Monday, September 9, 2013

Cal Worthington RIP. X Box Music on Apple and Android. Riddick Rules! Arsenio is back! So is MGM! Jack Black-produced series 'Ghost Ghirls' debuts on Yahoo

"Riddick" walked away with first place. (Universal Pictures)

The Skinny: As a Redskins fan, I was rooting for both the Giants and Cowboys to lose last night and it seemed like for a while they both tried to do that. But alas, in the end the Giants wanted to lose more. Now it's time to see if Robert Griffin III's knee can hold up. Monday's roundup includes a look at the weekend box office, a profile of MGM, previews of Arsenio Hall's return to late night, and Bruno Mars gets the call to play the Super Bowl.

Apple has is big colorful announcement tomorrow. Most likely it will be a lower price but very colorful phone, possibly larger screen alternative, upgraded camera and possibly touch screen laptop. Fingerprint identification and increased integration with non-Apple devices are also anticipated. This time the Apple announcement is lower key and upstaged by international news and tensions over Syria and the use of nerve gas on civilians.

Xbox Music's Web player. (Microsoft Corp. September 6, 2013)

Microsoft's Xbox music streaming service to launch on Mac iOS, Android.

Xbox Music, Microsoft Corp.'s entry into the ever-expanding music-streaming industry, will introduce applications for Android and iOS devices and allow free streaming on the Web, the company said Sunday.
Microsoft launched Xbox Music about a year ago, and it's currently available through Xbox 360 consoles, a Windows 8 app and a version that lets subscribers stream through Web browsers. A subscription to the service, which allows access to some 30 million songs, costs about $10 a month or $100 a year.  
With the free, ad-supported Web version and the new apps, the company will try to reach more users by allowing access to music through a variety of connected devices. It's the latest move in Xbox's transition from primarily a multi-player gaming system to a full entertainment service.
"It’s really to fill out the number of places where a Microsoft customer may want to use their music," said Scott Porter, Xbox's principal program manager. "It broadens out and completes the ubiquity that users expect from music." 
The company will allow users access to unlimited Web streaming with ads for six months, after which their listening hours will be capped at 10 hours a month.
This comes as competitor Apple Inc. prepares to launch its own service, iTunes Radio, and after Google Inc. unveiledGoogle Play Music All Access. That adds to an already crowded industry that includes entrenched players such asSpotify
Microsoft would not say how many users its service has. 
The company says it plans to add more features over the coming months, including a radio feature for the Web player. 
When the new version of Windows 8 comes out in the fall, its Xbox Music app will include a feature that will let users create playlists from music Web pages they visit by swiping the screen. That way, if users browsing sites like Pitchfork see music they like, they can collect all the songs in a playlist with a single motion. 
Xbox Music isn't Microsoft's first foray into the music business. It introduced its Zune MP3 players years ago, but they failed to compete with Apple's iPods and the company discontinued the devices in 2011

Daily Dose: AT&T's U-verse pay-TV distributor has struck a deal to carry three Pac-12 networks, which are home to USC and UCLA football, among other things.Time Warner Cable and Dish Network also carry Pac-12. The biggest holdout remains DirecTV, which has already indicated that it does not see a deal happening with Pac-12 this season. Of course, after USC's poor performance against Washington State, this news from U-verse may be met with a shrug rather than a bottle of champagne.

Robert Yager for The New York Times
From left, Neal Kendall, executive producer; Arsenio Hall; and Leon Knoles, director. Mr. Hall intends to emphasize music and to bring back stand-up comics.

Woof! Woof! The Dog Pound is back. Arsenio  Hall, who shook up late night more than 20 years ago, is returning this evening. But will late night welcome him back or has the landscape shifted too much for Hall to make the same mark he did two decades ago? A look at Hall's return from the Los Angeles TimesUSA TodayTV Guide and the New York Times.
Long hobbled by clunky technology and often featuring old movies and television shows, the cable and satellite on-demand video services have been slow to catch on with consumers.
Now, the Rodney Dangerfield of TV technology is hoping wider distribution and programming enhancements aimed at luring new users will get it more respect.

Comcast Corp. Chairman and Chief Executive Brian Roberts demonstrates early video on demand technology, which now reaches 60% of American TV homes.
Comcast Corp. Chairman and Chief Executive Brian Roberts demonstrates an early version of video¿on¿demand services in 2002. VOD has finally reached 60% of TV homes in the U.S., according to a new Nielsen study. (Rusty Kennedy / Associated Press / November 15, 2002)

Video on demand reaches only 60% of TV homes.

A new report from Nielsen found that VOD is available in 60% of American TV households. That's a dramatic increase from just five years ago, when such services were offered to just 37% of homes.
"VOD is not a new technology. It's been around over 10 years," said Dounia Turrill, senior vice president of insights at Nielsen. "But the big difference is, over the past year or so, it has really transformed significantly."
Turrill said the on-demand viewing technology has gotten easier to use and that, coupled with broadcast and cable networks now more willing to offer episodes of current TV shows on the platform, is making VOD more customer-friendly. Cable and satellite subscribers are now no longer out of luck if they forgot to record a show with their digital video recorder. And many homes still don't have a DVR.
"DVRs are in 50% of households, which by definition means they’re not in 50% of households," Turrill said. "VOD platforms ... provide the ability to time-shift to homes that don't have the equipment. So, I think that's a very big development."
One factor that helped bring fresh content to VOD is the ability of media companies to identify shows so Nielsen can incorporate on-demand viewing as part of a show's TV ratings — so long as it carries the same national commercials as the live airing of the episode and is watched within three days of the original telecast.
Nielsen takes a similar approach with DVR viewing.
The new Nielsen report found that VOD is popular with 18-to-34-year-old viewers, who are likely to have kids and access to other technologies, including high-speed Internet connections and tablet computers. Feature films are the most sought after content.
"VOD was very much a movie platform," Turrill said. "As more content is going to be pushed onto these platforms, it will impact what people look for and the behavior."

Vin Diesel in 'Riddick'
Vin Diesel in a scene from "Riddick." The film premiered at No. 1 at the box office with an estimated $18.7 million.(Associated Press)

Diesel powers "Riddick." The Vin Diesel sci-fi action movie "Riddick" rolled to first place during a slow weekend at the box office. "Riddick" took in almost $19 million, which was enough to knock "The Butler" out of the top spot. The Spanish-language comedy "Instructions Not Included" finished in third place with $8.1 million. Box-office recaps from the Los Angeles Times and Hollywood Reporter.

Roaring again? MGM, the once-storied movie studio, is showing new signs of life. It has several new movies in the works and some successful television shows. The next question is whether it's time for a public offering or a sale. The New York Times looks at MGM and talks with the investment firms and hedge funds that own the studio.

Eugenio Derbez and Loreta Peralta in 'Instructions Not Included'
Eugenio Derbez as Valentin and Loreto Peralta as Maggie in "Instructions Not Included," which has been a surprise hit at the box office. (Marcia Perskie )

'Instructions Not Included' expands strong; 'Salinger' opens well.

Certainly one of the most interesting recent stories for box-office watchers has been the success of the Spanish-language film “Instructions Not Included.” After opening to a surprising $10.4 million on 347 screens last weekend, this weekend the film expanded to 717 screens to bring in just over $8 million for a new total of $20.3 million.
“Instructions Not Included” is a comedy of a playboy who unexpectedly becomes a single father, starring, directed and co-written by Eugenio Derbez. Paul Presburger, CEO of Pantelion Films, called Derbez “one of the biggest stars you’ve never heard of” for his popularity within the Latino community and now new emergence for broader audiences. Derbez appeared just this past Friday night on the television program “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon.”
Pantelion was formed three years ago as a joint venture between Lionsgate and Latin media giant Televisa to bring Spanish- and English-language films to Latino moviegoers in the U.S.
“From a company perspective, we knew that eventually something would click with our target audience,” said Presburger. Though as of Sunday morning it had not been finalized whether the film would expand again next weekend, Presburger felt there was still plenty of potential beyond Spanish-speaking audiences for the film, even if it would mean having “to convince people not to be afraid of subtitles.”
Pantelion will be releasing “Pulling Strings,” a film split 50-50 between English and Spanish, in October.
Also on the specialty front, the documentary “Salinger,” which chronicles the life of the famously reclusive author J.D. Salinger, opened this weekend on four screens and brought in a total just under $91,000 for a strong per-screen average of almost $23,000. The Weinstein Co.’s head of theatrical distribution Erik Lomis noted that interest in the movie was not only pushing sales of the related book by David Shields and Salerno, but that Salinger’s iconic “The Catcher in the Rye” has also jumped back to near the top of the sales charts.
The film will be expanding over the next few weeks and it remains to be seen whether its mostly negative reviews will cool audience interest. (The film will also air on PBS’ “American Masters” next year.) While in one of the film’s most positive reviews The Times’ Kenneth Turan called it  an “energetic, informative" documentary, in a blistering takedown of the film, New York Times critic A.O. Scott declared the film “not just leering and gossipy, but aggressively anti-literary.”

"New Girl"
Fox's "New Girl" is a favorite of DVR users. The show stars Zooey Deschanel, Max Greenfield, right, and Lamorne Morris.(Fox)

Networks team up to talk ratings in advance of new season.

Putting aside their intense competition, top executives fromFox, CBS, ABC and NBC took the highly unusual step of gathering together to discuss the effect new technologies are having on television ratings.
At a gathering held on the Fox lot Monday morning, the four networks teamed up to discuss the challenges of determining success and failure when more people are watching on platforms other than live television including online and video on demand (VOD).
The meeting came just days before the major broadcast networks start rolling out new shows for the fall television season. No doubt concerned about low-sampling new comedies and dramas, the executives also used the meeting to stress to the media the need to look beyond the initial ratings.
"These are crazy times in terms of viewer measurement," said Fox Broadcasting Chief Operating Officer Joe Earley. "We won't know if a show is a hit until several weeks."
Presenting analysis of the television landscape, the executives noted that the amount of viewing being done online both on computers and mobile devices as well as VOD and digital video recording devices has grown substantially in the last few years. In 2012, more than 1.3-billion hours of broadcast and cable-TV content was watched on VOD, up 40% from 2011.
What that means is the next-day ratings Nielsen provides — known as overnights — are becoming less relevant.
"Evaluating hits and misses based solely on the overnights is something that doesn't make sense anymore," said Will Somers, head of research for Fox.
Some television shows, including Fox's "New Girl," already have more viewers watching recordings of it after the episode airs as opposed to watching it live.
Advertisers and the media still put a tremendous amount of weight on those overnight numbers and the networks will face an uphill battle in changing the perception that those early numbers are key to determining success.
Furthermore, the networks are primarily paid by advertisers for people who watch shows live or within three days of recording them. The networks are trying to expand that window to seven days and ideally longer as more viewers watch shows on their schedule.
"Hopefully they find a way to watch it in a way that we can monetize it," said Eric Steinberg, a senior research executive at CBS.
Fox's Somers acknowledged that the networks are anticipating ratings for new shows to be off compared with previous years.

Bryan Cranston, Dean Norris
Dean Norris, left, and Bryan Cranston in a scene from "Breaking Bad." (Frank Ockenfels / Associated Press)

'Breaking Bad's' 'To'hajiilee' episode lights up Twitter.

As the critically acclaimed AMC series "Breaking Bad" moves toward its conclusion, viewers took to Twitter in droves Sunday to discuss the explosive developments of "To'hajiilee."
As the episode erupted in a breathless shootout, viewers reacted with more than 300,000 tweets  -- including actressMelissa Gilbert, who wrote "breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth ... in through your nose ... out through your mouth." 
The fifth episode in the final half-season of the show ranked as the most talked about TV program for the week of Sept. 2-8, according to SocialGuide, a Nielsen company that ranks the top 10 most social TV shows, based on Twitter activity.
The Comedy Central roast of actor James Franco, which attracted such big names as Seth RogenAziz Ansari and Sarah Silverman, among other funny folks -- also produced plenty of buzz on Twitter.
The top 10 most social TV shows of the week were:
1. "Breaking Bad" (AMC), Sunday, 303,000 tweets
2. "The Comedy Central Roast" (Comedy Central), Monday, 302,000 tweets
3. "WWE Monday Night RAW" (USA), Monday, 192,000 tweets
4. "Big Brother" (CBS), Thursday, 166,600 tweets
5. "Bad Girls Club: Miami" (Oxygen), Tuesday, 92,800 tweets
6. "Catfish: The TV Show" (MTV), Tuesday, 75,100 tweets
7. "Duck Dynasty" (A&E), Wednesday, 69,100 tweets

Jack Black, Amanda Lund, Maria Blasucci and Jeremy Konner of "Ghost Ghirls." (Ghost Ghirls / September 6, 2013)

Call it a live-action "Scooby Doo" for the Funny or Die crowd. 
"Ghost Ghirls," a scripted Web series produced by Jack Black, will debut next week on Yahoo Screen with 12 episodes, each with a length of around 10 to 12 minutes.
The show, created by Maria Blasucci, Amanda Lund and"Drunk History" director Jeremy Konner, follows two paranormal investigators as they try to solve supernatural mysteries. The episodes will be unveiled Sept. 9 through theYahoo Inc. video website.
Black said distributing the series through Yahoo made sense because it gave the creators more control over the process than they might have had at a traditional outlet, and consumers are increasingly watching programming over the Web and through mobile devices and tablets.
“I think it’s the future, and it’s the way I like to enjoy content,” Black said on a conference call with reporters. 
Lund and Blasucci play the bumbling duo in the procedural spoof that is co-produced by Black's production house Electric Dynamite and Shine America, the company behind"The Biggest Loser" and "Tabatha Takes Over."
In addition to being an executive producer for the show, Black is a guest star, playing a dead Southern rocker in an all-ghost band alongside Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters, fellow Tenacious D member Kyle Gass and actor Val Kilmer.  
Black, who cited "The Shining," "Rosemary’s Baby" and "Ghostbusters" among his film favorites, said "Ghost Ghirls" would involve both supernatural elements and real-life crime situations. 
“There’s a good, even mix of science and otherworldly problems," Black said. “It’s like in 'Scooby Doo,' where oftentimes you pull the mask off the guy and there’s just a dude.”
Lund and Blasucci said they had long been interested in creating a comedy about ghost hunters before they teamed up with Konner. The show draws on the current slate of popular haunt-themed series such as "Ghost Adventures," "Ghost Hunters" and even "Long Island Medium," a show both creators said they hate. 
"Amanda and I are both interested in the paranormal," Blasucci said. "There's so much comedy to be had with putting two fools into this world of life and death.”
It's broad comedy, to be sure. In the opening scene of an episode titled "Hooker With a Heart of Ghould," a man is mysteriously killed while patronizing a prostitute. 
This comes as Web-only programming is achieving increased popularity as well as critical acclaim, with Netflix Inc. earning 14 Emmy nominations for shows including "House of Cards" and its reboot of "Arrested Development."
Asked about "Ghost Ghirls'" prospects with critics, Black said, “We’re doing 10- to 12-minute shows that are probably not up for [Emmy] contention, but they are delightful little confections.”
Black is also working on an animated Web series featuring Tenacious D. "It’s probably going to be a post-apocalyptic hell-raiser series,” he said.  

Bruno Mars
Bruno Mars may be rocking at the Super Bowl next February. (Charlie Sykes / Associated Press)

Bring a coat! Crooner Bruno Mars will be the halftime entertainment at this season's Super Bowl, which will be played in New Jersey in February. While Mars may not be at quite the same level as previous performers including Beyoncé, Madonna and Bruce Springsteen, he's a rising star and an energetic performer who should be able to gyrate enough to keep warm and excite the crowd. The Los Angeles Times broke this story Friday.

"China Beach" celebrates its 25th anniversary with DVD releases and a cast reunion.
“China Beach” starred Marg Helgenberger, left, Dana Delany, Nancy Giles and Ricki Lake. All four will be at a Friday reunion. (ABC / September 9, 2013)

Inside the Los Angeles Times: "China Beach" is celebrating its 25th anniversary with a DVD release. Yes that is New York's Nancy Giles, of CBS Sunday Morning and the SAG-AFTRA National Board of Directors.

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