November 30, 2020

Emmys Highlight a Changing TV Industry

Its “House of Cards” is nominated for outstanding drama, the first time that a program distributed on the Internet has competed at the Emmys right alongside programs distributed through rabbit ears and satellite dishes. And the prospect that a streaming video service like Netflix could end up a winner at the Emmys ceremony on Sunday night has cast a spotlight on just how profoundly the television landscape has changed.

Still, most television critics and other self-professed Emmys experts suspect that it’s the cable channel AMC, not Netflix, that will have the most to celebrate at the awards show. “Breaking Bad,” which has been nominated for best drama four times before but has never won, is the clear favorite this year. In an e-mail, Debra Birnbaum, the editor in chief of TV Guide Magazine, borrowed a phrase from the series’ meth lord Walter White: “ ‘Breaking Bad’ is the danger this Emmy season.”

And that’s with just the first half of the show’s final season in contention for an Emmy this year. AMC broke the season into two parts, and only the first half was televised before the May cutoff date for Emmy eligibility. But the second half started to be shown in August, just as Emmy voters were receiving their ballots in the mail. What’s more, the reviews have been uniformly glowing, and the ratings have been building as the Sept. 29 finale approaches. Last Sunday’s episode, which generated more than 16,000 Twitter messages a minute at one point, was the most-watched episode yet, with at least 6.4 million viewers.

So it stands to reason that the Emmy results might reflect all the excitement. (Ballots were due on Aug. 30.) This week the Web site Gold Derby, which tracks Hollywood’s horse races, called “Breaking Bad” the “overwhelming front-runner.”

As it turns out, the series will be competing with the Emmys (televised by CBS) on Sunday night. The three-hour backslapping ceremony will begin at 8 p.m. Eastern, while the 75-minute penultimate episode of “Breaking Bad” will begin at 9 p.m. Since the drama prize is handed out last, “Breaking Bad” viewers can change channels afterward to see if the show won. (And if it doesn’t, well, the second half of the final season will be eligible again in 2014.)

For AMC, an Emmy for “Breaking Bad” would be a welcome acknowledgment of how it, like Netflix, has changed television. Until 2008, the only winners of the top drama Emmy, the most coveted of all, were broadcast networks and HBO. Then “Mad Men” came along and AMC became the first ad-supported cable channel to win the top drama award. “Mad Men” kept winning, for four seasons in a row, until Showtime’s “Homeland” snapped its streak last year.

This time around, both are nominated again, along with “Breaking Bad,” “House of Cards,” PBS’s “Downton Abbey,” and HBO’s “Game of Thrones.”

Netflix won’t say how many people have watched “House of Cards.” HBO’s “Thrones” might be the most popular of the six; HBO said the season finale in June attracted nearly 14 million viewers once on-demand viewership was calculated. About 12 million people saw the season finale of “Downton Abbey”; more than seven million saw “Homeland”; and nearly five million saw “Mad Men.”

For the second year in a row, no dramas from the big four broadcast networks were nominated. But the broadcasters were somewhat better represented in the best comedy category, where ABC’s “Modern Family” is vying for its fourth straight win. It is up against NBC’s “30 Rock,” which ended in May and is eligible for the final time; CBS’s “Big Bang Theory”; HBO’s “Girls” and “Veep”; and FX’s “Louie.”

The one Netflix comedy series that some thought would be nominated, “Arrested Development,” was not. But one of the stars of “Arrested,” Jason Bateman, is up for best lead actor in a comedy. Back on the drama side, Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright are both up for lead actor and actress for “House of Cards.”

Bruce Rosenblum, the chairman of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, said that Netflix’s nominations illustrated the evolving nature of TV.

“This is just the beginning,” he said. “If you look at the quantity of product being developed at Netflix and Amazon and Hulu and Xbox, it’s certainly reasonable to expect that this evolution will accelerate. Having said that, the quality of content on broadcast and cable is certainly at an all-time high as well.”

Netflix’s presence at the Emmys is the result of rules that were amended about six years ago to allow some (but not all) Internet shows. Netflix is technically already a winner: it picked up two awards for casting and cinematography last weekend at the Creative Arts portion of the Emmys. But to put that in context, HBO picked up 20, including eight for its TV movie “Behind the Candelabra.” The recorded Creative Arts ceremony will be shown by FXX on Saturday.

The prime-time ceremony on CBS will take stock of what many observers have called a golden age of TV. There remains a wide gulf, however, between the audience for the Academy Awards, which drew about 40 million viewers this year, and the Emmys, which attracted about 13 million in 2012. The Academy Awards have some advantages: namely, movie stars and 10 brand-new films in competition each year. The Emmys, on the other hand, often celebrate returning shows with relatively small audiences.

But Mr. Rosenblum voiced confidence that the ratings for the Emmys would defy trend lines and grow over time. “The industry is accelerating from a quality standpoint and from a buzz and pop culture standpoint,” he said, “and that at some point will be reflected in our ratings.”

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/21/business/media/emmys-highlight-a-changing-tv-industry.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

USA Network Turns to Vignettes to Draw Viewers and Advertisers to Its Daytime Schedule

The USA Network cable channel, part of NBCUniversal, is adapting the show, “Talk Stoop With Cat Greenleaf,” for a series of vignettes that will appear on the channel during a daytime block of programming that runs from 11 a.m. through 3 p.m. on Mondays through Fridays.

There are to be three to four vignettes each hour, with each vignette lasting from 10 seconds to 60 seconds. The vignettes, which go by the jargon-y term “short-form content pods” at USA, are to run adjacent to regular commercials.

Executives of USA plan to describe the initiative at their upfronts presentation on Thursday afternoon at Pier 36 in downtown Manhattan. The presentation will conclude the upfronts week in New York, during which cable channels and broadcast networks are sharing with Madison Avenue their schedules for the 2013-14 season.

The host of “Talk Stoop,” Cat Greenleaf, will also serve as the host of the USA programming block, which offers viewers reruns of series like “CSI,” “Law Order” and “NCIS.” She will greet viewers by saying something like, “Welcome to USA daytime.”

Ms. Greenleaf will also continue as the host of “Talk Stoop,” which appears on properties that include WNBC-TV in New York and iVillage.com, which, like USA, are part of the NBCUniversal division of Comcast.

Just as she does on “Talk Stoop,” Ms. Greenleaf will interview celebrities during the vignettes, who will include stars of USA series, celebrities in the news, stars who have new movies or TV shows to promote and even brand characters.

USA is offering marketers sponsorships of the vignettes, along with acknowledgments like “Brought to you by …” There will also be opportunities to place products within the vignettes so that Ms. Greenleaf could be watched, say, drinking a cup of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee or driving a BMW.

Ms. Greenleaf “has the right personality and editorial credibility to make daytime feel topical, vibrant and culturally relevant for both fans and advertisers,” said Alexandra Shapiro, executive vice president for marketing and digital at USA.

The initiative is another example of an increasingly popular trend known on Madison Avenue as branded content, native advertising or branded entertainment. The goal is to weave brands and products into editorial or entertainment content in a fashion that will circumvent consumers’ growing abilities to avoid or skip conventional ads like commercials.

“Cat is going to be the MC of the day, anchoring the four-hour block,” said Laura Molen, executive vice president for cable advertising sales at NBCUniversal, who oversees USA and other channels like E! and Chiller.

Some vignettes “will be her traditional stoop interviews,” Ms. Molen said, and some will feature Ms. Greenleaf using a “portable” stoop that will enable her to visit locations like restaurants.

The vignettes are being sold to advertisers as part of packages, Ms. Molen said, that are composed of the segments along with “regular commercials before or after.” She said that pricing is being determined as the sales process gets under way.

The original programming that is to be discussed at the USA upfronts presentation will include drama series like “Graceland,” about undercover federal agents; comedy series like “Sirens,” about paramedics; and reality series like “Summer Camp.”

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/17/business/media/usa-network-turns-to-vignettes-to-draw-viewers-and-advertisers-to-its-daytime-schedule.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

CBS Acquires 50% Stake In Former TV Guide Network

The deal, in the works for several weeks, puts CBS into partnership with Lionsgate, which will retain the other half of the company. The management structure was not announced, but the official statement about the deal promised that a rebranding effort and a new programming strategy would be announced later.

CBS, which already owns the pay-cable channel Showtime, paid about $100 million to acquire the 50 percent of TVGN and of the Web site TVGuide.com that had been owned by One Equity Partners, a unit of JPMorgan Chase. The price means the value of the half-stake has declined since 2009, when One Equity paid $122 million for a 49 percent share.

Lionsgate, the entertainment company responsible for such television shows as “Mad Men” and “Nurse Jackie,” bought the network in 2000 for $241 million. TVGN is available in more than 80 million homes.

CBS’s top executive, Leslie Moonves, has been looking to expand in the basic cable arena for some time, but only at the right price, he has said. (CBS also owns a sports network and the Smithsonian Channel on basic cable.)

In January, the company announced its intention to divest itself of its outdoor advertising unit, a move that was viewed as consistent with Mr. Moonves’s frequent statements that he intended to build CBS as a pure “content company.” Adding a basic cable channel will offer both a potential outlet for new original programming and for the large library of CBS programming.

Mr. Moonves and Jon Feltheimer, the chief executive of Lionsgate, are longtime close personal friends.

TVGN, which is a separate entity from TV Guide magazine, began in 1981 as an on-screen program guide. It later began acquiring repeat episodes of network series and added some original programming. But early on those shows had to share the screen with program listings.

Now, in a large majority of the homes that receive the channel, the screen is not split between programming and a channel guide, though some of its remaining deals with cable systems require the channel to display a running list of shows and channels.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/27/business/media/cbs-acquires-stake-in-tvgn.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Nickelodeon Hopes App Wins Hearts

That response posed a problem and an opportunity for Nickelodeon, a top-rated children’s cable channel that is home to “SpongeBob SquarePants,” “Victorious” and “iCarly.” Instead of simply making its programs available on tablets, Nickelodeon designed its first app as a noisy, colorful smorgasbord of animated clips, irreverent music videos and the occasional deluge of the network’s trademark green slime. Or, as Nickelodeon executives describe it, the app is designed to be a “ginormous grid of everything Nick.”

As fun as it is supposed to be for children, the Nick app has serious implications for its parent company, Viacom, and for the entire television distribution business. The app represents the first attempt by a Viacom channel at TV Everywhere — the concept that paying customers can stream live and on-demand shows on all devices — that many television executives hope will keep viewers tied to their cable and satellite contracts. It is expected to be available in the Apple App Store on Thursday.

The Nick app features free games, interactive polls and slide shows floating against a bright orange background. A less obvious feature also allows users to watch full-length Nickelodeon shows on tablets as long as they (or, more likely, their parents) authenticate that they are paying subscribers.

Nick arrives late to the app store. A main rival, Disney, already offers authenticated apps for the Disney Channel and Disney Junior that allow children to stream shows like “Good Luck Charlie” and “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse” and to participate in interactive “appisodes.”

Cyma Zarghami, president of the Nickelodeon Group, said she preferred to wait until the cable channel had more information about how its audience used mobile devices. Research showed children preferred to play games and watch short clips on apps, rather than catch up on complete episodes. Nickelodeon already has individual branded games available as apps.

“TV Everywhere is a given. It’s not special anymore,” Ms. Zarghami said. “Being first wasn’t important to us. We took our time to combine these two ideas” of interactive games and snippets of shows.

A brief video instructs children to “grab an adult” to enter a password that shows they subscribe to Nickelodeon before gaining access to the last five episodes of series like “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” “Big Time Rush” and “Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness.” This fall, Nickelodeon will introduce a separate app for Nick Jr. intended to serve as an “interactive play date” for its preschool-age audience.

Nickelodeon’s strategy — based on extras rather than episodes — signals how Viacom may approach apps for its other cable channels, including MTV, Comedy Central and VH1. Until this week, Viacom had not introduced authenticated apps for its channels, unlike Time Warner’s HBO and its popular HBO Go app.

“This is a creative sandbox for kids but it’s also a creative sandbox for the company,” said Steve Youngwood, Nickelodeon’s executive vice president for digital.

The Nick app represents an evolution in Viacom’s thinking about its audience. Nickelodeon has long been a powerhouse in children’s programming, but its ratings suddenly plunged in 2011. Viacom in part blamed Nielsen for not counting children who streamed shows via “unmeasured platforms” like Netflix. (The company also conceded that it had aging series like “SpongeBob” and “iCarly”.)

Viewers who watch shows on the Nick app will not be counted in ratings data, but the cable channel can at least sell advertisements. Nickelodeon will introduce the app to marketers at its upfront next week in New York.

The introduction of the Nick app comes as the channel’s ratings are slowly climbing back after the unexpected plunge that started in 2011. A daily average of 2.9 million viewers ages 2 to 11 watched Nickelodeon this month, up 12 percent from February 2012, according to Nielsen.

Ms. Zarghami said the Nick app could help the channel develop new series and stars, based on which clips, actors and characters drew the most attention. Nickelodeon commissioned 12 short films for the app, including one called “Dance Party in a Port-A-Potty” that featured meerkats partying in a portable restroom. Nickelodeon has greenlighted five for the channel. “Our aim is to get more content faster,” Ms. Zarghami said.

Tablet use among children 11 years old and younger is projected to grow faster than almost any other age group. Half of households in the United States with children own a tablet and 70 percent have some sort of smart device, according to Nickelodeon’s research.

“The tablet has come of age particularly among our audience,” Mr. Youngwood said.

Nickelodeon has struck deals with eight cable or satellite providers including Time Warner Cable, Verizon FiOS, Cablevision and DirecTV to make the streaming feature of its Nick app available in nearly 50 million homes. The nonstreaming offerings will be available to viewers who do not subscribe to those companies.

Paul Verna, a senior analyst at eMarketer, said the authentication model could pose challenges for Viacom. He pointed to the media company’s dispute with DirecTV this last summer, which prompted the satellite provider to suspend Viacom’s channels.

“How do you explain to a little kid that your friend on Comcast can watch Nick Jr. and ‘iCarly’ on their iPad but you can’t?” Mr. Verna said.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/20/business/media/nickelodeon-hopes-app-wins-hearts.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

The Media Equation: At FX, a Playbook That Gives Its Series Free Rein

How come? Because the guy who is greenlighting the shows, John Landgraf, the president and general manager of FX Networks, spent many years making them himself, or at least trying to make them.

He learned early on that the guidance he received from the networks was not going to lead to remarkable television.

“I always got the same dumb note from the networks. ‘Can you make the character more likable?’ ” he recalled last week in a phone interview. “Not make them more exciting, more compelling, more interesting, no, it was always make them more likable.”

Mr. Landgraf, who worked as a network executive at NBC during the ’90s and had a hand in “Friends,” “ER” and “The West Wing,” went on to form a television production company with Danny DeVito. He had 53 projects in development from 1999 to the early 2000s — nine that became pilots, six that were made into shows and one, “Reno 911!” that made it beyond a single season, albeit on Comedy Central.

“It was crazy-making,” he said.

He became convinced that network television was broken — that in an effort to make characters more likable, the industry made television that not anyone much liked.

Mr. Landgraf’s turn on the other side of the table came in 2004 when he became president of FX, the basic cable channel owned by News Corporation. He inherited “Nip/Tuck” and “The Shield,” but they were aging and he needed to replace them, so he went on a spree — of saying yes.

“We wanted to adapt our process to what the creatives needed and have a more efficient outcome,” he said. “We write a check to fund the production and they send us the shows. By trusting the people you work with — sharing the authority — and being willing to fail, things have gone pretty well for us.”

He said yes to a lot of dark and spicy fare — it is not as lurid as pay cable can be, but it is only technically less naked. And it is clearly intended for adults.

With that in mind, he said yes to the comedian Louis C.K., who had been flailing on HBO and then tried to come up with something that networks would swallow. In exchange for producing a pilot for almost nothing, Louis C.K. had complete freedom. The result was a brutally funny mash-up of sitcom and stand-up that clicked for FX.

He also said yes to “Archer,” an animated period-spy series — nothing about those three things says television gold — about an agent with high testosterone and a low I.Q. It contains some of the most remarkable, densely funny writing on television.

“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” has improbably lived, going into syndication with, you guessed it, the least likable group of characters you could conjure. Last week, I happened to see the comedian W. Kamau Bell in New York and thought, this guy is funny, somebody should give him a show. Somebody already had, on FX.

Mr. Landgraf spent money on “Justified,” a Southern gothic inspired by Elmore Leonard that featured a laconic, trigger-happy marshal chasing charismatic, speechifying villains who belong in the television pantheon. He gave the go ahead to “American Horror Story,” a lurid, scary weekly trip to the dark side. And he said yes to “Sons of Anarchy,” a wildly popular drama that would be described, in industry speak, as Hamlet on Harleys.

Mr. Landgraf is not just a yes man. He has shunned reality shows because, as he succinctly explained, “I don’t like them.”

He has had his failures, including “Dirt,” “The Riches” and “Terriers.”

“In our industry, shows are ‘not renewed,’ never ‘canceled.’ ” he said. “I’ve canceled shows and I think you have to own those failures to learn from them.”

Mr. Landgraf is treasured by writers on the beat because, in an industry built on euphemism, he says what he thinks.

It’s not that the rest of the industry lacks taste, it’s just most are so busy living in fear that a creative risk seems out of the question.

E-mail: carr@nytimes.com; twitter.com/carr2n

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/04/business/media/at-fx-a-playbook-that-gives-its-series-free-rein.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Media Decoder Blog: Capus, Head of NBC News, Is Departing

4:00 p.m. | Updated Steve Capus, the president of NBC News for almost eight years, said Friday that he was leaving the network news division in the coming weeks.

“It has been a privilege to have spent two decades here, but it is now time to head in a new direction,” Mr. Capus wrote in an internal memo on Friday afternoon. “I have informed Pat Fili-Krushel that I will be leaving NBC News in the coming weeks.”

Mr. Capus’s exit has been rumored at the network ever since Comcast put Ms. Fili-Krushel in charge of all of NBC’s news assets six months ago.

Mr. Capus is the longest-serving president of any of the three network news divisions, having guided NBC through a revolutionary time in news-gathering and distribution. He maintained the news division’s profitability, managed tensions between NBC News and its increasingly liberal cable channel MSNBC, and fostered new business ventures like an in-house production company and an annual education summit. Last year he unwound an old deal with Microsoft to give the news division complete control over its Web site, now named NBCNews.com, for the first time.

But a restructuring six months ago foreshadowed Friday’s announcement. Steve Burke, the chief executive of NBCUniversal, consolidated all of NBC’s news units — NBC News, MSNBC and the business news channel CNBC — under a new umbrella, the NBCUniversal News Group, and he named one of his most trusted lieutenants, Ms. Fili-Krushel, to run it. Mr. Capus, who previously reported directly to Mr. Burke, now reported to Ms. Fili-Krushel.

Mr. Capus made no secret of his unhappiness with the restructuring. His contract had a clause that allowed him to leave in the event that he no longer reported to Mr. Burke, according to two people with direct knowledge of the arrangement at NBC. He decided to exercise that right after months of contemplation, according to the people, who insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized by the network to speak publicly.

Mr. Capus told Ms. Fili-Krushel of his intent to leave last Friday. He probably would have left sooner, but a series of major news stories kept him busy late last year — including Hurricane Sandy, the presidential election and the school shooting in Newtown, Conn. Mr. Capus also oversaw the network’s response to the kidnapping of Richard Engel and an NBC News crew in Syria last month.

Ms. Fili-Krushel said in an e-mail to staff members that she will appoint a new NBC News president at some point. But for now, most of the senior executives who worked for Mr. Capus will report directly to her.

Notably, the executive recently put in charge of the “Today” show and “Rock Center with Brian Williams,” Alex Wallace, will now also have executive oversight of “NBC Nightly News.”

Ms. Fili-Krushel wrote in her e-mail that “NBC News is America’s leading source of television news and Steve has been a big part of that success.”

NBC News is indeed the producer of the most popular evening newscast in the country. But its single biggest source of profits, the morning show “Today,” fell to second place last year, behind ABC’s “Good Morning America,” for the first time since the 1990s. The decline caused widespread anxiety inside the news division and speculation that Mr. Capus would be relieved of his duties.

The executive producer of “Today,” Jim Bell, was replaced last fall. He is now the executive producer for NBC Olympics.

Inside NBC, both Mr. Capus and Mr. Bell received a share of the blame for the botched removal of Ann Curry from “Today” last June, which worsened the show’s already tenuous position in the ratings. Savannah Guthrie is now the co-host of “Today,” and Ms. Curry is a national and international correspondent for the network, but is rarely seen.

In his e-mail to staff members on Friday Mr. Capus called it an “extremely difficult decision to walk away,” noting that he started at NBC as a producer 20 years ago this month. He did not make any mention of what he would do next.

“Journalism is, indeed, a noble calling, and I have much I hope to accomplish in the next phase of my career,” he wrote in his email message.

The heads of the news divisions at ABC and CBS have each been in their respective jobs for about two years. They, like the heads of CNN and the Fox News Channel, are men, making Ms. Fili-Krushel the highest-ranking woman in the television news industry.

Ms. Fili-Krushel, who previously served as an executive vice president for Mr. Burke, has kept a low public profile since being appointed the head of the NBCUniversal News Group last July. But she has been a forceful presence behind the scenes, moving from her office on the 51st floor of 30 Rockefeller Center to a new one on the third floor, where NBC News is based. She and Mr. Capus both interviewed candidates for Mr. Bell’s job last fall, and eventually settled on a two-tier structure, with Ms. Wallace overseeing the program and Don Nash producing it day-to-day.

“Today” continues to lose to ABC’s “Good Morning America” among total viewers, but lately it has won a few weeks in the 25- to 54-year-old demographic that advertisers covet. “NBC Nightly News” has more successfully fended off ABC’s “World News,” despite an aggressive push by ABC.

Keeping the news division profitable in an age of diminishing network ratings may be Mr. Capus’s single greatest contribution. While NBC News has suffered from staff cuts like the rest of the company, it has maintained most of its journalistic muscle and has invested in NBCNews.com, Today.com and its other Web sites.

“I have tried to shield our journalists from the tough economic pressures hoping that would give each of you the running room to focus solely on a commitment to outstanding journalism,” Mr. Capus wrote in his email, adding that “NBC News has grown in all key metrics — from ratings and reputation to profitability.”

Article source: http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/01/capus-head-of-nbc-news-is-departing/?partner=rss&emc=rss

Media Decoder Blog: Palin Says Conservatives Must Broaden Influence

In her first comments as an ex-employee of Fox News, Sarah Palin said conservatives “can’t just preach to the choir” and must instead “broaden our reach.”

Ms. Palin released her comments through Breitbart.com, a staunchly conservative Web site that, like Ms. Palin, spares no opportunity to criticize the news media. Her short question-and-answer session with the Web site was published one day after Fox News confirmed that it had parted ways with Ms. Palin, a former Alaska governor and Republican vice-presidential nominee, whom it hired in 2010 to be a political commentator.

Ms. Palin didn’t mention Fox by name, nor did the person who asked her questions, Stephen K. Bannon, the maker of a hagiographical documentary about her. When she praised “voices on the right” for standing up to Washington politicians, she mentioned the radio talk show hosts Mark Levin and Rush Limbaugh by name, but no Fox hosts like Bill O’Reilly or Sean Hannity. The slights are sure to be noticed by both supporters and detractors of Ms. Palin who wondered on Friday whether she’d chosen to leave the high-rated cable channel.

When asked “what’s next” for her, she said, “I encourage others to step out in faith, jump out of the comfort zone, and broaden our reach as believers in American exceptionalism. That means broadening our audience.” She said she was “taking my own advice,” an apparent reference to her separation from Fox.

“As far as long-term plans, the door is wide open,” Ms. Palin added. “I know the country needs more truth-telling in the media, and I’m willing to do that. So, we shall see.”

Her comment suggested an interest in getting signed up by one of Fox’s competitors. But no specific channel or media company has been mentioned in the news reports about her departure.

Article source: http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/26/palin-says-conservatives-must-broaden-influence/?partner=rss&emc=rss

Media Decoder Blog: Participant Media Plans New Cable Channel

Jeff Skoll, right, the founder and chairman of Participant Media, with the company's chief executive, Jim Berk.Monica Almeida/The New York Times Jeff Skoll, right, the founder and chairman of Participant Media, with the company’s chief executive, Jim Berk.

Participant Media, the production company behind films like “An Inconvenient Truth,” “Food, Inc.” and “Waiting for ‘Superman,” said on Monday that it planned to start a cable channel of its own by combining the assets of two obscure channels, The Documentary Channel and Halogen TV.

Participant said it was aiming to start the untitled channel in the summer of 2013. Evan Shapiro, a former president of IFC and the Sundance Channel, who joined the company last spring, will run the new channel.

“The goal of Participant is to tell stories that serve as catalysts for social change. With our television channel, we can bring those stories into the homes of our viewers every day,” said Jeff Skoll, the founder of Participant.

The channel could be a destination for documentary films made by Participant and other producers. Participant said it would also have original programming. It named several people who are involved in making it, including Brian Graden, Brian Henson, Davis Guggenheim, Meghan McCain and Morgan Spurlock.

The channel will target viewers under the age of 35 — those, as Mr. Shapiro put in a news release Monday, that cable and satellite distributors are “most at risk of losing.” In other words: Participant might try to get the channel picked up by pitching it as a way for distributors to retain young subscribers. Distributors, however, are generally reluctant to carry new channels.

When it starts, the new channel will already reach 40 million homes, Participant estimated, thanks to the channels it is acquiring. The company said on Monday that it had completed a deal to acquire The Documentary Channel, which is available in about 25 million homes, and was working on a deal to take over Halogen TV’s channel position in about 15 million homes.

The terms of the deals were not disclosed.

Among the many documentaries distributed by Participant was “Page One: Inside The New York Times,” a feature about The Times that was released last year. (Several reporters from the newspaper’s media desk, including the one writing this story, were featured in the film.)

Article source: http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/12/17/participant-media-plans-new-cable-channel/?partner=rss&emc=rss

Talk Show Ends, and Oprah Moves On

She may be the only one.

Television stations are bracing for an afternoon ratings slump without her. Publishers and publicists are contemplating what the next best show for promoting their products will be. And Ms. Winfrey’s viewers are looking for something else to watch — and many of them are still wondering where on their cable systems to find OWN, her five-month-old cable channel, where she will host a new show on a less demanding schedule next year.

“I literally curb my enthusiasm for the end, because I realize that for the other people that are part of this experience” — like the 464 people who produce her show — “the end is a different experience than it is for me,” she said in an interview last week.

The last episode of “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” which will be televised on Wednesday, is the biggest such moment in television since Johnny Carson walked away from “The Tonight Show” two decades ago.

Mr. Carson walked away and did not look back; what Ms. Winfrey is doing may be much more risky. She is moving to cable, to OWN, where she wants to build an ultimately bigger business, though the early ratings have been disappointing.

“I’m not going away, I’m just changing,” she said. “I’m just creating another platform for myself, which eventually will be wider and broader than what I have now.”

Skeptics about the OWN venture abound, but Ms. Winfrey has proved skeptics wrong in the past, most notably in the mid-1990s when she turned away from tabloid fare about cheating spouses and scandalous paternity test results and talked, instead, about “living your best life” spiritually and emotionally. Surprising the television business, she held onto her viewers, and she remains the country’s most popular talk show host by far.

People around Ms. Winfrey say they sense that she is nervous about OWN. “I wish more people were watching,” she said, when asked about OWN’s weekly show-about-her-talk-show. But she seems at peace with her decision, made 18 months ago, to quit her syndicated program and the incredibly demanding schedule that goes with it.

With just a handful of shows remaining, Ms. Winfrey said she was still pondering what to say on her last episode. .

For Ms. Winfrey, leaving is turning into yet another teachable moment. Her farewell tour this season has been fantastical to her fans and egomaniacal to others. All manner of anchors, actors, and authors have kissed her ring. President Obama, whom she helped to elect, dropped by last month.

Along the way she has revisited her struggles with weight and her town hall meetings on race relations, apologized to the disgraced author James Frey for not showing sufficient compassion in an interview five years ago and taken her studio audience sightseeing in Australia.

The tour culminates on Monday and Tuesday with “Surprise, Oprah! A Farewell Spectacular,” an arena show with an audience of 13,000 that was taped earlier this week, and a more intimate finale on Wednesday at her famous studio in Chicago. Commercials for the finale ask, “Where will you be?”

Ms Winfrey has economic motives for the pomp and circumstance, of course. Expecting a big audience for the finale, advertisers have paid $1 million apiece for 30 seconds of commercial time on the last hour of “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” Ms. Winfrey is likely to use at least a little bit of that time to promote OWN, which is available in about 80 million homes.

But no one disputes that she deserves something of a victory lap. Ms. Winfrey etched herself into the culture by revolutionizing the television talk show format, making it a place where both celebrities and ordinary Americans could spill their hearts, holding her hand all the while.

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Viacom Reports 20% Increase in Revenue, While Discovery Posts 9% Rise

The company, which owns the cable channels MTV, VH1 and Nickelodeon and the movie studio Paramount Pictures, said that its revenue was $3.27 billion in its fiscal second quarter, up from $2.73 billion in the period a year ago. Net income for the quarter was $376 million, or 63 cents a share. That was a 53 percent gain over the same quarter a year ago, when the company had net income of $245 million, or 40 cents a share. It generally topped analysts’ expectations.

“Viacom has never been stronger financially,” Philippe P. Dauman, the chief executive, said Thursday in a conference call with investors. Mr. Dauman said that Viacom, which is controlled by Sumner M. Redstone, intended to accelerate its stock buyback program and increase its dividend by an unspecified amount. The biggest part of Viacom, its cable channel arm, remains healthy. Together, the channels exceeded $2 billion in revenue for the quarter, up 11 percent from the same quarter last year.

Mr. Dauman credited “phenomenal” ratings for several shows, chief among them “Jersey Shore,” the reality show about hard-partying young men and women that had its third season during the quarter. The season averaged about 7.7 million viewers, making it the most popular show in MTV’s history.

Mr. Dauman indicated that MTV would seek high premiums for future seasons of “Jersey Shore” and other shows.

Over all, Viacom said it had posted an 11 percent gain in domestic advertising revenues, the fifth consecutive quarter of improvement in that growth rate.

Viacom has also nurtured shows that are considered hits for its other channels: “iCarly” for Nickelodeon, “Tosh.0” for Comedy Central, “The Game” for BET. Mr. Dauman said the company was seeking ratings improvements at two other channels, VH1 and Spike, by adjusting their programming schedules. Revenue and profit for Viacom’s filmed entertainment arm fluctuate depending on the performance of its feature films and the sales of DVDs of those films.

In the quarter that ended in December, Viacom’s earnings declined in large part because of weakness in this area. But in the quarter that ended March 31, the filmed entertainment arm had $1.2 billion in revenue, up from $638 million in the previous quarter and $886 million in the fiscal second quarter a year ago.

Viacom stock was up 3.8 percent Thursday to close at $58.14, a 52-week high.

Discovery Communications, another owner of cable channels, also reported double-digit advertising gains on Thursday.

Discovery, which owns the Discovery Channel, TLC and Animal Planet among others, posted revenue of $951 million in the first quarter, up 9 percent over the same quarter last year.

Thanks in part to a one-time gain related to the formation of OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network in January, Discovery posted net income of $305 million, or 74 cents per share, up from $169 million, or 39 cents per share, in the same quarter last year.

International revenue grew faster than domestic revenue for Viacom and Discovery. David Zaslav, the chief executive of Discovery, said his company had benefited from a “continued favorable economic climate.”

Discovery shares gained 1.8 percent to close at $43.14.

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