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Friday, March 9, 2012

Miami the Spanish Tinsel Town. Who needs advertisers anyway? Kathy Bates fans have wonder why is a show so popular so unliked at NBCUniversal? NewsCorp/FOX could lose Great Britians Satellite Network. Video Game Sales Slip 20%. John Carter could set all time bust record.

Russ to Advertisers: I don't want you back!
The intense campaign to cut advertising to “The Rush Limbaugh Show” took another turn Thursday when one of the first companies to pull its ads reportedly asked to return to the radio show -- only to be told by Team Limbaugh that the conservative host no longer would give his endorsement.

A Limbaugh spokesman said that California mattress company Sleep Train asked to restart a “voiced endorsement” from Limbaugh that it had publicly cut off last week. The company said at the time that it “does not condone such negative comments toward any person.”

Several activist groups have called for companies to drop their ads after Limbaugh called a Georgetown law school student a “slut” and a “prostitute” for her support of a proposal to mandate birth control in standard healthcare coverage.

Sleep Train's departure from the program had been billed by some observers as particularly significant because the mattress retailer had been with Limbaugh show for 25 years. Yet the tone of Sleep Train's withdrawal statement last Friday hinted it might not be pulling out for the long run.

“As a diverse company, Sleep Train does not condone such negative comments directed toward any person,” Sleep Train said at the time. “We have currently pulled our ads with Rush Limbaugh.”
Still, Washington Post blogger Erik Wemple called Sleep Train's decision "an act worth crediting," saying that lost ads would have more of an effect on Limbaugh than "well-crafted expressions of outrage from the usual organs."

Limbaugh spokesman Brian Glicklich on Thursday forwarded a copy of an email that he said had been sent to Sleep Train Chief Executive Dale Carlsen. In it, Glicklich wrote that Limbaugh had personally received the company's requests to resume advertising on his show.

“Unfortunately," Glicklich wrote, "your public comments were not well received by our audience, and did not accurately portray either Rush Limbaugh's character or the intent of his remarks. Thus, we regret to inform you that Rush will be unable to endorse Sleep Train in the future.”

Limbaugh and Carlsen met in the 1980s, when the conservative host was based in Sacramento and still trying to make a significant mark in the radio business. Carlsen’s mattress store, which now claims to be the biggest such retailer in the West, was also in its formative stages.

Glicklich said Limbaugh received a strong response from fans displeased with Sleep Train and other sponsors that pulled out of the show.

“They have had a very long relationship and friendship as well,” Glicklich said of Carlsen and Limbaugh. He would not speculate on whether the relationship would be permanently broken by the dispute.

Carlsen and Sleep Train representatives could not immediately be reached.
Limbaugh opened his show Thursday again disputing claims by liberal groups that he had suffered severe advertising losses.

Media Matters, a liberal watchdog group, strongly disagreed. The organization said 46 advertisers had reported leaving the three-hour program, which is syndicated to more than 600 stations. The organization said that it monitored WABC in New York and that there were two periods of "dead" air Thursday, when no advertisements filled normal sponsorship spots.

"This all comes after he said yesterday lost advertisers aren't a problem," said Jess Levin, a spokeswoman for Media Matters.

Conservatives, meanwhile, said the furor had been used to distract from the underlying issue of whether it was appropriate to mandate that birth control be part of health insurance policies. They have also protested that other media figures received much less blowback than Limbaugh for their sexist or derogatory remarks.

More than a week into the episode, the campaign over Limbaugh advertising -- and the meaning of the advertising defections -- showed little sign of slowing.

Britney Spears may join X Factor
Photo: Britney Spears. Credit: Tony Avelar/Associated Press

I'm a slave for you. Britney Spears is near a deal to go work for Simon Cowell as a judge on his musical competition show "The X Factor," according to the Hollywood Reporter. "The X Factor," which had a decent but not spectacular first season given all the hype behind it, is revamping the show for its second season this fall.

Daily Dose: This Sunday, NBC brings back "Harry's Law," the legal drama starring Kathy Bates that the network likes to pretend doesn't exist. When it premiered last season, "Harry's Law" averaged 11.6 million viewers. Its reward? Getting moved out of its Monday time slot to Wednesday. This season it averaged almost 9 million viewers on Wednesday until getting bumped for Brian Williams' news magazine "Rock Center," which has averaged half that audience. Given how much NBC is struggling, one wonders why it doesn't show "Harry's Law" more love. The main reason is because the "Harry's Law" audience is mostly people over the age of 50, thus making the show unattractive to many advertisers.

John carter
Maybe they should rename it "Jimmy Carter." Universal's "The Lorax," which took in more than $70 million last weekend, will dominate the box office again while Disney's expensive epic "John Carter" is expected to stumble big time. With a budget of more than $250 million, "John Carter" isn't predicted to take in more than $25 million this weekend. The two other new movies -- Eddie Murphy's "A Thousand Words" and Elizabeth Olsen's thriller "Silent House" -- are not likely to do well either. Box office projections from the Los Angeles Times and Variety.

Walt Disney Studios' science-fiction adventure film "John Carter" could lose $165 million, according to revised projections from one Wall Street analyst.

Evercore analyst Alan Gould more than doubled his prior estimated loss for the $250-million Martian epic as the film opens Friday in theaters nationwide.

"We normally would not be changing estimates prior to a movie opening, but given the tracking reports, reviews, and high profile of this picture we feel there is little risk in adjusting our estimate early," Gould wrote in an investor note published Friday morning.

The debut of "John Carter," a film based on a century-old tale by Tarzan creator Edgar Rice Burroughs, looks as if it will even be eclipsed by the second weekend numbers for the 3-D animated movie, "Dr. Seuss' The Lorax." The family film, which opened at $70.2 million last weekend, could bring in as much as $40 million this weekend. Meanwhile, prerelease surveys of would-be moviegoers indicate "John Carter" could bring in $20 to $25 million worth of ticket sales over the three-day period.

Overseas, the movie has brought in $13 million in box office receipts, according to one person with knowledge of the situation who was not authorized to speak publicly. In Russia, "John Carter" had the highest opening-day in movie history, with $6.5 million in ticket sales, the source said. The movie also had solid starts in Asia.

Another analyst archly suggested "it might be best if Walt Disney Co. avoided movies about Mars altogether." The SNL Kagan Box Office Report noted that about a year ago the studio released the box-office dud "Mars Needs Moms." That 3-D animated movie, which cost a reported $150 million, earned just $21.4 million in domestic box office.

Kagan noted the film could outperform predictions, and do well in overseas -- where audiences respond to big-budget 3-D epics. And "John Carter's" accomplished director has proved naysayers wrong before.

"What makes the film risky is not so much its century-old source material or its relatively unknown cast or even the fact that it represents the first live-action film from director Andrew Stanton, who previously helmed "Finding Nemo" and "WALL-E," wrote Kagan analysts Sarah Barry James and Wade Holden. "Rather, the danger comes from the movie's gargantuan budget."

"John Carter's" projected $25- to $30-million opening is reminiscent of another Disney science fiction film, "Mission to Mars," Kagan reports. That movie debuted in 2000 to $22.9 million and went on to earn a total domestic gross of $60.9 million.

Final Fantasy XIII 2
Screenshot of Final Fantasy XIII courtesy of Square Enix.

What is happening to video games? Video game sales in February suffered another double-digit monthly decline, plunging 20% to $1.06 billion, down from $1.33 billion in February 2011, according to a report released Thursday from the NPD Group Inc.

Sales of consoles and games dropped 34% in January compared with a year earlier.

Game software struggled the most, dropping 24.4% to $464.4 million last month versus $601.4 million a year ago.

A strong release of the PlayStation Vita, Sony's Corp.'s latest portable game console, introduced in the U.S. on Feb. 22, helped to cushion the overall decline in hardware sales last month, but not enough to prevent an 18% decline in sales of consoles, including the Nintendo Wii.

The top 10 titles, listed below, continued to make up the bulk of the industry's revenue, accounting for 78% of total game sales in terms of units, NPD said. Still, that's less concentrated than it was a year ago, when the top 10 titles made up 94% of sales.

One notable new entry into the rarefied list of bestsellers is Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, the debut fantasy action title of 38 Studios, an independent game company founded by former major league baseball pitcher Curt Schilling, whom we recently profiled.

Top 10 U.S. Video Games for February 2012
1. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (Activision Blizzard)
2. Final Fantasy XIII-2 (Square Enix)
3. UFC Undisputed 3 (THQ)
4. Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning (38 Studios / Electronic Arts)
5. Just Dance 3 (Ubisoft)
6. NBA 2K12 (Take-Two Interactive Software)
7. Soul Calibur V (Namco Bandai)
8. Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Bethesda Softworks)
9. Twisted Metal 2012 (Sony)
10. Battlefield 3 (Electronic Arts)
Source: NPD Group Inc.

Making the boys hungry. "The Hunger Games" is expected to be a huge hit when it's released later this month. But Lionsgate is taking no chances with the film version of the young adult novels that have been such a hit with girls. Concerned that getting guys to the theater may be hard, the studio is going out of its way to make sure its movie doesn't get branded as another "Twilight." More on the marketing efforts from the Wall Street Journal.

Another shoe that could drop. The ongoing ethics scandal at News Corp.'s British newspapers could cost the company its stake in BSkyB, the powerful British satellite broadcaster. The Financial Times and Guardian report that British regulators have "stepped up" their probe into whether James Murdoch is fit to serve as chairman of BSkyB. The worst-case scenario would be that Murdoch would have to resign and News Corp. would have to unload its almost 40% stake in the company.

Meet me in Miami. The growth in Spanish prime-time soap operas known as telenovelas has turned out to be big business for Miami. According to the New York Times, there is a boom in telenovela production by Univision and Telemundo "turning Miami into a telenovela Tinseltown." When it comes to determining if a show has a potential star, one top agent in the genre says he tells executives, "If you love an actress, but your nanny doesn’t know who she is, that’s a problem.” The work is mostly non-union, taking advantage of the Right-to-work status of Florida and production companies based in other countries, but unions are moving in to organize the work under SAG, AFTRA or other banners.

Inside the Los Angeles Times: Betsy Sharkey on "John Carter." Mary McNamara on HBO's "Game Change."

-- Joe Flint and company

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