July 2, 2020

OWN, Winfrey’s Cable Channel, Turns Around Financially

After several grueling years, Oprah Winfrey’s cable channel OWN has turned the corner toward profitability, her business partners at Discovery Communications said on Tuesday, six months ahead of a previously stated goal.

In the second quarter, OWN was cash-flow positive for the first time, said David M. Zaslav, Discovery’s chief executive. He credited investments in programming, including two new shows from Tyler Perry, and increases in subscriber fees from cable and satellite providers.

OWN, which is a joint venture between Ms. Winfrey and Discovery, is now “starting to pay down the investment Discovery has made in the venture,” Mr. Zaslav said.

When the channel was announced in mid-2008, Discovery said it would provide the cable shelf space for Ms. Winfrey (by converting the Discovery Health Channel into OWN) and $300 million in loans.

Amid the hoopla that accompanied its debut on the first day of 2011, Discovery briefly predicted that the channel would make a profit in its first year. But the ratings soon sagged, resulting in lower-than-expected advertising revenue and no small amount of soul-searching by Ms. Winfrey and Mr. Zaslav. Discovery repeatedly chipped in more money; its loans now total $510 million.

Throughout 2012, industry analysts described OWN as a flop or an outright failure. Some predicted that Discovery would have to write off some of its investment.

But a series of changes that year, including the layoffs of some staff members and the scrapping of an expensive talk show by Rosie O’Donnell, helped lay the groundwork for a turnaround. Shortly after those steps were taken, Mr. Zaslav started predicting that OWN would break even sometime in the second half of 2013.

On Tuesday, he noted that the channel’s breakthrough was “ahead of the originally anticipated second half of the year goal of cash flow break even.”

“I want to congratulate Oprah and the entire team at OWN for this significant milestone,” Mr. Zaslav said. “We remain very bullish on its long term trajectory and our ability to drive continued asset appreciation in the future.”

The addition of Mr. Perry’s sitcoms was particularly important. Mr. Perry agreed last fall to direct all his future television production to OWN, in exchange for a small equity stake in the channel and other undisclosed payments.

His first two shows, “The Have and Have Nots” and “Love Thy Neighbor,” had their debuts in the second quarter. Mr. Zaslav called them “bona fide hits” and said that they, along with new seasons of existing shows, had helped improve ad revenue at OWN.

As always in cable, subscriber fees were also crucial. In January — shortly before Ms. Winfrey’s biggest interview in several years, that of Lance Armstrong, who confessed to use of performance-enhancing drugs — OWN started receiving higher per-subscriber fees, 20 cents a month in some cases, thanks to long-term contracts with cable and satellite providers.

A Discovery spokesman declined to say how much OWN earned in the second quarter, making it difficult to predict how long it might take the venture to repay its loans. But one person with direct knowledge of the business, who insisted on anonymity to share closely held financial information, projected that OWN would come out “tens of millions of dollars” ahead for the full year. The person acknowledged that it would take “a few years” for Discovery’s full investment to be recouped, and noted that it was earning interest in the meantime.

The positive earnings announcement for OWN came amid a somewhat disappointing quarter for Discovery over all. While its earnings — $300 million in the quarter, 82 cents a share — were up 2.4 percent from the period a year earlier, analysts were expecting profit of $328 million and 90 cents a share on average. The company also trimmed its full-year outlook.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/31/business/media/own-winfreys-network-turns-around-financially.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Sheryl Sandberg, ‘Lean In’ Author, Hopes to Spur Movement

Ms. Sandberg, whose ideas about working women have prompted both enthusiasm and criticism, is attempting nothing less than a Friedan-like feat: a national discussion of a gender-problem-that-has-no-name, this time in the workplace, and a movement to address it.

When her book is published on March 11, accompanied by a carefully orchestrated media campaign, she hopes to create her own version of the consciousness-raising groups of yore: “Lean In Circles,” as she calls them, in which women can share experiences and follow a Sandberg-crafted curriculum for career success. (First assignment: a video on how to command more authority at work by changing how they speak and even sit.)

“I always thought I would run a social movement,” Ms. Sandberg, 43, said in an interview for “Makers,” a new documentary on feminist history.

And yet no one knows whether women will show up for Ms. Sandberg’s revolution, a top-down affair propelled by a fortune worth hundreds of millions on paper, or whether the social media executive can form a women’s network of her own. Only a single test “Lean In Circle” exists. With less than three weeks until launch — which will include a spread in Time magazine and splashy events like a book party at Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s home — organizers cannot say how many more groups may sprout up.

Even her advisers acknowledge the awkwardness of a woman with double Harvard degrees, dual stock riches (from Facebook and Google, where she also worked), a 9,000-square-foot house and a small army of household help urging less fortunate women to look inward and work harder. Will more earthbound women, struggling with cash flow and child care, embrace the advice of a Silicon Valley executive whose book acknowledgments include thanks to her wealth adviser and Oprah Winfrey?

“I don’t think anyone has ever tried to do this from anywhere even close to her perch,” said Debora L. Spar, president of Barnard College, who invited Ms. Sandberg to deliver a May 2011 commencement address about gender in the workplace that caught fire online. (Ms. Sandberg, who will grant her first book interview to the CBS program “60 Minutes,” declined to comment for this article.)

Despite decades of efforts, and some visible exceptions, the number of top women leaders in many fields remains stubbornly low: for example, 21 of the current Fortune 500 chief executives are women. In her book, to be published by Knopf, Ms. Sandberg argues that is because women face invisible, even subconscious, barriers in the workplace, and not just from bosses. In her view, women are also sabotaging themselves. “We hold ourselves back in ways both big and small, by lacking self-confidence, by not raising our hands, and by pulling back when we should be leaning in,” she writes, and the result is that “men still run the world.”

Ms. Sandberg wants to take women through a collective self-awareness exercise. In her book, she urges them to absorb the social science showing they are judged more harshly and paid less than men; resist slowing down in mere anticipation of having children; insist that their husbands split housework equally; draft short- and long-term career plans; and join a “Lean In Circle,” which is half business school and half book club.

The project has the feel of a social experiment: what if women at major corporations could review research on how to overcome gender barriers, along with instruction on skills like negotiation and communication? Will working women, already stretched thin, attend nighttime video lectures on “Unconditional Responsibility” and “Using Stories Powerfully”? The instructions for the gatherings, provided to The New York Times by an outside adviser to the project, are precise, down to membership requirements (participants can miss no more than two monthly meetings per year) and the format (15-minute check-in, 3 minutes each for personal updates, a 90-minute presentation, then discussion).

Ms. Sandberg has asked a wide array of women to contribute their success stories to her new Web site. (Jill Abramson, the executive editor of The Times, wrote an essay, and the newspaper is one of many corporations to sign on to the project.) The written requests ask for positive endings, suggesting that tales closing with missed promotions or broken marriages are unwelcome. Hoping to reach beyond an elite audience, Ms. Sandberg and her foundation joined forces with Cosmopolitan magazine, which is publishing a 40-page supplement to its April issue devoted to Ms. Sandberg’s ideas, and plan to spread her message to community colleges, according to those involved in the project.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/22/us/sheryl-sandberg-lean-in-author-hopes-to-spur-movement.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Armstrong Critics Unmoved by Winfrey Interview

Several members of both groups faulted Armstrong for the vagueness of his confession, particularly around sensitive matters, and its lack of apology, particularly toward people he had attacked for telling the truth in the past. Many characterized Armstrong’s interview with Oprah Winfrey as being more self-serving than revelatory.

“He spoke to a talk-show host,” David Howman, the executive director of the World Anti-Doping Agency, said from Montreal on Friday. “I don’t think any of it amounted to assistance to the antidoping community, let alone substantial assistance. You bundle it all up and say, ‘So what?’ ”

Howman said several of Armstrong’s statements were not accurate, adding that if he was serious about clearing the air, he needed to give testimony under oath and face cross-examination. Although Armstrong’s representatives frequently contacted Howman when Armstrong was still racing, they have not communicated with WADA since the United States Anti-Doping Agency found that Armstrong had used performance-enhancing drugs and techniques.

“Nothing we’ve seen indicates that Usada got it wrong and that the lifetime ban should be reversed,” he said.

Richard Pound, the founding chairman of WADA and a member of the International Olympic Committee, also said he was unmoved.

“If what he’s looking for is some kind of reconstruction of his image, instead of providing entertainment with Oprah Winfrey, he’s got a long way to go,” Pound said from his Montreal office.

Jonathan Vaughters, a former Armstrong teammate and one of the cyclists whose sworn testimony led to Usada’s imposing a lifetime ban on Armstrong, also joined in the call for sworn testimony.

Vaughters, who has also admitted to doping, is now the chief executive of Slipstream Sports. The company owns the Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda cycling team, which includes another former Armstrong teammate, Christian Vande Velde.

In his testimony to Usada, Vande Velde said Armstrong told him in 2002 that he needed to follow the team’s doping program “to the letter” if he wanted to remain with the squad, adding that “Lance called the shots on the team.”

In Thursday’s broadcast, Armstrong denied pressuring or requiring Vande Velde to dope and played down his control over the team.

A request for comment to Vande Velde went unanswered. But Vaughters took strong exception to Armstrong’s account.

“Listen, Christian’s affidavit is freely available for anyone to look at,” Vaughters said. “That affidavit was taken under oath; it’s sworn testimony; it’s truthful. Again, that’s why I look forward to the moment when Lance testifies.”

An earlier target of Armstrong’s bullying was similarly unimpressed by the lack of detail or apology from Armstrong. Christophe Bassons was the only member of the Festina team to be cleared by an investigation that followed a series of police drug raids that almost brought the 1998 Tour de France to a close. He quit the Tour the next year after Armstrong rode up beside him and made vague threats for speaking out against doping. Armstrong went on to win the Tour for the first time.

Speaking to RMC, a French radio network, Bassons speculated that Armstrong had another motive.

“I think he has political ambitions,” Bassons told the broadcaster. “He’s maintaining his image as someone who is very courageous, very tough.”

Jeffrey M. Tillotson, the lawyer for the insurance company that unsuccessfully tried not to pay Tour de France win bonuses to Armstrong on the basis that he had cheated, said his client, SCA Promotions, would make a decision about suing Armstrong over the weekend. If it proceeds, the company will seek $12 million, a sum representing the bonuses, which had been insured by Armstrong’s team, as well as legal fees.

“It seemed to us that he was more sorry that he had been caught than for what he had done,” Tillotson said. “If he’s serious about rehabbing himself, he needs to start making amends to the people he bullied and vilified, and he needs to start paying money back.”

One of the few organizations with anything positive to offer about Armstrong was the International Cycling Union, which is more commonly known by its initials in French, U.C.I.

During the interview with Winfrey, Armstrong flatly dismissed widespread allegations that he had persuaded the governing body to cover up a positive drug test at a race in Switzerland and that a donation he later made to it was effectively hush money.

In a statement, Pat McQuaid, the body’s president, said Armstrong made “an important step forward on the long road to repairing the damage that has been caused to cycling and to restoring confidence in the sport.”

McQuaid noted Armstrong’s denial that the organization had been involved in any cover-up.

In a statement that also called on Armstrong to present evidence to antidoping officials, the International Olympic Committee said, “This is indeed a very sad day for sport, but there is a positive side if these revelations can begin to draw a line under previous practices.”

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/19/sports/cycling/those-wronged-by-lance-armstrong-see-little-right-in-interview.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Hard Questions for Lance Armstrong

“I’ll say to the people who don’t believe in cycling, the cynics and the skeptics, I’m sorry for you,” he said. “I’m sorry that you can’t dream big. I’m sorry you don’t believe in miracles.”

In an interview with Oprah Winfrey set to be broadcast on her network, OWN, on Thursday and Friday night, Armstrong will finally reveal that those skeptics were right: he did use performance-enhancing drugs and blood transfusions to win. And he used those drugs and methods repeatedly.

Winfrey interviewed him on Monday at a hotel in Austin, Tex., and Armstrong “teared up and cried” during the inquiry, a person with direct knowledge of it said Wednesday. The person, who called the stories Armstrong told Winfrey “a classic Shakespearean tale,” insisted on anonymity because that person is not authorized to discuss the contents of the interview.

It is unclear what made Armstrong lose his composure when he spoke with Winfrey, who is known for her teary-eyed guests, because her network has not released any excerpts from Armstrong’s comments.

Here are the questions Winfrey needed to ask if she wanted to “go deep” with her inquiry, as Armstrong suggested she should.

‘ARMY OF ENABLERS’ The United States Anti-Doping Agency said you had “an army of enablers” helping you dope. Who were the accomplices who were essential in your getting away with it?

When you briefly retired from cycling after winning the 2005 Tour, you said you did so to spend time with your children and be a better father. Do your five children, ages 2 to 13, know about your doping past? If so, when and how did you tell them?

As a teenager, you began training with the then United States national team coach Chris Carmichael, the man you said became your longtime personal coach. (The infamous Italian doctor Michele Ferrari, who is serving a lifetime ban from Olympic sports for doping athletes, is thought to be the real brains behind your success.)

Carmichael, who founded a successful training business on the fact that he was your coach, was accused of doping national team riders in the 1990s at the same time he began working with you. (Carmichael eventually settled the case out of court.)

Did Carmichael have anything to do with your doping, or have any knowledge of your doping? If not, when did you first begin using performance-enhancing drugs and who provided those drugs to you?

DISPUTED ADMISSION Frankie Andreu, one of your former teammates and closest friends, said he and his wife, Betsy, heard a doping confession from you in October 1996 when visiting you in a hospital while you fought cancer. They said they were in the room with several of your friends when they overheard two doctors ask if you had ever used performance-enhancing drugs. They said you had answered yes: EPO, testosterone, human growth hormone and cortisone.

Stephanie McIlvain, your personal representative at Oakley who is married to a man high up in that company, told the three-time Tour winner Greg LeMond in a 2004 phone call that she heard that doping admission. “I’m not going to lie,” she said in the conversation that LeMond secretly recorded. “You know, I was in that room. I heard it.”

When you denied, again and again, that the admission never occurred, were you lying? If so, how did you keep most of the people in the hospital room that day quiet about your doping? Did former sponsors, like Nike and Oakley, know about your doping? Did they ever ask you about any of the doping allegations? If not, why do you think they never asked when the evidence against you was mounting?

WHAT DID YOUR EX-WIFE AND SUBSEQUENT PARTNERS KNOW? According to the United States Anti-Doping Agency, at least one of your former teammates said your former wife, Kristin, was complicit in your doping. At the 1998 world championships, one rider said Kristin Armstrong handed out cortisone pills wrapped in aluminum foil, prompting another rider to say, “Lance’s wife is rolling joints.”

Brian Stelter contributed reporting.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/17/sports/cycling/hard-questions-for-lance-armstrong.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Local TV Newscasts Expanding

KSDK, the local NBC affiliate, is adding newscasts to those time slots next month, giving it six and a half hours of local news each weekday, its highest count to date.

As in many other markets, the news is starting earlier than ever in the morning, and replacing “The Oprah Winfrey Show” in the afternoon. To supply it in St. Louis, KSDK is hiring 10 people and buying new cameras and trucks.

This is what the rebound in local television looks like. Three years after the business buckled under the weight of the advertising recession, the more popular stations in markets like St. Louis are adding newscasts and in some cases employees — though not as many as were dismissed during the downturn.

Station economics affect the nation’s news diet because local TV news is consistently identified in surveys as the top news source for most Americans.

A study commissioned by the Federal Communications Commission concluded earlier this year that although there were pockets of excellence in local news, there was still a heavy reliance on thinly stretched staffs and predictable crime and weather coverage.

Three trends have benefited the local station business. First, advertisers have streamed back, especially in the automotive sector that is so important to local media.

Steve Ridge of Frank N. Magid Associates, which consults with local stations nationwide, said local TV ad revenues were up almost 25 percent in 2010 compared with 2009, buttressed by political ad spending. So far this year, even without political ads, the owners of several big groups of stations reported slight upticks in ad revenues versus 2010.

Second, cable and satellite companies have agreed in many cases to pay retransmission fees to stations, and bigger stations in local markets can command bigger fees. Even though stations are splitting those fees with their network partners, like NBC and ABC, they “really have been an infusion of stability,” Mr. Ridge said.

Third, the downturn became a rationale not only to cut costs but to innovate and experiment within news divisions, which have historically been profit centers for stations. The benefit of the industry’s bad times, executives say, is that it forced a hard look at news operations.

“Our view was that local broadcasting had gone on autopilot,” said Dave Lougee, the president of Gannett Broadcasting, which owns KSDK. Industrywide, he said, newscasts had “become sort of commoditized and formulaic — arguably in many cases irrelevant.”

Lynn Beall, the president and general manager of KSDK, said the turbulence “helped us put our focus more on the customer.” KSDK’s anchors and reporters now interact with some of those customers on Facebook and Twitter, making them more aware of community interests. Some of KSDK’s newscasts now include commentary segments. And perhaps most important, many employees have been trained to be what Gannett calls multimedia journalists, also known as one-man bands, able to record, produce and report pieces from start to finish.

“We have more people gathering content than we did a year ago, because more people are trained on more platforms,” Ms. Beall said.

Such arrangements have been a source of grumbling for TV journalists for years, but for those who have never experienced the old way — a reporter, a videographer and sometimes a producer and a sound technician — the new way is more acceptable, and sometimes even preferable.

Some of the changes, Ms. Beall acknowledged, were born out of necessity. During the recession, employees at KSDK were furloughed; at other stations across the country, longtime reporters and anchors were ushered out. Gannett consolidated the graphics and master control operations of its stations to a centralized location, eliminating more workers.

Now, Mr. Lougee said, with “the cost of technology coming down while the quality is going up,” stations have steered a greater percentage of their staffs toward producing content.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=e4408b3e9888a09499d8afa9209719fe

Familiar TV Anchors Move On, Hoping to Profit on Their Own

Television is undergoing a sea change this season as a dozen famous television anchors and celebrities — whose shows are watched by more than 40 million viewers every day — are leaving their longtime perches.

To name a few, on Friday, Jim Lehrer ended his daily duties on the “PBS NewsHour”; on Monday, Scott Pelley replaced Katie Couric on the “CBS Evening News”; on Wednesday, Meredith Vieira will leave the “Today” show on NBC; and later this month, her former colleague Keith Olbermann will start a new show on Current TV.

By now, viewers may barely recognize their favorite shows and channels.

It seems like the most tumultuous time on the small screen in a generation, but much of the tumult is off the screen, in business meetings about how the media industry is transforming.

Although some of those departing, like Mr. Lehrer and Regis Philbin, are leaving their shows because of a generational shift, others are moving on because they want a bigger financial stake in their own brands. Ms. Couric, Oprah Winfrey and Glenn Beck, among others, are taking equity stakes in themselves, separating from the media conglomerates that have profited mightily from their star power.

On Tuesday, Mr. Beck became the latest to take the leap, announcing his own Internet network for subscribers. The promise is that different ways of delivering content, like cable, syndication and the Web, will prove to be more lucrative for star anchors and hosts — still largely an unproven proposition.

As the media industry recovers from the recession, the search is on for the next big thing, and for equally big ratings. “The changes have been nothing less than seismic — so seismic, in fact, that the next generation needs to work even harder to try to put the pieces back together or get some semblance of an audience,” said Jonathan Wald, who produces Piers Morgan’s nightly program on CNN. Mr. Morgan replaced Larry King in January.

Just as the Internet is emboldening stars, it is emboldening media companies: Comcast, which announced its successful bid on Tuesday for eight more years of Olympic Games, intends to make more of the games available online, and Disney intends to turn its main Web site, Disney.com, into an online video destination not unlike Netflix or Hulu.

“We believe we have an opportunity to deliver content directly to consumers,” Bob Iger, the Disney chief executive, told investors last week.

Ms. Winfrey’s arrangement for her new cable channel, called OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network, may be an inspiration for others: her production company owns half of OWN, so if it is a success, Ms. Winfrey, 57, already a billionaire, could earn far more money than she did on an annual basis on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” the 25-year-old broadcast talk show that ended last month.

All of these comings and goings, of course, hinge on consumers’ willingness to accept change and to follow their favorite hosts to new media homes. In an interview, Ms. Winfrey said she had smiled when she read a viewer’s comment on an Oprah.com message board that said her move from broadcast to cable created no problem “that my changing channels cannot fix.” But Ms. Winfrey acknowledged that finding OWN on the cable lineup has been a big problem for some people, and said she wished more people were watching.

Ms. Couric announced on Monday that she was creating a daytime talk show not unlike Ms. Winfrey’s for the fall of 2012. The fact that Ms. Couric, 54, owns the show with a partner made it an especially attractive proposition for her.

Similarly, Mr. Olbermann walked away from MSNBC in January for a job — and an equity stake — at Current, where he starts on June 20, and Mr. Beck will leave Fox News at the end of this month. Mr. Beck will wholly own his new online network, GBTV, which will charge $5 to $10 a month.

Robust broadband Internet access and connected devices like cellphones and laptops have the potential to let stars “break away from the traditional content-distribution ecosystem,” said Richard Greenfield, a media analyst with BTIG Capital.

Of course, people like Mr. Olbermann and Mr. Beck never would have become stars without that very ecosystem.

Sweeping changes in the media industry have made this an especially stressful time for talent. For some, there is a cautionary model in mind for the future: Johnny Carson, who rarely appeared in public after exiting “The Tonight Show” in 1992 and was said to be deeply unhappy. No stars this year seem to be taking that approach.

In the fall, for instance, Mr. Philbin, 79, is leaving his daytime talk show, “Live with Regis and Kelly,” after 28 years. “Time for the old guard to go!” Mr. Philbin said, laughing, in an interview last week.

But this does not mean he is retiring. In fact, Mr. Philbin went out of his way to say he was not. “I’m getting to the end of the line, and I thought, ‘Maybe I’d like to try to do something a little different,’ ” Mr. Philbin said, declining to disclose any details about his next show or shows.

It may be easy to leave a television show, but it is certainly hard to stay away from television. Mr. Philbin’s friend, Mr. King, has acknowledged that fact in interviews, saying that his instinct on big news nights is still to head into the studio. Mr. King is now hosting four hourlong specials for CNN each year.

For some, Tom Brokaw is the model. He stepped down from “NBC Nightly News” in 2004, but he produces and hosts documentaries, writes books and offers commentary on NBC. “I more than keep my hand in, and yet I’m not chained to a desk,” he wrote in an e-mail message on Tuesday night during an intermission from “Don Pasqual,” an opera performance at Holland Park in London.

Mr. Lehrer, 78, who had gradually reduced his role on the “News Hour” for two years before deciding to stop being a regular anchor, will continue to weigh in on editorial decisions, and will anchor on some Fridays.

Ms. Vieira, 57, who will be toasted by her co-hosts Wednesday morning, told “Today” viewers last month that “I’ve really had a great time, but time is one of those weird things — you can never get enough of it.” She said she wanted more time with her family.

Like Mr. King and Mr. Lehrer, Ms. Vieira will still have a part-time job: she is expected to meet this month with NBC News executives to talk about becoming a contributor to a prime time newsmagazine that NBC is creating.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=904fe39250b3ea2319dca113bb7efb24