March 2, 2021

Media Decoder: High-Wire Canyon Walk Drew 13 Million Viewers

On Sunday, as Nik Wallenda neared the finish of his death-defying high-wire walk across a gorge near the Grand Canyon, he thanked Eileen O’Neill and the other Discovery Channel executives who financed and televised the stunt.

On Monday, they were thanking him. During his 23-minute walk, about 13 million people were tuned to Discovery, according to preliminary Nielsen ratings that were trumpeted by the cable channel. Nothing else on television on Sunday night came close. (The season finale of “Mad Men” attracted 2.7 million viewers, though many more will watch later through digital video recorders.)

Another 300,000 or so watched the Web stream provided by Discovery, the channel said. The high-wire walk was also televised around the world, but comparable ratings were not available.

The ratings for Mr. Wallenda’s walk across the gorge were more or less equal to the ratings on the night last year when he walked across Niagara Falls. That stunt, televised by ABC, peaked around 13.1 million viewers, setting a nearly five-year record for the broadcast network.

ABC required Mr. Wallenda to wear a safety harness, much to his dissatisfaction. Partly for that reason, Mr. Wallenda signed up with Discovery for his next televised spectacle. His walk on Sunday was produced by Peacock Productions, a unit of NBCUniversal’s NBC News, for Discovery, which is why two co-hosts of the “Today” show, Natalie Morales and Willie Geist, were the hosts of the program, titled “Skywire Live With Nik Wallenda.”

In the lengthy prelude to the event, Ms. Morales and Mr. Geist repeatedly emphasized that Mr. Wallenda would not wear a harness this time. “This was Nik’s decision and we honored it,” Laurie Goldberg, a Discovery spokeswoman, said in an e-mail message. Discovery televised the walk on a 10-second delay, so the channel could have cut away had Mr. Wallenda fallen.

Spurred by chatter on Twitter and Facebook, the audience of “Skywire Live” gradually grew from 8 to 9:30 p.m., then spiked around the time he started to walk at 9:38 p.m. The total audience between 9:38 and 10:01 p.m. was 12.98 million viewers.

Most, but not all, turned the channel after Mr. Wallenda was back on solid ground. Discovery aggressively promoted a new reality show called “Naked and Afraid” during the wire walk. Its premiere immediately afterward garnered an average of 4.16 million viewers, enough to make it the second-highest-rated new show in the channel’s history.

On Monday, Discovery described “Skywire Live” as its “highest-rated live event,” far surpassing its coverage of Felix Baumgartner’s jump from 128,100 feet in October.

At the end of Sunday’s program, Mr. Wallenda said that for his next stunt, he hoped to walk “between two skyscrapers in New York City.”

On Monday afternoon, though, the N.Y.P.D. commissioner, Ray Kelly, said he’d oppose a tightrope walk between the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building: “I don’t think it would be wise in this city.”

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/25/business/media/high-wire-canyon-walk-drew-13-million-viewers.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

NBC News Said to Pick Deborah Turness as Chief

Ms. Turness, if appointed, would be the first woman to become president of a network television news division in the United States, succeeding Steve Capus, who stepped down from the position in February after nearly eight years.

A spokeswoman for NBC News, a unit of Comcast’s NBCUniversal, declined to comment. In an e-mail message on Friday, Ms. Turness said she could not respond to what she called speculation.

But others with knowledge of the appointment said that her promotion could be announced as early as Monday.

Ms. Turness’s name surfaced last month in a Los Angeles Times article that identified her as a candidate. Though she is not widely known in the television news industry in the United States, Ms. Turness has strong credentials. She has worked at ITN, a British producer of television news, for 25 years. ITN provides three daily newscasts to ITV, a broadcaster that is one of the BBC’s main rivals in Britain, under the banner of ITV News. Ms. Turness has overseen those newscasts as the editor of ITV News since 2004.

When asked about Ms. Turness’s future, a spokeswoman for ITV News said, “We don’t comment on speculation.”

Mr. Capus’s departure was spurred partly by his frustration with a new management structure set up in July, which folded NBC News and two cable news channels, MSNBC and CNBC, into a new unit called the NBCUniversal News Group. The group is led by Pat Fili-Krushel, and Ms. Turness would report to her, according to the people with knowledge of the appointment.

The next president of NBC News will face an array of challenges. NBC has the highest-rated evening newscast (“NBC Nightly News”) and a big source of revenue (the cable news channel MSNBC) that its rivals envy. But it also has a morning show, “Today,” that has sunk to second place behind ABC’s “Good Morning America,” resulting in the loss of tens of millions of dollars in advertising revenue.

More broadly, NBC News faces the same ratings difficulties as other television networks, as well as fresh competition on the Internet.

Ms. Turness is used to competition, given that the BBC usually could outnumber and outspend her at ITV News. She is described by colleagues there as ferociously energetic and savvy about what viewers want to see.

In a 2010 profile in the British newspaper The Guardian, she was quoted as saying: “The battleground now is in news, it’s about quality. News is the best drama on television because it’s real.”

“She was here for at least one presidential election cycle,” said Simon Marks, who worked at ITN in the late 1980s and knew Ms. Turness in Washington in the 1990s. “I think she’ll be a fantastic breath of fresh air in the elite world of network news in New York.”

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/11/business/media/nbc-to-name-new-head-of-news-division.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Media Decoder: Oprah to Take Top Post at Her Network

Oprah Winfrey stood before cable company executives at an industry confab last month and admitted that the beginning of OWN, her cable channel, wasn’t going very well, in part because she had been focused on the end of her daytime talk show instead.

Now, she told them, she had “the ability to commit my full energy, feet first,” to the channel.

On Wednesday she did just that, naming herself the chief executive of OWN and effectively combining the Los Angeles-based channel with her Chicago-based production company, Harpo Studios, in attempt to reboot the channel, which has been burdened by low ratings in its first six months.

“This concept of mine, of one team, one mission, and one vision is about to become a day-to-day reality,” she wrote in an e-mail message to staffers at OWN and Harpo on Wednesday morning.

Erik Logan and Sheri Salata, the presidents of Harpo Studios, will immediately become the presidents of OWN, too. Then, in the fall, Ms. Winfrey will take over as chief executive.

She will also take the title chief creative officer, which was originally held by Lisa Erspamer, one of her top lieutenants. And she will remain the chairman of OWN, which is a joint venture between Harpo and Discovery Communications.

Ms. Winfrey’s consolidation of power suggests that she will be much more involved in the day-to-day decisions of the channel, something that executives at Discovery and television critics have appealed for.

It is another shift in the leadership structure at OWN, where just two months ago Ms. Winfrey and the other members of the OWN board dismissed Christina Norman, who had led the channel before and after it had its debut. The board installed Peter Liguori, the chief operating officer of Discovery, as the interim chief executive, and people close to Mr. Liguori said at the time that he expected to be in the job for a year or more.

That changed last month, when Ms. Winfrey took a long-planned vacation in Europe and Africa after the May 24 finale of “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” At the cable industry conference in Chicago on June 16, she affirmed her commitment to OWN; the next day, she participated in a marathon meeting with members of the OWN board about the direction of the channel.

One participant said the meeting lasted 14 hours. By the end of the month, she had decided that she should become the channel’s chief executive. The OWN board had not started to search for a permanent chief yet.

In a letter to her fans on Facebook on Wednesday, Ms. Winfrey did not mention her new chief executive title, but she did say that “as of today,” her team at Harpo and her team at OWN “become one.” In the letter she described a swimming lesson that reminded her to “move with the flow,” adding, “Don’t fight the current. Resist nothing. Let life carry you. Don’t try to carry it.”

The presidents of OWN, Mr. Logan and Ms. Salata, who are well-known to viewers of “Season 25: Oprah Behind The Scenes,” a reality show on OWN about the making of “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” will report to Ms. Winfrey. Mr. Logan will work out of OWN’s Los Angeles office and travel to Harpo’s Chicago office regularly; Ms. Salata will do the opposite.

“I have no doubt that we will all be in lock step in a very short time,” Ms. Winfrey wrote to her staffers Wednesday. She added, “We are in this boat together in a very real way now. And I will put my brand and my future on the line because I know this ONE team — OWN/Harpo — is the boat I want to be in.”

Mr. Liguori will remain the interim chief executive until Ms. Winfrey takes over in the fall. Ms. Erspamer will continue at OWN as the executive vice president of production and development.

Significantly for OWN, the channel says that all of Harpo’s future television projects “will be directed exclusively to OWN.” Harpo is already producing several shows for OWN, including “Oprah Presents Master Class” and “In The Bedroom with Dr. Laura Berman.”

The channel may also wind up with more programming starring Ms. Winfrey, who is only contractually obligated to appear in 70 telecasts a year. (In lieu of a five-days-a-week talk show like the one Ms. Winfrey hosted in syndication for 25 years, she is planning to host a show called “Oprah’s Next Chapter” that will appear on OWN two or three times a week. “Oprah’s Next Chapter” is set to start in January.)

Ms. Winfrey, who declined an interview request Wednesday, indicated in her Facebook message that Oct. 10 would be a restart of sorts for OWN. On that day, repeat episodes of “The Oprah Winfrey Show” will start being shown.

Ms. Winfrey said she was redesigning the shows “into the 100 best lessons I’ve learned about everything that can help you live a better life.” Also that day, a new daytime talk show hosted by Rosie O’Donnell will start on OWN.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=d649e2c8cd29c470de4e174b440a2931

State of the Art: A Library of Listening, Made by You

I mean, what is there, other than your iPod music, your phone, AM/FM radio, satellite radio, podcasts, Internet radio stations, Pandora, Rhapsody, Napster, Slacker, Live365 and maybe one or two hundred other sources?

I kid, of course. The thing is, though, they’re all compromises. The free ones don’t let you choose exactly what you want to hear or when; the ones that do cost money.

But that’s about to change. One phrase should tell you all you need to know about the latest development: free TiVo for radio.

That’s the promise of DAR.fm, a Web site that lists every single radio show on every one of 1,800 AM and FM stations across the country. (It stands for Digital Audio Recorder.)

You can search, sort, slice and dice those listings any way you want: by genre, by radio station, by search phrase. It’s all here: NPR, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck. Music shows. Talk shows. Religion, sports, technology. Politics by the pound.

You don’t know or care when your show will actually be aired, or on what station. You only know that you’ve requested it. Shortly thereafter, an e-mail message lets you know that your freshly baked show is ready for listening.

You get every episode, automatically. And why not? It’s not your hard drive they’re filling up. You get two gigabytes of free storage, enough for about 100 hours of recorded shows. If you fill in the application page at MP3Tunes.com, you get a free upgrade to 10 gigabytes. That’s 500 hours of radio, which is almost enough to cover your next layover at O’Hare.

And here’s the best part: you can listen absolutely anywhere. For starters, you can listen right there on the DAR.fm Web page. The page that lists your recordings wasn’t designed by, you know, Monet, but it gets the job done. You can pause, rewind and fast-forward through your recordings, and there are 30-second skip forward/skip backward buttons.

Actually, maybe this part is even better: Many radio stations transmit the names of the songs and bands they’re playing. DAR.fm captures that information and detects song breaks. In other words, if you record a day or so of a music station, you’ve suddenly got a tidy list of songs, identified (and sortable) by title or band. You can listen to individual songs, skip the turkeys and otherwise enjoy your totally free song collection. It’s crazy cool, like a hybrid of iTunes and satellite radio.

You can also listen to your recordings on an app phone, using a free app for that purpose. (The app for iPhone is called Airband; for Android, it’s MP3Tunes; for Windows Phone 7, Locker Player; for WebOS, MP3tunes.) Can you imagine having the last few weeks’ worth of every worthwhile radio show, right on your phone? Sure, subscribing to podcasts achieves a similar goal — but not every show is available as a podcast. And this way, you never have to sync your phone with your computer.

For best results, listen when your phone is in a Wi-Fi hot spot. Otherwise, streaming music will rip through your monthly data allowance like the winner of a hot-dog-eating contest.

Or use the trick described at dar.fm/faq.php. It tells you how to download your recordings, so you can listen to them later without an Internet connection. (Yes, you can even download individual songs that you captured. The record-company lawyers must love that part.)

Even more intriguingly, you can listen to your recordings on an actual, physical radio. You know, one of those tabletop things with speakers and knobs. These days, they come with wireless Internet connections — which is all DAR.fm needs to know.

The Wi-Fi radios from Grace Digital ($80 to $200) list DAR.fm right on the main menu. Selecting that source instantly presents your list of recorded radio shows.

But Grace radios aren’t your only option. The person who created DAR.fm also runs a company called MP3Tunes.com. It’s an online storage locker for your music files, so that you can play them from any computer or phone, anywhere you go.

(If this sounds familiar, it’s because Amazon introduced a nearly identical service last month, called Amazon Cloud Player. Google just opened a “cloud music locker” service, too. Needless to say, the headlines about this “new” kind of music service drives the MP3Tunes guy crazy; his site has been in operation for four years.)

Whenever you record a show at DAR.fm, it shows up automatically in your MP3Tunes.com music locker. And the contents of that locker are viewable, and playable, on 30 different Wi-Fi radio models from various manufacturers, and even the Roku set-top TV box.

E-mail: pogue@nytimes.com

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=84cff07e6790e81c9303b0dfd99c33a9

Media Decoder: Oprah Winfrey Network Chief Is Out

OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network Christina Norman, left, with Oprah Winfrey and David Zaslav, the chief executive of Discovery Communications, celebrating the start of OWN on Jan. 1, 2011. Ms. Norman is exiting the channel.

4:06 p.m. | Updated | In an admission of dissatisfaction with the ratings for the four-month-old OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network, the head of that channel, Christina Norman, has been dismissed, the channel said Friday.

Effective immediately, Peter Liguori, the chief operating officer for Discovery Communications, will take over the channel on an interim basis, through the rest of the year, if not longer.

Discovery and Ms. Winfrey jointly own and operate OWN. The decision to dismiss Ms. Norman was made by the board that oversees OWN in the last few weeks, according to a person with direct knowledge of the decision.

The shake-up comes amid disappointment at Discovery and at OWN about low ratings for most of its programming. On a total day basis, OWN is barely outperforming the channel it replaced, Discovery Health, despite hundreds of million of dollars of investment.

David Zaslav, the chief executive of Discovery Communications, acknowledged last week that the channel has had a “slower start” than expected.

In its first four months, OWN attracted 148,000 viewers at any given time, according to The Nielsen Company, only 7,000 more than Discovery Health did in the same time period last year. In the prime-time hours, OWN averaged 297,000 viewers, 44,000 more than Discovery Health.

In an e-mail message to the staff at OWN on Friday, Ms. Winfrey said that Ms. Norman’s “hard work, passion and leadership were instrumental in getting OWN on the air,” but added, “Given all that we have to do, the OWN Board felt it was necessary that we have a different kind of leadership in place for the next phase of OWN’s growth.”

Before becoming the Discovery chief operating officer in 2009, Mr. Liguori was the president of entertainment for the Fox Broadcasting Company.

Mr. Liguori said in an interview Friday afternoon that this was “a natural transformational moment” for OWN.

He said he would apply the lessons of the last four months to new programming. One lesson, he said, has been that straightforward how-to shows and darker subject matter don’t work as well as shows that are more clearly entertaining. “I think you’re going to see more joy on the network,” he said.

“Every single one of Oprah’s shows should be purposeful,” he emphasized. “But the price of entry for that purpose — that show’s intent, its message, its takeaway — is that you are entertained.”

Asked to elaborate, he said, “It’s going to be compelling characters, storytelling with stakes, and then at the end of the show, you realize you have learned either some moral or practical lesson.”

Ms. Norman did not respond to a request for comment on Friday. She was the second chief executive of OWN, having taken over in January 2009 while the channel was trying — and at times struggling — to start up.

While Ms. Winfrey provided the live-your-best-life vision for the channel, it was Ms. Norman, a former president of MTV, who executed on that vision. She said in a prepared statement Friday, “As I move on to my next challenge, I am confident the strong foundation we have built will position the network to achieve great things.”

OWN is being closely watched in the television industry because it bears Oprah’s imprimatur and because steering viewers to a new channel is almost always a struggle. Adding to that struggle, Ms. Winfrey is not regularly appearing on the channel yet because she is busy winding down her syndicated talk show, “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” The final episode of the talk show will be shown on May 25.

Citing the end date, Ms. Winfrey wrote in her e-mail message, “I will soon be able to turn my full energies to working with you all.” She added, “I remain confident that the vision/mission that we established for OWN will be achieved — and we will do it together — as a team.”

OWN executives had planned to start Ms. Winfrey’s next show, called “Oprah’s Next Chapter,” sometime in the fall. But Mr. Liguori said Friday that the start date would now be January 2012. Ms. Winfrey will be taking a vacation after her syndicated show ends, he said, and then turning her attention to “Next Chapter.”

“Big ideas, especially one from Oprah, shouldn’t be microwaved, they should be slow-baked,” he said.

Despite the ratings shortfalls, OWN is expected to be profitable in its first year. Mr. Zaslav reiterated last week that Discovery was “fully committed to the brand.”

“As we said in the beginning, it’s a long-term play building a channel,” he said.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=c157971b3a72516b072a5cd186da1ded

Media Decoder: Christina Norman Dismissed as Chief of OWN

OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network Christina Norman, left, with Oprah Winfrey and David Zaslav, the chief executive of Discovery Communications, celebrating the start of OWN on Jan. 1, 2011. Ms. Norman is exiting the channel.

2:10 p.m. | Updated | In an admission of dissatisfaction with the ratings for the 4-month-old OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network, the head of that channel, Christina Norman, has been dismissed, the channel said Friday.

Effective immediately, Peter Liguori, the chief operating officer for Discovery Communications, will take over the channel on an interim basis, through the rest of the year, if not longer.

Discovery and Ms. Winfrey jointly own and operate OWN. The decision to dismiss Ms. Norman was made by the board that oversees OWN in the last few weeks, according to a person with direct knowledge of the decision.

The shakeup comes amid disappointment at Discovery and at OWN about low ratings for most of its programming. On a total day basis, OWN is barely outperforming the channel it replaced, Discovery Health, despite hundreds of million of dollars of investment.

David Zaslav, the chief executive of Discovery Communications, acknowledged last week that the channel has had a “slower start” than expected.

In an e-mail message to the staff at OWN on Friday, Ms. Winfrey said that Ms. Norman’s “hard work, passion and leadership were instrumental in getting OWN on the air,” but added, “Given all that we have to do, the OWN Board felt it was necessary that we have a different kind of leadership in place for the next phase of OWN’s growth.”

Before becoming the Discovery COO in 2009, Mr. Liguori was the president of entertainment for the Fox Broadcasting Company.

Mr. Liguori said in an interview Friday afternoon that “this a natural transformational moment” for OWN.

He said he would apply the lessons of the last four months to new programming going forward. One lesson, he said, has been that straightforward how-to shows and darker subject matter don’t work as well as shows that are more clearly entertaining. Going forward, he said, “I think you’re gonna see more joy on the network.”

“Every single one of Oprah’s shows should be purposeful,” he emphasized. “But the price of entry for that purpose — that show’s intent, its message, its takeaway — is that you are entertained.”

Asked to elaborate, he said, “It’s going to be compelling characters, storytelling with stakes, and then at the end of the show, you realize you have learned either some moral or practical lesson.”

Ms. Norman did not respond to a request for comment on Friday. She was the second chief executive of OWN, having taken over in January 2009 while the channel was trying — and at times struggling — to start up.

While Ms. Winfrey provided the live-your-best-life vision for the channel, it was Ms. Norman, a former president of MTV, who executed on that vision. She said in a prepared statement Friday, “As I move on to my next challenge, I am confident the strong foundation we have built will position the network to achieve great things.”

OWN is being closely watched in the television industry because it bears Oprah’s imprimatur and because steering viewers to a new channel is almost always a struggle. Adding to that struggle, Ms. Winfrey is not regularly appearing on the channel yet because she is busy winding down her syndicated talk show, “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” The final episode of the talk show will be shown on May 25.

Citing the end date, Ms. Winfrey wrote in her e-mail message, “I will soon be able to turn my full energies to working with you all.” She added, “I remain confident that the vision/mission that we established for OWN will be achieved — and we will do it together — as a team.”

OWN executives had planned to start Ms. Winfrey’s next show, called “Oprah’s Next Chapter,” sometime in the fall. But Mr. Liguori said Friday that the start date would now in January 2012. She will taking a vacation after her syndicated show ends, he said, and then turning her attention to what exactly she wants “Next Chapter” to be.

“Big ideas, especially one from Oprah, shouldn’t be microwaved, they should be slow-baked,” he said.

Despite the ratings shortfalls, OWN is expected to be profitable in its first year. Mr. Zaslav reiterated last week that Discovery is “fully committed to the brand.”

“As we said in the beginning, it’s a long-term play building a channel,” he said.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=c157971b3a72516b072a5cd186da1ded