The Cablevision CEO rarely grants interviews, which makes the one in this morning’s Wall Street Journal interesting. Jim Dolan continues to hint broadly, as he did in a call with analysts last week, that he’d be open to a sale. “We are going to continue to do the right things for shareholders,” he says. While he didn’t say specifically whether Cablevision was engaged in any deal talks, he noted that business is “in our blood” — and if his family didn’t have cable systems then “there would be another business.” And he seems troubled about prospects for cable’s video services. He says programmers and operators live in a “bubble” by requiring subscribers to buy channels as a bundle. As online video becomes more appealing to young viewers, the bundled channel model will mature “badly.” Indeed, he says “there could come a day” when Cablevision stops offering its own video service, allowing someone else to provide programming over the company’s broadband infrastructure. The leader of blues band JD & the Straight Shot, just off a tour opening for the Eagles, likened what’s happening in cable to the decline of the music business. Those who don’t “ride the wave” get “eaten by the wave,” he told the paper.
As News Corp works toward dividing into two distinct companies, executive appointments have steadily continued on the publishing side. Raju Narisetti, currently a deputy managing editor at The Wall Street Journal and managing editor of The Wall Street Journal Digital Network, has been named SVP and deputy head of strategy for the new News Corporation. Narisetti takes up his functions March 11, reporting to Anoushka Healy, who was recently named chief strategy officer. Click over for the official press release:
EXCLUSIVE: Since they got a big write up in the Wall Street Journal late last month, the “Tag Brothers” have been swarmed by movie producers hoping they would tell one of them, “you’re it.” Meaning he gets the chance to translate their story to the movie screen. Who are the “Tag Brothers?” They are the 10 classmates at Gonzaga Preparatory School in Spokane, Washington 23 years ago whose long-running game of tag got national attention, thanks to the Russell Adams article. Now in their 40s, the former classmates have spread across the country in various fields (one’s a priest), but they stay in touch during the month of February by chasing each other across the country in an obsessive game of tag. They will jet cross country, break into each other’s homes, hide in the bushes until a target appears, or leave for a long vacation to avoid being tagged, all in the name of not ending up “It,” and having to wear that loser title a whole year.
Well, the “Tag Brothers” have just told Broken Road’s Todd Garner that he’s it. After hearing pitches from more than a half dozen established producers who wanted to turn their story into a feature film, they’ve optioned their life rights to Garner, in a deal put together by ICM Partners (which reps the guys) and UTA (which reps the WSJ). Garner will put together a package that he’ll shop to studios. Since studios have been among those making calls, it shouldn’t be a hard sell.
This is a story that the Wall Street Journal had better have right: The paper reports this morning that its managing editor, Robert Thomson, will become CEO of the still-unnamed publishing company that News Corp will create next year in a spin off. Next week the company plans to announce Thomson’s appointment and the elevation of his deputy, Gerard Baker, to replace him as managing editor of the Journal, the paper says citing “people familiar with the matter.” The company also may announce other senior appointments and board members, as well as a name for the publishing company, but final decisions haven’t been made. CEO Rupert Murdoch said in October that he would announce the leadership plans by year-end.
Kelly Evans, co-anchor of The Wall Street Journal website’s morning newscast The Hub, is moving to CNBC. Evans will be an on-air reporter, CNBC SVP Nik Deogun said in an internal memo this afternoon quoted by NY Times. Evans initially will be based in London and was a columnist as well as co-anchor for The Hub. A regular guest on CNBC, she was a co-moderator of a Republican presidential candidates debate in January.
The new look for Google’s popular video site is part of the preparation for the upcoming introduction of services featuring professionally produced content from providers such as Disney, Lionsgate, Madonna, Jay-Z, Slate, The Wall Street Journal, Thomson Reuters — and our parent company, which will have a channel called PMC Entertainment. YouTube says that its revamped home page will make it “easier to find and follow great channels when you arrive.” There’ll be three columns: one on the left has the visitor’s favorite channels, the one in the center has the channels’ latest videos, and on the right YouTube will offer options that it figures the visitor might like. For the system to work, YouTube is encouraging people to sign in. There’ll also be integration with Google services including Google+ and Gmail, as well as Facebook. The goal is to encourage people to spend more time with the site, and make it more appealing to advertisers. Here’s YouTube’s video describing the redesign:
The Wall Street Journal has struck a nerve at Yahoo with a story today that quotes several investors who say co-founder Jerry Yang is trying to reassert his power at the company by undermining the board’s effort to find a buyer. “News reports based on rumor and speculation are just that,” the company says in a statement. “Mr. Yang is one of 9 directors with the exact same fiduciary duties and motivation as all of his fellow directors — to serve the best interests of all the company’s shareholders.” The WSJ story says that as former CEO and now a major investor and board member, Yang’s ”multiple hats have raised questions both inside and outside Yahoo about whether he can act in the best interest of shareholders rather than from a desire to preserve his influence and legacy.” It quotes a letter sent today by Daniel Loeb, who manages the Third Point LLC hedge fund, a major investor in Yahoo, calling on Yang to resign. He cited Yang’s “ineptitude” in 2008 when he was CEO and rejected Microsoft’s $45B offer for Yahoo — which now has a market value of $19.2B. Loeb said he would fight a “sweetheart” to sell Yahoo to a private equity firm. The story also quotes Peter Schoenfeld of P. Schoenfeld Asset Management LP, who says that the ”board should be focused on unlocking [Yahoo] value for all shareholders instead of protecting a small group.” Yahoo has been trying to find its way since September …
It was bad enough that hundreds of Occupy Wall Street protesters stopped by his Fifth Avenue home on Tuesday to chant slogans about the unfairness of the tax system. The media mogul’s troubles also grew as he had to deal with a second UK newspaper scandal: The publisher of the Wall Street Journal Europe, Andrew Langhoff, resigned amid allegations that he had cut a deal to artificially inflate circulation figures by 41%. And that story began to unravel just as the UK Parliament’s Culture, Media and Sport Committee said it will interrogate Murdoch’s right-hand man Les Hinton on October 24 as part of its investigation into Murdoch’s other UK newspaper problem – the News Of The World phone-hacking scandal. This matter has already begun to loom large as investors prepare to converge in Los Angeles next Friday for News Corp’s annual shareholder meeting. Advisory firms Institutional Shareholder Services, Egan Jones, and Glass Lewis asked stock owners to reject several company board nominees — including Murdoch’s two sons, James and Lachlan — for failing to get to the bottom of the hacking allegations before the company was forced to close NOTW.
UPDATE: Politicians over here are saying that it is not enough for CNN chat show Piers Morgan to issue communiqués from America saying that he knows nothing about phone-hacking. Morgan has denied he knows anything about Heather Mills, Paul McCartney’s ex-wife, having her phone hacked – although in 2006 he admitted to once listening to one of her mobile phone messages. Therese Coffey, a Conservative MP who sits on a UK Parliament committee investigating phone-hacking, told the BBC that Morgan must help police with their inquiries. Harriet Harman, deputy leader of the opposition Labour Party, also weighed in, saying Morgan has questions to answer. “It’s not good enough for him to say, or somebody to say on his behalf, I always comply with the law,” Harman told Sky News. Of course, there’s an element of people rubbing their hands here. A lot of politicians who have scores to settle with the CNN chat-show host would like to see him take a fall; and Morgan’s bosses in Atlanta will doubtless be taking a dim view of this unwelcome publicity. But the political committee that recently grilled Rupert Murdoch tells me it won’t be calling for Morgan to give evidence. Morgan himself was unavailable for comment.
PREVIOUS: The burgeoning News Corp phone-hacking scandal continues to make waves for Rupert Murdoch in the UK, and increasingly they’re crossing the Atlantic. Today, CNN anchor Piers Morgan’s efforts to battle allegations that he was involved in phone hacking while editing News Corp.’s UK tabloids News of the World and the Daily Mirror suffered a setback. Paul McCartney’s ex-wife, Heather Mills, leveled her own accusation against Morgan in an interview with BBC Newsnight. Mills claims that a journalist with the Mirror Group, which owns the Daily Mirror, admitted to her that he hacked into her voicemail in 2001 and listened to a message McCartney left her after she’d left for India in the wake of a fight. The BBC notes that while the journalist in question wasn’t Morgan, the CNN anchor did tell the Daily Mail in 2006 that he had listened to a “heartbreaking” message McCartney left Mills while she was in India following a “tiff.” While not accusing Morgan of engaging in phone hacking himself, Mills points a finger at the former Daily Mirror editor. “There was absolutely no honest way that Piers Morgan could have obtained that tape that he has so proudly bragged about unless they had gone into my voice messages,” she said. Morgan, who also serves as a judge on NBC’s reality competition show America’s Got Talent, denied the allegations in a statement.
The Wall Street Journal says that the subpoenas would be significant because they’d “represent an escalation of scrutiny” by the Justice Department of the paper’s owner, Rupert Murdoch. The story cites “a government official” who says that DOJ is looking at allegations that News Of The World employees bribed UK officials – as well as a charge made by the Daily Mirror that Murdoch employees tried to find news stories by hacking into cell phones of U.S. 9/11 victims. Senior leaders at the Justice Department have not yet approved the subpoenas. Still, the paper says that News Corp is “bracing for increased scrutiny” from the FBI as well as SEC. The corporate oversight agency is thought to be especially interested in whether News Corp bribed UK police or other officials: That could be seen as a violation of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The Journal quoted an anonymous person “close to News Corp” who says the subpoenas would represent “a fishing expedition with no evidence to support” them.
Late last week Rupert Murdoch was apologizing all over the place for his company’s phone hacking and police bribery scandals. But based on the astonishingly defensive editorial about the matter in this morning’s Wall Street Journal, it seems that Murdoch considers himself to be a victim. Here are some of the main points that the company’s raising:
Our critics are blowing things out of proportion: This isn’t about an anything-goes culture that cuts across News Corp’s corporate and newsgathering practices, the Journal suggests. It’s just about “phone-hacking years ago at a British corner” of the company. What’s more, if Scotland Yard failed to enforce the anti-hacking laws years ago “then that is more troubling than the hacking itself.”
Our critics are hypocrites: British politicians now criticizing the cozy relationship between the government and the press “are also the same statesmen who have long coveted media support.” And the BBC and the Guardian, which have been all over the scandal, ”skew their coverage” to “influence public affairs…The Schadenfreude is so thick you can’t cut it with a chainsaw.” The Journal is particularly irked by members of the Bancroft family who now say that they regret selling the paper’s parent, Dow Jones, to Murdoch in 2007. The family’s “appetite for dividends meant that little cash remained to invest in journalism. We shudder to think what the Journal would look like today without the sale to News Corp.”
Why’s everybody so shocked?: Whatever you think …
Rebekah Brooks Resigns As CEO Of News International
This is huge. Hinton has been one of Rupert Murdoch’s closest lieutenants for 52 years in Australia, the UK and the U.S. But he ran News International during the anything-goes years when the News Of The World phone hacking took place. Hinton says that he didn’t know what was going on under his watch: “That I was ignorant of what apparently happened is irrelevant and in the circumstances I feel it is proper for me to resign from News Corp. and apologize to those hurt by the actions of News of the World.” Murdoch — who rewarded Hinton in 2007 by putting him in charge of Dow Jones, owner of The Wall Street Journal – says the resignation is “a matter of much sadness to me.”
New York, NY, July 15, 2011 – News Corporation today announced the resignation of Les Hinton, Chief Executive Officer of Dow Jones & Company and Publisher of The Wall Street Journal, effective immediately. Mr. Hinton, a 52-year veteran of News Corporation, has led Dow Jones since December, 2007.
UPDATE: Netflix Still In Deal-Making Mode; Beats Street Expectations for 1st-Q But Stock Price Dips In After-Market Trading
UPDATE: Netflix CEO Reed Hastings in today’s earnings call says the company’s much-ballyhooed deal to license the original TV series House of Cards is merely a test — and a relatively modest one at that. “I don’t know if it’s anything we’d bet the farm on, but we’re willing to try it with a little bit of our budget,” he told Wall Street analysts. He said in a letter to shareholders that Netflix might make “two or three similar, but smaller, deals” to see whether “we can efficiently build a big audience for a well-produced serialized show.” He said, in his note, that the characterization of Netflix as “rerun TV” is “fundamentally correct.”
Hastings told analysts, though, that he was intrigued by the performance of Starz’ Spartacus, which was also available on Netflix. It “opened our eyes” to the possibility that a show might develop a bigger buzz, and more TV viewers, when it runs on the Web as well as conventional TV. Meanwhile, Hastings says that Netflix is “working hard” to offer its streamed content to Android-powered smartphones and tablet computers. “It’s a big priority for us.” As for the competition in Web-delivered video, Hastings says he’s as eager as anyone to see what his rivals have planned. “We really don’t know what Dish (Network) is up to” with its acquisition of Blockbuster,” he adds. “A big market attracts a lot of competition.”
PREVIOUS, 1:30 PM: Netflix continues to strengthen the sense of inevitability that it will become a must-have service for Web users who want to watch professionally produced entertainment. It said Monday that it ended the first quarter with a net profit of $60 million, up 88% vs. the same period last year, on revenues of $719 million, up 46%. That comes to $1.11 in earnings per share. In January the company told investors that revenue could go as high as $717 million while earnings would come in between 90 cents and $1.13 a share. Even though Netflix often beats its own guidance, analysts considered that ambitious: The consensus was $703.6 million and $1.08.
Most underestimated Netflix’s appeal to the fast-growing number of people watching movies and TV shows via broadband. It had 23.6 million global subscribers at the end of March, a gain of 3.6 million so far in 2011 and close to the 23.7 million at the top of the target range it set for itself in January. That makes Netflix the largest subscription entertainment service, surpassing Comcast’s 22.8 million subscribers and Sirius XM’s 20.2 million. Some 22.8 million of Netflix’s customers are in the U.S. Now the company says it expects to have as many as 25.9 global million subscribers at the end of June. It projects second quarter revenues of as much as $798 million, and earnings per share as high as $1.15.
The Wall Street Journal is reporting that talks between The Daily Beast and Newsweek have cratered. The two companies had been discussing a deal to make Tina Brown editor of Newsweek. But details couldn’t be worked out surrounding the division of power between Brown, new Newsweek owner Sidney Harman, and Barry Diller, who’s chairman of Daily Beast owner IAC. Harman recently purchased Newsweek from the Washington Post Co. for the sum of $1.
“The tone of life in Hollywood is about to take a turn for the sophisticated with the appointment of Rob Guth, our esteemed tech reporter and Bill Gates chronicler from San Francisco, as LA bureau chief. Elsewhere on the LA credits, Ethan Smith is taking on a new, enhanced role as Entertainment News Editor in the bureau. A member of the bureau since 2003, Ethan has broken a string of stories on major mergers and moguls. In his new role, he will be the prime reporter and shepherd of our Hollywood entertainment coverage. Before joining the Journal, Ethan worked as a freelance writer and in staff jobs at New York magazine, the Industry Standard, and Entertainment Weekly.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Reliance ADA Group is negotiating with Universal Studios to replicate its movie-themed amusement parks in India. The result would be a $1.5 billion new park that covers 400 acres –in either New Delhi or Mumbai–and would combine Universal park attractions with others devoted to Bollywood films. Universal would take a licensing fee for its branded attractions that include themed attractions involving such Marvel Comics characters as Spider-Man, The Hulk and Doctor Doom–deals made well before theme park rival Disney bought Marvel–as well as Dr. Seuss attractions. There are also the venerable rides based on the films of Reliance’s DreamWorks partner Steven Spielberg–who gets a cut of theme park receipts–with Jaws, E.T. and Jurassic Park. Universal’s Islands of Adventure just opened an entire wing of the park devoted to the Warner Bros franchise Harry Potter, which recently opened after two years of construction, highlighted by a ridiculously ambitious simulator ride housed within a replica of Hogwarts Academy that has been carved into a faux mountainside setting that is as overwhelming as the $200 million I’m told was spent to build it. WSJ qualifies that the deal is in the talking stage, but it would mark Reliance’s latest foray into Hollywood. Besides its partnership with DreamWorks, Reliance made first look deals with the production companies of Brad Pitt, Chris Columbus, Jay Roach, George Clooney, Jim Carrey, Tom Hanks, Ron Howard and Brian Grazer, Nicolas Cage and …
UPDATE: Now the story’s been debunked.
The Wall Street Journal is reporting tonight that Hasbro is in preliminary talks with Providence Equity Partners about a leveraged buyout. Hasbro has a market capitalization of about $6 billion. It owns the G.I. Joe and Transformers and Stretch Armstrong toys sold to Hollywood, has several board games like Battleship in movie development, and even has its own office on the Universal lot. In all it has more than 10 films in the works with different movie studios and a cable channel The Hub in partnership with Discovery Communications.
For weeks now, we have been hearing from our various sources at studios, agencies and production companies that Spyglass Entertainment is in the lead to run a restructured MGM despite Summit Entertainment also being very much in the mix. But it’s been near-impossible to get any confirmations, so we’ve held back writing. Though we almost posted last week when we received a batch of new and detailed information.
Well, tonight, the Wall Street Journal published that and everything else we’d heard, also with no confirmations. The WSJ emphasizes that talks are continuing and no final decisions have been made. So the paper’s info is exactly where our info is: not pinned down.
Here is where things stand: Spyglass co-heads Gary Barber and Roger Birnbaum would run the studio as co-chief executives under the current restructuring plan being discussed with a group of large MGM’s creditors. But Summit toppers also are still very much under consideration and haven’t heard they’re out of it — at least not yet. I can report that this lead group of MGM creditors consists of Anchorage Advisors, Highland Capital Management, and Davidson Kempner Capital Management who have banded together. Led by Anchorage, they bought up MGM debt on the cheap so that they now represent what I’m told is about $400 million of it. (The WSJ says it’s about 1/3 of the outstanding debt which was purchased for $.60 on …
This morning I read in The New York Times that ”CBS shook up the upfront week on Wednesday with the most startling moves of any network for the coming season.” But then I read the Wall Street Journal, whose parent company News Corp also owns CBS’ rival Fox, and its headline ”Playing It Safe” for a story that said “CBS is doubling down on what has worked for the network in recent years — and four decades ago, too.” I’m loving this newspaper rivalry.