project.
That’s because it’s only half a Hollywood project: The movie was co-produced by Warner Bros. and Gravity Pictures, a Chinese company.
The movie, which grossed $44.5 million in the U.S. and another $50.3 million in China, was clearly created with Chinese moviegoers in mind. It is partly set in the waters off the Chinese mainland and co-stars acclaimed Chinese actress Li Bingbing.
Why does this matter? China, home to 1.3 billion people and more than 40,000 movie screens, is the second-largest box office on the planet behind the United States. American studios are increasingly focused on making a killing there — and so that’s why traditional players like Warner Bros. are teaming up with Chinese financiers and co-producers.
Universal Pictures did something similar earlier this summer with “Skyscraper,” an action-packed riff on “Die Hard” starring Dwayne Johnson. The movie was set in Hong Kong and co-produced by Legendary, a California-based production company that was acquired by the Chinese conglomerate Wanda Group in 2016.
Universal Pictures is owned by NBCUniversal, which is also the parent company of NBC News.
“Skyscraper” was a dud in the U.S. and a moderate hit in China, where it has grossed close to $100 million.
Newspapers across the U.S. ready editorials about Trump's attacks on press
The Boston Globe and the American Society of News Editors put out the call — publish editorials on Trump's escalating rhetoric about U.S. journalists.
And the newspapers are prepared to answer. CNN's Brian Stelter reports that more than 100 publications are each prepared to publish an editorial on Thursday, which would make it one of the widest coordinated efforts in the history of American media.
The ASNE put out the call on Thursday.
"This dirty war on the free press must end," the ASNE posted on its blog. "The Boston Globe is reaching out to editorial boards across the country to propose a coordinated response. The Globe proposes to publish an editorial on Aug. 16 on the dangers of the administration's assault on the press and ask others to commit to publishing their own editorials on the same date. Publications, whatever their politics, could make a powerful statement by standing together in the common defense of their profession and the vital role it plays in government for and by the people."
The editorials are being coordinated by Marjorie Pritchard, deputy editorial page editor at the Boston Globe.
Roku captures streaming video growth
Streaming video player Roku is capturing a big slice of the big shift to internet-delivered TV viewing, but it's not leaving advertisers behind.
What is Roku:
Roku started life as a unit of Netflix, which sold out early on, but the company still calls Netflix headquarters in Los Gatos, California, its home. Menlo Ventures and Sky Ventures also helped this company get off the ground too.
The little publicized Roku is the Spotify of streaming devices - it outsells Amazon Fire sticks, Google Chromecasts and Apple TVs, and is independently owned.
Here's Bloomberg's Tara Lachapelle with some good insights and graphics on Roku.
Roku also operates the ad-supported TheRokuChannel.com .
Why is it important:
Not only is Roku the biggest seller of devices that enable TV sets to stream video, it has its sights set on the growing number of advertisers looking to target consumers with household-level data sets.
"TV advertisers are shifting budgets to OTT," the firm said in its second quarter shareholders letter. "Over time we believe the vast majority of the $70 billion annual U.S. TV advertising market will shift to streaming." Roku boasts extensive insights into its 22 million subscribers.
Roku is growing like a weed:
The company unveiled growth numbers on Thursday along with its earnings, that surprised Wall Street estimates. Roku stock shot up 21.3 percent after the bell on Thursday.
Roku added seven million accounts in the past 12 months, and average revenue per user grew 48 percent year-over-year to $16.60. The amount of content being streamed is also growing: 5.5 billion hours in the quarter, a 57 percent increase versus a year ago.
Why is it so popular:
Roku says it's easy to use. It has two price points, either $29.99 or $105.99. Roku is also putting a new button on its home screen helping users to find free ad-supported movies and TV content across the web and splits ad revenue with content owners.
If you bought Roku last September when it's IPO price was $14 a share, then you'd be in the money today, barely a year later. The stock was trading above $60 at lunchtime on Friday.
The New York Times now has 3.8 million subscribers
The good news: The Times recorded $23.6 million in quarterly profit and now has 3.8 million subscribers; 2.9 million of them are digital-only.
The publisher added 109,000 net new subscribers in the period, not quite as great as the same quarter last year when the Times signed 114,000 net new subscribers. Subscription revenue is now two thirds of all revenue.
The bad news: Print advertising is down 11.5 percent, and digital ad revenue fell 7.5 percent. Daily circulation fell 10 percent. That was enough to send Times shares down 5.1 percent to $23.05 in afternoon trading.
The Times also spent a lot of money re-organizing its seating. The company took a $1 million charge related to "the redesign and consolidation of space in our headquarters building."
The paper said it has leased four and a half of the seven floors it has made available to rent. Here's what the company CEO Mark Thompson had to say about the period.
Journalists fire back at Twitter CEO about role of press in countering conspiracy theories
Journalists had a lot to say about Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey on Wednesday morning — and most didn't like Dorsey's assertion that the role of the press was to offer a check on the conspiracy theories of Alex Jones' InfoWars.
Dorsey explained on Tuesday night why Jones, who has claimed that the Sandy Hook massacre was a hoax, remains on Twitter after other social media outlets banned him.
"Accounts like Jones' can often sensationalize issues and spread unsubstantiated rumors, so it’s critical journalists document, validate, and refute such information directly so people can form their own opinions. This is what serves the public conversation best,” Dorsey tweeted.
Here's what a few journalists and outlets had to say about that:
Portland Press Herald in Maine, tweeted: "You know, @jack our days are pretty full as it is without cleaning up your website for you pro bono. Just sayin."
Freelance journalist Lauren Duca wrote: "Yeah, that’s the job of journalism. What’s your job exactly?"
Rob Tannenbaum, who describes himself as a writer for New York magazine, tweeted: "See @Jack? Literal, mortal consequences of allowing sensationalism and unsubstantiated rumors to flourish in what you dishonestly call the public conversation."
Bill Grueskin, a former WSJ executive and professor at Columbia Journalism School, according to his Twitter bio said: "If only journalists had publicized the fact that the Sandy Hook murders did, indeed, take place. Thanks @Jack."
Meanwhile, The Guardian's Carole Cadwalladr, who broke news on Cambridge Analytica’s use of Facebook data, is the latest reporter to say she's taking a break from Twitter. She posted this adieu along with an image on an attack on her.
“This enemy of the people is taking a break. for the amazing support for this story, Twitter. It is very much appreciated. #Journalism2018,” she tweeted.
Just a few weeks ago, New York Times White House correspondent Maggie Haberman explained why she was taking a break from engaging on Twitter.
"Twitter has stopped being a place where I could learn things I didn’t know, glean information that was free from errors about a breaking news story or engage in a discussion and be reasonably confident that people’s criticisms were in good faith,” Haberman wrote in the Times.
The Twitter CEO responded last month in a long thread. Dorsey quoted Haberman's thought: “There is an important discussion about journalism that must take place, including about how all of us performed during the 2016 campaign, but Twitter is not where a nuanced or thoughtful discussion can happen.”
Then he added: "This is what we’d like to fix the most."
Axios adds to news outlets making TV with HBO show
Add Axios to the growing list of news outlets making TV shows.
The digital media upstart announced on Wednesday that it has struck a deal with HBO to produce a "limited docu-series" to coincide with the 2018 U.S. midterm elections. The series will have big-name interviews and short documentaries on important topics, Axios' Mike Allen said in a post.
Media companies searching for non-advertising revenue have been slowly venturing into the world of high-end nonfiction video production. Vice was among the first, signing a deal with HBO back in 2012 to make documentary programming.
Since then, both BuzzFeed and Vox have deals to produce shows Netflix, OZY Media started "Breaking Big" for PBS, and the New York Times is preparing to launch "The Weekly" on FX.
The New York Times stands by journalist who sent insulting tweets
Controversy around recent hires at the The New York Times continued on Thursday, with its newest addition coming under fire from conservatives for some of her old tweets.
On Wednesday, the Times announced that it had hired Sarah Jeong to write about technology for the newspaper's editorial board. By Thursday, she had become the target of criticism from right-leaning websites that surfaced a series of tweets in which she appears to repeatedly insult "white people." You can read a collection of them on RedState.com.
The Times said it is sticking by her: "Her journalism and the fact that she is a young Asian woman have made her a subject of frequent online harassment. For a period of time she responded to that harassment by imitating the rhetoric of her harassers. She sees now that this approach only served to feed the vitriol that we too often see on social media.”
The Verge, a digital tech publication where Jeong has been a reporter, also defended her.
"Many of those now reacting to these tweets have intentionally taken them out of context, and she has since received an unrelenting stream of abuse from strangers on the internet," the website's editors and senior staff wrote in a post.
The Times editorial board in February drew criticism when it hired tech journalist Quinn Norton and then rescinded its offer after Norton's connections with a person who worked for the Daily Stormer, a neo-nazi website, were revealed.
Wall Street analysts play by the CBS rules
Analysts on Thursday's CBS earnings call did not ask Leslie Moonves, the embattled chief executive of CBS, about the misconduct allegations against him.
Journalists were not impressed.
"The CBS analysts are embarrassing themselves so far," wrote Axios business editor Dan Primack on Twitter. "As everyone watches a house burst into flames, a $CBS analyst pipes up to comment on the lovely weather."
"As CBS executives and directors know best, the professional fate of Moonves & of CBS Corp as an independent company are very much uncertain," NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik tweeted. "Investment analysts can't possibly assess the company without resolution of those two huge Qs. And yet ...nada."
Moonves was his usual chipper self on the call touting the future growth of the company's streaming offerings and explaining how Amazon has boosted subscriptions to its digital service, but he did not touch on the allegations against him. In introductory comments, a CBS investor relations executive said on the advice of lawyers the CEO would not answer questions about matters unrelated to the earnings.
The New Yorker on Friday reported that six women, four of whom spoke on the record, accused Moonves of sexual harassment or misconduct from the 1980s to the 2000s. Of these allegations, four accused Moonves of forcible touching or kissing, and two allege sexual misconduct or harassment.
Moonves said in a statement to The New Yorker: "I recognize that there were times decades ago when I may have made some women uncomfortable by making advances. Those were mistakes, and I regret them immensely. But I always understood and respected — and abided by the principle — that 'no' means 'no,' and I have never misused my position to harm or hinder anyone’s career."
The long time media and entertainment analysts who have done these earnings calls with the CEO for years agreed to play by the rules. But investors might have been eager to know if their stock will be affected by the possibility of Moonves stepping down, or perhaps gain an update on the legal case winding through Delaware involving CBS's controlling shareholder, who is now at odds with the CBS boss.
Rich Greenfield, media and technology analyst with BTIG, who was not picked to ask a question during the call, complained on Twitter: "Shame on the CBS analysts who were allowed to ask questions and failed to use the opportunity."
Fox Business Network senior correspondent Charlie Gasparino posted his thoughts on Twitter: "Yet another example of how too many Wall Street analysts are in the bag for companies they cover. OK Moonves won't answer questions about the sexual misconduct allegations, but these cowards won't even ask him about succession, which is important to investors."
CORRECTION (Aug. 3, 2018, 10:05 a.m. ET): A previous version of this article misstated the name of the business-focused cable channel of 21st Century Fox. It is Fox Business Network, not Fox Business News.
Moonves' billionaire status threatened
CBS CEO Leslie Moonves was on his way to becoming a billionaire, but The New Yorker might have put a stop to that.
The CBS board said on Tuesday it was hiring an outside law firm to conduct an investigation, an apparent reference to accusations of misconduct against Moonves raised in a New Yorker piece that was published last week.
Moonves could lose out on $300 million of salary, bonuses and stock grants if the board finds he violated the terms of his contract and could be let go for cause, according to an analysis by Bloomberg.
Moonves would lose equity and bonus awards worth $135 million, $126.5 million in salary, and potentially the right to become an advisor to the company at $40 million over five years, according to Bloomberg's analysis of regulatory filings.
Former Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman, who stepped down after a battle with Shari Redstone, the controlling shareholder of Viacom and CBS, walked away with an estimated $95 million, according to Bloomberg calculations from 2016.
Spotify adds subscribers but not revenue per user
Spotify is growing like weed as consumers make the switch from downloads to streaming services.
But the second quarterly report from the newly public music streaming company had good news for some — and bad news for those who are keeping a close watch on whether Spotify is making any money.
The good news: Spotify finished its second quarter with 180 million monthly active users, with 83 million of those users paying for the service. That's huge growth versus the second quarter last year when it reported 138 million monthly active users. And Wall Street was encouraged — Spotify stock rose 4.9 percent on Thursday.
The not great news: Apple is coming, at least in the U.S. The Financial Times spoke with unnamed music executives who said Apple is already about to leapfrog Spotify's U.S. subscriber total.
The bad news: Spotify's average revenue per user declined by 12 percent versus the same period a year ago to around $5.70 per month thanks to promotions, such as the offer that bundles Spotify with Hulu for $12.99. Spotify also hasn't been shy about making the free tier as attractive as possible to convert consumers to the paid tier, but it seems many consumers are happy holding on to their cash.
Spotify just hired former Condé Nast Entertainment chief Dawn Ostroff, but Spotify CEO Daniel Ek said there was no intention to get into the original video production game. Here's a transcript of the investor call.
Viacom in talks to buy AwesomenessTV
Bloomberg's Lucas Shaw, citing two people familiar with the matter, reports that Viacom is in talks to buy AwesomenessTV, part of the once-hot group of YouTube aggregators that were seen just a few years ago as the future of youth media.
A source familiar with the talks but not authorized to speak publicly told The Query that the companies are in advanced talks but there is no guarantee a deal will be struck. Hearst and Verizon also have stakes in AwesomenessTV.
Shaw reported that the deal is not yet done but that the price tag could be around half of the company's 2016 valuation of $650 million. Viacom declined to comment.
Comcast also owns NBCUniversal, the parent company of NBC News.
Comcast did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Facebook's defense team is thinning
Facebook continues to deal with fallout from the Cambridge Analytica scandal as well as critiques over how it handles misinformation on its platform. Now, it is losing another member of its corporate defense team.
General counsel Colin Stretch announced on Tuesday in a Facebook post that he will be leaving the company. Stretch testified before the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in November on Russia-linked propaganda that spread across Facebook during the 2016 election.
“As Facebook embraces the broader responsibility [CEO Mark Zuckerberg ] has discussed in recent months, I’ve concluded that the company and the Legal team need sustained leadership in Menlo Park," wrote Stretch, who is based in Washington D.C.
Just last month, Facebook's head of public policy and communications, Elliot Schrage, said he was departing after a decade at the company. Schrage's exit is leading to some soul searching inside the public relations department about whether to stick around, according to several sources.
Facebook's chief security officer, Alex Stamos, is reportedly set to leave the company in August. BuzzFeed on Tuesday published an internal memo that Stamos sent to Facebook colleagues in March detailing the need for the company to change its culture in order to fix its problems.
Facebook's troubles have not yet hurt its business. The company is scheduled to report second-quarter earnings on Wednesday. Wall Street analysts project that the social network reached 2.25 billion monthly active users and generated revenue of $13.34 billion, according to Yahoo Finance.
Consumers underestimate what they spend on subscriptions
Consumers are significantly underestimating what they spend on subscriptions, according to a study from Waterstone Management Group.
The company surveyed consumers on 21 categories of subscriptions and asked them to guess what they spent on a monthly basis. Consumers' average first guess was $79 per month, and the second guess was $111.
In reality, they spent $237 per month on subscriptions such as Netflix, Spotify, Match and Amazon, among others. CNBC reports on study here.
Verizon's digital video efforts ended up an expensive headache
Verizon’s ambitions in the digital video space brought it a lot of headache and expense.
The company reported its second-quarter earnings on Tuesday and revealed that it took a pre-tax charge of $658 million on a “product realignment.”
Translation: Verizon’s closure of go90, its online video platform aimed at youngsters, lost a lot of money. Verizon also noted a stunning number for severance charges in the period: $339 million.
Corporate clear-out: Many of those in charge at Verizon have left their positions. CEO Lowell McAdam is becoming executive chairman while two other senior people — executive vice president of global operations John Stratton and executive vice president of global media Marni Walden — stepped down from their posts, leaving Oath chief executive Tim Armstrong the last man standing. Armstrong is still working hard on bringing Yahoo into Oath — acquisitions and integration costs related to that merger cost $120 million in the quarter.
What’s the future for Oath: The Information reported earlier in July that Armstrong may be considering a buyout of Oath. If that were to happen, it would be another indication that Verizon wants to focus on its wireless business.
Cord cutting: Verizon also detailed the cold winds of cord cutting on its TV business, Fios, which lost some 37,000 customers. Its internet business, however, is a source of growth, with Verizon adding 37,000 broadband subscribers.
The history: Verizon has tried hard to diversify away from its core business of selling wireless service. Verizon had talks about acquiring cable TV provider Charter and, according to court filings, also talked to Shari Redstone about CBS, but is no longer eyeing any big acquisitions. America's biggest phone company will no doubt be watching how AT&T manages to integrate its new Time Warner unit. We'll hear more about that after the closing bell when AT&T reports its numbers.
33 million homes will cut the cord by 2018, report says
One research firm thinks the rate of cord cutting in 2018 is going to be greater than they initially expected.
A new study from eMarketer finds that as many as 33 million homes in 2018 will opt out of paying a traditional TV bill, up from its prior projection of 27.1 million (last year’s projection for 2018).
There are still 119.6 million households paying for cable or satellite TV in the United States, but eMarketer predicts that by 2022 as many as 55.1 million will be receiving their TV via the internet.
The new research suggests that the availability of quality content is supercharging the growth of the so-called over-the-top business, according to Paul Verna, an analyst eMarketer.
eMarketer isn’t the only measurement firm with this outlook. Mike Vorhaus, president of research group Magid Advisors, told USA Today in June: "We have been saying this for five or six years now, and it’s rising again. This is unstoppable. People are going to cut the cord. The $100 (pay-TV) package is going to be under deep distress."
Magid noted that 8 percent of pay-TV customers said they were "extremely likely" to cut the cord. The response the prior year was 6 percent.
Kimberly Guilfoyle and Fox News part ways
Another member of the Fox News team is headed to the Trump administration.
Kimberly Guilfoyle, co-host of Fox News' “The Five” — who has also been romantically connected to Donald Trump Jr., is leaving the cable news channel to work on advocacy efforts for President Daonld Trump, according to several outlets.
Vanity Fair’s Gabriel Sherman reports that Guilfoyle became a source of friction at the network, in part, because of her relationship with Donald Trump Jr.
"FOX News has parted ways with Kimberly Guilfoyle,” the network said in a statement.
Former Fox News co-president Bill Shine is currently deputy chief of staff for communications for the Trump administration.
Former Paramount TV boss considers lawsuit
The former president of Paramount Television is considering a lawsuit against the company, according to a source close to the executive.
Amy Powell, who has been president of Paramount's TV arm since 2013, was fired by the company on Thursday evening after the studio decided she had made comments in a meeting that were not consistent with Viacom’s values, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
Now, Powell is considering legal action, according to the source, who was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Powell had made comments during a conference call about black women being angry and about black children being raised by a single parent.
Powell isn’t going quietly.
“There is no truth to the allegation that I made insensitive comments in a professional setting — or in any setting," Powell’s personal publicist, Allan Meyer, said in a statement. "The facts will come out and I will be vindicated."
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.
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.
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.
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.
About-face at Chequers
President Donald Trump appeared to describe the exclusive interview he gave to the Rupert Murdoch-owned The Sun newspaper as "fake news" at a joint news conference Friday with British Prime Minster Theresa May at her Chequers country residence.
The Sun's front-page interview, published Thursday, was timed for maximum embarassment for May and included fierce criticism by Trump of how she has negotiated Britain’s exit from the European Union, or Brexit, and praise for Boris Johnson, her recently departed foreign secretary and one of her chief political rivals, as a potentially "great prime minister."
May’s plan “will definitely affect trade with the United States, unfortunately in a negative way," Trump told The Sun, adding it "would probably end a major trade relationship with the United States.” He also noted: “I actually told Theresa May how to do it but she didn’t agree. She didn’t listen to me.”
At the joint news conference Friday, it was an entirely different side of Trump. BBC News political editor Laura Kuenssberg got the first question and wasted no time calling out the disconnect between The Sun interview and Trump's praise of May in advance of taking questions from reporters. "You seem, rather, to have changed your tune," Kuenssberg said. "Is this the behavior of a friend?" Here's the full exchange.
Trump shot back, "I didn't criticize the prime minister,” adding that he had made lots of positive comments in the interview about May, too, and there was a tape to prove it. "It's called fake news," he said. He also added that May could do what she wants with Europe and that "it's OK with me."
Trump delivered a stinging rebuke of CNN when its reporter Jim Acosta tried to ask a question. "CNN is fake news. I don't take questions from CNN,” Trump said before turning to Fox News. A CNN network insider noted that Trump had taken a question the day before from its White House reporter, Jeremy Diamond.
NBC News also came in for arrows after White House correspondent Kristen Welker asked about Trump's comments on NATO. Trump described NBC News as “possibly worse than CNN.” NBC’s Ken Dilanian came to Welker’s defense with a tweet noting that she had asked a fact-based question.
The president of the White House Correspondents' Association, Margaret Talev, issued a rare rebuke of the president on Twitter on Friday and praised The Sun for releasing the full audio of the Trump interview.
"In response to the president lashing out at NBC, CNN and The Sun: Asking smart, tough questions, whether in a presidential press conference or interview, is central to the role a free press plays in a healthy republic," Talev said.
"Given that the president took a question from a CNN reporter in his NATO news conference just a day earlier, maybe he was letting off steam today rather than expressing an official stance toward a news organization's ability to report, but saying a news organization isn't real doesn't change the facts and won't stop us from doing our jobs. We appreciate The Sun for posting the entire audio of their interview so that everyone can hear the president's remarks for themselves."
Kylie Jenner on track to be youngest self-made billionaire
Forbes has a jaw-dropping cover this month.
It has finally discovered who and what sells in print. While the kings of social media ponder their future in Sun Valley, Kylie Jenner has leveraged their platforms to establish a $900 million cosmetics business.
Kylie, 20, who is no stranger to selling, said thanks on Twitter and added the hashtag #kyliecosmetics. She's on track to becoming the youngest self-made billionaire in history. Gulp.
What's so great about Sky?
If you've ever watched the poker movie "The Sting," starring Paul Newman, you'll be familiar with the intensity of the high stakes game being played by Comcast, the owner of NBCUniversal (parent company of NBC News) and Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox.
Both are vying to acquire U.K. satellite TV service Sky. Fox, which already owns 39 percent of the company, is set to flip it to Disney as part of a wider sale of assets.
Fox just submitted a new, higher offer, and Comcast is expected to top it, making Sky shareholders very happy. Separately, Comcast is less likely to make another counter bid for the main prize of Fox's cable TV and movie assets, according to CNBC's David Faber.
But why do they want to buy Sky so much?
Not so long ago, smart people on Wall Street wondered why anybody would want it at all: it remains a satellite broadcaster in a world moving to embrace internet-delivered content.
Still, Sky has a few things going for it, as one savvy London cab driver told Brian Roberts, the chief executive of Comcast. Sky's competition is Virgin Media, owned by Liberty Global, and BT, a telecom company.
Here's why they're bidding:
- Sky grew subscribers in its latest quarter through April. In a tough U.K. environment, the firm added 38,000 customers, though it lost 30,000 in Germany and Austria and a few more in Italy.
- Not only does it own a major package of English Premier League games, it also paid less than previous deals for them as part of a long-term package.
- Sky has movie relationships with Universal (owned by Comcast), Disney and AT&T's HBO.
- It also has a broadband-delivered service for Sky customers who can't put a satellite dish on the roof.
If Comcast wins, it will become the biggest pay-TV provider in the world with a total of 52 million customer relationships. It will also have an important U.K. lynchpin for NBC News, as it plans to transform Euronews into a global news service if it gets to add Sky News.
If the Fox/Disney deal goes through, Disney gets into the direct-to-consumer business in a big way.
Here's the FT's latest on the bidding war with Comcast pondering its next move after a GBP 24.5 billion ($32.3 billion) bid from Fox for Sky. Check out the FT's amusing photograph of Rupert and his wife Jerry from the Allen & Cos. Sun Valley conference.
Martin Sorrell's plan to build a digital ad business has officially begun
Round one goes to Martin Sorrell and his new company, S4 Capital.
Sorrell, the former WPP Group chief executive, just agreed to acquire Dutch digital production company MediaMonks for about $353 million. The two companies are looking to build a futuristic ad business for the digital age by embracing creative ideas, experiences and media buying.
Sorrell's former employer, the advertising giant WPP, was also looking to acquire the company, and Sky News reports that Sorrell and WPP are at loggerheads over the purchase. Sorrell left the company after a blow-up with WPP's board, which had led an investigation against him.
What's so special about a digital production company in Northern Holland you might ask? The firm's client list, which includes Netflix, Google, Twitter and Amazon.
In a filing about the acquisition, the two firms outlined a vision for building a digital media-buying platform and that the combined company will have 750 staff.
The Drum has a video of some of the futuristic work MediaMonks did for Audi. It's impressive.
Update: WPP Group didn't waste any time in making sure Martin Sorrell knows where they stand.
The company shared this statement with the media on Tuesday: “WPP’s lawyers wrote to Sir Martin’s lawyers last week pointing out the breach of his confidentiality undertakings in his approach to Mediamonks after his resignation from WPP. Despite subsequent protestations from Sir Martin’s lawyers, we are well aware of the facts and he has jeopardised his LTIP entitlement."
HBO's new owner doesn't sound very hands off
John Stankey, the new boss at AT&T's media unit, had a frighteningly cold assessment about what would be expected from the HBO staff under the new regime.
According to The New York Times, which obtained a tape of a recent town hall meeting, Stankey told HBO staff they needed to make more money and produce more hours to help AT&T monetize viewers through consumer data. He also likened the coming year to "childbirth," in other words difficult but worth it.
"We've got to make money at the end of the day, right?" he said.
AT&T declined to comment.
It's hard to imagine Netflix chief executive Reed Hastings or the folks at Amazon rallying the troops with a call to make money and get data.
This Stankey comment in the New York Times report of the meeting, however, stuck out:
“I want more hours of engagement. Why are more hours of engagement important? Because you get more data and information about a customer that then allows you to do things like monetize through alternate models of advertising as well as subscriptions, which I think is very important to play in tomorrow’s world.”
Is this a hint that there's an ad-supported version of HBO in the planning stages?
Stankey, who heads up WarnerMedia, which houses the Time Warner media assets that AT&T bought, isn't coming out of these staff meetings looking too great. His promises of independence at CNN came with a surprising caveat. After explaining that AT&T wouldn't be second guessing the bosses, he added: "The second part of editorial independence is that freedom is earned by people who work hard and report factually and do their jobs well and that's what CNN does."
The "freedom is earned" part didn't go down to well with some. Here's Felix Salmon at Slate on why that caveat matters.
MoviePass starts charging extra to see movies at 'peak' times
MoviePass, the subscription movie ticket service, is taking a page out of the Uber playbook.
The company rolled out a new surcharge on Thursday called "Peak Pricing." MoviePass users "may be asked to pay a small additional fee depending on the level of demand" for a flick, the company said in an email to its customers.
The effected showings will be labeled with a red lightning bolt icon and, according to Variety, will come at an additional cost between $2 and $6.
The announcement comes amid a tumultuous chapter for the upstart service. Wall Street has voiced doubts about the long-term viability of the business model ($9.99 per month for a movie per day), and a string of recent reports suggest MoviePass is running out of cash.
In the eyes of some financial analysts, it is only a matter of time before MoviePass faces a reckoning — surcharge or no surcharge.
Facebook wins British soccer rights for Southeast Asia
Facebook has soccer fever, and not just because of the World Cup. The social network has acquired rights to bring live English Premiere League matches to users in parts of Southeast Asia.
The three-year deal is worth $265.3 million, according to The Times of London. Facebook beat out BeIn Sports and Fox Sports Asia for the rights.
Earlier this week, it emerged that Facebook is also discussing a reality show featuring arguably the most famous soccer player in the world, Cristiano Ronaldo. Variety reports the project is destined for Facebook Watch.
Much has been made about the encroachment of tech giants in the world of sports media rights, but again this is another fringe deal, and hardly a knockout punch.
Back in June, Amazon scored a package of 60 Premiere League games for UK viewers, after Sky and BT scooped up the bigger packages, according to the Financial Times. It is also prepping sales for its NFL Thursday night package. But while the tech giants tout their global audiences, it seems the sports rights owners are still keen on geographically segmenting their audiences.
Madison Square Garden chief thinks Fox's RSNs might be a tough sell (but that doesn't mean he isn't interested)
Who might buy the 22 regional sports networks that Fox and Disney have pledged to sell in order to receive Justice Department approval?
Put James Dolan, chief executive of Madison Square Garden Company, down as a maybe.
The networks, which include New York's valuable YES Network, are only theoretically for sale, of course, since Fox shareholders might be looking for another, better offer from Comcast, which owns NBCUniversal (parent company of NBC News).
"We're paying attention. I suppose at the right price we might," Dolan told The Query.
Still, the MSG chief was sanguine on their future growth: "We still think there's potential but the market is changing a lot and nobody is growing revenues much because everything is fully distributed and fully priced. The question is what happens from there."
Dolan, who is exploring splitting MSG into two separate units (one housing the sports teams including the New York Knicks, the other with the company's the entertainment venues), notes that RSNs are valuable and throw off a lot of money, but - and it's a big but: "It's a slow, declining revenue stream."
Here's CNBC's David Faber on the topic of the potential bidders and the potential auction. And here's Cablefax's list of likely bidders. Mergers and acquisitions reporting is such a world of caveats these days.
The royal wedding goosed Town & Country — Vanity Fair... not so much
Town & Country magazine had an incredible May thanks perhaps to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.
The Hearst magazine saw the biggest audience increases of any magazine in web and mobile. Compared to May of last year, the magazine's 2018 web audience grew by an eye-popping 307 percent and 649 percent, respectively, according the Association of Magazine Media, which released its latest monthly audience statistics on Tuesday.
Surprisingly T&C's video audience dropped by a whopping 42.5 percent.
Town & Country is increasingly looking to become the society read of the moment under editor Stellene Volandes, who took over at the title in March 2016.
The website carries stories about why Markle has been wearing so many blush tones and where the Spanish princesses are going to summer camp. No wonder former Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter is starting a new venture to cover royal families.
Meanwhile, Vanity Fair, which carried a cover photo of the royal couple in May, is struggling. The magazine's print and digital audience fell 6.7 percent (from 8 million to 7.5 million) in May versus a year ago. Mobile audience fell 8 percent. Video was a bright spot for the magazine, rising 12.6 percent for the month.
Vanity Fair's Year-to-date total audience is up 0.1 percent, but again, growth is being driven by video.
ComScore, however, paints a different picture, with VF growing its multi-platform audience to 22.7 million in May 2018 from 17 million a year earlier.
The association reports that the total audience for magazines in May was 1.7 billion, up 1.4 percent versus May 2016.
CORRECTION (July 6, 7:07 p.m.): An earlier version of this article misstated the date that Stellene Volandes was hired as editor of Town & Country magazine. She was hired in March 2016, not March 2018.
Internet TV packages are getting pricier — including AT&T's
AT&T is raising prices on its streaming video bundle just weeks after telling the government that it's merger with Time Warner would result in lower prices for consumers.
The telecom giant added $5 to the price of DirecTV Now's cheapest online channel bundle, which now costs $40 — about the same as everyone else's — while removing HBO from one of its packages. It also jacked up its "administrative fee" to $1.99 per month.
This story from Ars Technica is a good reminder of what the company said it would do during the extensive court battle with the Justice Department and its real-world economics. The company says it also offered free channels to AT&T Unlimited subscribers.
AT&T isn't alone. Streaming video providers are entering a new phase of their lifecycle: trying to cover the cost of the channels they offer. Mid-year seems like a good time for a rethink on pricing, it appears.
Sling raised prices in June. Sling remains the cheapest offering with a $25 a month package called Orange, which includes ESPN. It is also offering individual channel choices too. Sony's Playstation Vue said this month it is raising prices for channels by $5 to $44.99 per month for the lowest tier, called Access, or $84.99 for the highest tier called Ultra. YouTube's YouTube TV, a cable like bundle raised its fee by $5 in March to $40.
Streamers have long pitched themselves as a cost efficient alternative to existing TV bundles, but it's worth remembering that the average price of broadband in the US is $58 per month, according to this FCC report.
Brian Ross is out at ABC News
Investigative journalist Brian Ross is out at ABC News.
Ross confirmed his departure in a tweet on Monday afternoon. The veteran network reporter had been suspended without pay from ABC News after incorrectly reporting on air that President Donald Trump had directed former national security advisor Michael Flynn to make contact with Russia's government during his election campaign.
The mistake led to a firestorm of criticism directed at Ross and ABC News. The President had called for Ross to be fired and noted that Ross' report had affected the stock market. The network clarified the report a few hours later, then apologized for the mistake and benched Ross for a month. He returned in January in a different position, working on long-form pieces but not about Trump.
It is unclear precisely why Ross and his producer Schwartz are departing at this time. The two intend to keep on with their investigative work, Ross said in his tweet.
ABC confirmed the departure in a memo from the network president James Goldston.
Hollywood has its best ever quarter at the box office
Time to break out the champagne in Tinseltown.
Hollywood just recorded its biggest-ever box office revenue in any quarter in its history. The second quarter box office hit $3.33 billion, a 23 percent increase on the same quarter last year.
AMC Theaters released a statement to mark the occasion and thank their studio partners for making such great titles. (Maybe now is a great time for studio owners to have a conversation about releasing new movies at home?)
"Avengers: Infinity War" was the top movie in the second quarter, while "Black Panther" took the honors in the first quarter, according to BoxOfficeMojo. In the first half of the year, box office revenue is running 9.6 percent ahead of last year.
The New York Times smells a rat
The New York Times editorial board smells a rat.
It took just six months for Fox and Disney to win approval for their $70 billion merger, while AT&T's merger with CNN-owner Time Warner took more than 18 months. The editorial board wonders if politics is at play.
The Justice Department's anti-trust chief Makan Delrahim told The Times in the fall: “All enforcement decisions will be based on the facts and the law. Not on politics.”
But The Times editorial on Sunday concludes: "It is becoming harder and harder to believe that."
Justice did get a concession from the parties to prevent concentration of sports rights ownership. The new combination, presuming Comcast doesn't come back to the table, will sell off Fox's 22 regional sports networks. But who might buy them?
Dealbreaker weighs in with a suggestion that Madison Square Garden could pick up YES network and also has a reminder that millions of viewers in Los Angeles still can't watch The Dodgers thanks to a multi-year stand-off between the channel that owns the rights, owned by cable company Charter, and AT&T unit DirecTV. The Justice Department, it seems, can't protect everyone.
A DOJ official said in response: “Each proposed transaction presents its own unique facts and therefore competitive analysis. The timing for review depends on the structure of the transaction presented, the timeliness of compliance by the parties, and the willingness of parties to address (through divestitures or otherwise) issues that raise competitive concerns. The Antitrust Division works diligently to quickly review transactions within the times prescribed by Congress and agreed to by the parties.”
Tim Berners-Lee is devastated about misuse of the web
Tim Berners-Lee, the man who created the World Wide Web, is devastated at how his invention is being used for harm.
In an interview for the August edition of Vanity Fair, he describes being "devastated" with Russian interference in the 2016 election and the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica debacle.
“We demonstrated that the Web had failed instead of served humanity, as it was supposed to have done, and failed in many places,” he told interviewer Katrina Brooker. The centralized web, “ended up producing— with no deliberate action of the people who designed the platform — a large-scale emergent phenomenon which is anti-human.”
Digital media upstart Quartz sells to Japan's Uzabase
Japanese finance data and media company Uzabase has acquired Quartz in a deal that will value the company between $75 million and $110 million depending on Quartz's financial performance.
Quartz, launched by Atlantic Media in 2012, was meant to be a digital competitor to more established business publications like The Economist and The Financial Times. The website gained a reputation for its data visualization and quirky product efforts, including a news app that communicated news via text conversations.
Uzabase said in a press release that it plans to push Quartz to pursue more subscription revenue, adding to a growing move for digital media away from a reliance on advertising income — money that flows mostly to Google and Facebook.
President says journalists should be free from fear of being attacked
President Donald Trump on Friday addressed the deaths of five staff members at the Capital Gazette newspaper.
"This attack shocked the conscience of our nation and filled our hearts with grief," Trump said at a White House a tax event. "Journalists, like all Americans, should be free from fear of being violently attacked while doing their job."
He added: "My government will not rest until we have done everything in our power to reduce violent crime and to protect innocent life. We will not ever leave your side."
Nevertheless, a plenty of people on Twitter pointed out the President's prior comments about the media being the "enemy of the American people."
But drawing any connections between the incident and the president's "enemy" comments isn't a great idea if you want to keep your job however. Reuters editor Rob Cox apologized for a tweet,which was later deleted reading, in which he wrote "blood is on your hands, Mr. President," according to The Wrap.
CNN political commentator S.E. Cupp tweeted what many reporters are feeling in light of the attack: "This may be an awful case of a disgruntled former employee. But the fact that journalists everywhere are feeling afraid as a result is real. Stop blaming the media for all your problems. We aren’t perfect, but we’re a vital check on power, and we bring communities together."
Verizon shuts down online video hub Go90
It was a valiant effort to compete with YouTube, but Verizon has decided to shutter its Go90 online video platform.
Verizon launched the platform in 2015 with plenty of fanfare in an effort to get a foothold on the growing world of online video — particularly popular among young people. Go90 featured original series from a variety of major media partners and celebrities — one of LeBron James' media companies had a show — and even acquired another video startup in an effort to boost the video platform.
None of it worked. Verizon will instead focus its efforts on Oath, the media operation that is a combination of AOL and Yahoo, as it continues to try to become the third major player in online advertising behind Google and Facebook.
Gizmodo Media Group buyouts hit newsroom
Fusion-owned Gizmodo Media Group has concluded its buyouts — and 44 people are headed for the door.
The self-imposed exits, first reported on Thursday by the Daily Beast, come as an alternative to layoffs, which had been expected after layoffs hit Univision, which owns Fusion and Gizmodo Media Group.
Former New York Times editor thinks paper needs a 'course correction.'
Is former New York Times editor Jill Abramson accusing her old paper of being sexist? Abramson told Daily Beast columnist LLoyd Grove that the piece The Times wrote on its own reporter, Ali Watkins, who had a relationship with an older government official, stank.
"That story hung a 26-year-old woman out to dry. It was unimaginable to me what the pain must be like for her," she said, wondering why it didn't address her great journalism or the editors who hired her. She also shared that she was pissed off on Twitter that the Times also missed the rise of 28-year-old politician Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who upset the establishment with her surprise win of a New York congressional seat. Another word from Abramson: get some distance and stop agreeing to shows about yourselves.
Read Jill Abramson's recommendation for a course correction at the Times here.
NYTV: The times is staffing for a weekly television show
The New York Tims is preparing to cover all the news fit to broadcast.
The newspaper is staffing up for "The Weekly," a news program that will air on FX and stream on Hulu.
The Times has been ambitious with its recent efforts outside of its newspaper and website in part due to the success of "The Daily" podcast.
U.S. Justice Department approves Fox-Disney deal
The U.S. Justice Department confirmed on Wednesday that it has given conditional approval for Disney to acquire a variety of assets from 21st Century Fox.
Disney made a $71.3 billion bid to acquire many of Fox's assets, including its film and TV studios, FX cable network and other international operations.
The deal is contingent, however, on Disney giving up Fox's regional sports networks. Fox currently operates 22 RSNs, including YES network, Prime Ticket and Fox Sports Florida, among others, which provide coverage of local sports teams.
Together they recorded $2.3 billion in yearly profit, according to independent equity research firm, MoffettNathanson. Disney already said in filings it would be prepared to give them up as part of the approval process.
Makan Delrahim, assistant attorney general and head of the Justice Department antitrust division, said in a statement on Wednesday: “American consumers have benefitted from head-to-head competition between Disney and Fox’s cable sports programming that ultimately has prevented cable television subscription prices from rising even higher."
“Today’s settlement will ensure that sports programming competition is preserved in the local markets where Disney and Fox compete for cable and satellite distribution," Delrahim said in the statement.
The statement did not address concentration in the movie industry, where together the two companies would control about 45 percent of the world's box office revenue, according to BTIG Research media analyst Rich Greenfield.
Comcast, which owns NBCUniversal, is also still in the running for Fox's assets. The WSJ reported that the company has been talking to private equity firms and other third parties about partnering in future bids for the Fox assets. Comcast had bid $65 billion for Fox, and Disney raised its bid to $71.3 billion.
Comcast is the owner of NBCUniversal, the parent company of NBC News.
21st Century Fox is not selling its Fox broadcast network and is also committed to retaining its news and sports cable channels.
Viacom CEO is sitting out Sun Valley, the famous dealmakers get together
Viacom chief executive Bob Bakish is not going to the famous Sun Valley conference this year, according to three sources.
Sun Valley is an exclusive get together of some of the world's most influential executives in media, tech, politics and sports with the idea that its host, investment bank Allen & Co., ends up facilitating some deals. The event is held in Sun Valley, Idaho, and typically starts after July 4 vacation.
Bakish and the powerful bank had a falling out over Viacom's failed attempt to acquire Scripps Networks Interactive, the owner of HGTV and Food Network, according to two people familiar with the situation who asked not to be named because they are not authorized to talk to the media.
Allen & Co. had represented Scripps in its sale and ultimately worked with Discovery Communications, which acquired Scripps for $14.6 billion soon after last year's Sun Valley get together.
A source familiar with Bakish's thinking said he was "pissed off" that he wasn't treated fairly.
Allen & Co. did not immediately have a response, and Viacom declined comment.
Bakish might be staying away, but it doesn't mean there won't be sparks. Viacom's controlling shareholder, Shari Redstone, will attend this year, as will CBS chief executive Leslie Moonves. The two parties are at loggerheads over CBS's move to dilute the controlling stock holdings of Redstone's National Amusements Inc.
Redstone is said to have a heavy round of meetings scheduled for the event. And while CBS is tied up in litigation, Viacom isn't — leaving Redstone free to pursue sale talks if they arise. Amazon is widely viewed as a potential acquirer of a film studio. Viacom owns Paramount Studios.
Lawyers for CBS and Redstone are in the process of subpoenaing emails and phone records of the two parties before they head to court in October.
Spotify hires former Condé Nast exec Dawn Ostroff as chief content officer
Dawn Ostroff helped create some of the most iconic youth-oriented TV shows ever. Now, she's moving to Spotify.
The world's top music streaming service named Ostroff its chief content officer on Tuesday, signaling how serious Spotify is about competing not just in audio but in video too.
Ostroff previously ran the CW television network and before that UPN, overseeing cultural hits such as "Gossip Girl," and "Vampire Diaries." She joined Condé Nast in 2011 to turn magazine stories and ideas into full blown TV and film projects under Condé Nast Entertainment. The project also generated traffic to videos at each magazine's online destinations.
Spotify's move into original video production has stalled at several turns. The company had tried to create a video initiative around playlists such as "Rap Caviar" under content chief Tom Calderone, who joined from VH1 and exited the company in August 2017. Ostroff replaces Stefan Blom who departed the music company earlier this year after Spotify's video strategy failed to gain traction.
The role will see Ostroff take on responsibilities for negotiating with music labels for video and audio programming. YouTube owns the music video landscape online while Apple Music has been investing in creating original video for its service.
Ostroff's departure comes amid a downsizing at the magazine house that publishes Vanity Fair, Vogue and the New Yorker. Ostroff's unit had turned a profit and helped transform the print company into a digital video player. Here's an interview she conducted with the Hollywood Reporter about some of the myriad film and TV projects that were underway.
Oscar-winning actor Russell Crowe to play Fox News chief Roger Ailes
Russell Crowe won awards and acclaim for playing a defiant gladiator and a thick-skinned boxer. No wonder Showtime tapped him to play Roger Ailes, the polarizing and controversial founder of Fox News.
Crowe will play Ailes in a new eight-episode miniseries, the premium cable channel announced on Monday. The project is based on the reporting of journalist Gabriel Sherman, author of the Ailes biography "The Loudest Voice in the Room."
"In today's politically charged media landscape, no figure looms larger, even after his passing, than Roger Ailes, molding Fox News into a force that irrevocably changed the conversation about the highest levels of government," Showtime said in a statement.
"To understand the events that led to the rise of Donald Trump, one must understand Ailes," the network added.
Ailes, who died last year at 77, resigned from Fox News in 2016 amid accusations of sexual misconduct. He then became an adviser to the Trump campaign and reportedly helped prepare the candidate for debates.
The first episode of the series is co-written by Sherman and Tom McCarthy, who won an Oscar for writing the newspaper docudrama "Spotlight."
Local TV ownership to shrink again with new $3.6 billion deal for Raycom
Another day, another handful of multi-billion dollar deals in media.
Local broadcast TV owner Gray Television said it was buying Raycom for $3.6 billion on Monday, a deal that would put it in 24 percent of US homes, according to BroadcastingCable.com. The acquisition is the latest effort to consolidate ownership of local stations following Sinclair's still-pending deal to acquire Tribune Media for $3.9 billion.
As part of the deal, Raycom said it will spin-off its 100 local newspaper assets, which are housed under Community Newspaper Holdings. Raycom has held the newspaper group less than a year, and at the time explained the acquisition would help strengthen local content. Here's the AP report on the Raycom acquisition of Community Newspaper Holdings and what the Raycom president Pat LaPlatney said back in September of last year.
“While it is contrary to the trend of separating newspapers and television properties, we believe the synergies this merger creates will only enhance our ability to deliver exceptional local content, extend our community presence and grow our respective multimedia footprints," he said.
In order to avoid any government issues, Gray said it would shed stations in nine markets. Meanwhile the Federal Communications Commission is holding a July 12 meeting in which it may consider raising the cap on how many stations a single company can own. The current rules limit companies to a total reach of 39 percent of the U.S. audience, though Bloomberg reports Sinclair's tie-up with Tribune could hit 59 percent of the national audience with 200 stations in total.
AT&T's latest buy helps it compete with Google, Facebook
If anyone ever doubted AT&T’s seriousness about competing with Google and Facebook for digital ad dollars, Monday's confirmation that it purchased AppNexus for $1.6 billion, one of the biggest digital ad platforms, should dispel those doubts.
The deal comes shortly after AT&T closed its $85.4 billion acquisition of Time Warner — a move that AT&T has said will help open the door to selling highly lucrative ads by combining content with its distribution network.
The company confirmed the news in a press statement on Monday.
AppNexus provides the plumbing that helps pair online content with ads, offering tools to both content supplies and ad buyers through tis platform.
When consumers open an application, a complex auction occurs with advertisers bidding to serve their ads to that consumer. AppNexus picks the winner in a fraction of a second and takes a slice of the revenue. The firm also helps advertisers figure out how effective its campaigns are.
AppNexus competes with Google's DoubleClick Ad Exchange. Back in 2016, the New York-based AppNexus was on the path to a $2 billion public offering, but the market went soft for ad tech. Monday's acquisition is a win for AT&T, which hopes to use the AppNexus technology to improve the amount of money it can earn from digital advertising on its TV channels, which include Turner's CNN and TNT. The new firm will become part of AT&T advertising and analytics unit.
In other AT&T news, the WSJ reported Sunday that it had talked to CBS's controlling shareholder about a possible acquisition before turning its attention to Time Warner. The WSJ reports that CBS controlling shareholder Shari Redstone axed the idea, though her reps say she simply met the AT&T chief, Randall Stephenson, and no more was said. Either way, the story looks like it helps CBS build its legal case that Redstone made decisions that weren't in the interest of all shareholders.
Martin Sorrell fires back at allegations in heated exchange at Cannes Lions
Martin Sorrell, the advertising industry legend who stepped down from the world's biggest ad agency in April amid an investigation into his personal conduct, wants to talk.
Sorrell said during an interview at the Cannes Lions Festival in France that he is considering breaking his confidentiality agreement with his former employer, WPP Group, in light of leaks about the circumstances of his departure.
The pugnacious executive exited WPP Group six weeks ago under a cloud after the company said it concluded a mysterious investigation into alleged inappropriate behavior. The Financial Times reported on allegations that Sorrell had visited a prostitute, paid the bill in petty cash, and had mistreated his assistants and sacked his chauffeur after a 12-day shift.
Speaking as part of a conversation with New Yorker journalist Ken Auletta, Sorrell declined to comment on aspects of his departure and ensuing negative press coverage, citing his confidentiality agreement. But when Auletta suggested he could break it, given all the leaks, Sorrell responded: “There may come a time when that’s what we’ll do. I wouldn’t necessarily rule it out.”
The session, one of the most unvarnished in recent memory, was full of drama, including several criticisms from Sorrell about Auletta’s latest book, “Frenemies,” about the decline of ad agencies at the hands of penny-pinching management consultants.
Sorrell wanted to know why Auletta had not spent more time interviewing the big tech companies and the management consultants, which have increased competition for the traditional advertising business.
But then Auletta turned the tables on Sorrell, asking him about the elephant in the room.
“What is the elephant in the room?” asked Sorrell coyly.
“The circumstances under which you were compelled to leave WPP,” Auletta said. “People complained that you were not just verbally abusive but cruel. Any reaction to that?”
“Am I an easy person to deal with? No. Am I demanding? Yes," Sorrell said. "So I don’t think that was fair. I demanded high standards."
Sorrell, who is now setting up his own communications and marketing focused company, S4 Capital, was asked why he had been so quiet in the face of controversial accusations. “We responded formally to everything that has been said,” Sorrell insisted.
“You used a not insignificant amount of corporate funds, relying on petty cash rather than credit cards, for inappropriate spending,” Auletta said.
“That has been dealt with too. It was strenuously denied,” Sorrell said.
When Auletta asked who he thought was leaking about him, Sorrell said he would leave that to Auletta’s fertile imagination.
“I don’t write books,” Sorrell said. “yet.”
Apple scores at Cannes Lions ad competition
Cannes Lions is, at its heart, a competition of creative advertising ideas.
And this year, the judges liked what Apple was selling.
The tech giant had a low-key presence at Cannes compared to its brethren, with Google, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest each boasting huge beachside presences.
But Apple shined in the competition. The company shared the Grand Prix in the "entertainment in music" category for its Home Pod campaign with Jay-Z’s music video about his mom. Here’s Apple’s ad featuring a dance routine by FKA Twigs. It was directed by filmmaker Spike Jonze.
Apple also won a Grand Prix in "brand experience" for its in-store education program. Apple also quietly launched its messenger service for business, working with a company called LivePerson to provide messenger chat services for Cannes Lions festival goers.
Perhaps the biggest mystery of Cannes Lions is why a giant tobacco company is here. PMI Science, which is an arm of tobacco company Philip Morris International, has a sleek setup on the beach. Executives have been telling attendees that if people are going to smoke, then the company is trying to make it as healthy as possible. The question on most people’s minds? Will they begin some big marketing campaigns and start spending on TV and digital ads.
Pandora's CEO on turning around the streaming music giant
Roger Lynch joined internet radio company Pandora as chief executive almost a year ago at a time when the company's wasn't doing so great.
Now, things are looking a little better. On Thursday, the company announced a new tie-up with AT&T that will bring Pandora to the telecom company’s “&More” plan.
Lynch, whose digital bonafides include starting Sling TV, is spearheading Pandora’s battle for a slice of the $15 billion terrestrial radio ad business. He told NBCNews.com how he is trying to reverse user declines amid competition from Spotify and Apple Music. Lynch is set on growing partnerships beyond Pandora’s tie-ups with Snap, AT&T and T-Mobile and personalizing the business of podcasting.
Q: What made you join Pandora and what are its challenges?
A: I was intrigued by the scale of the business. Almost one in three adults in the U.S. uses Pandora every month. There was a lot of negative press around the time I was joining. It’s starting to turn now mainly because we are making some changes and the momentum of the business is starting to change. I thought it had real strength in digital audio advertising and I looked at that as a growth opportunity.
When I worked at Sling TV, it was let’s go kill cable and satellite and replace it with internet delivery and that’s what going to happen in radio too.
Q: What are you active uniques?
A: Seventy-two million last quarter. Last year the business saw year over year declines start to slow towards the end of the year.
Q: What do you attribute that to?
A: It was competition having an impact. It was more execution challenges. Think about how much growth has happened in music streaming services. Pandora has been surprisingly resilient. Job one was stopping that decline. We were able to do that quickly by the end of the first quarter. Hopefully, we will be back to user growth.
Q: How will you do that?
A: Pandora has huge capabilities in data science, and we use it well for our advertisers. That’s why we can generate well over a billion dollars in ad revenue. Pandora didn’t use it very effectively in its own marketing. That to me was one of the quick wins. We built a new marketing team, built new marketing datasets for our marketers, so that is starting to happen now.
Q: Marketers are looking for a hedge against big technology firms and mega-media mergers. Audio streaming is something that’s growing. How are home voice assistants changing that too?
A: Digital audio is one of the only formats not controlled by one of the FANG [Facebook, Apple, Netflix, Google] stocks. That to me is one of the opportunities. There is a lot of growth around new devices and new content. To be really good at creating anything around monetization around voice, you have to have the data and you have to be really good at audio.
Q: Let’s talk about rights deals with the three big music labels? They don’t like free. They’d rather have a piece of a subscription model.
A: We have a good relationship, which was not the case three to four years ago. That’s changed dramatically.
If we could all wave our wand and turn every listener into a paid customer, we would, but that’s not how consumers behave. and the labels are starting to understand that. They were and are enamored with a subscription, as are we. Subscription revenue grew 62 percent last quarter. But huge numbers of consumers aren’t going to be [subscribs] and it’s not about ability to pay. Lebron James said he still uses the ad-free version of Pandora. That’s an example of how it’s not a money issue. He just prefers not to pay. As Pandora gains share from radio, the labels benefit. They don’t get paid from them — they get paid from us. Pandora in 2016 did its first deals with labels and those were two to three-year deals.
Q: What are you doing in talk radio?
A: We have announced we’re moving into podcasts and spoken word in a much bigger way. Think about podcasts today. It’s about lists. It’s not really personalized. What Pandora has done for music, we’re going to do for podcasts. Use all the data science we have to promote content to you that we know will be relevant. In some ways, podcasts are still in the stone ages.
Q: Where do you see the future of the media business on a macro-level?
A: Given the AT&T ruling, I think you are going to see lots of changes. I was a bit surprised [the Department of Justice] tried to block that deal. The judge's ruling really reflected that the dynamics have changed. It’s not about companies that produce content and companies that distribute. Its about big, vertically integrated tech companies. It remains to be seen. Someone will write a book about what [spurred] the initial investigation in the first place. How politically motivated was that?
AMC challenges MoviePass with its own subscription plan
Watch your back, MoviePass. AMC is coming for you.
AMC Theatres, the largest theater chain in America, says it is launching a subscription plan. AMC Stubs A-List will allow members to see up to three movies a week for $19.95 a month — and get discounts on concessions.
The move comes amid a tense battle between AMC and MoviePass, the app-based service that charges subscribers $9.95 a month to see one movie per day, upending the traditional exhibition business model.
In its press release announcing the news, AMC touted the "sustainable price" of the Stubs A-List program — an apparent shot at MoviePass, which has raised eyebrows with its suspiciously inexpensive monthly fee.
MoviePass, for its part, fired back in a tweet on Wednesday morning: "AMC has repeatedly disparaged our model as a way to discourage our growth because all along they wanted to launch their own, more expensive plan."
"We want to make movies more accessible, they want more profit," the company added.
AMC, however, plans to offer subscriber perks that might sweeten the deal. Stubs A-List subscribers will be able to watch all three movies on the same day, get into movies they have already seen, and reserve tickets in advance.
MoviePass, it should be noted, offers none of those perks.
Apple's Angela Ahrendts says the new focus is on 'enriching lives'
Apple retail chief Angela Ahrendts wants her company to distinguish itself from other tech companies by embodying a philosophy of enriching lives.
“Apple has taken a leadership position when it comes to environmental responsibility. We have human responsibility,” Ahrendts said. “I think it’s important that the largest tech company in the world invest in humans.”
The top Apple executive was interviewed at the Cannes Lions Festival in France on Wednesday by Tor Myhren, Apple's vice president marketing communications.
Ahrendts revealed that for the first time Apple is measuring how well it is doing on that mission, surveying Apple store customers and examining employee feedback.
She explained that the company has an internal social network called Loop that is examined by Ph.D. students for data that helps improve systems.
Commenting on the retail environment in the U.S., where big retailers are often closing storefronts, she said that Apple was expanding its stores so that they are not just retail outlets but places of learning, adding that she told Apple CEO Tim Cook she wanted to renovate Washington D.C.’s Carnegie Library, which will become the city's biggest classroom when it opens.
Apple staff, she said, were hired for their empathy skills.
“They are not hired to sell," she said. "There is no commission, no quotas. What we’ve tried to do is keep uniting them around the big vision and the impact we want to make.”
Ahrendts, who said she hadn’t initially intended to join Apple from fashion company Burberry but was persuaded by Cook, noted that Apple was not measuring for quantity but measuring, “how we made you feel. We’re trying to be the largest platform ever built for enriching lives. Did we help you unlock your creative thinking?”
“I hope there are not too many finance guys watching,” she joked.
“Retail is not dying,” she said, but stores have serve a bigger purpose than “just selling things.”
Evan Spiegel talks at Cannes on Kylie Jenner, parents and tech, and the future of Snapchat
Evan Spiegel, the CEO of Snap Inc., is making nice with reality star Kylie Jenner, would love to hire Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and thinks parents need to cool it with sharing pictures of their children.
In an interview set to air on “The Run Down,” the E! News Snapchat show, host Erin Lim asked Spiegel a handful of light-hearted questions but received some revealing answers.
Sitting under a giant poster of Kim Kardashian at the ongoing Cannes Lions festival, Spiegel was asked about his take on Jenner, who has 24 million followers on Twitter. Back in February, she tweeted her dislike of Snapchat's redesign, a much-publicized comment that coincided with Snap losing $1 billion in stock market value.
“I love Kylie, the original," he said. "She just had a baby. We both have new babies, so we have something to bond over.”
Spiegel, who used to dress in trademark white T-shirts, explained he’s switched to black because he’s usually spilling stuff on himself. He shared how he sees Snap evolving, with the service being a portal on the wider world and integrated with augmented reality.
“We’re going to come up with experiences that aren't confined to your little screen but overlaid on the world around you," he said.
The top Snap executive was asked which executive he’d most like to have work at the company and responded: “Jeff Bezos, no question. He’s incredible.”
Spiegel, who noted he was at Cannes Lions for a matter of hours since he wanted to get home to his family, was also asked what he would never Snap, saying: “My child. Parents are some of the worst piracy invaders.”
Amid serious conversations about technology use among children, he also revealed that he would likely let his own child use technology at around seven years old since his step son Flynn uses an ipod and emails him to say, “I love you.”
Spiegel also revealed he is guilty of sharing too many Snaps from the cockpit when he is piloting an aircraft. “I think it’s getting a little repetitive.”
When asked what is the biggest faux pas at Cannes Lions, he noted: “Day drinking. Especially in the heat.”
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.”
Women take over at Cannes Lions
The world of advertising, once a bastion of overconfident men, is undergoing nothing short of a revolution at Cannes Lions this year.
The five-day event, which is Ted Talks meets CES with a dash of SXSW cool, is typically about exploring the future of the communications business. This year, men could be forgiven for feeling under siege here.
On Monday, futurist Faith Popcorn will host a session called, “The Death of Masculinity and its impact on Creativity.” Hearst’s chief content officer, Joanna Coles, is also hosting a conversation with Whitney Wolfe, the co-founder of dating site Tinder, who sued the company for sexual harassment and went on to create dating service Bumble.
“Gender will not be an agenda,” screams a giant billboard standing in front of the iconic Carlton Hotel.
There’s even an entirely separate track of pro-women sessions at the Martinez Hotel put together under the name of the “Girls Lounge,” an initiative that's popped up on the global conference circuit from Davos to South By South West.
On the docket at Girls Lounge on Monday is Axios co-founder Mike Allen, pollster Mark Penn and John Gerzemo, chief executive of The Harris Poll. They're set to unveil research as part of a session titled: “The New Small Forces Impacting Women, Female Entrepreneurship and Gender Equality.” The organizers are launching a chatbot aimed at providing women with information about topics such as how to get equal pay.
Later on Monday, a Girls Lounge panel featuring WPP Group COO Mark Read will address, “The Elephant in the Room: Relationships Between Men and Women at Work.” The topic is perhaps an awkward one given the lawsuit brought against WPP by Erin Johnson, JWT's former head of communications, against her boss, Gustavo Martinez, who is accused of using the word "rape" repeatedly among other threatening behavior that he denied.
The five-day conference, which features a variety of celebrities including rap stars Migos, supermodel Naomi Campbell and actor Tyler Perry, is known for its late-night hedonism: giant parties on the beach featuring DJs and soirees on yachts are the norm.
For employers, it’s a petri dish for potential sex harassment. Ad firm Interpublic Group sent a memo to staff reminding them about behaving professionally, according to Adweek. The memo from senior vice president of talent Joe Kelly noted: “When our work is conducted outside the confines of an office environment, there can be a sense that this isn’t quite work or that we can behave different, especially if alcohol is present. That is not the case.”
Time Warner is now Warner Media, and a lot of executives are leaving
That's all folks!
WarnerMedia is the new name for Time Warner, according to an internal memo from the AT&T executive who is taking charge of the media company, John Stankey.
The telecom firm said that customer confusion with Time Warner Cable, long since spun off from the company, was the reason for the change.
The memo also outlined a host of corporate executives who are to leave WarnerMedia as a result of the acquisition. CEO Jeff Bewkes has said previously he would leave after the transition.
The departures include the head of the Turner division, John Martin, a former chief financial officer for Time Warner who was poised to run the whole company at one point in history. Turner houses CNN, TNT and TBS among other assets.
At a recent conference, Martin had criticized AT&T's DirectTV unit, describing its poor service. The statements were received by many as clues that he didn't want to stick around.
For now, the memo seems to suggest that Stankey will play a much more active role at Turner, thought he will be limited in what he can do until the firm knows whether the Justice Department will appeal against a ruling allowing AT&T and Time Warner to merge. That could take up to 60 days.
In an unusual move, Stankey didn't name a successor to Martin from among the company's ranks and perhaps appeared to set up a three-way race to lead the Turner division listing three top executives there:
- David Levy, president, who runs not only the ad sales unit at AT&T that the company hopes to capitalize on, but is responsible for buying its sports rights.
- Also listed are Gerhard Zeiler, head of international, and Jeff Zucker, president of CNN Worldwide.
Other top executives to depart include Gary Ginsberg, an executive vice president of corporate marketing who joined after counseling Rupert Murdoch for many years at News Corporation.
Also on the way out at Time Warner: Howard Averill, chief financial officer; Karen Magee, chief human resources officer; Carol Melton, EVP of global public policy; and Olaf Olafsson, EVP of international and corporate strategy.
Stankey praised the team in his memo: "Over the course of their tenure, this highly accomplished team fended off a hostile takeover by a rival media company (Fox), put in place plans to consolidate the New York-based offices into the Hudson Yards complex (which will be the most advanced office space in New York), and successfully restructured the company, ultimately positioning us to succeed in this new chapter."
Stankey welcomed the Time Warner staff with a note about all the AT&T deals they're now eligible for.
The company also confirmed an early plan to give away a free TV package to AT&T wireless customers.
Martin did not return a request for comment.
Could the Justice Department still force an asset sale at AT&T?
AT&T closed its momentous and torturous acquisition of Time Warner on Thursday, with a press release touting not just Time Warner’s crown jewels — HBO, Warner Bros., and Turner — but a host of direct-to-consumer streaming businesses.
AT&T assets in the online video world are significant and include an international joint venture with the Chernin Group that houses Fullscreen and Crunchyroll, among other web entertainment businesses. And with Time Warner it will also add some big digital businesses, such as CNN.com and Bleacher Report.
The Justice Department may be down, but it isn’t out. It is no doubt aware of how its response to Judge Leon’s decision to rubber stamp the AT&T/Time Warner deal — and deny the Justice Department’s case that it is anti-consumer — could have further ramifications on other actions coming down the pike.
The DOJ has 60 days to decide what to do. While an appeal seems an unlikely prospect on the face of it, the department has forced asset sales before, as in the case of an aircraft filtration company, Parker-Hannafin, in December last year after rivals raised complaints.
So while the celebrations are ongoing at AT&T, the Time Warner assets have to remain separate for now and more specifically, Turner most remain ring-fenced from AT&T, and there is to be no change of compensation or number of employees. Good news for chief John Martin?
Here’s a good profile of John Stankey, the guy who will become the new Jeff Bewkes, heading all of the entertainment assets. He admitted that college football is his only appointment viewing and had struggled to name entertainment shows that he watches. (We’re sure that he’s become a keen student of movies and TV since the profile was written.)
The Department of Justice won't pursue a stay of the AT&T-Time Warner deal... but they're not done just yet
The Department of Justice hasn't given up prosecuting the AT&T/Time Warner merger just yet.
A DOJ official, who asked to remain anonymous because they're not publicly authorized to speak publicly on the matter, told NBCNews: "The Department will not be seeking a stay, but continues to evaluate its options with respect to an appeal."
That means AT&T might have to sweat it out for a few more days before it can close its Time Warner acquisition.
U.S. District Judge Richard Leon on Thursday denied the DOJ's attempt to block the AT&T-Time Warner, rejecting every argument by DOJ lawyers that the combined company will hurt competition.
But the DOJ still has options - namely a full-on appeal.
Nicole Kidman is latest to sign with Amazon Studios
AT&T's Randall Stephenson better get comfortable with spending big once he takes charge of Time Warner — competition for talent is getting more intense.
Nicole Kidman just signed a first-look deal for film and TV with Amazon Studios.
Kidman's biggest TV hit of late is the Emmy-winning HBO show, "Big Little Lies." While HBO's on-screen product doesn't appear to have suffered given the sharp increase in the price of doing business in Hollywood, it must sting that Kidman's going to Amazon Studios and not just for TV.
Amazon will also potentially show her movie projects in theaters too. Kidman's Blossom Films will give Amazon a first look on new initiatives. She is still working with HBO on an upcoming series, however. Here's Vanity Fair with a story about how Kidman and Reese Witherspoon are conquering TV.
Here's the Hollywood Reporter with all the details. While big media giants scramble to buy each other, they must also watch the chicken coup. Warner Bros. just shelled out $400 million to keep program maker Greg Berlanti (Riverdale and Supergirl).
It looks like Amazon Studios' new chief, Jennifer Salke, a former NBCUniversal entertainment executive, is looking to outgun Netflix. Salke also just signed up Oscar winner Jordan Peele and is preparing to launch the "Lord of the Rings" series for the streaming service.
And then there's Apple still looming — and reportedly tip-toeing into the movie business.
Why media executives can't play by Netflix's rules but are still trying
If you're in the media business, you might be sick of reading about how well Netflix is doing.
Here's a great explanation of why media executives might be justified in feeling they're getting a bad rap. CNBC's Alex Sherman has a good analogy in this must-read article.
Let's say you're a carpenter, and you make furniture out of mahogany. You pay for mahogany wood and sell a finished product for a profit. You've been doing this for years, and you've made a good living from it.
One day, a new guy — let's call him Reed Hastings — moves in next door. At first, Reed seems awesome. After looking through your store, he buys a bunch of the dusty pieces in the back no one else wanted.
But after a while, Reed decides to get into the furniture manufacturing business, too. And now he's telling your mahogany supplier that he'll pay 50 percent more for the same wood. Then another competitor, a rich fellow named Jeff Bezos, shows up across the street. He wants the mahogany, too, and he's bidding 75 percent more.
This is crazy, you think. How are these guys able to afford to pay so much more for the same stuff? They've got to be passing along the costs to their customers, right?
But they're not. You walk in their store, and they're selling the same quality furniture you make for less than you sell it. And cash from investors is pouring in.
You say, what the hell? I'll up my spending, too. This is the new world, I guess. So you bid 100 percent more for mahogany. Instantly, your stock falls. "Boo!" say your investors. "Your business model is dying!"
New York magazine's Josef Adalian gets inside the Netflix machine and reports on what it's doing differently. He notes that Netflix is now making more TV than any network in history.
Content chief Ted Sarandos says his staff have a lot of freedom and a lot of money: “Most of my team have more buying power than anyone has selling power in Hollywood. My direct-report team can greenlight any project without my approval. They can greenlight it against my approval!”
AT&T wins, convincingly
WASHINGTON — AT&T's $85.4 billion acquisition of media giant Time Warner can proceed, a federal judge said Tuesday.
U.S. District Judge Richard Leon ruled that the combined companies do not pose a danger to consumers, a decision that amounts to a resounding win for the two companies.
U.S. anti-trust chief talks AT&T/Time Warner just ahead of judge's decision
Makan Delrahim, who spearheaded the Justice Department's case against AT&T's proposed merger with Time Warner, spoke on Tuesday morning and made a final pitch to Judge Richard Leon, who this afternoon will decide the fate of the deal.
Delrahim, the assistant attorney general for the antitrust division of the DOJ, revealed a surprise in his speech. He noted that when Justice was preparing its case against AT&T that the department received a curious request from an unnamed anti-trust officer from a state that Delrahim also did not identify.
“They told us they would only join our case if we provided written assurances that no divestiture would go to Fox or to Rupert Murdoch,” Delrahim said in his speech.
Delrahim said he rejected the request “because it would have been unconstitutional to accede to it.”
The head of the Justice Department antitrust unit went on to say the division has been under pressure to disregard consumer harm and focus on protecting the wider market, democracy or freedom of speech.
Delrahim, speaking at an Open Markets Institute event in Washington D.C., has argued that AT&T should divest a large portion of the proposed combination, suggesting a sale of DirecTV or Turner Broadcasting, which houses CNN.
He noted the Justice Department negotiated the largest-ever divestiture package from pharmaceutical giants Bayer and Monsanto.
“The harms of that transaction [AT&T], following a consumer welfare rubric, were simply too great to accept, or try to fix with ineffective behavioral remedies,” meaning rules governing the competitive behavior of a company.
He reiterated the view that the merger would be harmful to consumers because it would, “unlawfully raise prices for cable TV subscribers and harm online innovation."
Delrahim closed by saying anti-trust enforcers would not benefit by “allegations that would flow from abandoning the consumer welfare standard.”
While there is a belief that President Donald Trump may have interfered in the Justice Department's thought process on the mega deal, Delrahim added: “Whether it is Kochs or George Soros or anyone else, political positions should have no role in determining the propriety of antitrust enforcement actions.”
Delrahim concluded his speech with a quote from former President Ronald Reagan. “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”
Who murdered the newspaper business?
Remember Craig Newmark?
Yes, the Craigslist guy. The one who reputedly killed newspapers' main revenue source, the classifieds. It’s easy to forget him given the focus on Google and Facebook, the current poster boys for the supposed death of print.
Well, he just donated $20 million to the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism to fund an endowment, according to this tweet from Vivian Schiller, the former head of news at Twitter. The school will now bear his name.
Not everyone is thrilled. The comments accompanying her tweet are raw. “It’s like thanking the pickpocket for giving you back some loose change,” writes Jim Conaghan.
Another commenter, Eric Francis, adds: “I was working for newspapers during the time when classified ads, once a reliable source of newspaper revenue, tanked because of… Craigslist.”
Former News Corp strategy boss, Raju Narisetti, meanwhile has another take, blaming the business side of journalism for being lazy and greedy: “As a unique industry where the entire 'product' changes 100% at least once every 24 hours for 365 days, adapting to change was a core DNA element at least on the newsroom creation/printing/distribution side. How could the news business not adapt 2000-2007 - for eight years!”
Narisetti, who is joining Columbia Journalism School as a professor of professional practice, has a long thread on the topic that’s worth a read.
What could happen to AT&T's deal for Time Warner on Tuesday
If AT&T's attempts to merge with Time Warner were a TV show, then Tuesday is its finale (or maybe just the penultimate episode or maybe there's a whole new season and perhaps a spin-off?).
A judge will rule if the $85 billion merger should go ahead despite the objections of Jeff Session's Justice Department. Here's what could happen:
Scenario 1: AT&T wins, sort of
Then what? The Justice Department could appeal the decision and tie-up AT&T and Time Warner via a legal stay or injunction, which would prevent the deal from moving ahead in an appeals process for anywhere between two and six months. No merger until after the appeal is heard.
Scenario 2: AT&T wins
The Justice Department appeals but they don't get a stay. The merger process can begin, even with an appeals process working in tandem.
Scenario 3: The Justice Department wins
The judge rules in favor of the Justice Department, in which case AT&T appeals, and again the appeals process will take up to six months to end. AT&T, however, needs Time Warner to agree to keep the process going.
Scenario 4: There is no outright winner
The Judge could rule that the merger can proceed but with conditions, like selling a unit, or he could say that he wants the new company to be governed by behavioral restrictions to prevent consumer harm. Whatever the Judge's suggestions, they have to be acceptable to both the Justice Department and AT&T and Time Warner. (Yes, that's three different parties.) Of course, AT&T and Time Warner could be on different pages when it comes to whether it wants to agree to a possible request to hive off Turner or satellite company DirecTV, as has been suggested.
Scenario 5: AT&T or Justice wins
Time Warner's board and CEO Jeff Bewkes will have to decide whether to extend its merger agreement with AT&T, which expires on June 21. Bewkes will most likely want to keep the process going, pick up his check and go home (he's being on this road since October 2016 what's another two to six months?). Then again, the Time Warner board may have other ideas.
Scenario 6: Time Warner taps out
Time Warner directors opt not to put the company through any more regulatory drama and decide to proceed as a standalone company with the strong likelihood it attracts other offers from both other media companies and from tech companies.
Better bring the hankies to court on Tuesday, as there could be some tears shed and some serious hand wringing.
Here's what the experts say:
Harvard Law School professor, Susan Crawford said: "[The Judge] can block the combination outright or require the combined company to divest units that increase the risk of abuse by the new company based on its market power."
Crawford explains the alternative to outright blocking has already been suggested to Judge Leon: requiring the divestiture of DirecTV, which competes nationwide for pay-TV subscribers with everyone else.
Censorship advocacy group ramps up pressure on Netflix
The Parents Television Council, a censorship advocacy group that typically puts pressure on broadcasters for showing explicit or violent content that is inappropriate for children, is turning up the heat on Netflix.
The organization said on Thursday it is launching an online petition to persuade the streaming giant to drop "13 Reasons Why," the controversial teen drama centered on a girl who takes her own life by slitting her wrists.
Netflix just renewed the show for a third season.
When asked about the series at a Netflix shareholder's meeting, Hastings responded that the series was "enormously popular," adding that "it is controversial, but nobody has to watch it."
In a statement, the Parents Television Council blasted that response as "callous."
The council claimed the show features what is "likely the most graphic suicide scene ever produced for video or film." The organization's campaign is its first effort against the streamer.
Back in March, Netflix said it would institute new parental controls, including adding a pin code for access to shows, along with maturity ratings. But the Parents Television Council says that is not enough.
The campaign comes at a time when more tech companies are focused on helping consumers be more responsible about how children use their services.
Apple, for example, launched a new service on Monday called Screen Time, aimed at showing users how long they are spending on their phones.
Amazon grabs streaming rights for English Premier League soccer
Amazon announced on Thursday that it acquired the U.K. streaming rights to 20 English Premiere League soccer matches for the 2019/2020 season.
While there's no price tag attached, another similar package of games sold to telecom operator BT for 90 million pounds ($121 million).
Amazon's incursions into the streaming sports business are growing. The company paid $40 million for the U.K. rights to the U.S. Open tennis. It also broadcasts the Australia and French Open via a deal with Eurosport and streams some NFL, according to The Guardian.
The English Premiere League rights had been held between Sky and BT. Amazon represents a third entrant and another service viewers will have to pay for if they want to watch the games in their entirety, since the games will be available only to Amazon Prime members. Prime in the U.K. costs 79 pounds per year (about $106).
The entrance of Amazon didn't cause a big price increase for rights owners. Earlier this year, Sky paid 3.57 billion pounds for a three year deal, saving it 600 million pounds per year, in large part because BT had said it wouldn't make an aggressive bid.
Facebook funds news shows from ABC, Fox, CNN and more
Facebook is now a news producer, financially at least.
The social network on Wednesday announced its first major foray into funding journalism with a series of video news programs from a variety of media companies.
If that sounds to be a scary prospect, the social media giant points out in a new blog that the editorial content is up to the partners involved. Will Facebook be willing to fund news that might be critical of its own practices? That's not been addressed.
The social media giant, which has been under fire for sharing user data with Chinese device makers and for allowing fake news to proliferate on the platform, is funding shows from Fox News and ABC News, among others.
The news partnerships are aimed at boosting traffic to its video destination, Watch, which has so far seen only modest success. It is also aimed at addressing criticism that it hasn't done enough to support journalism.
The shows will air in the summer and other partners are expected to join the experiment, according to the blog note from Campbell Brown, Facebook's head of global partnerships. Noticeably absent from the first group are NBC News and CBS News.
Here are the partners as listed on the Facebook blog. The shows will be ad supported. It's not clear how much Facebook is paying these partners.
- ABC News' “On Location” [wt] is a daily news show with ABC News journalists from around the globe delivering on-the-ground reporting and the top headlines that are driving the day.
- Advance Local's “Chasing Corruption” will feature some of America’s toughest watchdog journalists — and the stories of conspiracy, bribery and fraud they’ve uncovered.
- ATTN:'s “Undivided ATTN:” is a weekly explainer show that breaks down the biggest issue of the week. In 3-5 minute episodes hosted by a rotating cast of social influencers, Undivided ATTN: will provide context on the stories everybody's talking about.
- CNN's “Anderson Cooper Full Circle” is a daily global brief on the world featuring Anderson Cooper and a roster of guests. The interactive program will air live from Anderson’s New York City newsroom in mobile-friendly vertical video.
- FOX News' “Fox News Update” will focus on up-to-the minute breaking news and the most compelling stories of the day. FNC’s chief news anchor Shepard Smith will report the latest news each weekday afternoon, with Carley Shimkus updating viewers every morning.
- Mic's “Mic Dispatch” reveals the world as we see it: complicated, diverse and full of potential. Mic correspondents on this new, twice-weekly show go beyond the headlines to profile the underrepresented, the problem-solvers and the provocateurs.
- Univision's “Real America with Jorge Ramos” features Ramos traveling the country to talk to immigrants of diverse backgrounds and situations, delivering a rarely covered view of today’s America from their perspective. Univision will also cover the top stories in Spanish at noon every day on Watch with “Noticiero Univision Edición Digital.”
Apple wants to clean up digital advertising (and maybe get back into the industry)
Chief executive Tim Cook is positioning Apple as the face of "responsible tech."
After taking some verbal shots at Facebook, Apple on Monday announced its first major step toward ending the pervasive surveillance culture of the internet. Apple is updating its software to block Facebook's like and share buttons, which enable the social media company to track people across the internet, according to NBCNews reporter Alyssa Newcomb.
Cook explained that it's reasonable for consumers to assume that an app or website knows some info about them but that all the data collection and ad targeting that goes on behind the scenes is questionable at best.
"We think that when a person leaves one web site, and goes to another and another and another, they do not have a reasonable expectation that that original website is still following their every move," Cook said during an interview with NPR. "And so we want to do what we can do there to try to prevent that."
"It's the crafting of a detailed profile and tracking you in places were you don't reasonably expect to be tracked, and companies gathering information well beyond what you would have voluntarily shared if you knew what they were doing - that's what we have a problem with," Cook told NPR.
That doesn't mean Cook is against digital advertising.
Apple is looking at ways to create a new kind of ad network business. It has held talks with Snap and Pinterest about it, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Apple's last foray into the ad business, iAds, was unpopular and ended in 2016 because advertisers found it was expensive and didn't offer marketers enough data. That Apple is revisiting the idea is intriguing.
Separately, Cook told NPR that it denied Apple had ever requested or received Facebook user data, as suggested in a New York Times article.
How an Argentine journalist landed a rare Woody Allen interview
Wondering how a random Argentine journalist scored an interview with the normally press shy director Woody Allen?
Chalk it up to the New York parent network. According to Quartz's David Kaufman and Ana Campoy, the Argentine journalist, Jorge Lanata, was friends with a guy whose kids went to the same school as Allen's in New York.
Lanata asked his friend, Pedro Chomnalez, a former head of investment banking at Credit Suisse, if he would ask Allen to talk to him. Amazingly, the answer was yes, and Lanata and Allen ended up asking the director about the #Metoo movement, the abuse accusations from his adopted daughter Dylan Farrow, and his life in movies.
The two also ended up watching the Italian classic "Bicycle Thieves" together.
U.K. gives the OK for Fox to buy Sky — as long as it sells Sky News
The U.K. government is clearing the path for 21st Century Fox to acquire European satellite TV company Sky, but there's one big condition — Fox has to sell Sky News.
Fox has a $24.7 billion dollar bid on the table for Sky, which is Europe's largest pay-TV company. Sky, already part-owned by Fox, is also considering a $30.1 billion bid from Comcast, owner of NBCUniversal. The government cleared Comcast's bid without further examination.
The country's Competition and Markets Authority had previously recommended the proposed deal be blocked, but has considered potential remedies suggested by the Rupert Murdoch-backed Fox.
Culture secretary Matt Hancock spoke to parliament on Tuesday and said he agreed with the country's competition authority that "divesting Sky News to Disney, as proposed by Fox, or to an alternative suitable buyer, with an agreement to ensure it is funded for at least ten years, is likely to be the most proportionate and effective remedy for the public interests concerns that have been identified."
Sky is a U.K.-based satellite broadcaster with 22.5 million subscribers in the U.K., Ireland, Germany, Italy and Australia. It generated GBP12.9 billion ($17.2 billion) of revenue in 2017.
Murdoch helped create Sky when satellite television was in its infancy. Several attempts by Murdoch to own the balance of Sky have been thwarted in the past after other Murdoch-backed companies ended up embroiled in scandals — including the phone hacking scandal at British newspaper News of the World, which at the time was part of Murdoch's News Corporation.
"The proposals include significant commitments from Fox. But there are some important issues on the draft undertakings which still need to be addressed," Hancock added.
Fox is in the midst of a deal to sell many of its assets to Walt Disney Co., including its 39 percent holding in Sky.
Viacom is saying goodbye to the head of Nickelodeon
One of Viacom's programming heavyweights is leaving the company after 30 years.
Cyma Zarghami, who as president of the Nickelodeon Group oversaw legendary kids shows including "SpongeBob SquarePants" and "Dora the Explorer," is stepping down, according to a statement from Viacom, which owns Nickelodeon.
The company did not give a reason for her departure, though she isn't believed to be joining another company.
Viacom's Paramount Pictures is in the midst of making two movies based on Nickelodeon franchises, "Dora" and "Wonder Park."
Viacom is now on an outside search for a successor. In the meantime, Sarah Levy, chief operating officer of Viacom Networks, is leading the brand on an interim basis, the statement said.
With no CBS merger in the offing, Viacom is likely having to re-examine its future as a standalone programmer. CBS was negotiating terms for a Viacom merger until last month when CBS decided to end talks and instead try to dilute the voting power of its controlling shareholder, the Redstone family's National Amusements, which also controls Viacom.
Here's the internal memo from Viacom chief executive Bob Bakish:
I want to let you all know that Cyma Zarghami is stepping down from her role as President of Nickelodeon Group.
Over the course of more than 30 years, Cyma has played an integral role in growing Nickelodeon into the dominant force in kids’ entertainment. Those of you who have worked alongside her know that her passion for Nickelodeon is second to none, and her instincts for creating content and experiences kids love have been vital to the brand’s success around the world.
Having risen through the ranks beginning in 1985, Cyma’s career spans Nickelodeon’s explosive growth and expansive influence as both a brand and a giant, successful business, guiding it into new areas beyond its unparalleled TV leadership, like feature films, consumer products, recreation, digital and beyond. From the single cable channel Nick once was, to the multiplatform entity it is today, Cyma’s contributions have been immeasurable, and her success has stemmed from her devotion to Nickelodeon’s mission to make the world a more playful place for kids everywhere.
While we conduct a comprehensive search process for Cyma’s successor, Sarah Levy will lead the brand on an interim basis as it begins its next chapter, in addition to her responsibilities as COO of Viacom Media Networks. Sarah previously spent nearly 20 years at Nickelodeon, including a decade as its Chief Operating Officer, and knows the Nickelodeon brand inside and out. She also brings valuable experience managing operations across our entire portfolio, and couldn’t be better positioned to offer her support and guidance.
As we all know, this transition comes during a moment of immense change and opportunity across our industry, particularly within kids’ entertainment. Nickelodeon was the first truly flagship brand in the house – spanning TV, digital, film and real world experiences – and it continues to evolve and grow as quickly as our audiences do, too.
I’m proud to say that Nickelodeon continues to make big, important moves to lead in this new landscape – from its pipeline of 800 new episodes this year (the brand’s largest ever), to the launch of Noggin on Amazon Channels, and SlimeFest’s upcoming and long-awaited U.S. debut in Chicago. Nickelodeon will also play a key role in our refreshed 2019 Paramount film slate with its co-branded films, Wonder Park and Dora the Explorer. And I’m confident that Sarah and the outstanding team at Nickelodeon will continue to accelerate the brand’s exciting push into new and next-generation viewing platforms, film, live experiences and consumer products.
Please join me in thanking Cyma for her many contributions to Nickelodeon and wishing her every success in the future.
Spotify still on the hot seat over R. Kelly
The former head of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is calling on Spotify — and the record industry at large — to punish people who are accused of sexual harassment just as Hollywood and Silicon Valley have taken action against alleged predatory behavior.
Hilary Rosen, who is currently a partner and managing director at Washington D.C. strategy firm SKDKnickerbocker, questioned Spotify chief executive Daniel Ek for allowing R. Kelly's music to continue to be available on the streaming giant's global platform despite widespread accusations that he has abused young women, claims that Kelly has denied.
Rosen told NBC News in a phone interview: "R. Kelly is a known sex predator whose activities have been well reported by legitimate news organizations. The movie industry has shunned Harvey Weinstein and Brett Ratner and the Amazon guy [Roy Price]. The tech industry fired people. SoFi fired people. So did Uber, all because of legitimate accusations."
Rosen then accused Spotify of losing its moral authority because the company had softened its initial action, in which it took R. Kelly and rapper XXXTentatcion off its playlists.
"This is not about free speech. It's about sex predators and their behavior," she said.
Ek, speaking at Recode's Code Conference in California on Wednesday, admitted that the streaming music giant's attempts to avoid controversy by ending its promotion of R. Kelly and XXXTentacion and then later restoring XXXTentacion to its playlists had not worked well. Watch the clip here.
Speaking at the conference, Ek said the firm had, "rolled this out wrong." XXXTentacion has been accused of hitting a pregnant woman in a video, an action his lawyers called "completely in jest."
Ek told conference goers: “What we were trying to go after was really around hate speech."
Ek added: “It wasn’t trying to be a moral police like who did right and who did wrong. We don’t want to be the judge and the moral police of that.”
In the session Rosen asked Ek if he felt he'd, "lost the moral authority," on the topic. He responded that that was for other people to decide.
Rosen told NBC News she hopes to see the music industry begin to financially disadvantage artists who have been credibly accused of violence and harassment: "The publishers, the tour promoters, they should not be making money promoting this guy's music. They should do what other industries have done. Hit them where it hurts."
Hit refresh for Martin Sorrell, 2.0
Martin Sorrell, the former chief executive of communications giant WPP Group, is most certainly not making a comeback — since he never went away.
Sorrell is launching a new firm called S4 Capital, according to Reuters, and has invested $53 million of his own money to get his new vehicle into tech, data and content. (There's speculation he might buy some of the companies the WPP wants to shed.)
Sorrell and WPP Group parted ways after the board concluded an internal investigation into "personal misconduct," claims Sorrell denied.
While boss of WPP, Sorrell got the company into a host of entertainment industry investments from Vice Media to Brian Grazer's Imagine Entertainment. Now WPP is discussing its exit from its non-core minority holdings. Getting out of Vice might be tricky; WPP invested via a fund operated by Raine Ventures. Vice's other shareholders, Fox and Disney, are also still negotiating a potential merger with few quite knowing how that might affect their separate holdings in the company.
Sorrell will be on the main stage at the upcoming advertising festival Cannes Lions on June 22. Sorrell will be chatting with New Yorker journalist Ken Auletta, who is set to unveil his book, "Frenemies: The Epic Disruption of the Ad Business (and Everything Else)."
AT&T still faces blowback for hiring Michael Cohen
The Disney-Fox-Comcast-Sky situation is a beautiful M&A mess
If you enjoy sliding tile puzzle games, then you'll want to watch what happens next in the complex game of Disney-Fox-Comcast.
On Wednesday, Twenty-First Century Fox filed a proxy statement confirming it will ask shareholders to give an up-or-down vote on Disney's $52 billion bid. The meeting is July 10 in New York. Disney shareholders will do the same. (Fox is selling a large chunk of itself before spinning off its broadcast and news assets into a new smaller entity.)
But lots of things will happen before July 10.
- A US District Judge will decide whether AT&T can acquire Time Warner against the wishes of the Justice Department. His decision will set the regulatory scene for the rest of the media industry. (June 12 at the latest)
- If AT&T wins, and maybe if it agrees to concessions, then Comcast* will likely submit a bid that's better than Disney's share offer. Comcast is in talks to borrow some $60 billion. Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal.
- If Comcast does bid, Disney may come back to shareholders with a new, improved offer. Yesterday, CNBC reported that Disney may look to sweeten its bid.
This is where things get complicated because European satellite broadcaster Sky is part of the Fox/Disney deal. Sky is a big consumer TV business with tons of data and credit card numbers.
- The UK government will decide whether Fox can acquire the 61 percent of European satellite broadcaster Sky that it doesn't already own. Fox is offering $16.6 billion. (June 13.)
- The UK government has said it sees no reason why Comcast can't move forward with it's own $31.1 billion bid for Sky. The European Union then gets it's say so on June 15.
Here's what could happen: Disney could gain either Fox's 39 percent of Sky as part of its $52 billion bid, or perhaps all of it (if Fox successfully acquires the balance of Sky and Disney acquires Fox). Or, Disney could get none of it if Comcast is able to persuade Sky shareholders to accept its $31 billion bid for the whole thing.
Disney's summer is off to a rough start
It has not been a good week for Disney's PR machine, and it's only Tuesday.
Over the weekend, the beloved Star Wars franchise stumbled, with "Solo" turning out so-so box office results. Then, Roseanne Barr blew up ABC's No. 1 show with a racist tweet on the same day that Starbucks closed early to provide diversity training to its staff.
The twittersphere tapped its collective watch after Barr tweeted a racist remark at former Barack Obama administration official Valerie Jarrett, waiting to see how ABC would respond.
Then at 1:49 P.M. ET, Channing Dungey, president of ABC Entertainment, said the network decided to cancel the show.
But shouldn't they have known it was going to end this way? ABC clearly knew that getting into business with Barr wasn't going to be easy, as NBC News' Daniel Arkin points out here. Roseanne had sent a variety of questionable tweets, including a suggestion that Parkland survivor David Hogg had performed a Nazi salute. Earlier on Tuesday, Barr suggested incorrectly that Chelsea Clinton was married to a nephew of George Soros.
Here's what Dungey had told Adweek's Jason Lynch before today's drama: “Roseanne has said herself that she does not want what she says publicly to overshadow the show in any way, and I do hope that she will continue to be thoughtful about what she shares on social moving forward.”
Roseanne even told AdWeek she was going to try to talk about what she's for on social media rather than what's she against, and the magazine reported season two would be less political and more about family.
ABC was desperate to get the show on the schedule last season.
Here's what Disney/ABC co-chairman Ben Sherwood told AdWeek: “Every fiber of my being wanted to resist Roseanne going to Netflix,” Sherwood said. “I said, ‘Roseanne belongs at eight o’clock on Tuesday night on ABC, with the full force of the ABC television network behind it.' While all kinds of changes are taking place throughout our industry, one thing remains true: Broadcast is still the only way into 125 million homes.”
Disney has won praise for its swift action, but did it really have a choice?
While Havas Media Chief Investment Officer Jason Kanefsky said ABC did the right thing in acting fast, he told NBC News that advertisers are extremely sensitive about what's known as "brand safety."
"It would have gone on a list where we won't run on it," Kanefsky said of the show in light of Barr's tweets on Tuesday.
It's also hard to see Disney chief executive Bob Iger maintaining a friendship with Oprah, who offered to campaign for him if he ever runs for office, had ABC chosen a middle road.
But that's not the end of Iger's headaches. There's that whole $52.4 billion bid Disney made for Twenty-First Century Fox's entertainment assets, which is now the subject of a possible counter-bid from Comcast (which is the parent company of NBCUniversal).
'Solo,' the latest 'Star Wars' spinoff, was a box office disappointment. What went wrong?
In the end, the Force was not with Han Solo.
“Solo: A Star Wars Story,” a would-be summer blockbuster about the early days of the character originally played by Harrison Ford, tanked at the box office over Memorial Day weekend. The movie grossed $103 million domestically for the four-day holiday — a respectable sum for your average flick, but abysmal for the "Star Wars" franchise.
How abysmal? Well, Disney’s first "Star Wars" reboot, “The Force Awakens,” opened to a record-breaking $248 million three years ago. “Rogue One,” the first feature-length spin-off, debuted at $115 million in North America two years ago.
Here’s a look at what might have gone wrong:
- Franchise fatigue. Disney has released a new "Star Wars" movie every year for the last three years. “The Last Jedi” landed in multiplexes just five months ago. Moviegoers might need a break from Skywalker and company. But the real test of fatigue will come next year: “Star Wars: Episode IX” opens in December 2019.
- Stiff competition. “Solo” debuted in a “hyper-competitive marketplace,” said box office analyst Paul Dergarabedian. A pair of recent superhero hits, “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Deadpool 2,” are still enjoying successful runs in theaters, stealing millions of eyeballs and plenty of cultural oxygen.
- No urgency. Disney pumps out two kinds of "Star Wars" movies these days. There's the saga films, like "The Last Jedi," that serve as direct sequels to the original trilogy. And then there's the "anthology movies," like "Solo," that are essentially standalones. In other words: "Solo" might have seemed ... inessential.
- Behind-the-scenes drama. The production was reportedly troubled. The original directors, Phil Lord and Chris Miller, were fired in the middle of shooting and replaced by Ron Howard. "Star Wars" die-hards, obsessed with every behind-the-scenes rumor, might have been wary from the start.
The movie was also a dud overseas, grossing $65 million internationally over the weekend — including a meager $10.1 million in China, the second-largest box office on the planet.
Netflix: the Albanian army that took over the world
Netflix (for a little while) became the biggest pure-play media company in the world when measured by Wall Street sentiment — market capitalization.
For the first time, Netflix on Thursday jumped past Disney after yesterday surpassing Comcast. The company is now worth more than double Time Warner, whose chief executive Jeff Bewkes once referred to Netflix in 2010 as the Albanian army.
Just four years ago, Netflix was boasting it had $300 million to spend on content and would make five new shows a year.
"The goal is to become HBO faster than HBO becomes us," said Netflix content chief Ted Sarandos back in 2013. Now, it has $8 billion to spend on content and is making 80 movies and TV shows a year.
Management teams from rival media companies have long scratched their heads given the injustice in it all. Netflix doesn't have to prove its shows are watched. All Netflix has to do is keep signing subscribers.
But even Netflix, which has proved naysayers wrong, doesn't want to be judged on that metric forever, because sooner or later you run out of growth (or maybe you don't). Wall Street believes there's a wholesale change in the way people watch TV, even while for many of us Netflix is simply an add-on.
Netflix's market cap ended Thursday at an astounding $160.94 billion, according to Google Finance. Bloomberg had Netflix closing slightly lower at $151.8 million, dropping it back below Disney for the day.
Netflix's momentum is also a factor. The list of talent getting checks from Sarandos gets longer by the day and now includes even a former president as one of its creatives.
Bloomberg media analyst Paul Sweeney, who's been watching the sector forever, observes that Netflix is trying to get the street to judge it instead on profitability without much luck. As long as things keep chugging along then maybe Netflix is a future buyer of Disney, not the other way around.
Stranger Things have happened.
Major media company market caps as of Thursday afternoon:
Netflix: $160.94 billion
Disney: $152.20 billion
Comcast: $143.17 billion
Time Warner: $73.74 billion
Twenty-First Century Fox: $73.59 billion.
Look out, Disney: Comcast says it's working on an all-cash bid for Fox assets
Comcast confirmed on Wednesday that it is working on a plan to challenge Disney's $52.4 billion bid for major parts of Rupert Murdoch's Twenty-First Century Fox empire.
Comcast, which owns NBCUniversal, did not detail the size of its potential offer but said it would be in cash and worth more than Disney's bid, which is in stock, Comcast said in a press release.
Fox shareholders are set to consider the Disney offer in a matter of weeks. Comcast's statement on Wednesday effectively put Fox shareholders on notice that Comcast is seriously interested in buying up Fox's entertainment assets, including its movie studio and some cable channels.