Thursday, August 8, 2013

Piracy up 'Under the Dome.' Fox Sports hits hole in one! NBC Raids ABC. Steering clear of Hollywood Lifestyle.

After the coffee. Before trying to cast "The Expendables 3." 

VIDEO: Kerry Washington, Jenna Fischer and more talk Emmys 2013
PHOTOS: Tech we want to see in 2013

The Skinny: I keep forgetting to watch the new FX drama "The Bridge." It's sad that I'm getting so old I now have to put reminders in the BlackBerry to record TV shows and pay the rent. Enough of that depressing stuff. Thursday's headlines include Fox Sports making a big deal for golf and Sylvester Stallone calling out Bruce Willis on Twitter. 

Daily Dose: The big winner in the CBS-Time Warner Cable distribution fight may be newspapers. Both companies have taken out lots of ads in the cities where the CBS signals were dropped (including Los Angeles) taking shots at the other side. Now even industry lobbyists are weighing in as a cable group on the side of Time Warner took out a big ad in Thursday's New York Times. 

Jeff Daniels
Jeff Daniels, star of "The Newsroom," stays grounded with a home in Michigan and roles that keep him from being typecast. ( (Jason Kempin / Getty Images / July 10, 2013)

Jeff Daniels talks about HBO's "The Newsroom" and steering clear of the Hollywood life
Jeff Daniels phones from his car in Michigan. He's not there to film (though he did just dub some voice-over tracks for"The Newsroom," the HBO series that garnered him his first Emmy nomination for portraying prickly newsman Will McAvoy). He lives there, full time. It was a choice he made early in his career, to raise his kids in the state where he grew up rather than among the Hollywood crowd. That kind of Midwestern pragmatism makes sense to Daniels: This way he gets to be the father he wants to be, the actor the jobs let him be and, on occasion, an enthusiastic guitarist and golfer.
Actors often focus in on a genre or medium, but you do just about everything. Is there a master plan?
I just didn't see a brand for me. I saw that if you want to live in a part of the country where we don't make movies, and you want to stay in the business, you have to create range. I thought if I created as wide a range as possible, I'd be able to live in the Midwest and raise my kids and still be in the business. That translated into more jobs and a career, and then you do a "Dumb and Dumber."
So "Dumb" was actually quite a smart move in 1994.
I always felt comedy was the equal of drama, and I felt it could create range. It was always about, "Where's the most interesting role? Where's something I could absolutely fail at?" I'd say yes to that.
Yet there's not much TV on your résumé; "Newsroom" is your first series. What changed?
I was of the era when Dustin [Hoffman] and [Robert] De Niroand all of those actors never even did ["The Tonight Show"with Johnny] Carson — forget what we have to do now. And to do television? A series? That was a secondary career move. There was also the seven-year contract, and what was more important to me when we moved to Michigan is that I had young kids, and if the show hits, you're uprooting your family to live in California. So I stayed in indies, played supporting roles, made single projects, and now that the kids are in their 20s and the movie career has slowed down, you think, "I'd like to do something other than play the [jerk of a] father." And there's no drop-off now; cable television is the place to be.
Your late father was once mayor of the town where you grew up. Did you learn anything from him about politics, or how to be political?
My dad would have been very close to what Will is: a moderate Republican who probably believes left of center on more than one issue. He was a good businessman, but he did things that Republicans didn't do, so that interested me. As Will started going along, and it was established that he was a moderate Republican, Dad was someone whose ideas I could fall back on.
Since taking on Will, do you find people treat you differently?
A little bit. I've got to weather guys who tell me everything that is wrong about "The Newsroom," how it's just a one-sided liberal fantasy. It's hard to talk to those guys because they have all the answers. I've done interviews where I've had to remind people I play a fictional character. My opinion isn't relevant.
How does this compare to when you made "Dumb"? Did you have to prove you weren't an idiot like Harry then?
Well, now they're completely confused. Because we're doing the sequel [to "Dumb and Dumber"] finally, and they don't know what to make of it. Because of the intellectual free-fall it's going to take to go from Will to Harry, people are starting to think about a lifetime achievement award for me just based on that range. It's fun to watch them catch up to the idea that the guy can do more than one thing.
What show would you guest-star on if you had the chance?
"There's a show called 'Epic RVs.' I just came across it a week ago. They take old RVs and gut them and put, like, I don't know, hot tubs in them. I have an RV — it's a weird subculture I'm a part of. It's like 'Pimp My Ride' but for senior citizens."

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

Nothing but net. Coverage of college and professional basketball were among the key drivers for Time Warner, which posted strong second-quarter results. Warner Bros. also delivered with "Man of Steel" and "The Great Gatsby" and HBO's "Game of Thrones" helped drive the pay-cable channel's ratings. More on the numbers from the Los Angeles Times and Wall Street Journal

Fore! Fox Sports hit a hole in one with a 12-year deal for TV rights to United States Golf Assn. events. The new agreement will provide lots of content for Fox Sports 1, the new cable channel launching next week. It is also a blow to NBC's Golf Channel and ESPN. I wish I knew more about golf so I could riff on this deal. I will predict that specialty channels such as Golf and Tennis are going to lose content to ESPN and Fox Sports as those two try to gobble up everything. Coverage from Bloomberg. In addition to sanctioning or running tournaments, the USGA also determines what is a regulation ball.

European Pressphoto Agency
Chinese censors withdrew their approval of Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained,” a bloody historical drama.

Movie tax issue in China near resolution. I start writing this column very early in the morning and my brain isn't always firing on all cylinders. I say that as precursor to linking to a New York Times story about a movie tax in China that is affecting American studios doing business there. Government interference with content and dictation of content that impacts what we see here in America is also of some concern. It's too complex for me to grasp right now but it sounds important and it is getting resolved. Hey, at least I'm honest! 

The Expendables 2' (2012)
From left: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Willis in "The Expendables 2"

Take it outside boys! Sylvester Stallone took to Twitter to blast Bruce Willis as greedy and lazy after Willis pulled out of "The Expendables 3." Willis was quickly replaced by Harrison Ford and the Hollywood Reporter said the issue was Willis wanting $1 million a day for the four days of work his role required. Maybe Stallone and Willis fight on pay-per-view and use the proceeds to resolve the salary dispute. Willis, considered the "star" of the ensemble films, felt he was essential for the film to go forward. Wrong?

"Under the Dome"
Piracy is up for "Under the Dome" as a result of the impasse between Time Warner Cable and CBS. (CBS)

Since Friday more than three million Time Warner customers throughout the United States have lost access to CBS programming, including the popular Showtime network. In what appears to be a direct result of the blackout, the percentage of unauthorized downloads from affected regions has risen pretty dramatically this week. Piracy rates of the popular show “Under The Dome” shot up 34% over the weekend, while official ratings dropped.

Where there's a will, there's a way. Some fans of the CBS summer series "Under the Dome" who can't watch the show because of the fight between Time Warner Cable and the network are taking to piracy to get their fix. According to Torrent Freak, the number of illegal downloads of "Under the Dome" rose in markets where Time Warner has dropped CBS TV stations including New York City and Los Angeles. Fortunately for me I can just call CBS and tell them to send me a copy. It's one of the few perks of this job. 

Jeffrey Katzenberg, chief executive of DreamWorks Animation, with wife Marilyn in 2011 next to a plaque that directs visitors to the Marilyn and Jeffrey Katzenberg Center for Animation inside the USC School of Cinematic Arts. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times / May 21, 2011)

Wonder what President Obama thought of "Turbo"?
After his Tuesday night appearance on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno,” Obama met for dinner with a longtime friend and Democratic donor, DreamWorks Animation SKG Chief Executive Jeffrey Katzenberg.
The two dined alone at the Hilton Woodland Hills, the president’s hotel, according to the White House pool report Wednesday.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney declined to say who picked up the check, the pool report said.  
Katzenberg, who has a net worth of $957 million, according to the Los Angeles Business Journal, has long been known for his contributions to the Democratic war chest. 
In the last presidential election cycle, Katzenberg and his wife, Marilyn, donated more than $3.5 million to Democratic campaigns and spending groups, including $3 million to pro-Obama super PAC Priorities USA, $2 million of which he donated in 2011.
He has also hosted fundraisers. In May last year, for example, he organized a $40,000-a-ticket event at the Studio City home of George Clooney to raise funds for Obama’s reelection campaign.
A DreamWorks Animation spokesman declined to comment.

NBCUniversal Cable group restrucures research unit
Charles Kennedy (left) is joining NBCU's cable group from ABC. Liz Mahaffey is getting new duties. (NBCUnivesal / August8, 2013)

NBC has again made an executive raid on ABC.
Charles Kennedy, a senior vice president of research at ABC, is joining the NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment Group as its executive vice president of research and insights.
In that position, Kennedy will oversee all ratings research spin for NBCU's cable networks including USA and Bravo. The role of reseachers has become key in the television industry as more viewers consume content on multiple platforms and networks try to better monetize that audience.
Kennedy will report to Bonnie Hammer, chairman of NBCU Cable Entertainment, who said the researcher's "keen insights, opinions and feedback are invaluable assets to our future growth."
NBCUniversal also said Liz Mahaffey, who had held Kennedy title's, will now become executive vice president of brand strategy for the group.
The hiring of Kennedy marks the third time in the past year that a top executive left Walt Disney Co.'s ABC for NBC. Last summer, NBC hired ABC's two top scheduling executives -- Jeff Bader and Steve Kern -- to oversee program planning.
ABC said Paul Pastor, vice president of strategy for Disney Channels Worldwide, would become senior vice president of strategy and consumer analytics for the Disney/ABC Television Group, essentially filling Kennedy's role.

Screenshot of Rdio Inc.'s new Internet radio platform. (Rdio Inc.)

Rdio to take on Pandora

Rdio Inc., a San Francisco-based streaming music company, has revamped its Internet radio service with new types of stations and additional features in an apparent attempt to take on giant Pandora Media Inc. 
The update to Rdio, which is available on the Web and as a smartphone application, includes personalized stations, stations based on genre and a new player that makes it easier to influence what kinds of songs Rdio, pronounced "ar-dee-oh," plays.
The company -- which, like Spotify, gives users access to millions of tracks to listen to whenever they want -- has so far focused on listeners who like to choose exactly what they hear and when they hear it. Pandora caters to more laid-back listeners who want to let someone else do the work.
Now Rdio is trying to get more of the passive Internet radio customers, said Chris Becherer, the company’s vice president of product. “So far, we’ve done a good job of creating an easy-to-use on-demand service,” Becherer said. “Now we’re taking that expertise and applying it to the stations side. We view the user as needing both of these things.”  
Rdio now automatically sets up a personalized station based on customers’ listening habits, called “You FM,” which others can access. The company makes recommendations through the station, based on Facebook likes, Twitter follows and listening history. 
Users can customize the stations by giving thumbs up or thumbs down votes to songs and by choosing how obscure they want Rdio’s recommendations to be.
Rdio also offers hundreds of new genre stations. There are the general categories – rock and alternative, for example – along with a plethora of sub-genre stations available (think black metal, math rock, power pop and acid jazz).
The company has also made it easier to create new stations based on specific songs, artists and record labels, Becherer said.
Rdio’s stations learn more about listeners’ tastes the more they use the app or website, and that helps improve its recommendations, Becherer said. “These services get better over time, as we learn more about you,” he said. “You’re investing your time into a platform and you want to recoup that investment.”
To do all this, the company has made much use of the technology built by Somerville, Mass.-based music data company The Echo Nest, which closed a $17.3-million round of funding last year. The Echo Nest analyzes data to figure out how and why people listen to the music they do. The company says it has collected data points on nearly 35 million songs and 2.5 million artists.
“We’re learning what you like and how you listen,” said The Echo Nest chief executive Jim Lucchese. “We’re personalizing it for you behind the scenes and we’re doing that by understanding who you are.”
Rdio, launched in 2010 by the founders of Skype, would not say how many users it has, but it has been expanding into countries such as Hong Kong and Malaysia.
The company is expanding as the streaming music industry gets more crowded with start-ups and tech giants, including Google Inc.'s recently introduced offering and the impending launch of Apple Inc.'s iTunes Radio
Rdio, which currently has about 130 employees, says it wants to appeal to both the active listeners and the more laid-back music fans, and Becherer says the new stations will help make that possible.
“There are users out there that want to start their journey with a lean-back casual listening experience,” he said. “We see these features as a way to hook those listeners in, but we feel that once we get them in, they’ll want to use the on-demand features they may not have realized they wanted.”

Adam Brody as Harry Reems and Amanda Seyfried as Linda Lovelace in "Lovelace." (Dale Robinette, Radius-TWC /December 20, 2011)

Inside the Los Angeles Times: John Horn on the multiple stories being told in "Lovelace." 

Follow me on Twitter. It pays my bills. @JBFlint.

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