Plum TV, network for the rich and powerful, has new owners. Plum TV, the tiny cable network that is distributed primarily in the backyards of the rich and powerful but has struggled to make money for itself, has new owners.
Veteran television executives Joseph Varet and Morgan Hertzan have acquired Plum TV out of bankruptcy for $1.17 million.Although Plum is only in five million homes, it is well known among the elite. It is distributed in the Hamptons, Martha's Vineyard, Aspen, Sun Valley and Miami and focuses on the culture of those in the summer-home-and-private-jet set.
Varet and Hertzan, who co-founded LXTV, a producer of lifestyle entertainment content that is now owned by NBCUniversal, said they didn't want to limit their channel to only the one-percenters. Their plan is to broaden the channel's programming to include the wealthy along with the super rich.
“Plum offers a great opportunity to build an international lifestyle multimedia business and will provide platforms where advertisers can reach the most desirable demographic in an environment that reflects the quality and excellence of their brands," Hertzan said in a statement.
In an interview, Hertzan and Varet said they wanted the channel to be a television version of upscale magazines such as Architectural Digest, Conde Nast Traveler and Vanity Fair.
"All these magazines are talking to a consumer with disposable income that wants to make educated purchase decisions," Morgan said.
The network may have difficulty getting its distribution to a level where it can compete with other channels. Typically, a cable network needs to reach more than 30 million homes before national advertisers will even consider kicking the tires.
As part of its efforts to build Plum, the network will open an office in Los Angeles and build ties to the creative community here. Creative Artists Agency, which advised Varet and Hertzan on the deal, is also going to consult for Plum moving forward.
The Skinny: My landlord put in very bright lights outside my door and driveway. Now it looks like daylight in the middle of the night. I feel like I live in Alaska. Wednesday's headlines include a look at Hollywood's favorite shoe store, Netflix's plans to go cable and a profile of "Mad Men" creator Matt Weiner just in time for the show's new season.
Photo: John Hamm as Don Draper in "Mad Men." Credit: AMC
Hype machine hits full speed. At the end of the month, AMC's critical darling, "Mad Men," returns and the promotion machine is going full blast. The show, not even the most popular on AMC ("The Walking Dead" gets that honor), is starting to rank up there with HBO's "The Sopranos" in terms of critical obsession. Everything from how Don Draper holds his cup of coffee to whether Peggy's hair is up or down gets scrutinized. Personally, I enjoy the show but not all the hoopla around it. But for those of you who can't get enough, here's a lengthy profile on "Mad Men" creator Matt Weiner from the New York Times.
Daily Dose: Now that Fox has pulled the plug on "Terra Nova," speculation will start on what other big bets for the 2011-12 TV season won't make it to 2013. ABC's "Pan Am" already has pretty much been grounded. Its midseason show "The River" did not open like gangbusters. At CBS, the drama "A Gifted Man" is going to have to beat the odds to return for Year 2. At NBC, the news magazine "Rock Center" is likely to be on the bubble. "Smash" is not a huge hit, but its numbers have picked up in the last two weeks, so don't be surprised if it somehow survives.
Photo: Pandora co-founder Tim Westergren. Credit: Ryan Anson / Bloomberg
If the shoe fits. When Hollywood needs a special pair of shoes it turns to Willie’s Shoe Service, an industry institution that has been making custom footwear since the 1950s. Among the current TV shows that have gone to Willie's are “Mad Men,” “Modern Family” and “Glee." Willie's is also working on the shoes for Steven Spielberg's upcoming "Lincoln." The Los Angeles Times looks at Willie's and its owner, Raul Ojeda.
Keep your enemies closer. Remember when Netflix was the big threat to the cable industry? Well, now the entertainment streaming service wants to be BFFs with cable operators. According to Reuters, Netflix -- which is now starting to offer original content along with the movies and TV shows it buys -- wants to be distributed by cable operators as a video-on-demand option. One challenge for Netflix, Reuters notes, is that the bulk of its current programming deals would likely have to be renegotiated to give the streaming company rights to offer itself via cable.
Crowded playing field. It looks like Amazon will be joining Hulu, Netflix and YouTube in the original programming game. According to Fortune, Amazon has tapped an executive to oversee original production for Amazon, which already has a digital service and the Kindle to offer content. My question is whether the economics are there to support all this original content. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times reports that Google is creating its own entertainment hub called "Google Play," which is basically an attempt by the search engine giant to build its own iTunes.
Movies in the Clouds. Apple has announced it will now allow storage of movies in its iCloud feature. The films need not be purchased from Apple, although Apple is actively pursuing product to sell and is rumored to be constructing its own networks of streaming video. Also unveiled is the faster, higher definition iPad and a high definition verision of the small iTV "set-top" box.
Too nice? One of the guilty pleasures of watching "American Idol" was seeing Simon Cowell tear down some cocky kid who thought she was the second coming of Etta James. Now though, Fox's "American Idol" and NBC's "The Voice" seem to find ways to accentuate the positive about even the most unpromising talent. USA Today critic Robert Bianco on how both shows are failing with the killing-them-with-kindness approach.
Pandora co-founder Tim Westergren. Credit: Ryan Anson / Bloomberg
Pandora's shares plunged Tuesday, retreating as much as $2.73 to $11.54 in after-hours trading following the company's announcement of its financial performance. It had closed earlier at $14.27, down 39 cents.
Although its fourth-quarter revenue grew 71% to $81.3 million from $47.6 million a year earlier, Pandora's losses widened to $8.2 million, from a $1.4 million loss in the year-earlier period. Pandora also projected that its sales in the current first quarter would be between $72 million and $75 million, dropping by as much as 11% from the previous quarter.
Pandora receives close to 90% of its revenue from advertising, with the remainder coming from subscribers who pay $36 a year for the ad-free premium service.
"Everyone is asking: Why is revenue so low? Why are they losing so much money?" said Michael Pachter, a media analyst with Wedbush Securities. "The answer is that they weren’t focused on selling ads."
Instead, Pandora concentrated its energies persuading car manufacturers to build its Internet music streaming service technologies directly into the dashboards of new cars, Pachter said.
Believing that the way to grow is to capture listeners while they are in their cars, Pandora has worked closely with companies such as Ford, Toyota, Mercedes-Benz and others to design its service into new vehicles. But car manufacturing cycles take years, and Pandora's efforts today may not bear fruit quickly enough for impatient investors on Wall Street.
The stock debuted on June 15 at $16 a share, but sank to $13.26 the following day.
Inside the Los Angeles Times: An appreciation of Mary Poppins songwriter Robert Sherman, who died at the age of 86. Some more thoughts on the demise of "Terra Nova."
-- Joe Flint
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