Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Obama good draw for TV Ratings. 'Lone Ranger' sees red. Twitter tension between networks and critics.

'The Lone Ranger'
"The Lone Ranger" starring Armie Hammer, left, and Johnny Depp lost a lot of money for Disney. (Walt Disney Co. )

Fifteen years ago today US Embassies in Africa were hit by huge bombs. Take time to remember. Memories on news networks all day.

After the coffee. Before seeing what I can get for my autographs. 

The Tonight Show with Jay Leno - Season 21
President Barack Obama on Tuesday with "Tonight Show" host Jay Leno. (NBC / Paul Drinkwater)

Nothing like a visit from the president to boost ratings.
President Obama's appearance Tuesday on the "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno," in which he criticized Russia for granting temporary asylum to ex-National Security Agencyconsultant Edward Snowden and for its anti-gay legislation, lifted the show's ratings to its highest level in nine months. 

The NBC show scored a rating of 3.8 in 56 metered markets, according to Nielsen. National ratings will not be available for several days.
That's the highest rating the show has generated since Obama last visited, on Oct. 24 of last year, when "Tonight" got a rating of 4.

Rafael Amaya
Rafael Amaya starred in Telemundo's original production "El Senor de los Cielos." (Telemundo / NBCUniversal)

Telemundo's 'El Señor' finale attracts 3.6 million viewers.

NBC-Telemundo's original productions are starting to pay dividends for NBCUniversal.
Monday night's series finale of the Spanish-language telenovela, "El Señor de los Cielos," (translated as "The Lord of the Skies") attracted 3.6 million viewers, making it the second-highest-rated ending for a telenovela in Telemundo's history.
Shot primarily in Mexico City, the novela was based on the true story of Aurelio Casillas, a powerful Mexican drug lord of the 1990s.
The prime-time series, one of the most expensive ever for Telemundo, was a co-production of Telemundo Studios and the Colombian venture Caracol TV. The show featured actors Rafael Amaya, Ximena Herrera, Fernanda Castillo and Gabriel Porras.
Telemundo said the final episode of "El Señor" was the top program in Spanish-language television during the 10 p.m. time slot, out muscling industry leader Univision Communications.
Nielsen ratings data revealed that "El Señor" also attracted a larger audience than for "Siberia," the original offering by NBC, Telemundo's big sister network.
Throughout its nearly four-month run, "El Señor" averaged 2.3 million viewers an episode, according to Nielsen data. It ranked second only to Telemundo's blockbuster 2011 telenovela "La Reina del Sur," which delivered more than 4 million viewers in its final episode.
"The novela performed well throughout its entire run," Telemundo spokesman Alfredo Richard said of "El Señor." "It was very competitive to Univision as well as the major English-language networks. This was a big production for us and demonstrated that 10 p.m. continues to be a stronghold for Telemundo."
On Tuesday night, Telemundo unveiled its latest telenovela, "Santa Diabla," which was primarily shot at Telemundo Studios west of Miami.

The Skinny: I'm up extra early today to listen to a Time Warner earnings call (it was a good quarter). That's Time Warner, not Time Warner Cable, so don't get your hopes up about new news regarding the cable company's fight with CBS (see below). Wednesday's headlines include Disney confirming a big loss for "The Lone Ranger." Also, tension is brewing between snarky critics and the TV networks over how the former uses Twitter during media sessions sponsored by the latter. 

Les Moonves
Les Moonves, chief executive of CBS Corp., has been trading letters with Time Warner Cable's Glenn Britt. (Monty Brinton / Associated Press / July 29, 2013)

Daily Dose: There isn't a lot new on the CBS-Time Warner Cable standoff. As expected, politicians are starting to weigh in. Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) has asked the Federal Communications Commission to weigh in and try to get the two companies to come to a solution. But the FCC lacks the clout to do more than say "pretty please" to the two firms. Meanwhile, CBS Chief Executive Leslie Moonves and Time Warner Cable CEO Glenn Britt have become pen pals

California Cap-and-Trade Funds Proposed for Infrastructure Bank
The Walt Disney Co. studios in Burbank. (Patrick T. Fallon / Bloomberg)

Hi-Yo write-down and away! Walt Disney Co. managed a slight increase in profits for its fiscal third quarter, thanks to its cable channels and theme parks. But the big news was how bad "The Lone Ranger" did, as the company anticipated a write-down of as much as $190 million. Disney CEO Bob Iger said "The Lone Ranger" would not discourage Disney from continuing its swing-for-the-fences approach to movies. More on the results from the Los Angeles Times and Reuters

Pay-TV providers lost substantial numbers of video customers in Q2, and tempers are flaring in the industry over who is most to blame for the rising costs that are driving some subscribers to "cut the cord." Shalini Ramachandran explains. Photo: AP.

Snip snip. Although much of the pay-TV industry has long been in denial about customers cutting the cord to their subscriptions in favor of finding content online, the numbers are starting to tell a different story. According to Moffett Research, cable, telephone and satellite video providers lost almost 400,000 subscribers in the second quarter. Younger consumers are leading the charge, either dropping pay-TV or never signing up in the first place. Yet industry studies and Nielson both say that the trend seems to impact non-viewers, as ratings are up and so is viewership despite the trend. The Wall Street Journal on cord-cutting. 

Contain your enthusiasm. Advance ad sales for the broadcast networks fall TV season -- known in the media industry as the upfront market -- has finally wrapped up. If the numbers are any indication, advertisers are not exactly bursting with excitement about September. According to the New York Times, the five broadcast networks (CBS, FoxABC, NBC and CW) took in about $9 billion, which is flat to slightly down compared with last year. CBS did the best with a take of about $2.5 billion. Remember though, these are commitments advertisers make and not checks that are written. In other words, take the numbers with a grain of salt.

TCA press tour
Producer Jerry Bruckheimer, left, and actors Toni Collette and Dylan McDermott participate in the "Hostages" panel at the TCA press tour. (Chris Pizzello / Associated Press)

If you can't take the tweet, get out of the kitchen

Image-sensitive networks are taking issue with the wave of sarcastic tweets coming out of the Television Critics Assn. press tour.

CBS executives and publicists huddled in the back of the International Ballroom at the Beverly Hilton with anticipation.
The network, one of more than a dozen participating over a two-week period, was hosting a marathon day previewing its new fall shows at the Television Critics Assn. press tour, a semi-annual gathering of more than 200 TV journalists and bloggers from around the country. Network honchos were naturally hoping their slate of comedies and dramas would get a positive response from the room. Instead, they got bitten by a "snark-nado."
Tim Goodman, TV critic for the Hollywood Reporter (@BastardMachine), tweeted about two upcoming network sitcoms: "Not sure you could make the pilot for "We Are Men" any worse unless someone from 'The Millers' farted on it." Hank Stuever, TV critic for the Washington Post(@hankstuever), told his Twitter followers that he hadn't yet watched "We Are Men," "but the reaction seems to be [suppressing retch]."
Meanwhile, blogger Roger Catlin (@rcatlin) tweeted that the network's new episodic thriller "Hostages" "is certainly a relatable concept in a ballroom where people have been stuck for a week and have to stay for another" CBS press tour.
Welcome to the 2013 TCA press tour, where social media is rattling the relationship between publicity-hungry networks and journalists under mounting pressure to deliver immediate, constant 140-character commentary to attract readers. Where once journalists might have gossiped, sniped and snarked privately during question-and-answer sessions, the Twitter age has provided a very public arena for those comments — much to the chagrin of image-sensitive networks.
As the two-week conference wraps up Wednesday, network and cable executives are quietly fuming once again over what they regard as Twitter's dark side. While prizing the social media platform as a powerful device to promote their shows, executives nonetheless complain that Twitter has given rise to a new journalistic culture of snark that encourages incivility, cheap shots and a pile-on mentality, often at the expense of providing meaningful context and analysis.
"It's gotten absolutely appalling," said a top network honcho, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisals by TCA journalists. "Much of the coverage isn't even about the shows — it's about what people are wearing, it's gotten into personal insults. There's just a real lack of respect."
Ellyn Angelotti, a faculty member at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies who specializes in digital trends and social media, said that the press events can produce a "blind spot" effect, where tweeters are influenced by their own echo chamber instead of looking at the broader picture.
"You can look at the shiny object and miss the bigger story," said Angelotti. "It might not allow for a diversity of views. Social media makes a virtual living room where you can see people sharing perspectives, and the context of the message can change."
For decades the TV press tours, held every summer and winter, was a mostly symbiotic relationship in which TV programmers promoted their new shows to an eager press who received easy access to stars and creators. But the Twitter explosion has shifted the dynamics.
"This constant snarking has changed the whole tenor of the tour," said one network executive who asked to remain anonymous for fear of being penalized by TCA members. "Of course everyone is entitled to their own opinion. But what happens is everyone tries to out-tweet each other, and it becomes like insider baseball. They're forming these personas behind their Twitters."
Fox's panel last week on its new sitcom "Dads" generated a flurry of tweets among journalists, virtually none flattering. The comedy about aging fathers and their more enlightened adult sons features several jokes aimed at people of color. Many of the conference's predominantly white journalists denounced the series as racially offensive.
The snark was bubbling even before the panel began as members encouraged each other to attack the show. C. Joan Porter, entertainment editor for MSN Canada (@cjoanporter), tweeted that the "Dads" panel "is about to be a blood bath. It's giving me hives just thinking about it."
Lisa Palmer (@TVTherapy) tweeted, "Get ready for the firing squad." Added Gwen Reyes (@ReelVixen): "Let Paula Deen know she can make her comeback on "Dads."
While some executives have called for revamping the tour, even passing on some of the millions of dollars in costs to journalists, most recognize that the advantages far outweigh any pitfalls.
"It's true that the general tone has evolved in such a way that I don't see it reversing. I don't see how you put the genie back in the bottle," said Andrew Wallenstein, Variety's editor-in-chief, Digital. "There are new voices at the table, and to some degree it's good for everyone. What's happening now has brought a creativity to the coverage that can be irreverent and which also might be seen as inappropriate."
To get more control of their press tour message, the cable and network outlets are counterattacking via social media. During the contentious "Dads" panel, Fox was sending out promotional tweets quoting the panelists and hyping some of the panel's funnier moments.
But Twitter snark didn't cast a shadow over all panels. A rare exception was ABC's highly anticipated "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.," which largely escaped a snark-attack.
Tweeted Onion/AV Club's Will Harris (@NonStopPop) of the panel: "It's pretty much a snark-free zone. It's kind of eerie, actually."

Time to talk. Dish Network Chairman Charlie Ergen again expressed interest in getting together with rival satellite broadcaster DirecTV. During an earnings call Tuesday, Ergen told analysts that “there’s no question that putting Dish and DirecTV together makes a lot of sense.” Dish and DirecTV tried to merge more than a decade ago, but government regulators said no. More on Ergen's remarks from Multichannel News.  

Justin Bieber
Justin Bieber's "Boyfriend" is one of the copyrighted songs a group of music publishers claims musicians have covered on Fullscreen's YouTube channels without paying royalties. (Tim Dominick / MCT)

Music publishers sue Fullscreen over royalties from music videos.

A group of music publishers, including Warner/Chappell Music Inc., has sued Fullscreen Inc., which operates thousands of YouTube channels, over copyrighted songs in the digital media company's music videos. 
The Culver City-based Fullscreen, which has helped boost the popularity of many YouTube stars, has built more than 15,000 channels with 200 million subscribers and gets about 2.5 billion views a month.
In a complaint filed in a New York federal court Tuesday, the National Music Publishers’ Assn. said Fullscreen has generated advertising revenue from music videos without paying royalties to songwriters and publishers. 
Some of Fullscreen's YouTube channels are specifically dedicated to music videos, including Fullscreen Artist Mix, which showcases established and emerging performers. 
A substantial number of the music videos on Fullscreen's channels feature musicians performing unlicensed covers of popular songs, according to the complaint. 
“Fullscreen’s success and growth as a digital business is attributable in large part to the prevalence and popularity of its unlicensed music videos," David Israelite, the association's chief executive, said in a statement. "We must stop the trend of ignoring the law, profiting from someone else’s work, then asking forgiveness when caught.”
A Fullscreen spokeswoman declined to comment.
In the complaint, the association asked the court to stop Fullscreen from infringing on copyrighted musical works and award damages including profits from infringement and attorneys' fees. 
Some of the well-known works named in the case include songs originally performed by Kanye WestJustin Bieber,Lady Gaga and Katy Perry, which have numerous unlicensed cover versions on Fullscreen's channels, according to the complaint.
Plaintiffs named in the case include Warner Music Group's publishing arm Warner/Chappell and SONGS Music Publishing LLC. 
The association said it has reached a settlement agreement in a similar dispute with Maker Studios Inc., an online multichannel network that competes with Fullscreen. The settlement has not been finalized.
YouTube, which is owned by Google Inc., has direct licensing agreements with many music publishers to pay royalties from cover versions, but multichannel networks such as Fullscreen are not covered under those agreements.  
Earlier this year, Maker Studios and Fullscreen reached an agreement with Universal Music Publishing Group to give their creators access to songs in the Universal catalog.

Backing off. After having his attempt to get Sony to spin off its entertainment assets rebuffed, activist investor Daniel Loeb told Variety that he felt his efforts would succeed in getting the company to bring more discipline to its movie efforts. He also tried to find common ground with George Clooney, who ripped Loeb as someone who knew nothing about the movie business and was just a greedy hedge fund operator. Deadline Hollywood, a sister publication of Variety, offered its own harsh take on Loeb and even encouraged the town not to read Variety or buy ads in the publication as punishment for giving Loeb a platform. 

"The Great Gatsby"
"The Great Gatsby" starring Leonardo DiCaprio helped boost Time Warner results. (Warner Bros. )

Turner, HBO and Warner Bros. drive Time Warner to strong quarter.

Thanks to a strong performance from its cable networks including TNT and TBS, media giant Time Warner Inc. posted strong revenue and profit gains and beat the estimates of Wall Street analysts.
Revenue at Time Warner grew 10% to $7.4 billion and the company had net income of $771 million, or 81 cents a share, up from $413 million, or 42 cents a share, for the same period in 2012. Besides the Turner networks, Warner Bros., thanks to "Man of Steel," also helped drive results. 
"This was a really successful quarter for us," Time Warner Chief Executive Jeff Bewkes told analysts. 
Time Warner also raised its full-year forecast, projecting that adjusted earnings a share growth would be in the "mid-teens" off a 2012 adjusted EPS base of $3.24 a share.
At Time Warner's network group, which includes Turner Broadcasting and HBO, revenue was up 7% to $3.8 billion and operating income grew 13% to $1.3 billion. Giving the Turner numbers a boost was NBA coverage on TNT and the NCAAMen's Basketball "March Madness" tournament, which is carried on several Turner networks.
On the call with analysts, Bewkes said he was confident that Turner would keep its relationship with the NBA for many years. The current deal expires in 2016 and Fox, which launches its own sports cable network later this month, has made no secret that it is eyeing NBA rights. 
Bewkes also praised CNN, which has improved its ratings under new chief Jeff Zucker. While he acknowledged that lots of breaking news stories were a factor, he said "we're seeing real progress."
Warner Bros., which houses Time Warner's movie and television studios, saw revenue grow 13% to $2.9 billion primarily on the strong performances of "Man of Steel" and "The Great Gatsby." Bewkes also noted that Warner Bros. Television was coming off a very strong selling season with a lot of potential to generate significant syndication money down the road. 
Bewkes said the spinoff of its publishing unit Time Inc. would happen early next year rather than at the end of this year, as originally anticipated. Revenue at Time Inc. dropped 3% to $833 million as advertising fell 5% and subscription fees were off 7%. 
This was the first earnings call since Bewkes unveiled plans for a leadership change at Turner Broadcasting. John Martin, Time Warner's chief financial officer, will succeed Phil Kent as chief executive there early next year. Kent announced that he would not renew his deal with the company.
When Martin takes the reins at Turner, Bewkes will have finished installing new leadership at the company's key units including Warner Bros. and HBO. 
Bewkes described his team as a "new generation" ready to take the next step.

'We're the Millers'
Emma Roberts, Jennifer Aniston, Jason Sudeikis, background right, and Will Poulter in a scene from "We're the Millers."(Michael Tackett / Warner Bros.)

Inside the Los Angeles Times: Betsy Sharkey on "We're the Millers." Mary McNamara on "Broadchurch," the British drama that debuts on BBC America. TV networks love Twitter execept when a roomful of critics are attending a press junket and using the social media platform to take shots at anything that moves

Fromer Dr. Who star David Tennant and Olivia Colman star in "Broadchurch." (Patrick Redmond / BBC)

Follow me on Twitter so I don't have to take a write-down. Joe Flint on Twitter @JBFlint.

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