Broadcasting veteran Ted Bergmann, who produced the first NFL and Grammy telecasts and was present to record the German surrender to the Allies for radio in 1945, has died. He was 93. Bergmann died March 2 following surgery at St. John’s Health Center in Santa Monica. During the course of his 70-year broadcast career, Bergmann produced such shows as Three’s Company and its two spinoffs; The Arthur Godfrey Show; and Love Thy Neighbor, a 1973 ABC series about a black couple in a white neighborhood that was so controversial that Sears and Proctor & Gamble pulled their advertising. A Brooklyn native, Bergmann started his TV career as an NBC page. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, he enlisted in the Army, soon earning the rank of captain and covering stories in the European theater for the NBC radio program Army Hour. On May 6, 1945, the 24-year-old Bergmann took a recording crew to a schoolhouse Reims, France, to preserve the German surrender to the Allies for radio. He was the last surviving witness to the event. Returning to the U.S., Bergmann rejoined NBC. Within five years became president of the DuMont Network, where he was the first to broadcast NFL games and live boxing and launched such notable TV personalities as Jackie Gleason and Bishop Fulton Sheen. During the 1950s, Bergmann segued to TV advertising, working with such firms as McCann-Erickson and Parkson Advertisting Agency.
In this week’s podcast, Deadline’s executive editor David Lieberman and host David Bloom look at the big Dish-Disney deal and what it might mean for other media companies and even a possible sports-free online pay-TV service. They also discuss Disney’s continuing headaches with its Interactive unit, whether FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s new rules for local broadcast alliances go far enough and look at the speculation about Carmike, the big exhibitor whose strong quarter fueled speculation that it will be a fat takeover target.
Verizon’s already talking to content creators about ways to enable subscribers to access video content nationally. “You could do a wireless over-the-top” — the jargon term for an Internet pay TV service — CEO Lowell McAdam told attendees at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference. “We’re going to work with them and find a model.” That’s been difficult until recently, he says, because many programmers feared that a new service could upset a TV distribution system that’s been lucrative for them. But many now realize that with Internet pay TV “you can get a virtuous cycle” where everybody grows. Verizon took a step toward developing its own wireless over-the-top service in January when it bought Intel’s OnCue platform. “The set top box in an OnCue environment is a little bigger than the tip of my thumb,” McAdam says. Wireless offers Verizon a relatively inexpensive way around its aging copper wire network at a time when he sees signs of video cord cutting. A few years ago his FiOS fiber optic service signed up an equal number of broadband and video customers. “Now we’re seeing significant divergence. People are buying a lot more broadband.”
Netflix has complained that its transmissions to Verizon broadband customers have been slowing — but McAdam says that should be resolved soon with a Netflix payment arrangement similar to the one it just cut with Comcast. “I’ve spoken live and via email with [Netflix CEO] Reed Hastings and …
Is this announcement designed to help Comcast polish its image as a good corporate citizen while it lobbies the government to approve its $45.2B acquisition of Time Warner Cable? Of course. But it’s still noteworthy considering how big the company is, and how important the digital divide has become. The cable colossus says that it will expand “indefinitely” its Internet Essentials program that offers those who qualify the opportunity to buy broadband service for about $10 a month, and a computer for less than $150. It also will provide $1M to non-profits that create Internet Essentials Learning Zones. The Essentials program began in 2011 as a three-year commitment to help win FCC approval for Comcast’s acquisition of NBCUniversal. Now it serves about 300,000 low income families, or 1.2M people — which EVP David Cohen says is “about the population of Dallas, Texas or the state of Maine.” He couldn’t resist noting that if the TWC deal closes it would “bring the benefits of Internet Essentials to millions of additional families” in 19 of the 20 largest cities. “That’s going to be a tremendous enhancement.” In conjunction with the announcement, Comcast released a report by former FCC National Broadband Plan research head John Horrigan who found, among other things, that 98% of Essentials users signed up because their kids need broadband for school.
The companies got into trouble after they ran ads for FilmDistrict‘s 2013 thriller Olympus Has Fallen that include the distinctive Emergency Alert System warning sounds, the FCC says today as it proposed what it calls the largest ever penalties for its misuse (watch the ad below). Viacom will be hit hardest with a $1.12M fine for airing the ad 108 times over five days on Spike, VH1, MTV, Comedy Central, MTV2, Centric, and BET. NBCUniversal will have to cough up $530,000 for running the ad 38 times over six days on Syfy, USA, and five regional sports networks. And ESPN follows with $280,000 for running the ad 13 times over four days on ESPN, ESPN2, and ESPNEWS. “The FCC has long prohibited the transmission of actual or simulated EAS Attention Signals or tones in circumstances other than a real alert or an authorized test of the EAS system,” the FCC says. The cable companies said that the rules don’t apply to them because they don’t participate in the EAS program, the FCC notice notes.
You can bet that government officials and opponents of Comcast’s $45.2B planned acquisition of Time Warner Cable will scrutinize its just-released third annual report describing how it has fulfilled the promises it made in 2011 to win FCC approval for the deal to buy NBCUniversal. Opponents already say the cable giant can’t be trusted. ”To the extent that Comcast has a history of breaching its legal obligations to consumers, such history should be taken into account when evaluating Comcast’s proposal for future market expansion,” Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) said last week in a letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. But Comcast says the new 90-page report shows that it has “continued to meet and in many cases exceed our obligations.” For example, it says that its Internet Essentials program has provided home broadband service to more than 250,000 low income families, and has exceeded by 64 the requirement to provide courtesy video and broadband to an additional 600 schools, libraries and community institutions in underserved areas. (The company says that tomorrow it will “make an important announcement about the future of the [Internet Essentials] program.”) For online video Comcast says it has “new or renewed agreements with Amazon and Netflix, among others” resulting in a third year in which it has made these deals to provide programming to potentially competitive services without having to go to arbitration.
Dylan McDermott To Star In CBS’ Kevin Williamson Drama Pilot
By Nellie Andreeva – Hostages‘ Dylan McDermott is set as the male lead in another CBS/Warner Bros TV drama project, the untitled Kevin Williamson pilot.
Saturday Night Live didn’t skewer the movies themselves. Instead last night’s show used them as jumping off points for wouldn’t-it-be-funny-if sketches. One imagines 12 Years A Slave auditioning white actors who were inappropriate for the roles. Another has a sour critic from an 1860s newspaper panning this year’s nominees and film classics. A third had cute kids from an acting camp playing Wolf Of Wall Street, Gravity, Captain Phillips, Her, and Dallas Buyers Club. The show also poked fun at Oscar host Ellen DeGeneres. Here you go:
John Malone’s company is the largest shareholder in Charter Communications whose hostile bid for Time Warner Cable was trumped when Comcast stepped in with its $45.2B stock offer. But while Liberty recognizes that the No. 1 cable company has the upper hand, it won’t “take any option off the table” including “if the Time Warner deal is not able to be completed,” CEO Greg Maffei told analysts today. The big question now is “how onerous the conditions will be, not only for Comcast but for the industry as a whole” to persuade Justice Department and FCC officials to approve the deal. He also noted that since Comcast is just offering stock, which has slightly declined in value since it reached terms with TWC, “we’ll see what price actually gets paid.” Meanwhile, Maffei rules nothing out saying execs will watch “with interest” how the Comcast deal proceeds. Liberty and Charter have engaged in “some talk of other forms of consolidation….We certainly learned in this process that there were many investors interesting in investing in consolidation.” The likely loss of TWC doesn’t diminish Liberty’s interest in buying the minority stake in SiriusXM that it doesn’t already own. The recent offer was “not driven” by a desire to harness the satellite radio company’s cash flow to help support a cable acquisition. The SiriusXM offer is “the right deal for Liberty and SiriusXM shareholders.” If independent directors disagree, …
The Tennis Channel says that while it’s “disappointed” by today’s decision, it still has “a number of available options” to revive its case alleging that Comcast treated it unfairly by putting it on an extra-fee sports tier. The Supreme Court offered no comment when it said that it will not review a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals in DC that overturned an FCC ruling in 2012. The FCC ordered Comcast to take Tennis Channel off of the sports tier so it could compete more equally with the cable giant’s Golf Channel and NBC Sports Network. The FCC said that Comcast had used its market power to discriminate against Tennis Channel. But the Appeals Court said last May that the FCC offered no evidence to refute Comcast’s position that it made a simple financial judgment that few subscribers wanted to watch tennis. In September it denied Tennis Channel’s dual request for an en banc rehearing or a panel rehearing. ”We are pleased that finding by the lower court that Comcast did not discriminate against Tennis Channel will stand,” Comcast says. “We continue to make Tennis Channel available to tennis fans across the country in terms with our longstanding contract.”
NBC To Bring Back ‘Heroes’ As 13-Episode Event Miniseries In 2015: Video
By Nellie Andreeva – On the heels of Fox reviving its iconic drama 24 as an event miniseries, NBC is doing the same with one of its most popular serialized dramas of the past decade, superhero series Heroes. Creator Tim Kring is back shepherding the 13-episode new standalone arc entitled Heroes: Reborn, which will air in 2015.
Matt Ryan Lands Title Role In NBC Pilot ‘Constantine’ Based On DC Comic
By Nellie Andreeva – Welsh actor Matt Ryan (Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior) is finalizing a deal to play the lead in NBC’s drama pilot Constantine, from Warner Bros TV. Based on the characters in DC Comics’ John Constantine stories, the project centers on John Constantine (Ryan), an enigmatic and irreverent con man-turned-reluctant supernatural detective who is thrust into the role of defending us against dark forces from beyond.
Netflix Agrees To Pay Comcast For Broadband Access; Public Knowledge Calls For FCC, DOJ Action
By Jen Yamato – There may be smoother streaming ahead for Netflix subscribers as Netflix has agreed to pay Comcast for direct broadband access. Comcast had previously denied Netflix’s request to connect to its broadband network free of charge, sending Netflix users’ streaming content through third party internet providers to access Comcast’s network.
CNN’s ‘Piers Morgan Live’ Ratings Sink To Second Lowest Ever, CNN Ties Sixth Worst Primetime Result
By Dominic Patten – Piers Morgan’s rocky ratings just took another dive for CNN. On Tuesday, the Brit’s 9PM show had its second worst result ever in the all important adults 25-54 news demographic. With a total audience of 270,000 watching, Piers Morgan Live drew a mere 50,000 viewers in the demo.
UPDATE: Netflix Agrees To Pay Comcast For Broadband Access; Public Knowledge Calls For FCC, DOJ Action
UPDATE, 2:53 PM: DC-based public interest group Public Knowledge raised its concerns over the Netflix-Comcast deal in a statement Sunday. Said John Bergmayer, Senior Staff Attorney at Public Knowledge:
“No one on the outside knows what is happening in this market. However, it is clear that residential ISPs should be in the business of charging their users for access the Internet, not of charging the rest of the Internet for access to their users. This ensures that they are putting the needs of their users first.
From what information is public, it appears that the largest ISPs are demanding payment from networks that deliver content and services that residential broadband consumers demand. Because the large residential ISPs themselves are the ones keeping the terms of their deals secret, it is raises the question of whether they have something to hide.
One way to prevent competitive problems from arising, and to reduce the need for future regulation, is to prevent ISPs from holding other networks hostage. This raises concerns in light of the proposed Comcast/Time Warner Cable merger.
“What has characterized these traffic disputes has been their opacity. We call on the Federal Communications Commission, the Department of Justice, and interested members of Congress to ensure that the broadband market continues to meet the needs of its users, and allows companies like Netflix (and the next Netflix) to offer the services that users have demonstrated they want.”
PREVIOUS, 10:06 AM: There may be smoother streaming ahead …
In this week’s podcast, Deadline’s Executive Editor David Lieberman and host David Bloom examine whether Facebook paid too much with its $19 billion purchase of messaging service WhatsApp, ponder whether anyone should pay for the maker of blockbuster mobile game Candy Crush Saga now that it’s filed for an IPO, consider the impact of the FCC’s replacement net-neutrality rules and look at the real motivations behind the clamor for Google Fiber.
This map from Free Press shows how commonplace so-called “sidecar” agreements have become — and today the Justice Department says it’s time for the FCC to hit the brakes on the deals that enable one station to sell ads or provide services for others in a market. The alliances too often lead to artificially inflated ad prices and weak local newscasts, antitrust officials said in a filing today. Lawyers want the FCC to reject joint sales arrangements in cases where ownership caps would bar stations from being jointly owned, and scrutinize local marketing agreements and shared services agreements. “Failure to account for the effects of such arrangements can create opportunities to circumvent FCC ownership limits and the goals those limits are intended to advance,” the filing says. Although the deals are supposed to protect competition, by propping up a weak station, “our investigations have revealed that these ‘sidecars’ often exercise little or no competitive independence from the other station.” The National Association of Broadcasters rejected the conclusion. “Joint sales agreements allow local TV stations that might otherwise go out of business to increase local news and community service, and to provide robust competition to pay TV giants,” EVP Dennis Wharton says. But the die appears to be cast for an FCC vote scheduled for March 19. The DOJ filing probably “was coordinated at some level with the FCC,” says Guggenheim Partners’ Paul Gallant. “Nothing is settled yet, but we …
Folks who have a stake in FCC activities are beginning to respond to Chairman Tom Wheeler’s plan to revive the agency’s net neutrality rules. Consumer groups for the most part applaud his ambition, but fear that his effort will fall short unless the FCC reclassifies broadband as a regulated common carrier service — it’s now deemed a largely unregulated information service. FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai, one of the agency’s two Republican members, says there’s no need for regulation calling net neutrality “a solution in search of a problem.” And industry groups are supportive, but non-committal. Here’s where they stand. We’ve highlighted the key lines, and will add to the collection as more come in.
Chairman Tom Wheeler will try to revive the FCC‘s net neutrality regulations with a view that a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals in DC last month upheld the agency’s right to set rules for the Internet, even as it vacated much of the FCC’s 2010 Open Internet Order. Verizon had appealed the order, saying that regulators overstepped their authority. The FCC will not challenge the Appeals Court decision, but today the agency will open a docket seeking public comment on Wheeler’s proposals — expected to be formalized by summer. He wants to ban service providers from blocking any legal service. The court said that the FCC had not adequately justified that condition in its 2010 order. He also would ban discrimination — for example, offering some services at faster speeds than others — and require ISPs to be transparent about their network practices. While the court agreed with the FCC’s view that it has some rights to govern the Internet, justices also said that the agency tied its hands a decade ago when it defined broadband as a lightly regulated information service as opposed to a phone-like common carrier service. If the FCC runs into trouble with new rules, Wheeler will keep open the option of asking the FCC to change its mind and classify the Internet as a common carrier, a service that — from a legal perspective — is so important that it needs to be regulated. In addition, Wheeler hopes to promote consumer options by overruling state laws that bar cities and towns from creating public Internet services that might compete with private ones.
Time Warner Cable execs sounded pretty darn sure of themselves last week when they told investors that they believe Comcast’s $42.5B acquisition agreement will fly in Washington and benefit shareholders. But the No. 2 cable company had to be more measured in its annual report, out today: TWC “may fail to complete the proposed merger with and into Comcast and, even if the merger is successfully completed, the anticipated benefits to the Company’s stockholders may not be realized” it says in the SEC-required “Risk Factors” section of the yearly filing. The deal only works if shareholders of both companies, as well as antitrust regulators and the FCC, approve it. But there’s a chance that might not happen ”on a timely basis or at all.” And if the deal does close “there can be no assurance that the anticipated benefits to the Company’s stockholders will be realized.” TWC notes that it faces “certain purported class action stockholder litigations relating to the proposed merger with Comcast.” (Here’s one of them.) It will “vigorously defend against any such claims” although “the costs of the defense of such lawsuits and other effects of such litigation could have an adverse effect on the Company’s business, financial condition and operating results.”
Hell still hath few furies like a shareholder with legal representation feeling scorned. In what seems to be the first but most likely not the last such legal move, a Time Warner Cable shareholder has launched a potential class action suit against the company to halt its acquisition by Comcast in a $45.2B all-stock deal. Filing in the Supreme Court of New York (read it here) one day after the TWC-Comcast deal was formally announced on February 13, Breffni Barrett is accusing TWC, its chairman and CEO Rob Marcus, former Sen. John Sununu and other members of the company’s board of cutting themselves a sweet deal and breach of fiduciary duty. The shareholder also says in the action, which also names Comcast as a defendant, that the mega-merger risks regulatory wrath. Of course, while it is easy to file an action such as this one, it is very hard to prove that a board acted as badly as Barrett alleges — especially when it had its own teams of lawyers going over every detail before anything was made public. Additionally, the merger is subject to approval by shareholders from both companies as well as a careful look from both the FCC and the Department of Justice. Put together, those facts mean there is little chance of Barrett’s filing stopping much of anything.