Matt Damon stars in Columbia Pictures' movie "Elysium." (Kimberley French / Columbia)
After the coffee. Before saying goodbye to July.
David Horsey / Los Angeles Times (July 31, 2013)
Netflix, 'House of Cards' trump traditional media on Emmy nominations.
Anyone who has recently been in a college dorm room or the home of a twentysomething may have noticed there is something missing: a television. More and more young people are accessing TV content on their computers, iPads or cellphones.
Somebody is going to profit from this and, right now, Netflixseems well positioned to be the chosen one.
Having entered the high-stakes business of creating original entertainment programs, Netflix has been rewarded with 14 Emmy nominations this year. The reborn “Arrested Development” got three nods in the comedy category. Nine nominations went to the darkly cynical but wonderfully acted political series "House of Cards." Lead actor Kevin Spacey has been nominated for outstanding lead dramatic actor, his costar, Robin Wright, is up for outstanding actress in a drama, and the show itself is contending for best drama series.
There are skeptics who say the Emmys are no predictor of business success. Wall Street is holding back from investing in Netflix, in part because Netflix will not reveal just how big -- or tiny -- the audience is for their original shows. The broadcast networks look at this upstart rival in the entertainment game and remind the world that they still have plenty of Emmy nominations, plus many of Nielsen’s top-rated shows. The cable companies feel just fine in their position with a big share of the most honored series coming through their pipeline, especially from HBO.
But in the latest issue of Time magazine, Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies Inc., a Silicon Valley tech industry analysis firm, says Netflix is proving itself to be the new HBO.
“Regardless of whether 'House of Cards' or 'Arrested Development' actually win any Emmys, Netflix has already become a winner at this year’s show by nature of this giant endorsement of its labors and vindication that its bet on creating original programming panned out,” Bajarin says. “This nod from Hollywood allows Netflix to play with the big guns in the cable world and, more importantly, cements its position as the industry leader in providing OTA (over the air) services that will eventually change the way most of us receive our TV and video content in the future.”
Just see how the twentysomethings are getting their TV and it is obvious change is well on the way.
Another first. Cheryl Boone Isaacs, a former head of publicity for Paramount Pictures, has become the new president of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences. She is the first woman to run the Academy in 30 years and the first African-American ever. She defeated Lionsgate Motion Picture Group Co-Chairman Rob Friedman. Variety on Isaacs' win.
The American Film Institute recently upped the amount of scholarships it offers after collecting $6.2 million from donors.(AFI)
American Film Institute increases scholarship offerings.
The American Film Institute has nearly tripled its funding for scholarships in an effort to compete with larger film schools and to help students pay for the institute's $47,000 in annual tuition.
In the past, AFI found it was attracting candidates for its program and then losing them to schools that offered better financial aid. The school often had to look past the list of students it had already accepted, to an alternate list, to fill out its student body.
“We had lost a number of fellows who wanted to go to AFI to schools with more robust scholarship programs,” said Bob Gazzale, the CEO of AFI.
To combat that, the AFI Board of Directors set the challenge to raise more money for scholarships and successfully received more than $6.2 million from donors.
AFI receives about 600 applicants a year and selects a class of around 140 for its two-year programs, said Robert Mandel the Dean of AFI. The school offers six disciplines, which include screenwriting and production design.
Past alumni include Darren Aronofsky, the director of the Oscar-nominated drama “Black Swan,” and Brad Falchuk, a writer for the hit T.V show “Glee.”
AFI is a non-profit school that looks for nontraditional students. The average student is 28 years old with a shown interest in the industry. No prior film degree is necessary to be accepted into the program.
The small program ensures that students collaborate, Gazzale said. Students form groups for each project with one person from each discipline. Graduating students often maintain those relationships and continue to work with the people they met in school, he added.
“That intimacy is important,” Gazzale said. “The foundation for this kind of education is collaboration. You can’t do it alone.”
Scholarship funds will go to accepted students who show need and merit, Gazzale said. Without the funds, AFI used to get 41% of its students from the alternate list. For the 2013-2014 school year, only 7% of students come from the alternate list, he said.
“The impact it's made has been tremendous,” Mandel said. “It’s wonderful to be able to help some of the fellows.”
The goal was to decrease the amount of loans students had to take on, Mandel added. Fewer loans will also help students stay in Los Angeles after graduation, which is a key factor for their success. Students need to stay in the city to maintain contacts that they make while in school, Mandel said.
Megan Chomskis, 27, received a full-ride scholarship to attend AFI starting this fall. She graduated with a degree in film studies from Towson University and decided to go back to school to work with other filmmakers and get the chance to delve into editing, she said in an email. She applied to AFI because it offered an editing concentration.
"I never once considered that I’d actually be accepted into AFI’s editing program," Chomskis said. "I didn’t feel like I had enough experience, or that the work I’d done, mostly low- to no-budget student films, was of a high enough quality to grab anyone’s attention."
When she received notification that she was chosen for a scholarship, she was stunned, she said. Even if she hadn't received the scholarship, Chomskis said, she would have taken on the financial burden in some way to go to AFI.
"That’s what scholarships offer, more than financial support -- the freedom to chase your dreams with unbridled passion and dedication," she said.
The more than $6.2 million raised is expected to last five years and help AFI attract students who in the past would have gone to schools like the University of Southern California or the University of California at Los Angeles.
Breaking news. Baltimore-based and very conservative Sinclair Broadcast Group, which owns and operates over 100 local television stations, wants to get into the cable news business. As part of its acquisition of Allbritton Communications, Sinclair now owns NewsChannel 8, a Washington, D.C.-based regional cable news channel and wants to take it national. With a Washington base, and news operations around the country from its local stations, Sinclair may have plenty of content. Sinclair is the station group that aired an anti-Obama documentary live during a campaign cycle and did not treat it as political advertising but as program content. What will be interesting is whether the often-conservative views of the company's news operations will also be part of a cable channel. Coverage from Baltimore Business Journal.
The Skinny: You know you need a vacation when you wake up and don't know what day it is. I did get a chance to get to Dodger Stadium last night, but unfortunately the Yankees lost. Wednesday's headlines include a look at "Elysium" and Comcast's first-quarter results.
Daily Dose: Mandalay Sports Media, , a company which creates sports-related content and is headed by Hollywood player Peter Guber and Mike Tollin, said private equity firms Columbia Capital and Rho Ventures have bought a stake in the company and will be represented on its board of directors.
We could have been a contender: Mandalay Entertainment, parent company to Mandalay Sports Media, owned of the Las Vegas Thunder Hockey Team and Las Vegas Stars Triple A Baseball franchise. Las Vegas leadership, including Mayor Goodman, turned down a full fledged sports stadium along with full size television and film production studio in favor of the Smith Center and other developments in the "Symphony Park" area. The mayor insisted on a downsized plan, but Mandalay wanted to do things right, so they took their toys back to Orange County and Hollywood. Mandalay Entertainment is the film company with the tiger as its logo.
Steve Bornstein in 2003 prepping for the launch of the NFL Network. (Carlos Chavez / Los Angeles Times / July 31, 2013)
NFL's media chief Bornstein to exit in May, Rolapp will move up.
Steve Bornstein, the top media executive at the National Football League and president of its cable channel, will exit his position when his contract expires in May, the NFL confirmed.
A former president of ESPN and ABC, Bornstein played a key role in getting the NFL Network off the ground and in negotiating the lucrative television rights deals that the league has with CBS, Fox, ESPN, NBC and DirecTV.
Bornstein was also an innovator both at ESPN and the NFL. At ESPN, he helped build the network into a sports juggernaut. At the NFL, not only did he oversee the creation of the NFL Network, he also developed its popular sister channel RedZone that has become very popular with both hardcore fans and fantasy football addicts.
Known for his blunt personality and dry wit and a willingness to crush a few egos to get his way, Bornstein stood out among media executives because of his candor and willingness to talk beyond media industry cliches. When he was at ESPN, he once described rival Fox Sports as "a bit of mosquito."
That lack of an internal censor, loved by the press, was one reason that Bornstein had kept a lower profile over recent years.
The NFL said Brian Rolapp, chief operating officer of NFL Media, would succeed Bornstein. Rolapp is a rising star at the league and has been particulary active with the NFL's digital initiatives including its recent deals with Verizon and Microsoft Xbox.
Rolapp has been with the NFL since 2003; before that, he worked in business development at NBC.
News of Bornstein's plans was first reported by the New York Times.
Michael J. Fox on "The Michael J. Fox Show" panel during the NBCUniversal Press Tour in Beverly Hills. (Chris Haston / NBC / July 27, 2013)
Slow finish. Normally, the big broadcast networks have wrapped up selling commercial inventory for the fall TV season around the July 4 holiday. But this time around, there is a lot of haggling going on between some of the networks and Madison Avenue. On Tuesday, NBC indicated it was finally done selling ads. The slow pace paid off for the Peacock network, which sold $2.1 billion in advertisements and got rate increases between 7% and 8%. ABC, meanwhile, is still negotiating with advertisers. More on NBC's upfront from the Los Angeles Times and Advertising Age.
Stephanie Blomkamp/Tristar Pictures
Slump buster? Big-budget movies laden with special effects have not fared well at the box office this summer. Disappointments include "The Lone Ranger," "Pacific Rim" and "After Earth." Now comes Sony's "Elysium," which is from Neill Blomkamp, director of the surprise hit "District 9," and promises to be more than big explosions and lots of wreckage. There also isn't a glut of producers weighing in on the product. The New York Times on whether "Elysium" can break the summer slump.
Comcast's Universal Pictures released "Fast & Furious 6" during the second quarter of 2013. Pictured: Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Riley (Gina Carano) in "Fast & Furious 6" (Giles Keyte )
Strong quarter. Cable and entertainment giant Comcast Corp. had a profit of $1.7 billion for the second quarter on revenue of $16.3 billion. Helping boost numbers was the strong performance of"Fast and Furious 6" and NBC's "The Voice." Bloomberg and the Los Angeles Times on the numbers.
Amazon Studios said it will produce five more original pilots for children, including "Wishenpoof!" from Angela Santomero, creator of "Blues Clues." (Amazon Studios / July 31, 2013)
Amazon to produce five additional children's TV pilots.
Amazon Studios will produce five additional original pilots for children, including a pair of animated shows from Emmy Award-winning television industry veterans.
The projects include an animated action-comedy, "Hard-Boiled Eggheads," from Emmy winner Duane Capizzi, in which a pair of special agents set out to fix such science mistakes as toxic waste monsters. An animated project from "Blues Clues" creator Angela Santomero revolves around a girl, Bianca, who has magical powers to make wishes come true in "Wishenpoof!"
"After the success of our first pilots, we look forward to getting lots more fantastic feedback from kids and parents," Amazon Studios Director Roy Price said in a statement. "For the first time, we are offering live-action and animated programming for pre-school aged children. It's going to be fun."
Amazon Studios launched its first set of pilots in April, and invited its users to watch and rate eight comedy shows and six programs for children. Out of those 14 pilots, five were chosen to be produced as series -- "Alpha House," "Betas," "Annebots," "Creative Galaxy" and "Tumbleaf."
The new series are expected to be available for streaming through Amazon Instant Video later this year and in early 2014.
The Seattle retail giant has been investing in original programming and striking deals to distribute mainstream television and movie content to its Amazon Prime Instant Video service as it vies for viewers with online rivals Netflixand Hulu.
Netflix's move into original programming earned it 14 Emmy nominations, including best drama series for its political thriller, "House of Cards," as well as acting nods for its stars, Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright.
Amazon's other new children's pilots are: "Gortimer Gibbon's Life on Normal Street," a live-action show from first-time writer David Anaxagoras; "Grid Smasher," a mix of computer animation and puppetry from Emmy Award nominee Dan Clark and "The Jo B. & G. Raff Show," an animated series.
Zynga Inc. has sued Bang With Friends, a maker of casual sex apps. (Justin Sullivan / Getty Images / July 25, 2013)
In this legal battle, it's casual gaming vs. casual sex.
Zynga Inc., the social video games maker known for "Words With Friends" and "Scramble With Friends," has sued Bang With Friends Inc., a service that facilitates casual sex encounters, claiming that its name exploits Zynga's "With Friends" brand.
Bang With Friends' service enables users to find Facebook friends to hook up with. In a complaint filed Tuesday, Zynga said Bang With Friends' use of the phrase "With Friends" is trademark infringement. The game maker asked the court to stop Bang With Friends from using the suffix and award damages to Zynga.
Zynga said the sex-oriented San Francisco start-up -- which had its Web domain name registered last year, according to the complaint -- chose its name with "Zynga's game trademarks fully in mind."
Zynga has promoted the "With Friends" games as a family, which includes titles such as "Chess With Friends," according to the complaint.
"Zynga filed a lawsuit to stop blatant infringement of its valuable 'With Friends' brand," said Renée Lawson, Zynga's deputy general counsel. "Zynga is compelled to file suit to prevent further consumer confusion and protect its intellectual property rights against infringement."
Zynga said the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has rejected competitors' proposed trademarks such as "Crosswords With Friends," "Yacht With Friends" and "Fitness With Friends."
Bang With Friends users pick which friends they'd like to have sex with. The app sends back an alert if any of those people are also interested in a friends-with-benefits arrangement.
"We heard through media reports that Zynga has filed a trademark infringement claim with respect to the 'with friends' part of our name," Bang with Friends Chief Executive and co-founder Colin Hodge said in an emailed statement. "As a technology company, we take intellectual property seriously and will evaluate the case in detail once we receive a copy. Regardless, we continue to be focused on making our users happy, so that they can help each other be happy."
Trademark issues are not Bang With Friends' only problems. The company's iOS app was recentlyremoved from Apple Inc.'s iTunes app store.
In a recent interview with Business Insider, Hodge said 200,000 people have successfully used the service to find matches.
Zynga has struggled lately to point its own business in the right direction as it tries to repeat early success of hit games and attract users of mobile devices.
Last week the company reported third-quarter revenue and earnings outlook that fell short of analyst expectations. The San Francisco company said revenue for the third quarter will be $175 million to $200 million.
Zynga reported a second-quarter loss of $15.8 million, compared with a loss of $22.8 million during the same period last year. Revenue for the quarter that ended June 30 fell 31% year-over-year to $231 million.
Screenshot from RealNetworks' new sweepstakes game in which users can enter to win $100,000. (RealNetworks Inc. )
RealNetworks tries to grow casino games as Zynga drops gambling.
RealNetworks Inc., the company that makes the RealPlayer streaming software, is betting it can revive its casual games business with the help of its casino games on Facebook.
The casino arm, which features games including video poker and blackjack, is part of the Seattle company's GameHouse division. The company is trying to get more users and increase engagement by launching GameHouse Casino Plus, a monthly sweepstakes in which users can enter to win $100,000.
Rob Glaser, founder and interim chief executive of RealNetworks, said casual games are a difficult business because there are many competitors and all the games are essentially the same. The sweepstakes, open to users in Washington, D.C., and 31 states including California, could help GameHouse stand out, he said.
"Most of the time, they are pretty standard games," Glaser said. "You can innovate around the games by creating a new source of excitement.”
Starting in August, players can enter the drawing with tickets they can earn from winning the company's games. In states where the cash prize is not available, users can win virtual coins, Glaser said.
Glaser had stepped down from RealNetworks in 2010 at a time when the company's stock was trading at less than $4 a share, compared with a decade earlier when it was trading at $88.87 a share. Glaser returned to the company as interim CEO last year to help turn around the company.
Shares of RealNetworks, which has seen its revenue fall for four straight years, closed Tuesday at $7.64.
Its gaming business has struggled. In its most recent quarterly earnings report, the company said games revenue fell 27% year-over-year to $13.9 million, and it posted an operating loss of $1.74 million for the first quarter.
Glaser acknowledges that his company is a relatively small player in the casual games space that includes Zynga Inc. and King.com. Casino games are just a part of RealNetworks' overall games business, which includes PC and Mac titles players can download.
Zynga has also struggled to grow its own casino games business. Zynga's free-to-play poker game has seen its bookings decrease and the company last week also said it will not pursue a gambling license in the U.S.
RealNetworks has said in the past that it would spin off the games division, but Glaser said he wants to get the business on a growth trajectory before deciding what to do with it. "When you have growth businesses, you have a lot more options," he said.
Hive Lighting partners Jaime Emmanuelli, left, Jonathan Miller and Rob Rutherford at their garage work space in downtown Los Angeles. (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times / July 31, 2013)
L.A. start-up's plasma lights help turn film and TV shoots green.
Rob Rutherford looked up from his workbench, order receipts and debris from Hive Lighting's products strewn around his laptop.
"The bulbs shipped," he said to business partner Jon Miller. Both grinned.
More bulbs meant more business: new film, TV and commercial sets to be illuminated by Hive's energy-saving plasma lights, which represent a step forward in energy-efficient production.
Hollywood has embraced the cause of environmental sensitivity. In recent years, the Producers Guild of America and major studios have launched green initiatives that focus on efforts such as recycling trash and diverting props and sets away from landfills.
But it's been more difficult to change the way films are made — with their trucks and generators — so that productions use less energy and curb pollution.
Since incorporating Hive in February 2011, 30-year-olds Rutherford, Miller and their partner, Jaime Emmanuelli, 46, have built a brand around a relative newcomer in production technology.
Plasma lights, more often used in street lamps and medical imaging, breeze past the color-quality problems in LED lights. They last as much as 30 times longer than conventional hydrargyrum medium-arc iodide lights — a perk on months-long film shoots with 18-hour days.
Plasma lights can reduce on-set energy usage by 50% and power costs by about 40%, Miller said. And perhaps the most crucial advantage in an industry driven by aesthetics, plasma lights won't flicker, and they cover the full color spectrum while conventional lights lack certain shades.
Jay Hunter, director of photography on Joss Whedon's "Much Ado About Nothing," used Hive's lights when the indie film's shoestring budget required the crew to shoot without a generator.
"They don't replace the lights that are out there completely," Hunter said. "The sun is the best color-rendering index possible, but the plasma lights approach that level of perfection."
Eddie "Piolin" Sotelo's radio show is no longer on Univision. (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times / July 31, 2013)
Inside the Los Angeles Times: Radio personality Eddie "Piolin" Sotelo, who resigned under a cloud, may have problems jump-starting his career. The NFL is going long with its digital strategy.
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