Peter Bart and Mike Fleming Jr. worked together for two decades at Daily Variety. In this weekly Sunday column, two old friends get together and grind their axes on the movie business.
Bart: Like 7th grade boys staring in the mirror, corporate CEOs these days keep asking themselves, “Am I big enough?” What scares them is the prospect of becoming a takeover target, and there’s been a rush of takeover talk lately —Rupert Murdoch’s bid for Time Warner being the most dramatic. Size means safety in the corporate universe and Time Warner became vulnerable by ridding itself of Time Inc., AOL and Time Warner Cable — the latter becoming a target for Comcast. With giants like Google, Apple and Amazon looming, CEOs are scared they can’t measure up, but the folks who should really be frightened are the creatives and their audiences. Bigness means giant fees for bankers and profits for shareholders, but the impact of the monoliths is easy to read — a universe of corporate plodding, tentpoles and sequels.
It’s an awards ceremony that’s will see Ted Turner take home a Lifetime Achievement Award and ESPN hard pressed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. With a lead almost double its nearest competitor, the cable channel scored 30 noms from NATAS today as the 35th Annual Sports Emmy Awards nominations were announced. Fox is in second place with 18 noms, while HBO has 15, NBC and NBC Sports Network pulled in 14 nominations each and MLB Network got a lucky 13. Overall, ESPN’s various channels and platforms got 46 noms while NBC Sports Group snagged 33 and CBS-owned channels got 18 nominations. The Sports Emmys has 39 categories including Outstanding Live Sports Special, Outstanding Live Sports Series, Outstanding Playoff Coverage, Outstanding Sports Documentary and Outstanding Sports Journalism. Coming off a Winter Olympics in which he was laid low by an eye infection, NBC’s Bob Costas is nominated in the Sports Personality – Studio Host Category along with CBS/Showtime’s James Brown, CBS’ Greg Gumbel, Golf Channel’s David Feherty and network multitasker Dan Patrick, who appears on NBC, NBCSN and DirecTV. With America’s Cup winner, former Atlanta Braves owner and CNN founder Turner getting the Lifetime Achievement honor, the Sports Emmys winners will be announced May 6 at the Time Warner Center in NYC. In the meantime, check out the full list of nominations here.
Ted Turner may no longer be in the CNN business but the cable news network is still in the Ted Turner game. In another look to the past like the resuscitated Crossfire, the now Jeff Zucker-run CNN will air Ted Turner: The Maverick Man on November 17. Looking at the billionaire’s life, the one-hour Wolf Blitzer special will air at 7 PM ET on Sunday. After creating CNN in 1980, the soon-to-be-75-year-old Turner Broadcasting chief eventually sold his network to Time Warner in 1996 and left that company’s board back in 2006. Maverick Man features not just interviews with Turner but also appearances from his ex-wife Jane Fonda, former President Jimmy Carter, and former CNN host Larry King among others.
The founder of Turner Broadcasting — and, arguably, the cable programming industry — tells Charlie Rose today on CBS This Morning that he wishes CNN had “a little less fluff.” But he lost control of the news channel when Time Warner merged with AOL, his biggest regret as a businessman. As for politics, Ted Turner says President Obama and GOP challenger Mitt Romney are “both smart and attractive and either one would do a pretty decent job.” But he sides with Obama because he’s “better on the environment and really and truly wants to end the wars.” Here’s a clip:
The late-night comic didn’t bring his best material this year. Conan O’Brien told advertisers that if the upfront event were held on Skype, then “we wouldn’t have to wear pants.” He also zinged Turner Broadcasting for the relatively low-key affair, a contrast to the big networks’ lavish upfront spending from their heyday. “In 1993 it was ice sculptures and caviar.” he said. “Now we’re sending interns over to Dunkin’ Donuts to buy day-old Munchkins.” Jumping on the company’s emphasis on digital expansion, O’Brien says he has 5.5M followers on Twitter “and a pedophile on MySpace.”
He saved his best lines for a version of a feature on his show: Audience Craigslist Ads. He showed Oprah Winfrey with an ad saying “For Sale: Controlling interest in OWN. $10 or best offer.” Company founder Ted Turner wanted to sell his remote control: “I keep turning to TBS for (Atlanta) Braves games…Where are the goddamn Braves?” And a picture of Turner Broadcasting sales president David Levy showed him selling a book of advice on how to succeed when you look like “an adult version of Turtle from Entourage.” Earlier, one of O’Brien’s writers and performers, Deon Cole, gave his take on a show he’s preparing for TBS called Deon Cole’s Black Box. It’s “a clip show from a unique perspective,” he said. “And when I say ‘unique perspective’, I mean … Read More »
This video saddens me on so many levels: CNN founder Ted Turner tells former News Of The World editor — and now CNN talk-show host — Piers Morgan tonight how he wanted the news network to be impartial and “cover substantial news.” That would serve the network well “even if the ratings weren’t the greatest.”
Ted Turner seems destined to be one-upped by his longtime ally, Liberty Media’s John Malone. First it was in media, where Malone remains a player long after Turner was pushed out of Time Warner. Now Malone has passed Turner as the nation’s biggest private land owner — a title the founder of cable channels including CNN, TNT, and Cartoon Network held since the 1990s — according to The Land Report. Malone bought more than 1M acres of timberland in Maine and New Hampshire this year, bringing his total land holdings to 2.2M acres. That passes Turner, who has more than 2M acres, mostly in Montana. Malone tells the publication that he caught “this land-buying disease” when he toured Turner’s ranch two years ago. The Land Report’s annual survey of the largest private U.S. landowners just looks at acreage owned by individuals, families, family-owned companies, and family-controlled foundations.
Can News Corp Escape Scandal Unscathed?
There’s not much good blood between Ted Turner and Rupert Murdoch (maybe Turner challenging Murdoch for a fist fight once has something to do with that), but still, Turner’s suggestion that Murdoch step down from News Corp for the company’s role in the UK phone-hacking scandal makes for good TV. Bloomberg TV had the interview (the Murdoch stuff begins at the 4:58 mark). “He hasn’t survived anything like this,” Turner said of his longtime rival.
Producers Don Murphy and Susan Montford, who are coming off Transformers: Dark of the Moon and the upcoming Shawn Levy-directed Hugh Jackman-starrer Real Steel, have signed a deal with Cartoon Network to develop a live-action adventure theatrical feature based on Captain Planet. He’s the animated Ted Turner-created environment-saving hero who was first introduced in the cartoon series Captain Planet and the Planeteers. Murphy and Montford will develop the film under their Angry Films banner. “We are extremely excited about bringing the good captain back to life,” said Murphy, who added the intention is to make a series of films. “[The Captain's] adventures are known worldwide and he is recognized across generations.” The news follows last month’s announcement of a similar Cartoon Network deal with producer Joel Silver for a movie based on the Ben 10 animated series.