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The Query: featuring news and analysis on the media by Claire Atkinson

The NBC News Media Blog is here to keep you current on the media business. Check here every day for fresh news on the latest corporate battles, media mergers, the growth of paid content and big ad-revenue shifts.

And don't forget to send news tips to: Claire.Atkinson@nbcuni.com

The Query

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.

Top communications execs at Facebook and Twitter depart on same day

Facebook has dealt with a string of public relations nightmares over the past year, but they’ll soon have to carry on without their top PR boss.

Elliot Schrage, a Google veteran who has been at Facebook for the past decade, announced on Thursday that he will be leaving his position at Facebook.

“After more than a decade at Facebook, I've decided it’s time to start a new chapter in my life. Leading policy and communications for hyper growth technology companies is a joy — but it's also intense and leaves little room for much else,” Schrage wrote in a public Facebook post

Schrage will stick around to help find his successor and will serve as an adviser to CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg, he said. Despite the fake news and data privacy scandals, a Facebook representative told NBC News he first raised his desire to move on from the company “long before the election” and agreed to stay on after Zuckerberg and Sandberg asked for his help.

Since then, Facebook has weathered the most intense criticism in the company's history.

Schrage mostly stayed behind the scenes at Facebook but did encounter some recent public criticism after he told Natasha Lamb, a managing director at investment firm Arjuna Capital, she was "not nice" for asking a question about sexism. Schrage apologized for the comment.

Another PR pro, Twitter’s head of corporate communications, Kristin Binns, also announced on Thursday that she’ll be leaving the company after two years to serve as senior vice president and chief communications officer at Activision Blizzard. Naturally, Binns shared the news where else, but on Twitter.

The New York Post wastes no time in getting in on legalized sports betting

Well that didn't take long.

On the first day of legalized sports gambling in New Jersey, the New York Post debuted a daily betting guide with a full two pages of odds and data for a variety of different leagues — even the Canadian Football League.

Just one month ago, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a federal law that prevented states other than Nevada from allowing gambling on sporting events. That triggered something of a gold rush, with many states moving to legalize the once-backroom activity and plenty of companies preparing to take advantage.

That includes plenty of media companies that see new opportunities for revenue related to sports gambling. And with New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy on Thursday placing the state's first official bet, the Post is among the earliest to cater directly to the eager gambler.

But they're far from alone. ESPN has a new show exclusive to its streaming subscription service that focuses on sports betting.

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.

Leon ruled that AT&T can buy all of Time Warner without any conditions, such as selling certain assets or agreeing to refrain from raising prices. Industry analysts had expected AT&T to win, but many speculated that the judge would force the company to agree to certain measures.

Read the full story here.

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.

Where's the beef? IHOP, er, IHOB brings it with marketing stunt that triggers burger chains

IHOP's rebrand to IHOB (denoting that it's now selling burgers) isn't going down to well on Twitter. Other fast food sellers, from Wendy's to Dominos and even those social media comics at Netflix, joined a veritable pile on.

Wendy's suggested iHOP didn't scare them. "Not really afraid of the burgers from a place that decided pancakes were too hard." Whataburger also weighed in.

Hard to say if the marketing stunt is working, but the company has had a lot of free publicity out of the name-change stunt. Here's Adweek with all the stings.

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.

Apple's big developer conference includes a bunch of new features

Apple launched its yearly developer conference on Monday and announced a suite of new features that will be available in an upcoming iOS 12 software update. Here's the highlights:

  • The days of notifications flooding your iPhone home screen will soon come to an end. The idea is to help people cut down the amount of time they spend distracted on their iPhones, heeding the growing call for Silicon Valley to create more mindful technology experiences.
  • Along with grouped notifications, the iOS 12 update will include a dashboard letting users monitor how much time they spend in apps and how often they glance at their phones. For people who find themselves being sucked into a black hole by certain apps, Apple will let them set controls that will trigger reminders when time is almost up for the day.
  • Apple even hopes to help people get a better night’s sleep with a “do not disturb” mode that will completely turn notifications off for the night, saving those late night messages for the morning.
  • Apple is take a page out of Yahoo’s playbook. At Apple’s annual developer conference, the company showed off a redesigned stocks app with Apple News integration, making it easier to see the stories that explain why a company is having a banner day or in the tank. The update will be available with iOS 12 later this year.
  • We’re now living in a post-emoji era. At WWDC, Craig Federighi, Apple senior Vice President, showed off a preview of the strange new world we’re about to enter — called memoji. With the upcoming software update, that means you’ll be able to design an emoji that reflects your appearance and choose from a variety of expressions and get-ups before sharing something uniquely you with friends and contacts.

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:

Team,

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. 

Best,

Bob