May 17, 2021

Media Decoder Blog: Vieira to Leave ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire’

Disney is searching for a new host for the syndicated game show “Who Wants to be a Millionaire.”

Meredith Vieira, the host since 2002, said Thursday that she had decided to leave the show at the end of her current contract cycle. “It’s been a great 11 years,” she said in a statement. “I am about to embark on a new adventure with NBC and I have a digital venture which will be announced shortly. This just seemed like the right time to make the move.”

Ms. Vieira was a co-host of NBC’s “Today” between 2006 and 2011. She is now a special correspondent for the network. An NBC representative declined to comment on what Ms. Vieira’s “new adventure” was. Last week Ms. Vieira filled in for Kathie Lee Gifford on the 10 a.m. hour of “Today.”

“Millionaire” was originally hosted in prime time by Regis Philbin, then reformatted for the daytime with Ms. Vieira and distributed to local stations. A spokesman for Ms. Vieira said she was the longest-serving female host of a game show in television history.

Disney, the distributor, said a new host would take over for her in the fall.

Article source: http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/11/vieira-to-leave-who-wants-to-be-a-millionaire/?partner=rss&emc=rss

Better Economy and Storm Delays Lift U.S. Auto Sales

DETROIT (AP) — Superstorm Sandy gave an extra boost to already strong U.S. auto sales last month, although carmakers warned that uncertainty over the “fiscal cliff” could undo some of those gains.

Most major companies, from Toyota to Chrysler, posted impressive increases from a year earlier. Only General Motors was left struggling to explain its 3-percent sales gain and large inventory of unsold trucks.

Americans were already willing to buy a new car or truck last month because they’re more confident in the economy. Home values are rising, hiring is up and auto financing is readily available. Also, the average age of a vehicle on U.S. roads is approaching a record 11 years, so many people are looking to replace older cars.

Sandy just boosted that demand. The storm added 20,000 to 30,000 sales industry wide in November, mostly from people who planned to buy cars during the October storm but had to delay their purchases, Ford estimated. People who need to replace storm-damaged vehicles are expected to drive sales for several more months. GM estimates that 50,000 to 100,000 vehicles will eventually need to be replaced.

November sales, when calculated on an annual basis, are likely to be 15 million or more, the highest rate since March of 2008, according to LMC Automotive, a Detroit-area consulting firm. That’s higher than the 14.3 million annual rate so far this year, even though November is normally a lackluster month due to cold weather and holiday anticipation. Both GM and Chrysler predicted November sales would run at an annual rate of 15.3 million.

If sales end up at 15 million for the year, it would be a vast improvement over the 10.4 million during the recession in 2009. Sales would still fall short of the recent peak of around 17 million in 2005.

But the ongoing “fiscal cliff” negotiations between Congress and the White House could still derail the industry’s recovery. The term refers to sharp government spending cuts and tax increases scheduled to start Jan. 1 unless an agreement is reached to cut the budget deficit. Economists say that those measures, if implemented, could push the U.S. economy back into a recession.

“Exactly how much growth we can expect next year will depend in part on how Congress and the president resolve the fiscal cliff issue,” said Kurt McNeil, GM’s U.S. sales chief. “Markets and consumers hate uncertainty.”

McNeil and other GM executives tried to explain the automaker’s disappointing performance. GM’s biggest brand, Chevrolet, reported flat sales over last year despite new products like the Spark minicar. Silverado pickup sales fell 10 percent.

GM’s sales have been trailing the industry all year. They were up 4 percent through October, compared to the industry-wide increase of 14 percent.

GM said its competitors resorted to higher than usual incentives last month to get rid of 2012 model-year trucks. GM, which had more 2013 trucks on its lots, was only offering an average of $500 per truck, or a third of what others were offering. GM has been trying to hold the line on costly incentives, which can hurt resale value and brand image.

“We want to be known for great products, not great incentives,” McNeil said.

But some analysts think GM will be forced to offer more deals in December to clear out higher-than-forecast inventory.

Asian brands also got a boost from some unusually big discounts, said Jesse Toprak, senior analyst for automotive pricing site TrueCar.com. TrueCar estimated that Hyundai and Kia, which were admonished by the U.S. government in late October for overstating gas mileage, increased incentive spending by nearly 30 percent. Nissan spending was up 45 percent to $4,273 per vehicle, by far the highest incentives in the industry.

Toyota said its 17-percent sales increase was partly due to post-Sandy demand. Honda was up 39 percent thanks to strong sales of the new Accord sedan and clearance deals on the outgoing Civic, which was replaced by a new 2013 Civic at the end of the month.

Luxury cars saw their usual yearend surge as holiday commercials started crowding the airwaves. Porsche’s sales rose 71 percent to 3,865, a record month for the automaker. Infiniti, Acura, BMW and Lexus all reported big gains.

Edmunds.com analyst Jessica Caldwell said luxury brands have historically targeted their customers at this time of year because of holiday bonuses. That’s no longer a driving factor, she said, but it’s still a good time of year for people to buy 2012 model-year luxury vehicles because dealers are trying to clear them out.

Other automakers reporting sales Monday:

— Chrysler’s sales were up 14 percent. Ram pickups were up 23 percent, while sales of the Fiat 500 minicar more than doubled.

— Hyundai’s sales rose 8 percent, led by the Sonata midsize car and the Elantra compact. TrueCar said Hyundai increased incentives by 30 percent it was admonished by the U.S. government in late October for overstating gas mileage.

— Volkswagen’s sales rose 29 percent on the strength of the Passat sedan, which was up 75 percent.

— Nissan’s sales climbed 13 percent as sales of its new Pathfinder SUV more than tripled over last year.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2012/12/03/business/ap-us-auto-sales.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

New Hacking Case Outrages Britain

The tabloid at the center of the scandal, The News of the World, had championed the campaign of the grieving mother, Sara Payne, for a law warning parents if child sex offenders lived nearby. Mrs. Payne, who was paralyzed by a stroke in recent years, had written warmly of the paper in its final edition, calling it “an old friend.”

A statement released on behalf of Mrs. Payne by the Phoenix Foundation, a children’s charity she founded, described her as devastated and disappointed. “Today is a very sad dark day for us,” the charity added in a posting on Facebook. “Our faith in good people has taken a real battering.” The page noted that she was struggling in the wake of the July 1 anniversary of her daughter’s abduction.

British news channels, which had been growing weary of the scandal — into a fourth week of cascading revelations that have shaken the media, political elite and police — broke into their scheduled reports to report the allegations that Ms. Payne had been hacked.

“Forgive me if I sound cynical,” said one member of parliament, Tom Watson, who has led investigations into hacking, “but I don’t know where it is going to end.”

 “The last edition of The News of the World made great play of the paper’s relationship with the Payne family,” he noted, saying, “I have nothing but contempt for the people that did this.”

The Guardian was the first to report Scotland Yard’s alert to Mrs. Payne, but the e-mail newsletter Popbitch suggested earlier this month that Mrs. Payne’s voice mail had been hacked and that the phone in question may have been provided to her by the onetime editor of The News of the World, Rebekah Brooks, as part of the campaign for the law.

In a statement, Ms. Brooks confirmed that The News of the World had provided Mrs. Payne with a cellphone “for the last 11 years,” but that “it was not a personal gift.” She said she found the allegations that Mrs. Payne’s voice mail had been hacked “abhorrent and particularly upsetting as Sara Payne is a dear friend.”

When Ms. Brooks, who has been forced to step down from News International, the British arm of Rubert Murdoch’s News Corporation and owner of The News of the World, recently testified before Parliament, she cited the successful campaign for Mrs. Payne’s law as evidence of the good she had done at the tabloid’s helm. A spokeswoman for News International said the company had no immediate comment.

Scotland Yard officers told Mrs. Payne that her name was on a list of about 4,000 targets held by the private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, according to the Phoenix Foundation statement. Mr. Mulcaire, who was convicted on hacking charges related to the paper five years ago, had an exclusive contract with the tabloid.

The hacking scandal had been smoldering for years, but ignited in recent weeks following assertions that hacking on behalf of The News of the World had interfered with the investigation into the 2006 murder of a 13-year-old girl, Milly Dowler. The man eventually convicted of her killing committed two more murders before he was caught.

Also on Thursday, the British judge leading the inquiry into the scandal held a news conference in central London, saying that the panel planned to hold its first public hearings in September and that it would have the power to compel witnesses to testify.

The inquiry will be in two parts. The first will focus on press regulation and the relationship between the press and the public, said the judge, Lord Justice Leveson. The second, which will begin after the police investigation is finished, will focus on specific allegations of phone hacking and other journalistic malfeasance in the wake of the scandal, which has spread through British media but which has most strongly shaken Mr. Murdoch’s media empire.

Justice Leveson was appointed by Prime Minister David Cameron after it became clear that hacking at The News of the World extended not only to public figures like celebrities and politicians, but also to Milly Dowler and the families of those killed in terrorist attacks. Mr. Cameron, a Conservative, initially resisted setting up an immediate inquiry, but changed his mind in response to widespread public disgust and growing political pressure from the opposition Labour Party.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/29/world/europe/29hacking.html?partner=rss&emc=rss