Friday, September 13, 2013

Dolby Dead. "The rich get richer and the poor get poorer" 'Insidious' weekend at box office. 'Today' gets new look.

After the coffee. Before eating a ton so I can fast tomorrow. Yeah, right. 

The Skinny: Twitter hasn't called me yet about my options for its IPO. I'll settle for $10 for every follower. I don't have too much to atone for this weekend which says more about my current state of existence than anything else. My cat, on the other hand, has to atone for barfing on the bed. Friday's Fix includes the weekend box office preview and a look at the new set for "Today."

NPR layoffs
NPR, which has its headquarters in Washington, D.C., plans to lay off staff. (Stephen Voss)

NPR seeks to reduce staff by 10%, names Paul Haaga Jr. acting CEO.
Facing a deficit, NPR is reducing staff. 
The public radio institution said Friday that it is introducing a voluntary buyout plan to its employees to reduce its workforce by about 10% as part of a two-year plan to balance its budget. 
The organization said its 2014 fiscal year budget includes an operating cash deficit of $6.1 million, or 3% of its revenues, which amount to $178.1 million.
The budget includes expenses of $183 million.
NPR has about 840 employees, including full-time and part-time workers. Employees eligible for the buyout will receive details before the end of next week.  
The nonprofit also said it has named Paul G. Haaga Jr. as its acting chief executive and president effective Sept. 30, replacing Gary Knell, who resigned last month to become president and chief executive of the National Geographic Society. Knell had been in the job less than two years.
The organization has appointed a search committee to find a permanent replacement for Knell.
Haaga has been on NPR's board since 2011 and most recently served as its vice chairman and the chairman of its finance committee.  
Haaga lives in both Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., and has served as chairman of the board at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and as a trustee of the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino. 

Daily Dose: Fox News anchor Shep Smith is being a team player. Smith signed a new deal with the cable network that will see him give up his 7 p.m newscast. In return, Smith gets oversight over breaking news coverage and a bigger paycheck. With Smith moving, Fox News will have to decide whether Sean Hannity or Greta Van Susteren will move to that slot to accommodate the prime-time arrival of Megyn Kelly.

Carson Daly
Carson Daly on the new set of "Today," which will officially be revealed to viewers Monday. (Meredith Blake / Los Angeles Times)

Orange is the new black. NBC's morning news show "Today" is getting a makeover. Apparently research showed Peacock network executives that orange is a very soothing color that conveys happiness because much of the set is bathed in it including the new couch. The set was unveiled by "Today" executive producer Don Nash and new NBC News President Deborah Turness. Cosmetic changes alone of course won't help "Today" recapture first place from ABC's "Good Morning America." Turness said she wants "Today" to be guided by three operating principles, "substance," "uplift" and "connection." That sounds good but don't turn that it into an acronym. More on "Today" from the Los Angeles Times and New York Times.

"Insidious: Chapter 2"
Patrick Wilson, left, and Ty Simpkins in "Insidious: Chapter 2." (Film District)

Weekend of horror. "Insidious: Chapter 2," a sequel to the surprise 2011 horror hit, is expected to scare away the rest of the competition this weekend at the box office. Starring Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne, "Insidious: Chapter 2" is projected to make $35 million. That will more than double what "The Family," a mob comedy starring Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer. Box office previews from the Los Angeles Times and Hollywood Reporter. Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal looks at the popularity of horror flicks at the Toronto International Film Festival.

CeeLo Green, a Warner Music artist, joined some colorful partners for a holiday music special that aired on TV Guide Network.

Clear Channel, Warner Music cozy up in multiplatform deal

Expect to start hearing more CeeLo Green on iHeartRadio. Warner Music partners with Clear Channel in exchange for revenue sharing, "buy now" type buttons, and promotion on the radio giant's platforms, old and new.

Cee Lo Green
It looks like Warner Music Group artists such as Cee Lo Green could be getting a bit more exposure on Clear Channel's multiple platforms. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times / April 10, 2011)

Duet. Clear Channel and Warner Music have entered into a new partnership that will see the radio giant share revenue with the record label. The deal is newsworthy because radio stations are not required to pay performance royalties to labels, something the music industry has been fighting to change. Details on the pact from the Los Angeles Times and CNET.

J.K. Rowling working on Harry Potter-related films
Author J.K Rowling attends the world premiere of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -- Part 2" in London in 2011.(Carl Cour / AFP/Getty Images)

In the shadow of Harry Potter. The news that Warner Bros. and Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling are working together on new movies had everyone in Hollywood wondering whether you can have a Potter franchise without Potter. Since the "Harry Potter" movies took in almost $8 billion in ticket sales worldwide it is a worthwhile gamble for Warner Bros. Deep dives into the news from theLos Angeles Times and Variety.

Cesar Conde, executive vice president NBCUniversal
NBCUniversal on Friday named Cesar Conde, former Univision Networks President, as the company's new international chief. (J. Scott Applewhite / AP)

Univision's Cesar Conde leaves for big role at rival NBCUniversal.

Univision's networks President Cesar Conde is making a dramatic career crossover, leaving the Spanish-language media giant to accept a huge new role running international operations at rival NBCUniversal.
On Friday, Conde was named NBCUniversal executive vice president in charge of international business.
Conde, a polished 39-year-old business executive, got his start in politics. He was a former White House fellow working with Secretary of State Colin Powell during President George W. Bush's administration.
Now, Conde will report to NBCUniversal Chief Executive Steve Burke.
Conde spent 10 years at Univision, overseeing its networks business from the company's west Miami complex. 
At NBCUniversal, he will focus "on business development, strategic priorities and special business projects across the NBCUniversal portfolio of assets," NBCUniversal said in a statement.
Kevin MacLellan, who became chairman of the international operations for NBCUniversal earlier this week, will report to Conde.  MacLellan, who is based in London, was named to replace Jeff Shell, who has moved back to Los Angeles to take over Universal Pictures in a dramatic studio shake-up.    
NBCUniversal carved out a new job for Conde.
"His experience leading multiple domestic and international businesses will be instrumental in maximizing all the opportunities to grow our portfolio," Burke said in a prepared statement.
Conde, who was a holdover from the previous Univision management team, was based at Univision's Miami network headquarters.  He received his business degree from Harvard University and an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

Univision on Friday quickly named three top operational executives to assume some of Conde's duties, which cut out a layer of management.
Alberto Ciurana, who has maintained a high profile at Univision since he joined the company last year as its top programming executive, now will report directly to Univision Chief Executive Randy Falco.
The move gives Ciurana, Univision's president of programming and content, even more sway within the media company. 
Ciurana previously ran programming at Mexico's entertainment giant, Grupo Televisa,  which has an ownership stake in Univision.
Isaac Lee, president of Univision News, and Juan Carlos Rodriguez, president of Univision Sports, also now will report to Falco. 
Lee is overseeing the development of the soon-to-be launched cable channel Fusion, a joint venture with ABC News.  The channel is expected to launch at the end of October.
In an email to Univision staff, Falco called the trio "three of the finest executives in the business."
"We are hitting high marks in our performance across all divisions of the company," Falco said in the email. "With this new structure, we will be able to act with more speed and agility to seize the significant growth opportunities in front of us and continue our company-wide expansion efforts."

APphoto_Film Review Planes
A scene from "Planes" from Disney, which plans to significantly increase its stock buyback program. (Disney / Disney Enterprises)

The Walt Disney Co. will repurchase up to $8 billion in stock next year, giving a major boost to investor returns, the company's chief financial officer Jay Rasulo said Thursday. 
In remarks at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch 2013 Media, Communications & Entertainment Conference in Beverly Hills, Rasulo cited confidence in the return on Disney's investments, the overall company, and its stock price, which has increased 25% to $65.49 a share so far this year.
"We really see the opportunity, given where the share price is, given where the capital markets are, to target at least $6 [billion] and possibly up to $8 billion in buyback," he said.  

This is a significant increase in the company's program to return capital to investors. Disney has been repurchasing shares at a pace of about $4 billion a year for the last couple of years. 
The company probably will have to borrow to reach that target. Still, Rasulo said the company would be able to increase the buyback while maintaining its debt rating of "A."
Shares of the Burbank-based entertainment giant increased 2.4% Thursday, while the broader market fell. The company's market capitalization is now nearly $117 billion.   
Last year, the company boosted its dividend by 25% to 75 cents a share. 

MGM Holdings Inc., the parent of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc., has authorized a stock repurchase plan. (MGM)

MGM authorizes $75-million stock repurchase program.

MGM Holdings Inc., the parent of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc., has authorized a $75-million stock repurchase plan designed to protect the company from a hostile takeover.
Privately held MGM said the plan was not being adopted in response to a "known effort" to acquire the company.
The Beverly Hills-based film and television studio, which emerged from bankruptcy in December 2010, also unveiled a dividend for one "purchase right" for each outstanding share of its Class A and B common stock. The dividend, effectively a coupon, allows the holder to buy one one-thousandth of a share of a newly created class of preferred MGM stock at an initial price of $110.
The dividend can be exercised if a person or group becomes the owner of 10% or more of common stock, or announces a prospective deal that would make such a person or group an owner of that size.
MGM said the plan is "designed to assure that each of the company’s stockholders receives fair and equal treatment in the event of any proposed unsolicited takeover of the company, to guard against other abusive, coercive, manipulative and discriminatory takeover tactics, and to enhance the board's ability to negotiate with prospective acquirers."
MGM has experience with a hostile takeover effort. In 2010, activist investor Carl Icahn acquired an interest in the company with the goal of merging it with Lions Gate Entertainment, another company in which he held a significant stake at the time.
In July 2012, Icahn sold his roughly 25% stake in MGM back to the company. The deal was valued at $590 million.
While MGM is attempting to inoculate itself from a takeover attempt, another studio spent the summer fending off an activist investor. In May, Daniel Loeb, the chief executive of hedge fund Third Point, implored Sony Corp. to make a public offering of up to 20% of its entertainment arm. Loeb's Third Point has acquired a roughly 7% stake in Sony. The company rejected the Loeb plan in August.
MGM had a strong second quarter, reporting net income of $35.9 million in part due to the strong home entertainment performances of last year's “Skyfall” and “The Hobbit:  An Unexpected Journey.” The company's revenue rose dramatically -- by 164% -- to $339 million.
“MGM’s healthy balance sheet and efficient operating structure position the company for a wide array of options to maximize shareholder value," said Ann Mather, MGM's lead director, in a statement. "The MGM Board is considering all of these options carefully, and has approved the share repurchase plan in recognition of the Company’s strong performance to date and future prospects."  
MGM filed a draft registration statement for an initial public offering with the Securities and Exchange Commission in July 2012. 
The company's second film in the J.R.R. Tolkien series, "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” is scheduled to be released by Warner Bros. on Dec. 13. Among MGM's films slated to open in 2014 are a "RoboCop" reboot and "22 Jump Street," a sequel to "21 Jump Street." 
The dividend distribution is payable to shareholders as of Friday at the close of business.

The Great Stag-Nation: America's income inequality is the most extreme in the industrialized world, surpassing the extremes of the Gilded Age. Many sources including KCRW' To The Point, supporting this reality that most Americans deny despite the numbers. Income to the top one percent has more than doubled over the past twenty years. 2012 was the top year in capital gains earnings for the top one percent, with 90% of the income gains, top tenth of one percent got 60%, and top one hundredth of one percent got 30%...while the "working class" are at the lowest level since the 1890's. In the Great Depression the movie industry boomed, as did radio and the printed press, the only three escapist and information media of the time. Are we in for a Golden Age of media on the back of a recession that refuses to end? What does this mean for the income of actors and other talent? 
"All societies are unequal, but some are more unequal than others." So, "why has the US become more so than just about any other rich country in the past 30 years?" That question is raised by The Atlantic's Matthew O'Brien, in the aftermath of new figures released by the same economists who brought attention to the income gap and gave birth to the occupy movement. Those figures show that America's "1%" took more than a fifth of the nation's income last year — and the top 10% got half – something that's never happened in 100 years of data collection. But 99% have failed to see any boost at all from economic recovery. Is it all about Wall Street and the decline of organized labor? What about access to education and the impact of globalization? Steps used in the past to even the playing field aren't popular any more. Will inequality lead to unrest, or are we all just getting used to it?
The level of unions is a strong predictor world wide in keeping income disparity and distribution in check. If you track it on a graph, the decline of unions, which began with the passage of Taft-Hartley, has a direct relation to the adjusted real income of Americans. The average person's adjusted for cost of living income had fallen in direct proportion to the decline in unions, while the top one half of a percent of Americans in income has boomed well beyond world levels.

"The Family"
Robert De Niro stars in "The Family." (Jessica Forde / Relativity Media / September 12, 2013)

Inside the Los Angeles Times: Mark Olsen on the mob comedy "The Family." Pioneering sound engineer Ray Dolby died at age 80. 

Follow me on Twitter and help me atone for my sins. @JBFlint.

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