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Saturday, August 31, 2013

Amazon's open call to filmmakers for video submissions. Did the Mormon church ban Saturday Night LIve? Paula Dean supporters take to Facebook. 'The Heat' to heat up weekend. Netflix introduces its own Siri.

Horsey on Hollywood: Paula Deen
Food Network hostess Paula Deen found herself in hot oil after revelations she'd used the N-word. (David Horsey / Los Angeles Times / June 25, 2013)

Paula Deen, the Southern celebrity chef, has been dumped from the Food Network like a stale beignet. Her Georgia roots are what made her a unique talent in the foodie world, and the darker ends of those roots are what got her in trouble.
When her use of the N-word and her less-than-PC racial humor came to light in a court deposition, Deen suddenly found herself swept up in the kind of bad publicity that offers no upside. (There’s Charlie Sheen bad -- so bad that it becomes entertainment; and there’s Mel Gibson bad -- just plain toxic.) Deen’s tearful apologies and pleas for understanding on both the "Today" show and CNN did not stop business partners such as Wal-Mart, Smithfield Foods, Home Depot and Caesars Entertainment from cutting ties with her.
Some came to the chef’s defense -- among them the fevered conspiracy monger Glenn Beck, who said Deen’s right to free speech was being infringed -- but she apparently had few, if any, champions at the place that had made her a star, the Food Network.
The gourmand and glutton channel was so quick to cancel her show that there may well have been more to it than concern about a few instances of offensive language. Deen’s ratings are reported to have been on a steep skid from a high in 2011.
In the hot kitchen and sharp knives of the entertainment business, if your slice of audience is not much more than a nibble, you will soon find yourself off the menu, no matter the circumstances.

"The Heat"
"The Heat" looks to smoke the competition. (MCT / June 27, 2013)

The Skinny: After writing the words News Corp. for my entire career, I now have to start writing 21st Century Fox when describing the company that houses Rupert Murdoch's entertainment assets. How many times do you think I'll screw up until I get that one down pat? Friday's headlines include the weekend box office preview and a review of "The Heat."

William Bratton
Former LAPD Police Chief William Bratton, shown outside of Dodger Stadium, has joined NBC News as a criminal justice analyst. (Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times / April 14, 2011)

Former LAPD Chief Bill Bratton becomes NBC News analyst

William J. Bratton, former Los Angeles Police Departmentchief and former police commissioner of New York and Boston, has joined NBC News as an analyst specializing in police counterterrorism efforts, domestic intelligence gathering and criminal justice.
The Comcast-owned network said Thursday that Bratton -- already a familiar face on TV in the aftermath of such high-profile events as the Boston Marathon bombing and the Christopher Dorner shooting rampage in Southern California -- would regularly appear on NBC News programs as well as on the company's cable news channel MSNBC.
Bratton, 65, served as L.A. police chief from 2002 to 2009. A respected law enforcement figure, he is currently the chief executive of the consulting practice Bratton Group. He also runs Bratton Technologies, which operates BlueLine, a global law enforcement professional social media network.
Bratton -- a U.S. Army veteran who saw service in Vietnam -- began his police career in 1970 as an officer with the Boston Police department. 

Daily Dose: Aereo, the startup company that offers customers broadcast signals via the Internet, said it will debut in Chicago next. Aereo has been met with lawsuits from the big broadcast companies over copyright issues and the legal battle drags on. In the meantime, Aereo still won't disclose how many people have signed up in New York City, where it is most active. 

White House Down Tatum Foxx - H 2013
Columbia Pictures
"White House Down"
Boys vs. Girls. The big box office battle this weekend will feature "White House Down" going against "The Heat." The former stars Jamie Foxx and Channing Tatum while the latter featuresSandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy. "The Heat" is expected to top "White House Down" but both will trail last week's champ "Monsters University." Box office previews from the Los Angeles Timesand Hollywood Reporter.

Jon Voight as Mickey Donovan and Liev Schreiber as his son, Ray Donovan, in Showtime's 'Ray Donovan.'
Stepping up. Hoping to continue to build its subscriber base and its standing with critics, Showtime is launching two new shows in the next few months -- "Ray Donovan," about a Hollywood fix-it guy, and "Masters of Sex," about sex researchers William Masters and Virginia Johnson. The Wall Street Journal looks at the business motivations behind Showtime's new shows. While I haven't seen "Masters of Sex" yet, I didn't care for "Ray Donovan," which can best be described as "Entourage"meets "The Departed" meets "The Sopranos" meets "The Boxer." 

Screen shot from Amazon Studios' development slate.

Amazon's open call to filmmakers now includes video submissions

Script-writing isn't for everyone, so Inc.'s movie and TV production arm is now encouraging filmmakers to submit "concept videos" that could be developed into features.
Amazon, which is in a race with more established players likeNetflix to develop original content, launched Amazon Studios in 2010 and has been accepting script submissions for movies. It has received 1,400 movie scripts to date.
But now, people have the option to upload a two- to 15-minute video instead. Just like with the scripts, Amazon has 45 days after submission to decide whether to option the concept for a commercial film.  
"Short films are an amazing way for filmmakers to share a vision and tell a story, and now Amazon Studios’ open door for creators is widening to include short concept videos for development options," the company said in an email. 
The company pays the filmmakers $10,000 to the filmmaker if the submission is optioned for Amazon's development slate within the 45-day period. If the company buys the project and its associated rights, Amazon will pay $200,000. 
Its website shows it has 26 movies currently slated for development. The company has a first-look deal with Warner Bros. for the theatrical release of the films. 
In May, Amazon gave the green light to five new shows for its Prime Instant Video service. The company has received about 4,000 TV pilot scripts. 

Timer Warner Cable app for Xbox 360
Time Warner Cable has made an agreement with Microsoft Corp. to bring its TV app to the tech giant's Xbox 360 devices.(Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg)

Cable Controller for X-Box. After already launching applications for smartphones, tablets and Roku's set-top boxes, Time Warner Cable has made an agreement with Microsoft Corp. to bring its TV app to the tech giant's Xbox 360 devices. 
The TWC TV app, which will launch as early as next month, gives the cable company's subscribers access to live TV through the popular gaming console. TWC will bring video-on-demand to the device through the app later this year.
“With the tens of millions of boxes out there with our customers already, this is a pretty exciting development for us,” said Mike Angus, senior vice president and general manager of video for Time Warner Cable. “We are responding to the customer’s desire for great flexibility for all the services we’re providing to them." 
The app gives subscribers access to up to 300 live channels through their Xbox 360.  
There's no shortage of potential users. Microsoft in June said it has sold about 76 million of the consoles.
Time Warner Cable became available to Roku users in March, followed by apps for Apple and Android devices. Earlier this month, the company said it is expanding the service to Samsung's Smart TVs this summer. 
“We are very much embracing the notion of bringing television to customers in the ways they want to watch it,” Angus said.  
It's not the first to the market, though. Comcast launched an Xbox 360 app for its Xfinity TV service last year.  

Urge to merge. The big obsession of the business media as of late is what cable mogul John Malonewill do next. Malone's Liberty Media recently bought a minority stake in cable operator Charter Communications. Since then there has been constant speculation that Charter will go after Time Warner Cable and/or Cablevision Systems. Malone no doubt will be asked that every day he's spotted at next month's Allen & Co. media conference in Sun Valley, Idaho. The latest of what I guarantee won't be the last article about Charter and Time Warner Cable from Bloomberg.

PRIVATE SCREENING: Animated sitcom‘FamilyGuy’ Malone eyes TWC is the top-watched show on Hulu.
Round two. The next round of bidding for Hulu is expected to weed out a lot of the suitors. Both the New York Post and Variety say Yahoo will be dropping out. The potential buyers getting the most attention now are satellite broadcaster DirecTV, Guggenheim Digital and the Chernin Co. Personally, like the Malone story, I've grown a little tired of this one too.

Back home. Salt Lake City NBC affiliate KSL-TV will start airing "Saturday Night Live" on a regular basis for the first time in almost 20 years. KSL-TV, which is owned by the Church of Latter-day Saints, has often refused to carry NBC shows it finds risque. However, according to Broadcasting & Cable, the reason behind the "SNL" ban was that the station did well with a local sports show in the same time slot. Now that show has lost some of its ratings prowess, so "SNL" is returning. Don't think Salt Lake City has been without "SNL" since 1995, NBC had simply get another station in the market to carry it. 
Also a blunt report from a Salt Lake City viewer and media watcher:

Meet Max, the new voice of Netflix
Netflix Inc. has unveiled a talking, human-like interface named "Max," who invites subscribers to play irreverent mini games that inject humor into the process of delivering viewing suggestions. (Netflix Inc.)

Maybe Max will date Siri. Netflix is launching an audio service to help its customers find what they want to watch. Something tells me I won't be using Max too much. I spend enough of my day talking to fake people. More on Max from the Los Angeles Times.

Paula Deen
People who have worked with Paula Deen are defending her on Facebook. (Associated Press)

Paula Deen staffers rush to her defense on Facebook

Current and former staffers who have worked for embattledFood Network star Paula Deen are taking to social media to defend her and attack the media for its coverage of the scandal around her admitted use of a racial epithet in the past.
"I can say with certainty that I have never witnessed her say or do anything that could be construed as racist or bigoted," wrote Brianna Beaudry Blagg, who worked as a producer for Deen. "Paula has proved herself to be a warm, caring, compassionate person, with close friends of all races and sexual orientations."
Blagg acknowledged Deen is flawed, but added she is being unfairly condemned by a media that -- like a shark -- senses blood in the water.
"I find it disturbing the way her words are being distorted in our scandal-hungry 'headline instead of the whole story' media culture, and the sheep-like angry-mob cruelty that goes along with that."
Becky Prescott, who has worked with Deen for seven years, said on Facebook that she is "nothing like what the media is portraying."
Charlise Holmes, an African American former producer for Deen, said she spent two years on set with "access to everything" and "never once felt disrespected" and that every interaction was pleasant. Holmes said she read Deen's deposition in which the chef acknowledges using the N-word but "still has love" for her.
"It's no more shocking than stuff I've heard other people say, or have said myself," Holmes said. "Does that make it OK? Maybe not, but I'm glad my junk isn't out there for the world to judge."

Inside the Los Angeles Times: Betsy Sharkey on the Sandra Bullock-Melissa McCarthy summer comedy "The Heat." The film "Fruitvale Station" about the shooting of Oscar Grant by a Bay Area law enforcement officer is tough to watch for Grant's mother. 

Director Ryan Coogler, left, and actor Michael B. Jordan at the BART Fruitvale station. Both believe they could have easily been in Grant’s shoes. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

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