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Friday, February 3, 2012

Can Sponge Bob save Viacom? SEX SELLS. NBC Gambles big on "Smash". Advertising preview and of course Football!!

NBC hopes Smash is a smash

NBC is betting on "Smash" to begin Network "turn around".  NBC’s new show “Smash” is about the behind-the-scenes drama of making a Broadway musical about the life of Marilyn Monroe.

But before “Marilyn” can find its way to the Great White Way, NBC has to open “Smash.”
That will be no small task. NBC is in a deep ratings slump. Take the network's Sunday night football franchise out of the equation and it only has one show -- "Harry's Law" -- among the top 50 most watched programs. In the 18-49 demographic category, the most sought after by advertisers, NBC only has two shows in the top 50 -- the aging sitcom "The Office" and the reality show "Fear Factor."

"Smash" has an all-star lineup; the cast includes Debra Messing, Anjelica Huston and Katharine McPhee. It was created by playwright Theresa Rebeck. Producers include Steven Spielberg, Tony Award-winning songwriters Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, and producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron of the Oscar-winning "Chicago."

That level of talent costs a lot of money. The pilot for "Smash" cost more than $7 million, and subsequent episodes are running close to $4 million apiece, according to people with knowledge of the show who did not want to speak publicly on the subject.

"Smash," which will occupy the 10 p.m. Monday time slot, has good buzz from critics. While critical acclaim certainly helps, that alone doesn't guarantee success.

 For a look at what NBC's got riding on "Smash," please see the story in Friday's Los Angeles Times.
 There's a misconception about Super Bowl advertisements.

NBC hopes Smash will have people singing its praises

The Daily Dose: It was supposed to be a two-week trial at best, but the fight  between the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. and Dick Clark Productions over who controls TV rights to the Golden Globes will enter its third week on Monday. The judge in the bench trial, A. Howard Matz, wants this thing wrapped up and on Thursday told lawyers for both sides that there would be no "standard closing arguments." Instead he'll question both attorneys. Maybe Dick Clark himself can come down to hand out prizes.  Former NBC Entertainment President Warren Littlefield’s book “Top of the Rock: Inside the Rise and Fall of Must See TV” is coming out in May and those curious about how NBC operated in its glory days of the 1990s will not be disappointed. Hollywood insiders looking for dirt on the complex relationship between Littlefield and his boss Don Ohlmeyer will not be disappointed. No punches are pulled.

The whole truth and nothing but the truth. The legal fight between the HFPA, the Golden Globes owner, and Dick Clark Productions got interesting Thursday when HFPA chairman and former president Philip Berk took the stand and seemed to contradict himself and CBS Chief Executive Leslie Moonves. Coverage from the Los Angeles Times and Variety.

Double duty. How many people can give you Oscar history and recite the Torah from memory? Probably not many. But Marvin Hier can. Not only is Rabbi Hier founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, he is also a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences who casts a vote in the film competition. The New York Times with a look at Hier's unique perspective on the Oscar race.

If it isn't broke, don't fix it. There's a lot to work on at Sony Corp. that will keep the consumer electronic giant's new chief executive, Kazuo Hirai, busy. But one of Sony's few bright spots is its Hollywood movie and music operations. The Wall Street Journal looks at Hirai and the relationship between Sony's entertainment operations and the rest of the company, and the Los Angeles Times' Alex Pham says the numbers don't tell a pretty story for the new boss.

 Superbowl Ads: The art of Seduction. "People think we are just there to purely entertain people," said Michael Sheldon, chief executive of Deutsch LA, which created a 60-second Super Bowl spot to promote the Volkswagen Beetle. "But an advertiser's mission is to get you to fall in love with their brand and buy their product."

The art, and the challenge, is to weave a company's brand and message into the story line of a commercial without making it feel forced or heavy-handed.

"Ideas must come from a strong strategic foundation," said David Angelo, founder and chief creative officer of David & Goliath, an El Segundo advertising agency that produced a 60-second Super Bowl commercial for car company Kia to promote its Optima sedan. "Strategy leads everything, and it's all about finding that real human insight."

In this case, that insight was gleaned by a David & Goliath account executive who heard a comment that struck a chord during a Kia research panel discussion last year.

"One of the consumers talked about the Optima sedan as being the car that they had been dreaming of," Angelo said. "We took that point and decided to turn it up a notch."

Kia's loud advertisement features Brazilian fashion model Adriana Lima, fighter Chuck Liddell and the heavy metal band Motley Crue. Although the spot is aimed at men, "we didn't want to ignore the female audience either," Angelo said.  So the commercial ends with a telenovela-like nod to dreamy-eyed women.

"We wanted to not only showcase the product, and the new design of the Optima, but also connect with viewers in a way that's never been done before," Angelo said.

Santa Monica-based agency RPA tackled the task with a lighthearted look back -- and forward -- to promote the new Honda CR-V. The agency tailored its 60-second Super Bowl spot to amplify the car company's "LEAP List" campaign, which encourages people to make a list of adventures they want to pursue because "life happens fast."

"We spent a lot of time on this before we really cracked it," said Jason Sperling, RPA group creative director. He estimated that the firm worked for three months before nailing the concept.

The RPA team kept coming back to the John Hughes movie "Ferris Bueller's Day Off."

The quintessential coming-of-age story revolves around Ferris, played by Matthew Broderick, as he spends an exhilarating day of freedom. Joe Baratelli, executive creative director at RPA said, "We thought, what if Matthew plays hooky again and the CR-V is his partner in crime?"

The result is "Matthew's Day Off." Honda and RPA are betting that the commercial will resonate with legions of fans who first identified with Ferris when they were rebellious teenagers but are now parents shuttling their own kids around in SUVs.

Advertising agencies David & Goliath, Deutsch LA, RPA and Siltanen & Partners discuss their designs for their Super Bowl ads. The firms created Super Bowl commercials for such major companies as Kia, Volkswagen, Honda and SkechersBowl AD
Even the selection of a French bulldog to be the star of Skechers USA's highly anticipated advertisement served a purpose.

The Manhattan Beach shoe company is using the trendy dog and the ad to launch its new line of high-performance shoes. The company's goal is for its shoes to break into a pack dominated by established racers such as Nike, Adidas and New Balance.
"The dog serves as a juxtaposition for the fleet-footed animal," said Rob Siltanen, chief executive of Siltanen & Partners in El Segundo, which created Skechers' Super Bowl ad. "The question is always how relevant some of these messages are."

The French bulldog, dubbed Mr. Quiggly, "is a metaphor for the technology and the spirit of the GOrun shoe brand," added Leonard Armato, president of the Skechers Fitness Group.

Super Bowl blahs. A studio distribution executive has to be pretty mad at you to release your movie on Super Bowl weekend. That's why there are no super-blockbusters coming out. Last year's Super Bowl weekend was the fourth-lowest grossing weekend of the year. The movies debuting seem to be going after cult audiences and families, which is as smart a play as one can have on this challenging weekend. "The Woman in Black" is a horror movie starring "Harry Potter" wizard Daniel Radcliffe. "Big Miracle" is a family film about the rescue of trapped whales. "Chronicle" is about three boys who discover they have superpowers. Box-office previews from the Los Angeles Times and Hollywood Reporter.

Tom Brady practices.

Feds cracking down on pirated sports. Days before the Super Bowl, federal authorities blitzed more than a dozen websites illegally streaming live sporting events.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and other agencies announced Thursday that they had seized 16 websites and brought criminal charges against a Michigan man who operated nine of them.

Yonjo Quiroa, 28, of Comstock Park, Mich., was arrested Wednesday and charged with criminal copyright infringement. Authorities said he operated websites that streamed pirated telecasts of live sports, including some pay-per-view events. Those included games from the NFL, NBA and NHL as well as World Wrestling Entertainment. Quiroa received $13,000 in profit from the illegal sites, authorities said.

"This enforcement action ... sends a strong message to website operators who mistakenly believe it's worth the risk to take copyrighted programming and portray it as their own,'' ICE Director John Morton said in a statement.

U.S. Atty. Preet Bharara, Southern District of New York, added: "These websites and their operators deprive sports leagues and networks of legitimate revenue, forcing spectators and viewers to bear the cost of this piracy down the line."

The arrest was part of a larger crackdown, coming days before the Super Bowl, in which federal law enforcement officials seized more than $4.8 million in fake NFL merchandise, including T-shirts, jackets and other souvenirs, from flea markets, stores and vendors nationwide.

The Skinny: Kodak wants to unload naming rights to the Kodak Theater, home of the Academy Awards. Wonder if I can persuade my bosses to buy the rights and name it Morning Fix Theater. Has a ring to it. Thursday's headlines include analysis of Facebook's IPO plan, Viacom's earnings drop and how TV networks try to pull fast ones on each other.
Those darn kids. Media giant Viacom Inc., owner of Paramount Pictures and cable channels MTV, Nickelodeon and Comedy Central, reported Thursday that its fiscal first-quarter profit dropped 65% to $212 million. A big reason for the decline was less advertising revenue at the cable networks unit, including the kids channel Nickelodeon, which has seen its ratings tumble lately. An early take on the results from Bloomberg. Also, while Nickelodeon and Viacom executives have blamed ratings company Nielsen for the channel's declining numbers, Advertising Age speculates that it might be another company whose name starts with N -- Netflix -- that is hurting the network.

Status update. Facebook filed paperwork for its much anticipated initial public offering that could value the company at $100 billion. Who knew looking up old girlfriends and avoiding the same people I used to avoid in high school could make so much cash. I'm on Facebook multiple times a day and not only have I never bought anything based on an ad that was planted on my homepage, I can't even tell you what ads I've seen. I know, I know, there are bigger things in the works at Facebook, including what will likely one day be a larger presence in entertainment. Wonder how much the Winklevoss twins will get. More on the social network's finances and who's going to get really rich from its stock offering from the Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal and New York Times. Also weighing in is Variety on what this could mean for Hollywood.

If you're not cheating, you're not trying. The New York Times looks at the tricks the television networks use to try boost their ratings, such as manipulating information that Nielsen uses to figure out who watched what. Another classic ploy is to have a strong show "bleed" into the show that follows it so the latter's program gets an artificial boost. These moves, some of which annoy viewers, fool few in the industry, and none are about actually improving the quality of shows or how they are programmed. And the networks wonder why they're struggling.

Time for me to get a YouTube channel. Ray William Johnson, a foul-mouthed comedian who sometimes likes to perform in a penguin suit, is the latest to get rich from putting his act on YouTube, the Google-owned online video site. The Wall Street Journal looks at the way folks such as Johnson change how media is consumed and beat a new path to fame and fortune.

Inside the Los Angeles Times: NBC needs "Smash" to be a smash. Motley Crue is becoming a Vegas act. Seems appropriate. The whale movie "Big Miracle" may need one to score at the box office. An appreciation of Don Cornelius, creator of "Soul Train."

-- Joe Flint and others

From the LA Times Company Town Blog. Click here for the latest industry news.

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