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Friday, June 21, 2013

IATSE Settles. Monsters vs. Zombies at box office. Uberstations? Robinov on way out at Warners? Pay TV a luxury for students.

After the coffee. Before sending Tim Duncan a note to feel better. 

The Skinny: I felt so bad for Tim Duncan missing that shot Thursday night and not just because I was rooting for the Spurs. He's a class act. Friday's headlines include a preview of the weekend box office and more drama at Warner Bros., this time on the movie side.

Daily Dose: The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences has tapped as its new president an executive familiar with mobile and digital platforms. Lucy Hood, executive director of the Institute for Communications Technology and Management at USC, will succeed Alan Perris, who is retiring from the Academy. Hood is also a former president of Fox Mobile Entertainment. 

'World War Z'
"World War Z" will face tough competition. (Paramount Pictures)

Monsters vs. Zombies. This weekend's box office battle is between Pixar's "Monsters University" and Brad Pitt's"World War Z" about a zombie uprising. Who do you think will win? Yeah, no-brainer. "Monsters University" is expected to take in $80 million while "World War Z" will be trying to crack the $50-milliion mark and stay ahead of last week's champ, "Man of Steel." Box office previews from the Los Angeles Times and Hollywood Reporter.

Netflix Inc.
Life without pay-TV typically begins in college, according to a Bernstein Research study. (Victor J. Blue / Bloomberg)

Cord-cutting learned in college, as is stealing Netflix and HBO Go

College is where kids go to study the classics, expand their minds and learn how to reason. It's also apparently where they learn to live without pay TV.
In a new report, analyst Todd Juenger of Sanford C. Bernstein said going without pay TV is part of higher education.
"The demands of college (both time and money) ultimately trump the need for the vast array of content choices a pay-TV package can provide," Juenger wrote. "This behavior is then carried forward beyond college, and the cord-cutter is born."
This week, Juenger hosted two focus groups of cord-cutters, all of them relatively low-income, single New Yorkers, to understand how the cordless live.
All of the panelists reported using Netflix, some without paying for it. Many of them said they share HBO Go and Netflix accounts, but eschew old-fashioned illegal downloading as a means of piracy. The attitude seems to be, what's the point when sharing an account is so easy? 
Interestingly, Juenger found that the groups were willing to pay more for Netflix, even as much as $20 a month. Still, no one wanted to pay for a $20-a-month cable package.
What gives? Juenger posited that cord-cutter put a lot of value on Netflix's convenient on-demand content and look down on the bulk of TV programming.
There were a couple pieces of good news for pay TV companies. 
For all the concern over Aereo, a start-up service that lets people watch the broadcast networks online without cable, no one on the panel had ever heard of it. 
Also, most people don't plan to stay cordless forever. Panelists had fond memories of growing up in a TV household, and planned to pay for TV someday, perhaps when they start families. 
Unsurprisingly, no sports fans participated in the study.

The cast of "One Life to Live"
Production firm Prospect Park said Thursday that it had reached an agreement with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees that will allow the production of online soaps to resume. Above, the cast of "One Life to Live."(Prospect Park)

IATSE settles dispute over 'All My Children,' 'One Life to Live

In true soap opera fashion, several locals of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees union have kissed and made up with Prospect Park, a production firm behind online versions of "All My Children" and "One Life to Live."
Production of the Web soaps was abruptly halted earlier this month amid a dispute over payment rates to union members.  IATSE represents crew members.
Prospect Park said Thursday that production of both Web soaps should resume Aug. 13, after a planned summer hiatus.  The company had abandoned production this month for about 10 days after it began squabbling with IATSE over show budgets and payments to union members.
The soaps shoot in Connecticut to take advantage of that state's tax credits for film projects.
Prospect Park in April rolled out the online versions of the two shows, which delighted generations of fans when they ran on the ABC television network. ABC pulled the plug on the soaps in late 2011 and early 2012, worried that the network would soon lose money producing the labor-intensive programs.
Prospect Park first tried to produce the two shows without union participation but that proved impossible, so it negotiated agreements with the various guilds.
IATSE's New York Production locals 52, 161, 600, 700, 764, 798 and USA829 were part of the agreement announced late Thursday.
"We are pleased that the parties were able to successfully address their concerns in a mutually beneficial way, which will enable these innovative shows to continue to be produced with our talented crews," IATSE Local 600 representative David Blake said in a statement on behalf of the New York production locals.
Meet the Press logo
NBC is shaking up "Meet the Press," bringing in Rob Yarin as executive producer in August (NBCUniversal / June 20, 2013)

NBC shakes up 'Meet the Press'

NBC News is switching up the producer ranks at "Meet the Press," bringing in veteran news producer Rob Yarin, who has previously worked closely with anchor David Gregory.
Betsy Fischer Martin, who began her career as an intern on the show 22 years ago and became executive producer 11 years ago, plans to transition to a new role as managing editor of political programming for all of NBC News, the network said Thursday.
Yarin, 52, has been senior vice president for programming at the media consulting firm Frank N. Magid Assoc. since 1999. He will join the NBC show on Aug. 4.
"Meet the Press" the longest-running program in television, has seen its ratings slip in recent years. This season, the NBC program has been averaging nearly 3 million viewers a week, slightly less than for the half-hour version of CBS' "Face the Nation," which is up 8% and averages 3.2 million viewers.
ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" also has made ratings gains, mustering 2.6 million viewers a week, an increase of 9%. CBS' "Face the Nation" runs two separate half-hours of the program. When combined, the CBS program averages 2.4 million viewers a week. Fox News Channel's "Fox News Sunday" draws more than 1.2 million viewers, an increase of 9%.
Although the audiences are not huge, the Sunday morning public affairs shows are important advertising draws. They attract big industrial companies and defense contractors that buy commercial time on the programs to reach members ofCongress and other opinion leaders.
"I’ve known Rob since my earliest days at NBC News, including our work together covering the ’08 campaign," Gregory said in a statement. "His creativity as a producer and his political smarts are the perfect combination for the future of ‘Meet the Press'." 
In 2008, Yarin worked as the executive producer of “Race for the White House,” a daily election program hosted by Gregory that aired on MSNBC. He has served as an advisor to “Meet the Press.”  Previously, he was executive producer of “Hardball with Chris Matthews,” when the show aired onCNBC
Early in his career, Yarin was managing editor of the syndicated “Entertainment Tonight” and was a local news producer at several television stations including KCBS-TV Channel 2 and KNBC-TV Channel 4 in LA.
For Fischer Martin, leaving "Meet the Press" closes an important career chapter. She started at the show as an intern and worked her way up the ranks. Previous moderator Tim Russert promoted her to executive producer in 2002.  Russert died five years ago, and Fischer Martin managed the transition to Gregory.
 "I have been so honored to have had almost 22 years in a front row seat to history every week on ‘Meet the Press'," Fischer Martin said in a statement.
Earlier this year, she signed a long-term contract with NBC News and plans to work with political news teams across the news division.

Jeff Robinov
Jeff Robinov, President, Warner Bros. Pictures Group is said to be leaving the studio. Pictured: Robinov photographed at the Studios in Burbank in 2011 (LIZ O. BAYLEN / Los Angeles Times / March 22, 2011)

Staying or going? Hollywood started buzzing late Thursday that Warner Bros. movie chief Jeff Robinov was exiting the studio. That wouldn't be a huge shocker given that Robinov was passed over for the top job at the studio in favor of home entertainment chief Kevin Tsujihara. There was no official word from Warner Bros., which went into hiding. There is speculation that Robinov may end up at 20th Century Fox. More from Deadline HollywoodLos Angeles Times and Variety.

Make your offer. Bids on Local TV LLC, an owner of 19 television stations in large and medium-sized markets, are due. The Wall Street Journal says the price tag for the stations could hit the $2.5-billion mark. Expected to bid are Sinclair, the nation's largest owner of TV stations, Nexstar Broadcasting and Tribune Co., parent of the Los Angeles Times. There have been several big sales of TV groups lately, including Gannett's acquisition of Belo Corp. last week.

'Family Guy'
Fox's "Family Guy" has received many complaints for its content. (Fox / June 20, 2013)

Let us play on our own. Fox told the Federal Communications Commission that it needs to stop policing the airwaves. The comments were in response to an FCC notice that it was considering loosening up its enforcement of indecency rules. Fox cited not only mixed messages from the courts about the FCC's enforcement methods, but also that neither cable nor the Internet has to play by the same rules. Other networks also weighed in, saying the FCC can stay on the sidelines. Details from theLos Angeles Times and Broadcasting & Cable.

Howard Kurtz
Moving on. Howard Kurtz, the longtime media critic and host of CNN's "Reliable Sources," is moving to Fox News to host a similar show. Even though Kurtz worked at Fox News' whipping boy CNN, Kurtz is said to have always been a favorite of Fox News boss Roger Ailes. CNN said "Reliable Sources" will continue  without Kurtz and the search is on for a new host. Tell me where to send my head shot. More on Kurtz's exit from the New York Times and Washington Post.

Honey Boo Boo
Alana (Honey Boo Boo) reads a book to her baby doll in "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo." (TLC)

Discovery founder John Hendricks' book covers start to Honey Boo Boo

A new distribution platform is emerging and no one knows what to make of it. The established players are wary of it and see it as more foe than friend. Others are afraid of losing their shirt by investing in it.
But this isn't the Internet. This was cable television in the early 1980s. Back then there were only a handful of networks and few were talking about 500 channels full of original content.
"It was an unproven business, investors were not convinced that cable programming was a good investment," said John Hendricks, founder of Discovery Communications.
In his soon-to-be-released autobiography "A Curious Discovery," Hendricks tells the story of how he built Discovery from one channel into a global media empire with shows ranging from explorations of the planet and universe to reality fare starring a precocious kid nicknamed Honey Boo Boo. 
Intrigued with science and space travel ever since he was a kid, Hendricks had been keeping an eye on the cable industry as it started to gain traction. He was working in academia at the University of Maryland when he decided to try to create a channel that would carry educational fare.
Hendricks pitched his wife Maureen the idea first. She was on board but did have one crucial question.
"If this is such a good idea, why didn't Ted Turner do it?"
Hendricks had wondered the same thing but moved forward anyway. He took out a second mortgage on his home for $100,000 and threw in another $30,000. Now all he needed was another $25 million to try to get Discovery off the ground.
Hendricks knew how to get grants from the government and foundations for research, but this was different.
"I had to get introduced to individuals who could write $50,000 investment checks and to companies that could invest $1 million or more," he writes in "A Curious Discovery." Through a mutual friend, Hendricks met Harry Hagerty, a D.C. businessman who had developed digital switches for phone companies.  Hagerty liked the idea and connected Hendricks to Allen & Co., the boutique investment bank.
Hendricks also figured having a big name on board wouldn't hurt either. He cold-called CBS anchor Walter Cronkite, who like Hendricks shared an interest in space travel and serious documentary programming. Cronkite loved the idea and wrote Hendricks a letter offering an endorsement that he could show to prospective backers.
Finding content wasn't the problem. Hendricks discovered plenty of documentaries from the BBC and elsewhere he could get rights to on the cheap.
The next step for Hendricks was to persuade cable operators. He gambled and rented time on a satellite and put on a sample of Discovery for free for a week. After that, 900 cable operators representing almost 5 million homes (a lot back then) said they wanted to carry the channel.
Allen & Co. was then able to raise $5 million for Discovery, and it launched in 1985. The only problem was that the channel was burning through that cash. Hendricks looked to find a partner and was willing to sell 40% for $6 million. He said Disney and Universal turned him down and a deal with Chronicle Publishing fell through.
Hendricks then had Allen & Co. reach out to John Malone, whose Tele-Communications Inc. was the biggest cable operator in the country at the time. TCI took a stake, and three other major operators did as well, saving Discovery from crashing and burning before it could ever get far off the ground.
Over the years, Discovery has grown from one channel to severalm including TLC (formerly the Learning Channel) and Animal Planet. At the same time, it has also broadened its programming beyond nature, space travel and science to reality. Some critics think the company has gone too far away from its original mission to educate and enlighten with shows such as "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" and "Amish Mafia."
"I could not disagree more," Hendricks wrote. "Nor will I ever apologize for having built Discovery on good business principles."
In an interview, Hendricks said for the company to be a global force it needed to expand beyond the 25% of TV viewers who come to television for information and get to the 75% who "primarily look to television for amusement."
And as for Turner, he ended up trying to buy Discovery but struck out.
Michael Robertson, who sold in 2001, has a new venture in Internet radio. (

Michael Robertson's Uberstations to challenge TuneIn, iHeartRadio

Former Chief Executive Michael Robertson has entered the ever-growing online music streaming industry.
Uberstations, which launched Thursday, aggregates streams of traditional radio stations, which users can listen to from the site for free. 
Uberstations shows users what songs and talk shows are playing in whatever ZIP code or area code they choose. When users pick a station to play, Uberstations suggests other stations playing similar streams. 
Robertson, 46, said Uberstations, which has nine employees, combines elements of Pandora and TuneIn. 
“We think this is a real advance in online radio experience," he said in an interview. "We play all the stations in one beautiful Web experience, and we’re tracking real-time what’s playing on thousands of stations.”
Uberstations, which Robertson is funding himself, tracks about 14,000 stations, mostly in the United States.
TuneIn says on its website that it streams about 70,000 stations and has 40 million monthly active users worldwide -- and has surpassed 1 billion listening hours as of April this year.
Streaming music online is becoming an increasingly crowded space, with Apple Inc. recently launching its iTunes Radio to take on Pandora. Other major players include Rdio, MOG andClear Channel's iHeartRadio.
Robertson sold in 2001 to Vivendi, which later sold it to CNET. Not long after a successful IPO in 1999, the company struggled with copyright-infringement lawsuits. 
Inside the Los Angeles Times: Video and print from Kenneth Turan on "World War Z" and from Mary McNamara on the legacy of James Gandolfini.

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