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Thursday, August 22, 2013

Hulu Kids adds 'Fraggle Rock' and other Jim Henson Family shows

Hulu said Thursday it will offer "Fraggle Rock" and other Jim Henson Family shows on its Hulu Kids offering. Above, the Muppet cast of "Fraggle Rock." (Jim Henson Co.)

The online video service Hulu has added some energetic mop-top characters from Jim Henson Family shows, including the classic 1980s children's television series, "Fraggle Rock."
Hulu now has rights to 10 Henson children's television shows, including "The Hoobs" and "Jim Henson's Animal Show with Stinky and Jake." The Santa Monica online venture will use the content to bolster its Hulu Kids corner which is offered as part of its monthly Hulu Plus subscription service. 
Commercial-free episodes of "Fraggle Rock" and the other Henson creations were made available to Hulu Plus subscribers beginning Thursday.
Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Hulu said it now boasts more Jim Henson Family titles than other video subscription service. 
Children's TV shows have become an increasingly important draw for parents who turn to online video services to provide commercial-free content to entertain their kids. That has raised the stakes for Hulu Plus and rivals andNetflix to arrange exclusive deals and pay top dollar for rights to children's TV shows. 
In June, Viacom Inc. cemented a pact with to shift "SpongeBob SquarePants," "Dora the Explorer" and other Nickelodeon children's shows to Amazon's Prime Instant Video service rather than continue its relationship with Netflix. The Viacom-Amazon deal was estimated to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars over the life of the multi-year contract.
A month earlier, Walt Disney Co. structured a deal granting Netflix the streaming rights to popular Disney children'sshows.  Disney's "Jake and the Never Land Pirates" and the animated "Tron: Uprising" are featured as part of Netflix's "Just for Kids" interface.  DreamWorks Animation separately is creating an original animated series for Netflix.
Hulu is a joint venture owned by Disney, 21st Century Fox andComcast Corp.'s NBCUniversal.
In addition to the fuller library of Henson shows offered on Hulu Plus, Hulu said it also would place in a rotation five episodes from the Henson Family collection on the free, advertising supported
This library of content was made available to Hulu in conjunction with Gaiam Vivendi Entertainment, which distributes the Jim Henson Company's catalog in North America.

Superhero Roadtrip. 2 takes on Horror this weekend.CBS inks deal with Verizon; Disney/ABC TV unit lays off workers

Marvel Entertainment and Hero Ventures are hoping to capitalize on the success of such recent hit films as "The Avenger," with Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). (Marvel / April 25, 2012)

Marvel superheroes to become a traveling interactive attraction

After its success with movies and products based on superheroes such as Iron Man and Thor, Marvel Entertainment has teamed with a Los Angeles start-up for a new traveling attraction based on the characters.
Live entertainment company Hero Ventures is spending more than $30 million on "The Marvel Experience," which will travel to 20 to 24 cities in its first tour next year, Chief Executive Rick Licht said. 
The project will use a dome the size of two football fields to house the attraction at each stop. Licht, who co-founded the company with fellow entrepreneur Doug Schaer in 2012, said the effort will be similar to attractions such as the Super Bowl Experience.
Its features will include a motion simulator ride, 3D animation, holograms and origin stories of the characters using still images from the comic books. There will, of course, be plenty of merchandise for sale. 
"We're combining all these elements into a magnificent beast," Licht said. "Everything we’re doing has been done before, but none of it has been done all together. It’s never been made into a traveling show, and it’s never been done with such phenomenally popular characters."
By teaming with Marvel, which is owned by Walt Disney Co. in Burbank, Hero Ventures is tapping into a rich franchise that is responsible for multiple hit movies, including the recent box office hits "The Avengers" and "Iron Man 3." Hero Ventures has a multiyear licensing deal with Marvel. 
Sean Haran, Marvel's vice president of business development, said the project will offer a chance for people to interact with the Marvel brand in a new way.
"Fans can enter and experience Marvel on their own terms, interacting with the various stations they choose and spending as much time as they want," he said. 
Hero Ventures is trying to make "The Marvel Experience" appeal to a broad, family audience without alienating die-hard fans.
“Every day we’re trying to get the content and the storyline just right," Licht said. "Trying to get it to work for a 7-year-old, a college kid and a parent is a delicate balance."

After the coffee. Before Joe rethinks his vacation plans.

The Skinny: The boss is going on vacation next week and wisely giving me reign over the Fix. Or maybe not so wisely, given I stayed up too late watching "The Thick of It" on Hulu. Today's headlines include Disney layoffs and a carriage deal between CBS and -- wait for it ...  

Daily Dose: There's still no CBS deal with Time Warner Cable, but there is one with Verizon. CBS Corp. reached a new carriage agreement with Verizon that continues retransmission of CBS-owned stations and "dramatically" increases distribution of CBS Sports Content to Verizon's FiOS TV customers. It sounds like they reached the 3-year accord pretty quickly.

Down and out at the mouse house: Disney/ABC Television Group, which includes the ABC network, local TV stations and the Disney Channel and ABC Family cable channels, is cutting about 175 jobs as part of its restructuring. The move fits with Walt Disney Co.'s larger slimming efforts. Cuts like these don't always result in worse performance, as we've seen with ABC News. Details from the Los Angeles Times and Ad Age.

CNN up, MSNBC down: There's no topping Fox News, but CNN had a summer surge, with an assist from the George Zimmerman trial. The other two cable news giants actually slipped compared with last summer, helping CNN push past MSNBC in some categories. Variety has the full rundown.

Taming the Beast: Tina Brown's contract with Barry Diller's IAC is set to expire in January, leaving the Hollywood Reporter to wonder whether she will continue to run the Daily Beast or move on to something else. Brown was known to spare no expense on Newsweek, which Diller recently sold to International Business Times.

'MasterChef' wins over 'Talent' and 'Big Brother'

Wednesday night's "MasterChef" featured the remaining six contestants taking over Wolfgang Puck's WP24 restaurant in downtown Los Angeles.
The Gordon Ramsay-led show whipped up another primetime win for Fox in the 18-49 demographic, generating a rating of 2.3 in the key 18-49 demographic, according to early numbers from Nielsen, up 5% from last week. The show drew 5.5 million viewers.
The series has won 11 of the last 13 Wednesdays.
Fox ranked No. 1 for the night among the networks with a rating of 1.7 in the 18-49 category. 
On CBS, the ever-controversial "Big Brother" increased 10% to a 2.2. 
On NBC, "America's Got Talent" had its final round of eliminations before moving on to the semifinals. The show's demographic rating was the same as last week's, 2.1, and it increased to 9.2 million viewers, making it the most watched telecast of the night.
ABC's only original for the night, the news magazine "The Lookout," fell 30% to match its series low of 0.7. It brought in about 2.9 million viewers.

Ned Vaughn resigns from SAG-AFTRA to run as Republican for Assembly.

In a surprising plot twist in Hollywood's largest labor union, Ned Vaughn, a key figure in the campaign to merge Hollywood's actors unions, is resigning as executive vice president of SAG-AFTRA to run as a Republican candidate for the California Assembly.
Vaughn said he would seek an Assembly seat in the 66th district, representing L.A. County's South Bay, an unexpected career move for the veteran actor who has been an influential figure in the formation of SAG-AFTRA, which was established a year ago and has about 165,000 members. Al Muratsuchi, a Democrat, currently represents the 66th District.
Vaughn was elected to the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) board of directors in 2008 and quickly rose to become the guild's first vice president in 2010.
Following the merger, Vaughn was named executive vice president of SAG-AFTRA, serving as the second-ranking and only Republican national officer of the union.
Vaughn, who lives in Rancho Palos Verdes with his wife and five children, cited his children’s future as the primary reason for his entry into public service. He is known for his roles in “The Hunt for Red October,” “Apollo 13,” “The Tuskegee Airmen” and “24.”
“California used to be the land of opportunity, where the Republican ideals of improvement through a quality public education, hard work and individual achievement could provide a good life for people and their families. Today, hard work and individual achievement are undermined by those who champion higher taxes and bigger government,” said Vaughn. “State government and the Democrat majority are wasting money, over-regulating small businesses and leading California down a path to mediocrity. I’m running for State Assembly to change that."
Vaughn's term as executive vice president was set to expire at SAG-AFTRA's inaugural convention, to be held Sept. 26-29 in Los Angeles.
“Ned has been a driving force behind many of our greatest successes, in particular the years-long effort to merge our two unions," SAG-AFTRA President Ken Howard said. "There would not be a united SAG-AFTRA without his dedication and commitment. He's a tremendous leader and I’m sorry to see him go, but wish him all the best in his new endeavor.”
Although many Hollywood union leaders have clashed with the Republican Party over perceived assaults on organized labor, Vaughn said he does not see any inconsistency between his union background and his GOP candidacy.
"It puts the lie to the idea that all Republicans are completely anti-union," Vaughn said in an interview.  "What I did at SAG-AFTRA really hewed to my Republican principles. I came into a situation where members weren't served. The situation was one of wasteful, excessive spending. The consolidation of these unions created a more efficient and effective organization that increased the power of members. That's good business."
Vaughn was praised by U.S. House of Representatives Majority Whip Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), of Bakersfield. “Ned Vaughn is the type of leader California needs: a proven problem-solver and an effective communicator who can give voice to millions of Californians who are tired of seeing our state fall behind,” said McCarthy.

U.S. Open venue
The U.S. Open tennis tournament will take place Aug. 26 to Sept. 9 at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York. Above, Arthur Ashe Stadium, the main venue. (Chris Trotman / Getty Images for USTA / September 9, 2012)

Time Warner Cable offers Tennis Channel free in CBS-deprived areas.

With the U.S. Open tennis tournament set to begin next week, some ardent tennis fans who subscribe to Time Warner Cableare getting a little twitchy.
The reason: The nearly three-week blackout of local CBS stations on Time Warner Cable systems in Los Angeles, New York and Dallas could keep tennis fans in those markets from watching CBS coverage of key weekend action from the nation's biggest tennis tournament. 
On Wednesday, Time Warner Cable tried to mollify tennis fans. The cable provider said that it would make the independent Tennis Channel free to its digital subscribers in CBS blackout markets who might be miffed that they could miss CBS' coverage of the U.S. Open.
Time Warner Cable said digital customers "in areas affected by a CBS blackout" would be provided with the Tennis Channel free during the U.S. Open, which runs from Aug. 26 to Sept. 9. 
The Tennis Channel plans to televise more than 200 hours of U.S. Open matches, including 75 hours of live coverage, including prime-time matches over the Labor Day weekend. 
Still, the marquee action will be on CBS. The broadcast network owns the rights to air more than 36 hours of U.S. Open coverage over the long Labor Day weekend as well as the pivotal men's and women's semifinals and final matches, which will take place Friday, Sept. 6 through Monday, Sept. 9. (The men's final is scheduled for 2 p.m. Pacific time Sept. 9).
The Tennis Channel also plans to replay the men's and women's semifinals and the men's and women's finals after those matches air live on CBS. 
ESPN also has rights to televise dozens of U.S. Open matches.  And beginning in 2015, the Walt Disney Co.-owned sports network will hold broadcast rights to the semifinals and finals.  But that doesn't help Time Warner Cable customers this year who live in the blackout cities.
“We appreciate our customers’ patience as we work to resolve the blackout with CBS,” Mike Angus, Time Warner Cable general manager of video, said in a statement. 
“We know the U.S. Open is popular programming.  We’re pleased to be able to offer additional programming via Tennis Channel to customers affected by this dispute," Angus said. "A lot of the matches will also still be available to customers via ESPN2 and CBS Sports Network.”

Robert Griffin III
Could Google make a play for an NFL package? The Sunday Ticket contract, which costs DirecTV roughly $1 billion per season, is up after the 2014 season. (AFP/Getty Images / August 21, 2013)

Is Google ready for some football?
National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell is in Silicon Valley this week and that's all it took to get tongues wagging that the Internet search giant and parent of YouTube is eager to get a piece of the action.
The only NFL TV package that will be available anytime soon is satellite broadcaster DirecTV's Sunday Ticket package, which allows subscribers access to every NFL game on Sunday afternoons. It is ideal for a fan who roots for a team whose games are not routinely available or for obsessed fans who like to watch multiple games at the same time.
The Sunday Ticket contract, which costs DirecTV roughly $1 billion per season, is up after the 2014 season. While that seems like a long way off, the NFL likes to renegotiate TV deals a few years in advance.
If Google were to go after Sunday Ticket, it would likely be with the intention of streaming the games over the Internet, which is known in the industry as going over the top. Such a move would be intriguing to say the least and was a topic of conversation between the NFL and Google, according to All Things Digital.
Of DirecTV's 20 million subscribers, about 2 million get Sunday Ticket at an average price of $250 per season. DirecTV also gets revenue from its Sunday Ticket mobile package that allows customers to watch games on their phones.
An over the top offering of Sunday Ticket could greatly increase the potential audience far beyond DirecTV and Google certainly has deep enough pockets to make the NFL think very seriously about such a bold offer.
But -- there is always a but -- there are other things to consider including how CBS and Fox would feel about a Google package.
The concern of CBS and Fox would primarily be that if enough people were watching football games online that were not available in their town, it could hurt the ratings for their local stations. Even though the ratings for a game watched on Sunday Ticket count toward CBS and Fox's national rating, a Los Angeles resident watching a game in the Washington market doesn't do their local stations any good.
This is why the NFL has resisted the urge to offer Sunday Ticket to cable operators such as Time Warner Cable andComcast who would be very eager to get the package away from DirecTV. The risk is that it would ultimately harm CBS and Fox and make them less eager to spend so much on football.
The NFL declined to comment on Google and Sunday Ticket as did Google. A league spokesman said it often meets with "innovative leaders in Silicon Valley and around the world" and is "constantly looking for ways to make our game better on the field."
While the NFL is staying quiet, just floating the idea of a rival bidder for Sunday Ticket may be enough to get DirecTV to shell out more cash to hold onto its package.

al jazeera
Ehab Shihabi, second from right, interim CEO for Al Jazeera America, gestures as he chats with newsroom staff after the network's first broadcast. (Bebeto Matthews / Associated Press / August 20, 2013)

Al Jazeera America's debut underwhelms television critics.

The early reviews are in for the first day of programming onAl Jazeera America.
If there's a consensus, it's that the new network, which has pitched for months itself as an unbiased alternative to opinionated and sensationalized cable news shows in the U.S., delivered quality journalism at the expense of entertaining television.  
The debut of AJAM, which replaced Al Gore's Current TV on Tuesday, opened with a hourlong rundown of the network's mission statement, in which it made its pitch to Americans, or at least those whose pay-TV providers carry it.

The channel may be delivering on its promise of news without gimmickry, reported fairly and responsibly, but the tradeoff appears to be a lack of entertainment value.
Lloyd Grove, editor at large for the Daily Beast, was among the harshest detractors. "While AJAM’s debut was competent and relatively glitch-free, the pace was slow, the production values were plodding and predictable, and the presentation relied heavily on yakking, and more yakking, straight to camera," he wrote in a review.  
The panel discussion program "Inside Story" -- which featured a measured chat about the dangers of climate change -- took much of the heat from critics.
"It's tough to make a half-hour of truly informed conversation about climate change interesting," wrote Los Angeles Times' television critic Mary McNamara. "It's almost impossible if you're going to rely on three talking heads and some fairly banal graphics."  
As for the journalism, according to Washington Post writer Paul Farhi, the channel "if anything, was behind the curve," airing a story about the detention of reporter Glenn Greenwald's partner in London a full day after other outlets broke the story, for example.
Shows such as "Fault Lines," which included an investigation of Wal-Mart's use of subcontractors in Bangladesh, went over much better. McNamara called the programming, overall, a "welcome addition" to the nation's news diet. 
Even Grove noted that he is rooting for the network. "[I]n an age of media belt tightening, when once-imposing journalistic institutions are being shuttered or sold for a fraction of their historic value, it is heartening that a Gulf-state emir, of all people, is willing to spend hundreds of millions, and probably billions, of dollars to field a serious news organization in the United States."

Kristen Bell stars in "Stuck in Love," a Millennium Entertainment picture that will be available on the Prima Cinema service.

Millennium Entertainment inks deal with Prima Cinema.

Film distribution company Millennium Entertainment has signed a deal with Prima Cinema Inc., which sells a high-end service that allows customers to watch first-run movies from home.
Millennium's "Stuck in Love" already is available on the Prima system. Forthcoming pictures from the company, including the animated movie "Khumba," will also be carried by Prima. 
Carlsbad, Calif.-based Prima Cinema sells a $35,000 device that offers 24-hour rentals of movies that begin showing the same day they premiere at the local multiplex.
It costs $500 per rental, and $600 for a 3-D film. Movies from Universal Pictures, Magnolia Pictures and Cinedigm are available on the service.
"Millennium is a top independent studio that continues to expand their production depth and breadth of films that our clients desire," Jason Pang, chief executive of Prima, said in an email interview.
Producer Avi Lerner's film company Nu Image has a controlling interest in Millennium Entertainment, which distributes Lerner's movies and others.
"We just see it as a unique opportunity to reach an audience that is otherwise kind of difficult to reach through traditional channels," said Steve Nickerson, president of Millennium Entertainment. "They are celebrities and high-net-worth individuals that ... are very busy doing what they do to achieve their success. This is a way to reach them."
Nickerson declined to disclose the financial details of Millennium's arrangement with Prima. 
Prima was founded in 2010 and launched its service last year. It counts Universal as an investor.
Pang declined to disclose how many customers his company has. 

"You're Next."
"You're Next." (Handout / August 21, 2013)

Inside the Los Angeles Times: Mark Olsen reviews "The World's End," giving the comedy high marks, and Robert Abele assesses "You're Next."

"The World's End"
Simon Pegg, right, and Nick Frost star in "The World's End." (Laurie Sparham / Focus Features / August 23, 2013)

Clair de lune: Claude Debussy gets honoured with Google Doodle

Googe doodle – Debussy
Debussy is celebrated in Google's latest doodle. Photograph: Google
Google is celebrating the 151st anniversary of the birth of French composer Achille-Claude Debussy with an animated doodle set to one of his best-known pieces, Clair de lune (Moonlight).
The doodle features a moonlit riverside scene which progresses to the sound of the piece, the third movement of his most famous piano suites, Suite bergamasque (1890–1905). Lights in the streets and houses flicker on and off in time to the music as the silhouettes of cars, boats and cyclists pass by, smoke rises from chimneys and rain begins to fall.
The animation ends with two people in different boats crossing paths on the river and sharing a red umbrella.
Debussy's compositions are considered a seminal force in the music of the 20th century. He developed a system of harmony and musical structure that has been compared to the work of Impressionist and Symbolist painters. His style was reflected in his best known quote: "Music is the space between the notes."
His other major works include Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune (Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun, 1894), the opera Pelléas et Mélisande (1902), and La Mer (The Sea, 1905).
Debussy was born in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France, on 22 August 1862. In 1884, aged just 22, he won the Grand Prix de Rome with his cantata L'Enfant prodigue (The Prodigal Child).
He died of colon cancer at his home in the Bois de Boulogne in Paris on 25 March 1918 when he was only 55.