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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Michael J. Fox plans comeback. Apple eyes cable. Drama exodus stings. What will Kristen Stewart do? Netflix and HBO eye Scandinavia.

Michael J. Fox
Michael J. Fox is planning a full-time return to TV. (Associated Press / August 16, 2012)
By Joe Flint

After the coffee. Before trying to make a cameo on TLC's 'Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.'
The Skinny: Is it just me or are perfect games starting to lose their luster? There have been three this season alone. I may have to learn to throw a knuckleball and give it a shot. Thursday's headlines include Apple's efforts to get into the TV business, Michael J. Fox plans a comeback and Mitt Romneygives PBS reason to worry. Has anyone else gotten multiple bills from the folks at the Department of Water and Power? Something odd is going on over there. If only I knew a reporter who could check it out. Wednesday's headlines include a look at how Hollywood workers suffer from runaway production, speculation about whether Kristen Stewart will play Snow White again and Larry King talks about why he can't retire.
Daily Dose: Dish Network appears to be nearing a deal  with Sinclair Broadcast Group to keep Sinclair's 70 TV stations in almost 50 markets served by the satellite broadcaster. The current distribution agreement expired Wednesday but the channels weren't pulled and both sides expressed cautious optimism that a new contract would be signed soon. If you were planning to move to Denmark or Finland but have been holding back because there was no Netflix there, start packing your bags. As part of its plan to take over the world, Netflix is launching in those countries at the end of the year as well as in Norway and Sweden.
Meet the new boss. The New York Times Co. has gone overseas for a new chief executive. Mark Thompson, the former director of the BBC, will take over running the day-to-day operations for the Gray Lady. Details from the New York Post. My advice: Give all the reporters big raises to win them over! I'll be offering those same thoughts when we get our new owners too. I think it will be taken seriously. Don't you?
Mixed forecast. The Weather Channel has seen its ratings drop lately as more consumers check the Web to see if rain is coming. With that in mind, Weather Channel has been gobbling up some key properties, including the Weather Underground and Weather Central sites. Coming soon: a 30-day weather forecast. Weather Channel CEO David Kenny talks about remaking the company with theWall Street Journal
Joaquin Phoenix
Joaquin Phoenix recorded the soundtrack for the movie "Walk the Line." (Suzanne Tenner / July 14, 2005)

Over 50,000 Musicians have money coming.
This post was not written by a Nigerian prince.
SoundExchange, a nonprofit group that collects digital music royalties on behalf of artists, on Wednesday said that around 50,000 musicians have unclaimed money with the group totaling more than $31 million. The amounts range from $10 to $100,000 per artist or label, the group said. 
Those who want to see if a check is waiting for them should visit SoundExchange and check the database.
To continue reading this story click on More..

Sparkle and fade. This Friday the musical drama "Sparkle," which counts the late Whitney Houston among its stars, opens. For Sony, the studio behind the movie, marketing it has proved to be a dilemma. On the one hand, it is a last chance for Houston fans to see her. On the other hand, Sony doesn't want to look sleazy or exploitative in its marketing of the movie. The Los Angeles Times on the selling of "Sparkle."

What will Kristen do?
Kristen Stewart won't reprise her role as Snow White. Or will she? (Samuel Goldwyn Films / August 15, 2012)

Will she or won't she? When she's not busy breaking Robert Pattinson's heart, Kristen Stewart is a rising actress whose last hit was “Snow White and the Huntsman.” But will she play Snow White again? That seems to be subject to debate. The Hollywood Reporter said Stewart's been dropped from Universal Pictures' sequel. The Los Angeles Times countered that she could still reprise her role, though in either case the character of the Huntsman (played by Chris Hemsworth) will be the focus of the next movie. Either way, I probably won't see it.
Drama dilemma. The broadcast networks have almost two dozen new dramas in the works for the upcoming TV season. Normally, that would be great news for Hollywood since a 22-episode season of drama can generate close to 1,000 jobs. But only two new dramas will be shot in L.A., a big blow to the local economy and the people who used to count on the TV industry for a living. The Los Angeles Times looks what the exodus of TV dramas has meant for the below-the-line worker bees of the industry.
Who needs the big screen? "Bachelorette," a dark comedy about three bridesmaids more interested in partying than helping the bride, is already the No. 1 movie rental on iTunes in advance of its theatrical run. Variety says it has taken in more than $500,000 since Friday from iTunes and video-on-demand rentals. The movie will launch theatrically next month on 60 screens. I may be wrong (it happens every now and then) but I think "Bachelorette" will overcome the obvious "Bridesmaids" comparisons and actually do some real business in the theater. 

Planting an Apple seed. Apple is still itching to figure out a way to get into the television business. The technology giant has approached some cable operators about creating an Apple set-top box that could deliver live TV as well as other video options according to the Wall Street Journal. Apple, of course, already has Apple TV, a box that connects viewers to the Internet for content but does not have access to traditional TV networks and local channels. The cable industry seems at least a little wary about getting into bed with Apple. They probably fear they will be the turtle that agrees to give the scorpion a ride across the river.
Actor Steven Van Zandt starred in "Lillyhammer."
Netflix's original drama "Lilyhammer" starred former "Sopranos" regular Steven Van Zandt. (Handout / August 15, 2012)

HBO and Netflix are both expanding into Scandinaia, for distribution, production and sports coverage.
The two companies announced within hours of each other late Tuesday and early Wednesday that they plan to launch in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden. Netflix said it would debut by the end of 2012. HBO did not provide a specific date.
Netflix has been aggressive about expanding into international markets. The service launched in Canada in late 2010, in Latin America one year later, and in Britain and Ireland this year. It has 3.6 million international subscribers, compared with 26.5 million in the U.S.
With high broadband penetration and an affluent populace, the Scandinavian nations are a natural for Netflix, which will launch its online streaming service there but not offer DVDs by mail, as it does in the U.S.
However, the opportunity is not huge.
In a note to investors, B. Riley & Co. analyst Eric Wold observed that Scandinavia has 8.4 million broadband-connected households, compared with 20.4 million in the United Kingdom and 85.6 million in the U.S. "Therefore, even a significant penetration of this region over the next few years would be unlikely to generate any meaningful [financial] contribution," he wrote.
HBO, meanwhile is partnering with pay-TV veteran Peter Ekelund, operator of Parsifal International, the parent of URHOtv, an ESPN-like service popular in Finland. To continue reading click on More..

David Haslingden, outgoing president of Fox Networks Group
David Haslingden is leaving News Corp. He has been the top television business executive of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. since January 2011. (FOX August 15, 2012)
Going back of Oz.
David Haslingden, a top Fox television executive who got his start in Australiaand served in far-flung operations of Rupert Murdoch's empire for nearly 20 years, is leaving News Corp.
The company announced Haslingden's departure on Wednesday, saying the lawyer-turned-television-executive was stepping down at the end of the year to "to return to his native Australia and spend more time with his family."
Haslingden, as president of the Fox Networks Group, was Fox TV's top business executive in Los Angeles, overseeing Fox Broadcasting, Fox's regional sports channels, National Geographic channels and the Fox International Channels.
He had moved to Los Angeles to step into that influential position early last year, but kept a home in Australia, where his children are in school.
But  the landscape in Los Angeles shifted dramatically for Haslingden last month when Fox programming executive Peter Rice was promoted to chairman and chief executive of the Fox Networks Group.  Instead of reporting directly to News Corp. Chief Operating Officer Chase Carey, as Haslingden had done for more than 18 months, Haslingden suddenly found himself working for Rice.
Haslingden was a key member of the team that built the Fox International Channels into a lucrative business that now boasts more than 350 television channels in more than 50 countries. He worked for News Corp. in Australia and Asia, and served as head of the Fox International Channels before moving to L.A. To continue reading click on More.

Start worrying, PBS. Presidential candidate Mitt Romney likes PBS and the National Endowment for the Arts but not enough to keep providing money. In an interview with Fortune, Romney warns that he would get rid of subsidies for PBS and the NEA. "I just think they have to strand on their own rather than receiving money borrowed from other countries, as our government does on their behalf," Romney said.
Keeping the flame alive. NBC wasn't the only network to get a nice ratings bump from the Olympics. Its typically low-rated NBC Sports Network, a cable channel that was previously known as Versus, also saw its viewership explode thanks to the Summer Games. But now NBC has to figure out a way to keep some of those viewers around even though the network as yet does not have a ton of marquee sports properties or dominant personalities. The New York Times looks at the cable channel and whether it can keep the momentum it picked up in London.
Where'd everybody go? Here's a shocker. With no more Olympics, NBC saw its audience shrink by about 25 million people on Monday. It's not easy to say where they all went except it appears not too many were checking out other shows on broadcast television. A look at the first post-Olympics prime time ratings from the New York Times.

Steve Nash
The Lakers' addition of Steve Nash may make life easier for Time Warner Cable. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers fans aren't the only ones cheering the recent additions of Steve Nash and Dwight Howard to the team's starting lineup.
Time Warner Cable is also probably sending Lakers brass a big thank-you note. In October, Time Warner Cable will launch both English-language and Spanish-language sports channels in Los Angeles, and a strong Lakers team is key to the company's success.
The addition of two superstars to the team will give the cable company a little more juice in negotiations for distribution with satellite broadcasters DirecTV and Dish as well as AT&T's Uverse and other pay-TV providers in the region.
So far, the only distributor Time Warner Cable has persuaded to carry its two channels is itself. Though Time Warner Cable has about 2 million subscribers in Southern California, it needs the other distributors, particularly DirecTV, to be a success.
Time Warner Cable is asking distributors to pay almost $4.00 per-month, per-subscriber to carry the two channels. That's more than any other regional sports network in the country, according to industry consulting from SNL Kagan.
With over 1 million subscribers in this area, DirecTV is crucial. But the satellite broadcaster has been playing hardball with programmers as of late. It got into a very public battle with Viacom, parent ofNickelodeon and Comedy Central, over a new deal and even stopped carrying its channels until the two finally reached an agreement.
Although the launch of Time Warner Cable's sports networks is only about six weeks away, talks with DirecTV and other distributors are not likely to heat up until mid-to-late September.
If DirecTV ends up not reaching a deal with Time Warner Cable, sports fans won't be totally out of luck. DirecTV just signed an agreement to carry beIn Sport, an Al Jazeera-owned sports channel that specializes in soccer.

Not playing games. The New York Post says video game giant Electronic Arts is attracting interest from private equity suitors KKR and Providence Equity. EA declined to comment on the story and the paper indicated that while approaches have been made, a deal was far from certain.
Barry Diller
Barry Diller wants to create a new TV distribution system, but he has doubters. (AFP / Getty Images / August 15, 2012)

Areo must die! Aereo Inc., the new distribution service that media mogul Barry Diller is backing, has little chance of survival, a media analyst said.
Besides the legal battles Aereo is facing with CBS, NBC, Fox, ABC and other broadcasters, there are also questions about whether there is demand for what Aereo is offering.
"Even if Aereo can win in court, the company is already dead in the water for multiple reasons," said Dan Rayburn, an analyst with Frost & Sullivan.
Aereo, which launched last spring in New York, basically transmits the signals of local broadcast stations via the Internet to smartphones, tablets and Internet-friendly TVs. Aereo charges subscribers $12 a month for a small antenna that receives broadcast signals and a remote digital video recorder that can hold up to 40 hours of shows.  To continue reading this story click on  More..

Inside the Los Angeles Times: Larry King doesn't know how to stay retired. An appreciation of actor Ron Palillo, best known as Arnold Horshack on the 1970s hit "Welcome Back, Kotter." Long time KLOS-FM morning man Mark Thompson (of Mark & Brian fame) gets ready to for his next chapter.
Follow me on Twitter. It's a heck of a ride.

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