Posts Tagged ‘CBS’


Latest Social Media Phenomenon: Charlie Sheen’s Record Breaking Success on Twitter

Monday, March 7th, 2011
Image Source: www.sbs.com.au

Image Source: www.sbs.com.au

Charlie Sheen’s record-breaking success on Twitter is the latest news story that is being fueled by social media. Social media once again proves to be an omnipresent indomitable force when it comes to communicating and marketing. When he isn’t calling his bosses knuckleheads or referring to his “Adonis DNA” or having “Tiger Blood” (as he once proclaimed in an interview), Sheen is setting world records for Twitter followers, according to the LA Times.

When CBS decided to cancel the remaining segments of “Two and a Half Men” due to Sheen’s hiatus and reportedly based the decision on the totality of Sheen’s statements, conduct, and condition. Sheen went on the offensive by lashing out at his bosses on radio shows and more recently joining Twitter. As reported on in the Mashable article, within 24 hours Sheen had 910,000 Twitter followers, and was the quickest to reach 1 million followers, a new Guinness World Record.

“With such a huge following, Sheen could make money from Twitter, said Arnie Gullov-Singh, the chief executive of Ad.ly — a Beverly Hills firm that writes messages on Twitter or Facebook for celebrities who, for a fee, endorse products or brands,” notes this Boston Herald article. “Brands lined up to advertise on ‘Two and a Half Men’ because of the show’s reach, and they’ll do the same with celebrities like Charlie because of who he reaches,” Gullov-Singh said.

Through social media (and with Twitter expected to reach over 200 million followers in 2011) Sheen will now be able to communicate with his fans in an immediate and unfiltered way from the luxury of his own home. A bit scary, yes … But entertaining, for certain. Sheen’s first message on Twitter said, “Winning..! Choose your Vice…” and linked to a photo of him, holding a bottle of chocolate milk, and Bree Olson — one of his two girlfriends — holding a Naked Juice fruit smoothie… Only in America.

As Lou, the older wiser sales associate, warned a young Bud Fox in Wall Street 1, “Kid, you’re on a roll. Enjoy it while it lasts, ’cause it never does.” Right know Charlie Sheen is a nice alternative news story to the economy or the Middle East but in a few days are we really going to care what Charlie’s tweeting about? Maybe.

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FCC approves $30 Billion NBC – Comcast deal…with many strings attached

Friday, January 21st, 2011
Image Source: IWatchStuff.com

Image Source: IWatchStuff.com

The Federal Communications Commission and the Justice Department approved a pending $30 billion joint venture which allows Comcast to own 51 percent of NBC Universal. The approval comes 13 months after the two sides announced their plan to merge one of the nation’s largest cable and internet operators with a broadcaster whose assets include NBC and Telemundo, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and Universal Pictures. Comcast controls 24 percent of the nation’s cable subscribers and NBC owns 12 percent of what is viewed on television. A match made in heaven? Not so fast… Over the last year this deal was met with heavy opposition from consumer advocate groups who argued consumers would have less influence over the newly formed company while online distributors worried about the possibility of having to pay a premium for NBC’s content, which would be controlled by one of their largest competitors in the distribution space. (Source: LA Times Blog, Entertainment News Buzz, January 2011.)

On paper this looks like an unstoppable combination in the making, and could potentially open the door for similar deals between content providers and cable and online providers. Although some were successful and some flopped, this is not the first time we’ve seen this type of marriage before – CBS/Viacom, AOL/Time Warner, Time Warner/Turner. With Comcast controlling NBC’s network and cable shows as well as their movies, it would seem their 15 million subscription base would be the perfect captive audience to view their content with competing cable and online providers forced to pay a kings ransom for the rights to their shows and movies. The FCC, however, put conditions on the deal to prevent any funny business with the hopes of maintaining as much “net neutrality” as possible.

One of the conditions requires Comcast to make its content available to all rival cable and satellite distributors as well as online distributors, and has to offer it’s content for the same price to everyone. They are also required to sell their internet service as a standalone service – this is significant since online distributors (Netflix) gives you the ability to access content without a cable subscription but requires internet service. The FCC is also asking Comcast to relinquish its day-to-day control of their online site HULU, allowing them to maintain an ownership stake but stripping them of any voting rights or the ability to suddenly make content unavailable from the site. (Source: Reuters, January, 18, 2011.)

So before everybody bows down to this newly formed Media behemoth, let’s remember… a lot has changed over the last 13 months since their initial announcement, and the conditions put on the new merger by the FCC (if enforced) will help neutralize any abuses of power. The consumer now has more options with the rise of online providers (Netflix, Google, and Apple TV) and will ultimately choose their services based on the quality of the entertainment, not the amount of channels offered or where the channel falls on the dial.

The pressure now falls squarely on the shoulders of NBC Universal. Without quality content from NBC, Comcast will quickly begin to wonder why they paid all of that money and went through all of the trouble of diversifying their business. The competition is sure to be fierce between cable and online providers; content providers will continue to fight for better licensing agreements for their content and in the end consumers will also have to ask themselves… is it all worth it?

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Battles Rage Over Content, as Netflix Changes the Game in the Web TV and Streaming Video Space Once Again

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

ba-netflix0811_f_SFCG1281474279With the help of Wikipedia, I learned the different types of battles that are fought. If you’ve been following what is going on in the latest turf wars between the cable providers (Time Warner Cable, Comcast), online providers (Netflix, Hulu) and media Companies (Fox, CBS) – you’d see very different strategies deployed by each side. All have one common goal in mind…control the distribution of entertainment to consumers, and all seems fair in this war. 

A “battle of attrition” aims to inflict losses on an enemy that are less sustainable compared to one’s own losses.

According to this New York Times, Netflix recently made a bold move by launching a new “streaming only” service, offering unlimited streaming movies and TV shows for a mere $7.99 a month. Also, in addition to Netflix paying the Post Office a whopping $500 million dollars a year in postage to mail out their signature red envelopes filled with disks, they will now pay studios another hefty sum for rights to their movies by recently completing a combined deal with Paramount, MGM and Lionsgate for one billion dollars. This does not include deals Netflix made earlier in the year with other major studios, such as Sony, Warner Brothers, Universal and 20th Century Fox.

So why are cable providers like Time Warner Cable and Comcast getting hot under the collar? Let’s take a closer look:

Netflix currently pays Starz, a pay TV channel, about 15 cents a month for each subscriber (which allows their customers to watch streaming movies from Sony and Disney), pennies compared to the $4 to $5 a month that cable and satellite owners pay for access to Starz, according to Rich Greenfield, an analyst at BTIG Research.

These types of deals, which allow consumers to access a larger catalogue of movies and bypass their local cable provider by accessing them online, couldn’t come at a worse time for companies like Time Warner Cable and Comcast. Cable providers already reported a net loss of 119,000 customers in the third quarter of 2010, the largest decline in 30 years.

A “battle of envelopment” involves an attack on one or both flanks.

Comcast is fighting back on two fronts by slapping Level 3 Communications, a provider of internet backbone services, which handles Netflix content, with “additional traffic fees.” Incidentally, Comcast, who’s acquisition of NBC is imminent, already competes directly with Netflix through their new acquisition of Hulu (Comcast owns 32 percent stake in Hulu). The rate hike could easily be seen as a way for Comcast to milk their competition, however, they can make the argument that Netflix’s massive volume is overtaxing their system and therefore should pay more. A recent study by Sandvine, a broadband equipment maker, showed that Netflix’s 16 million customers accounted for more than 20 percent of all Internet download traffic in North America during peak evening hours)

A “battle of encounter” is a meeting engagement where the opposing sides collide in the field without either having prepared their attack or defense.

If all of this wasn’t enough to make cable executives nervous, Netflix followed up their unlimited streaming offer by announcing a deal with newly formed film studio, FilmDistrict. As highlighted in this New York Observer article, the part of this deal that could prove to be a game changer is that it doesn’t include the standard “pay TV window” wherein new releases go to the cable industry first, then premier on Netlifx a few months later. 

According to The New York Post, Netflix is also in talks with studios about gaining access to “current episodes” of primetime TV shows and is willing to pay between $70,000 and $100,000 per episode. This is a first since Netflix has always offered only TV shows from past seasons.

Through all of this, media companies have been in constant negotiations with all of the “content distributors” – cable providers (Time Warner Cable and Comcast) and online providers (Netflix) – with behemoths like Google, Sony and Apple waiting in the wings as all three plan to compete in the game of online streaming distribution. Google, however, has already met heavy resistance from the networks. ABC, CBS, and NBC who all said they would not allow Google TV to stream full episodes of their shows. This should make for some interesting future negotiations between the two sides. But I wouldn’t be surprised if the networks suddenly changed their mind if Google TV’s relatively new service begins to take off.

A “battle of annihilation” is one in which the defeated party is destroyed in the field.

So what about the consumer, the eyeballs everyone’s vying for in all of this? I for one couldn’t be happier with all of the choices I suddenly have to watch movies or TV shows. The Internet is once again threatening the “middleman,” or, as I like to think of it, just another case of the Internet once again replacing one of the “brokers” of the world. We’ve seen it happen to some extent with real estate, stock trading … and now entertainment.  For 30 years cable providers have been the “brokers” for entertainment, bringing media and consumers together. It appears, for the moment at least, another “broker” is in jeopardy of once again being replaced by the Internet.

So what are your thoughts? Who do you think will win the on-going battle? Are you happy with the choices you have to access entertainment content? Please share your thoughts with me and the readers of BurrellesLuce Fresh Ideas.

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Rise in Ad Spending Contributes to Media Companies’ Strong Q3 Earnings Led by Fox News Corp, Time Warner, and CBS

Monday, November 8th, 2010
Image Source: Positive Real Estate Professionals.com

Image Source: Positive Real Estate Professionals.com

I was about to write my post on how the latest and greatest technology is changing media – until I saw last week’s earnings releases start to roll in from the media sector. Time Warner (TW), Fox and then CBS all posted double digit increases: 

  • CBS saw a 42 percent increase in third quarter profits.
  • Fox cable network unit’s quarterly income improved by $146 million compared to the same period a year ago.
  • TW’s better than expected earnings contributed 62 cents per share, compared with Wall Street projections of 53 cents.

(Source: New York Times, “Profit Rises at Time Warner and at News Corporation,” 11.3.10)

The media giants earnings from last quarter are not only good news for shareholders, but for an industry that has seen its share of challenges over the last two years – battling online sites, cord cutting (customers canceling their pricey pay-TV subscriptions), falling TV ad revenues, not to mention the economy. According to this Reuters article, TW and Fox reiterated they saw no signs of cord cutting, a term adopted from the telephone companies to describe the shift from land lines to cell phones. “’I don’t get this cord cutting issue,’ News Corp Chief Operating Officer Chase Carey said on a conference call. ‘I feel it is a fundamental service that for American households is a fundamental part of what they do with their time, and what they value in their life.’”

The biggest reason for their strong earnings could be the most telling – and hopefully sustainable – number of all. All three media giants saw very encouraging increases in ad revenue in 2010. Both CBS and TW were up 10 percent, while Fox News Corp was up a whopping 16 percent from their domestic cable channels. (Source: Reuters, “WRAPUP 1-Media Sector Wrings Hands on 2011 Outlook,” 11.3.10)

Political ad spending was a nice shot in the arm for TV, with 2010 being an election year. In fact, political ad spending, for this year, is predicted at three billion dollars and may top 4.2 billion dollars, notes this Adage Age article.

Any numbers from 2010 should come in higher compared to a dreadful year in 2009. Last year TV ad spending was down by nine percent, led by a shredded car industry with the sectors TV ad spending down 23 percent compared to 2008. However, the increase in ad spending this year is still very impressive and driving revenue for a hard-pressed industry.

As quoted from this New York Times article, “’The takeaway is that advertising is strong,’ said Michael Nathanson, an analyst at Nomura. ‘The video ecosystem of affiliate fees and advertising seems to be holding up well.’”

This earnings season is proving to be a rebound year for media companies and is confirming what I have been writing about for the last two years – the same idea Sumner Redstone expressed before delivering very impressive earnings – “Content is King!”

The recipe seems simple for big media: provide great content; find a way to monetize the content; keep costs down; and let the content fall where it may. Then kick back and watch the revenue streams flow regardless of which platform audiences use to consume the content. It certainly is good to be king…at least for the moment.

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Landmark Entertainment Deals Ring in the New Year

Monday, January 11th, 2010

Champagne bottle ready for celebrationThe drama that unfolded in the media and entertainment world the last week of 2009 and the first week of 2010 marks just the beginning of what should be a very interesting year. Entertainment content providers, mainly the networks and movie studios and subscription based services that distribute their content (e.g., pay-cable providers and DVD retailers) begin a year that may well be filled with much wheeling and dealing:

News Corp, Fox Networks parent company, and Time Warner struck a deal at the eleventh hour on Dec 31, settling a retransmission fee dispute that has been raging for months. Fox threatened to force cable TV providers Time Warner Cable and Brighthouse Network to drop their broadcast signal which would have prevented over 6 million cable subscribers from watching their programming including: NFL games, college football’s Sugar Bowl, and America’s most watched TV series, American Idol. The thought of having live sports blacked out on New Year’s Day, especially college football, was unimaginable to me in the not so distant past.

Early last week Warner Brothers struck a deal ending a spirited dispute with Netflix that began in August 2009. Warner Brothers requested that Netflix wait 28 days before releasing movies on their rental service so Warner Brothers could realize higher DVD sales. (On average 75 percent of total  DVD sales occur in the first month of the release.) In exchange, Warner Brothers has agreed to make more of their titles available on Netflix streaming service. http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/entertainmentnewsbuzz/2010/01/warner-bros-new-releases-to-stay-off-netflix-for-28-days.html

The News Corp. Time Warner deal is sure to precede several others coming from rival network providers CBS, ABC-Disney, and NBC looking to increase their fees.  And the Warner Brothers Netflix deal should set a precedent for other studios to restructure current and future deals with DVD retailers.  http://www.businessweek.com/news/2010-01-04/time-warner-cable-fox-deal-may-cost-cable-5-billion-update2-.html

Not all of these disputes ended happily, however. Scripps Network actually pulled the plug on the Food Network and HGTV affecting 3.1 million Cablevision subscribers after the two sides failed to reach an agreement over fees. http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/01/06/scripps-reports-progress-in-food-network-carriage-fight/

With executives unsure about how to monetize their web content or how they will adapt to multiple devices and platforms – the one thing they seem pretty certain of these days is that they are the ones producing the fuel that keeps this machine moving. Or Maybe we just took our entertainment for granted over the years and expected it to be within our constitutional rights to turn on channel 2 (CBS-New York) to watch the World Series or channel 5 (Fox-New York) to watch the Family Guy at no additional charge. We never thought twice about paying for a movie, whether at the box office, rental fees, or DVD purchases. And since its inception, we’ve always paid a premium for cable programming.

So maybe it’s time we view all content as equals regardless of whether we’re being entertained by Peter Griffin (Family Guy), George Clooney, or Derek Jeter. I would just like to watch what I want when I want – and for that I’m willing to pay a little more.

How are these recent negotiations affecting your PR and marketing efforts? On a personal level, are you willing to pay more for content if it means you get to access your favorite shows? Share your thoughts with the readers of BurrellesLuce Fresh Ideas.

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