The scandals of the Obama administration seem to be hurting not just the White House but MSNBC as well, while Fox News Channel has just scored its second-best week of the year. After double-digit gains during last year’s presidential election, May 13-17 saw the progressive-aligned “Lean Forward” news network hit new lows as the IRS scandal erupted and revelations that the Justice Department secretly obtained AP records became public. With 350,000 viewers on average and 94,000 in the adults 25-54 demo, MSNBC had its least-watched and lowest-rated total-day results of the year last week. That was also the lowest total-day demo result the network has had since the week of June 26-July 2, 2006, when MSNBC pulled in just 83,000 viewers among adults 25-54, according to Nielsen data.
The FCC Commissioner became Acting Chair — and the first women to run the regulatory agency — on Saturday taking the job just vacated by Julius Genachowski until the Senate (presumably) confirms President Obama’s choice to replace him, Tom Wheeler. “I see myself as a member of a relay team, running one of the middle legs,” Clyburn told FCC staffers today. “My job is to build on forward momentum, give the next teammate a running start, an improved position, and no matter what, my goal is not to drop the baton.” It could take months before she can pass that baton to Wheeler. The Senate likely will confirm him in tandem with a Republican to replace former Commissioner Robert McDowell who left the FCC on Friday. Presidents typically appoint someone recommended by the opposition leadership when there’s an FCC opening for the out party. But the Senate GOP has yet to make its pick. Leaders are seriously considering Duke University’s Michelle Connolly — a former FCC chief economist — Politico reports. Others being looked at include former Scripps Networks Chief Legal Officer A.B. Cruz, and Hill staff veterans Ray Baum and Neil Fried. Last week the U.S. Office of Government ethics disclosed that Wheeler — a former lobbyist who’s now an investor with Core Capital partners — said that if confirmed he would divest holdings in 78 companies including AMC Networks, Apple, Cablevision, CBS, Comcast, DirecTV, Dish …
The billionaire founder of hedge fund Third Point startled many in entertainment today with the news that he has paid $1.1B for a 6.4% stake in Sony – and wants the company to create a stock for its movie, TV, and music businesses, selling as much as 20% to the public. But on Wall Street, where Daniel Loeb is an A-list celeb, the big surprises are that he showed any interest in showbiz — and that his language in the letter he sent to Sony was so polite. As a value investor managing more than $13B, Loeb, 51, likes to engage in deep research and then bet on relatively boring companies and assets that others overlook. Third Point’s most recent quarterly investor letter highlights its holdings in International Paper and mortgages, as well as John Malone’s European cable company Liberty Global. Although Loeb was raised in Los Angeles, the son of a lawyer and an historian, he’s known as a New Yorker. He earned an economics degree from Columbia University before he hit Wall Street. After working 12 years for firms including Citibank, Jefferies and Warburg Pincus, he founded Third Point in 1995 with about $3M from family and friends.
UPDATE: 3:24 PM: Just over two weeks after breaking bread at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, President Barack Obama and Harvey Weinstein were back together today. This time it was at the producer and his wife Georgina Chapman’s Manhattan home for a fundraiser. Unlike the big bucks, Weinstein raised directly for Obama during last year’s election, Monday afternoon’s event (read the edited Pool report below) was for the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee 2014 midterm war chests. The President began his remarks thanking “Harvey and Georgina” for “their friendship and support, and for the amazing movies that they’ve made.” Throwing red meat to his Blue State crowd, Obama in his remarks also blamed the GOP for being too “concerned what Rush Limbaugh might say about them” to break the gridlock in Washington. The President will also be attending two other midterm fundraisers Monday while in NYC before returning to the White House tonight.
The real winner here is Lorne Michaels, who now controls all three NBC late night shows. NBC completed its late-night revamp by naming Seth Meyers host of Late Night. He will succeed Jimmy Fallon who is taking over The Tonight Show next spring, replacing Jay Leno. Michaels will executive produce Late Night with Seth Meyers, and Michael Shoemaker will remain with the franchise as producer. Late Night with Seth Meyers will originate from 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York which also houses Saturday Night Live and where The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon also will be based. “We think Seth is one of the brightest, most insightful comedy writers and performers of his generation,” NBC chairman Bob Greenblatt said. “His years at SNL‘s Weekend Update desk, not to mention being head writer of the show for many seasons, helped him hone a topical brand of comedy that is perfect for the Late Night franchise”. Meyers had been the frontrunner to succeed Fallon since NBC announced last month Fallon’s ascendance to The Tonight Show. His appointment means that both The Tonight Show and Late Night will be hosted by former SNL Weekend Update anchors. Additionally, it solidifies Michaels’ status as NBC’s late-night king as he will executive produce The Tonight Show, Late Night and SNL. “I only have to work for Lorne …
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences recently opened up first-round Oscar voting to the entire documentary branch and abandoned the previous system of allowing a small committee to determine the short list of eligible films. This radically curtails the influence of the documentary branch governors. Interesting, because last month an accusation of political bias in the documentary branch was lodged against the Academy – specifically, in an April 16th letter from Gerald Molen who produced the controversial right-wing documentary 2016: Obama’s America (as well as the Oscar-winning Schindler’s List). Molen’s missive was sent to Academy President Hawk Koch and documentary branch governors Rob Epstein, Michael Apted, and Michael Moore who is also a member of the AMPAS Board Of Governors. Molen questions why 2016: Obama’s America was ignored for an Academy Award nomination even though it was last year’s second highest grossing political documentary (behind only Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11.) Molen wrote:
“I find myself wondering if it was excluded for ‘other’ reasons…”
“I have tremendous respect for Michael Apted as a creative and talented filmmaker but putting him with Rob Epstein and Michael Moore as the gatekeepers in charge of which films get nominated in the documentary category seems patently absurd…
“While Mr. Moore is a distinguished filmmaker, he holds a strong partisan view representing what Gallup tells us is only 21 percent of the population. Even if he were able to keep his personal philosophy out of the equation, you can certainly understand why the larger American constituency (pegged at 40%) would question the exclusion of a well-made and popular film that fails to reflect his views. Even if only in perception, this assumed bias will serve (in my opinion) only to injure the Academy…
“All up and coming filmmakers deserve to be recognized for their creative sensibilities and should not be punished because the messages of their films fail to fit the dogma of what some believe is politically correct.”
Hawk replied on behalf of the Academy:
EXCLUSIVE: Looking to stir up a bit of early Oscar buzz, The Weinstein Company has slotted the Lee Daniels-directed The Butler to an August 16 release date. It had been skedded for October 18. That slot has done well for films that include The Help, Julie and Julia and Eat Pray Love, and TWC will hope to follow suit. The film looks at the life of Eugene Allen, who served eight presidents from 1952 to 1986 and had a birds eye view of the Civil Rights movement. He was long retired when Barack Obama became the first African American president, but was invited back for the inauguration. The cast includes Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey and Robin Williams. Here’s the trailer:
One of American literature’s greatest courtroom dramas is generating some legal theater of its own. To Kill A Mockingbird author Harper Lee is suing her former lit agent’s son-in-law, Samuel Pinkus, and companies he allegedly started for failing to protect the Pulitzer-winning novel’s copyright. Lee, 87, alleges that Pinkus took advantage of her failing eyesight and hearing and assigned the copyright to himself and a firm he operated after his father-in-law, Eugene Winick — who had repped Lee since the book’s publication in 1960 — became ill 10 years ago. The author, who lives in rural Alabama, filed suit in Manhattan federal court and is seeking return of the copyright and unspecified damages. The 1962 movie adaptation of Mockingbird was nominated for Best Picture and seven other Academy Awards and won three, including Best Actor for Gregory Peck’s legendary performance as Atticus Finch. The lawyer who becomes a pariah in his small Southern town as defends a black man accused of raping a white woman was hailed by the AFI in 2003 as the greatest film hero of all time. Last year President Obama introduced the film before a 50th anniversary screening at the White House.
Listen to (and share) Episode 33 of our audio podcast Deadline Big Media, as Deadline’s Executive Editor David Lieberman and host David Bloom look at earnings-season results for most of the Big Media companies; a worrisome prediction for summer box office bombs just as the summer movie season kicks off; the FCC’s new chairman; and DreamWorks Animation’s new tech acquisition.
WASHINGTON – The Motion Picture Association of America, Inc. (MPAA) today announced key changes to its communications team, led by Executive Vice President for Global Communications Laura Nichols. Kate Bedingfield has been elevated to Vice President, Corporate Communications and will report to Nichols. In her new capacity, Bedingfield will serve as the association’s chief spokesperson and continue to be a critical player in developing and implementing communications strategy behind all of the MPAA’s policy priorities. Howard Gantman will assume a new role as Vice President, Global Strategic Communications. In this role, Gantman will focus on global message coordination and communication strategies for international initiatives, litigation, research and internal communications for the MPAA. He will also work with key stakeholders, entertainment industry alliances and other third parties on strategic communications priorities. Additionally, TJ Ducklo has been promoted to Deputy Director, Corporate Communications and will report to Bedingfield. In this newly created position, Ducklo will play a key role in advancing the association’s communications initiatives and assist Bedingfield with her responsibilities.
There was laughter at the White House moments ago when the President, who was also smiling, said he anticipates “a speedy confirmation process.” That may be too much to expect following his nomination of Core Capital Partners’ Tom Wheeler, 67, to be the nation’s chief communications regulator. But the FCC won’t be leaderless once Chairman Julius Genachowski steps down: President Obama designated Commissioner Mignon Clyburn to be Acting Chairwoman until Wheeler’s aboard. Wheeler’s mandate is to make sure that the U.S. is “at the cutting edge” of technological change, promoting “American ingenuity and American innovation,” the President said. Genachowski says that he can “attest to Tom’s commitment to harness the power of communications technology to improve people’s lives, to drive our global competitiveness, and to advance the public interest.”
The effort to stop President Obama from tapping his long-time ally appears to have failed: He’s preparing to nominate Core Capital Partners Managing Director Tom Wheeler to replace Julius Genachowski as FCC chairman, The Wall Street Journal reports, citing “two people familiar with the matter.” Four years ago Wheeler ran Obama’s transition effort for science, technology, space and arts agencies. He also lobbied for the cable industry from 1979-1984 when he was president of the National Cable Television Association, and then represented wireless phone companies as CEO of the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association (CTIA). Wheeler’s status as an early favorite for the FCC job seemed to fade this month when Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller launched an effort to elevate Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel — formerly the committee’s Senior Communications Counsel. Rockefeller and 36 other senators told Obama in a letter last month that Rosenworcel “understands and respects the relationship between the FCC and Congress.” Rockefeller also has been critical of Wheeler’s background. “A lobbyist is a lobbyist,” the senator told reporters. But an odd-bedfellows coalition of public interest advocates and business people rallied behind Wheeler. Public Knowledge CEO Gigi Sohn says that he “will not allow the FCC to become irrelevant as broadband becomes the dominant mode of communication in this country.” Another activist group, Free Press, is less confident. Wheeler does not appear to be willing to use the …
Hillary Clinton’s next run for the White House could be battling Hollywood as well as the Republicans in 2016. A feature film from the producers of The Twilight Saga about the former Secretary of State’s early life looks set to come out just as the primaries begin heating up in the next election. And even though Rodham, from writer Young II Kim’s 2012 winning Black List script, is about the Clintons’ early years, it certainly will remind people of the couple’s history – especially their public soap opera during the 1990s. Marty Bowen’s and Wyck Godfrey’s Temple Hill Entertainment and managers The Arlook Group have just attached Spectacular Now director James Ponsoldt to helm. Both the writer and the director are repped by UTA. The producers are looking to get Hillary cast before they start shopping the film to financiers and studios. The movie focuses on the early 1970s and Hillary’s personal battle between her own political ambitions and her desire to marry her equally ambitious Yale Law boyfriend Bill Clinton.
3RD UPDATE – FINAL: (See Conan and Obama videos here and here.) We warned you not to expect much from tonight’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner. And true to form it failed to deliver. Bland to a fault Conan O’Brien didn’t lay a glove on celebrity-in-chief Barack Obama. (Bring back Seth Meyers…) But the President got an easy laugh with a showbiz joke that couldn’t have made Comcast too happy. (He noted that, of 22 recent basketball shots, he had 2 hits and 20 misses. “The executives at NBC asked, ‘What’s your secret?’” POTUS said.) O’Brien’s best line of the night was comparing the relationship between Obama and Speaker of the House John Boehner to a blind date between Anderson Cooper and Rachel Maddow. (“In theory they understand each other’s positions. But deep down you know nothing’s ever going to happen.”) Obama got in the nastiest media dig. Noting that CNN has “taken some knocks” – because of errors during reporting on the Boston Marathon bombings - he said, “Fact is I admire their commitment to cover all sides of a story – just in case one of them happens to be accurate.” Obama even stabbed his liberal media cronies. He said saying seeing David Axelrod going to work for MSNBC was “a nice change of pace since MSNBC used to work for David Axelrod”.
Steven Spielberg – whom Obama called “my wonderful friend” - played a pivotal role in a video claiming the …
3RD UPDATE, 3:40 PM: Psy is the only act to get 1 billion hits on YouTube with his “Gangnam Style” video, and his follow-up video “Gentleman” is already past 232M views. He has been tapped to join CBS News’ table at tomorrow’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner alongside the likes of Homeland‘s Claire Danes and her husband, Hannibal‘s Hugh Dancy.
2ND UPDATE, 8:10 AM: One day before the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, Fox News Channel has said who from Hollywood it is bringing to the event — and it’s a big list. While Greta Van Susteren is passing on this year’s dinner, Fox News stars Bill O’Reilly, Chris Wallace, Geraldo Rivera and Bret Baier will be in attendance, as will the likes of Oscar-winner screenwriter Dustin Lance Black and a contingent from sister studio Fox’s latest X-Men movie: director Bryan Singer and producer-writer Simon Kinberg. See who will be sitting at FNC’s 14 tables below. Also check back for more last-minute additions as we head into the final hours before Saturday’s dinner.
UPDATE, THURSDAY PM: TV comedy king Chuck Lorre will be making his first White House Correspondents’ Dinner appearance this year while waiting for series-pickup news for his hot CBS pilot Mom. Lorre, who is behind the CBS series The Big Bang Theory, Two And A Half Men and Mike & Molly, will be sitting with former Secretary of State Madeline Albright.
Related: Conan O’Brien Tweets Pic From DC
PREVIOUSLY: Hollywood is again the guest everyone seems to want at their table for this year’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Returning headliner Conan O’Brien is set to take up the court-jester role that Jimmy Kimmel played last year and news organizations have begun to reveal guest lists for the April 27 event. There’s a lot of Tinseltown glitter already set alongside generals and top-tier cabinet secretaries — as well as power players like Harvey Weinstein. We know President Obama and the first lady will be there; here’s who else we know is going from Hollywood so far: