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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Internet to Dominate TV Sales. Oprah makes deep cuts and changes. Disney seeks to unseat Nickelodeon.

Big-screen TVs are displayed by Panasonic at the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Internet connectivity is becoming a more important feature of TVs, a new report says.
Big-screen TVs are displayed by Panasonic at the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Internet connectivity is becoming a more important feature of TVs, a new report says. Credit: Steve Marcus/Reuters 

100 million tv's will be internet connected within four years. 

Soon, the living room TV will become as hyper-connected as the people watching it.

A new report from researcher NPD In-Stat predicts that 100 million homes in North America and Western Europe will own television sets that blend traditional programs with Internet content by 2016. These new hybrid devices, capable of displaying interactive content related to TV shows, are a bid to hold the viewer's attention in a device-cluttered world.

"The TV people figured out nobody's just watching TV anymore," said Gerry Kaufhold, NPD In-Stat's digital entertainment research director. "They're watching TV with a tablet or a smartphone or a laptop in their hands. They've completely lost control."

Indeed, more than 60% of viewers check their email or surf the Web while watching TV, according to Nielsen's 2011 consumer usage report. Programmers realize they need to do something to draw the viewer's eyes back to the TV screen -- even as they develop apps for tablets and smartphones to deliver content related to the show that's airing.

"The level of engagement with the TV show goes down unless you've got something on the handheld device that ties them back to the TV show, somehow," Kaufhold said.

A tablet application developed for Simon Cowell's reality series "The X Factor" synchronizes the device with the singing competition and allows viewers to rate performances, vote and interact with other fans.

"Two things are starting to percolate in the television industry," Kaufhold said. "First is the awareness that it's not just about the big screen anymore. You've got to get something to these second screens. Second is how can we control as much of the screen real estate as possible."

Kaufhold pointed to a European connected TV standard (known as Hybrid Broadcast Broadband TV) as a bellwether of things to come in North America.

Broadcaster France Televisions will use the new hybrid standard during the French Open, which begins in May. Tennis fans can push a single button on their remote controls to bring up an interactive screen that will display real-time scores of other matches, bios of tournament players and news, photos and Twitter streams describing the action.

Kaufhold said he could see the same technology being employed for such high-interest competitions as the online NCAA mens' basketball championship.

In the U.S., only about 12 million U.S. households have their Web-capable TVs connected to the Internet, although NPD In-Stat estimates about 25 million U.S. TV households own a set with the built-in network capability.

The Skinny: I enjoyed most of Season 2 of AMC's "The Walking Dead," which seems to put me at odds with the folks who spend their lives detailing and analyzing every moment on the show. Some deep thought on shows is nice, but sometimes it seems like people have too much time on their hands. Anyway, Tuesday's headlines include a look at Evolution Media Capital, the CAA-backed investment bank, new cuts at OWN and the money Disney will lose on "John Carter."
Oprah Winfrey in happier times
Photo: Oprah Winfrey. Credit: George Burns/OWN.
Oprah Winfrey's "aha!" moment. OWN, the cable network launched by former talk show queen Oprah Winfrey and cable programming giant Discovery Communications, is cutting staff and restructuring its operations. The decision to shed 30 staffers comes just days after OWN canceled its high-profile talk show featuring Rosie O'Donnell, which turned out to be a huge flop. Discovery Communications, which has sunk more than $300 million into OWN, is also putting a few of its own executives in key operating roles to try to boost ratings and stop the financial bleeding. Details from the Los Angeles Times and Deadline Hollywood.

The Daily Dose: Starz has given its new drama "Magic City" a Season 2 order before the show has even premiered. The pay cable channel took a similar approach with its political drama "Boss." The move is meant to send a signal to critics and media watchers about how confident Starz is in the show. However, one has to wonder how in stone those renewals are written. If "Magic City" generates little interest will Starz really keep it going for two seasons? No, it will find a way to back out of the deal. It's a publicity ploy, nothing more.

They shoot, they score. Evolution Media Capital, an investment bank backed by Creative Artists Agency, has made a splash in the sports and media marketplace. Launched less than four years ago, EMC has already been involved in more than 20 deals with a combined value of $15 billion. Deals EMC had a hand in brokering include the sales of the Texas Rangers and entertainment company CKX as well as TV pacts for the Pac-12 and the Boston Celtics. A look inside EMC from the Los Angeles Times.

"John Carter" takes bath. Walt Disney Co. said its epic flop "John Carter" would likely lose in the neighborhood of $200 million. The movie, which will end up being one of the biggest bombs in Hollywood history, cost some $350 million to make and market. So far, the film has made just under $200 million, worldwide, in its two weeks of release. Coverage of the Disney debacle from the Los Angeles Times, Associated Press, and New York Times.

Plot twist. The legal battle between former "Desperate Housewives" co-star Nicollette Sheridan and ABC ended in a hung jury Monday. Sheridan, whose character was killed off the prime-time soap a few seasons ago, had sued ABC, claiming she was fired from the show in retaliation for making a complaint against "Desperate Housewives" creator Marc Cherry. Sheridan came up one vote shy of winning her civil suit. Now the two sides will either do it again or reach some sort of settlement. Analysis of the trial from the Hollywood Reporter and Daily Beast.

Closing the kid gap. For years, Viacom's Nickelodeon has been the No. 1 network when it comes to reaching kids. But now the Disney Channel is closing the gap and only 31,000 viewers separate the two networks in the key kids 2-11 category. Here's USA Today on the fight for first place. One piece of advice to Disney Channel: Don't launch a "John Carter" cartoon.

They said what? is Hollywood's must-read database and trivia question solver. The website tracks actors and movies. Seems harmless enough. But Amazon's IMDB is not without its critics. Sometimes it gets information wrong and not all actors are thrilled to have their birthdays (and other stalker material including marital status and bra size) blasted out into the universe. Is the information accurate. What about talent that withdrew prior to Amazon's purchase or talent miss-represented through marketing and other tricks? A look at some of the gripes about IMDB from the Wall Street Journal.

Inside the Los Angeles Times: Patrick Goldstein looks at some recent TV and movie flops. Randall Roberts and Todd Martens on what made a splash at the SXSW festival.

-- Joe Flint

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

Was Romney in Illinois... or was he in on a suburban planet in a galaxy far far away.

Before a shining sea of white faces Mitt Romney gave his victory speech in Illinois, despite the speech being in Chicagoland.

Chicago has the lightest number in Afriacn American population in the country and highest percentage of population outside of Washington DC.

As a city Chicago has the second largest Hispanic population in numbers outside of Los Angeles.

Where were they at Romney's victory celebration as he attacked Barack Obama for being a well educated and inellegent man as a law professor at one of the top law schools in the country, at being a street level community organizer among the people and implied, but did not mention, the race that was not evident in his victory hall but dominates Chicago.

Where were the people of color? They were not on camera during his speech, despite the multi-cultural nature of Illinois.

He talks about being a "unite-er", yet he talks of 401 K's and opportunities on the doorstep of a city where without government aid, without support, no one would be able to rise above poverty and even the ghetto's that Obama has helped start to erase.

He talks about being a "unite-er" but makes ten thousand dollar bets, talks about his wife's luxury cars, their multiple homes and not about food or public education or  basic medical care so needed by the majority of Americans.

Notice Romeny did not mention his spending ten to one over the total of his opponents in Illinois and in some areas twenty to one over his closest Republican challenger.

-From a Chicagoian viewing CNN coverage this evening, someone I know, as posted on Facebook.

How Do Racial Attitudes Affect Opinions About The Health Care Overhaul?

President Obama signs the Affordable Care Act in the East Room of the White House on March 23, 2010. Data suggest that racial attitudes of ordinary Americans shape both how they feel about the health care overhaul and how intense those feelings are.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images President Obama signs the Affordable Care Act in the East Room of the White House on March 23, 2010. 

Data suggest that racial attitudes of ordinary Americans shape both how they feel about the health care overhaul and how intense those feelings are.

As the Supreme Court gets ready to hear a case involving the constitutionality of President Obama's health care overhaul, social scientists are asking a disturbing — and controversial — question: Do the intense feelings about the health care overhaul among ordinary Americans stem from their philosophical views about the appropriate role of government, or from their racial attitudes about the signature policy of the country's first black president?

In a new paper published in the American Journal of Political Science, Michael Tesler presents survey and experimental data that suggest that the racial attitudes of ordinary Americans have shaped both how they feel about the health care overhaul, and how intense those feelings are.

The paper is one of many studies that examines how the views of voters on policy issues are shaped — at least in part — by factors unrelated to those subjects: Voters are more likely to back the policies of leaders with whom they share some core aspect of identity, such as race or religion.
  Tesler finds that blacks have become increasingly supportive of health care under Obama's watch. Among whites, Tesler finds a sharp divide between whites who have a liberal outlook on racial issues compared with those who have a conservative outlook on racial issues.

In an experiment, Tesler presents a health care overhaul policy to whites, telling some that the policy is advocated by Bill Clinton and telling others that it's advocated by Barack Obama; Tesler finds that whites with liberal racial attitudes become more supportive of the policy when they think Obama is its chief advocate, while whites with a conservative attitude become less supportive of the policy when they think of health care as an Obama policy.

The study is part of a broad range of research projects that shows that issues such as race and religion play a powerful role in shaping how people feel about policies related to war, welfare and crime.

Deeper Voice gains political advantage

A new study that finds that voters tend to go for the candidate with the deeper voice.  A British Biological Research Journal published multiple studies that found that listeners are more likely to vote for the deeper voice, regardless of their sex. But there are exceptions. Harry Reid has a high voice. Romney's voice is mellow and low compared to his competition. Candidates use vocal coaches to "enhance their electability." 

So how do you explain Harry Reid's high vocal range?

Also, would scratchy or rough voices such as Abraham Lincoln or even Franklin Roosevelt stand a chance today?

Republican Math

Rick Santorum wins the American Virgin Islands...but Mitt Romney walks away with six of the nine delegates, with one of the three remaining "at large" as a wild card.

Only in America.

-Rachael Maddow