Reuters blog archive

from Breakingviews:

TV broadcasters missing big picture in Aereo fight

By Reynolds Holding

The author is a Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Television broadcasters are missing the big picture in their courtroom spat with Aereo. CBS, Disney-owned ABC and others don’t want the streaming startup backed by media mogul Barry Diller reborn as a cable company. But conceding now could put online services and the likes of Time Warner Cable on equal legal footing, creating more competition – and higher fees – for content.

Aereo seemed doomed only two months ago. The U.S. Supreme Court decided it violated copyright law by leasing to each subscriber a dime-sized antenna that received broadcasting signals for free and streamed them over the internet. Like a cable operator, the court ruled, it had to pay for programming.

Aereo took the justices literally and declared itself a cable system for Copyright Act purposes, entitling it to buy a license for retransmitting TV shows. Broadcasters protested, arguing that the court had merely drawn an analogy and, besides, a lower tribunal had ruled that a similar system called ivi didn’t qualify for such a license.

It’s a tough call, but Aereo has a point. It only offered channels available in the local region, just as cable companies do, whereas ivi allowed users to access broadcasts from virtually any U.S. city. And copyright fees go to the owners of protected works, so the networks would get paid if Aereo received a license.

from Breakingviews:

Comcast deal machine spits out a value destroyer

By Rob Cox and Jeffrey Goldfarb
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.


Comcast’s deal machine has spit out a value destroyer. Digesting Time Warner Cable is ambitious even for a serial acquirer like Chief Executive Brian Roberts. As with some of his many previous purchases, it looks set to generate a return on investment below Comcast’s cost of capital. That’s crummy but not criminal. It’s also not surprising given the medieval governance the Roberts family uses to oversee its fiefdom.

from Breakingviews:

Comcast gives deal junkies lots to watch on cable

By Jeffrey Golfarb
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Comcast just gave merger junkies plenty to watch on cable. The biggest U.S. operator has agreed to buy rival Time Warner Cable for $45 billion in stock, interrupting a hostile takeover attempt by smaller Charter Communications. The target got the price it wanted, but not the terms. Regulatory risks are high. And all eyes will still be on the crafty John Malone.

from Breakingviews:

Time Warner Cable’s deal control looks more remote

By Jeffrey Goldfarb
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Tom Rutledge seems like a man on a mission. The U.S. cable operator he runs, Charter Communications, is preparing a slate of replacement directors for larger rival Time Warner Cable, the target of his $60 billion hostile bid. He may also have roped in Comcast to alleviate financial worries about the plan to take over his former employer.

from Breakingviews:

HBO gives Netflix investors a grim sneak preview

By Jeffrey Goldfarb
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Netflix investors just got a grim sneak preview courtesy of HBO. Time Warner disclosed financial details of the pay-TV network behind “Girls” for the first time. They suggest a need for heroic growth and profit assumptions by Netflix.

from Breakingviews:

TV industry technophobia is a bad 1980s rerun

By Jeffrey Goldfarb
The author is a Reteurs Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

The latest TV industry technophobia is just a bad 1980s rerun. U.S. broadcasters, including Walt Disney-owned ABC, have won support in their Supreme Court bid to shut down online video startup Aereo. The arguments echo those used 30 years ago when networks tried to block the VCR, after which business boomed. For a creative profession, Big Media sure can lack imagination.

from India Insight:

Star gets fast and furious with U.S. shows on Indian TV

Star India wants to attract English-speaking audiences with a television channel that syndicates the latest seasons of American TV shows such as the counterterrorism thriller Homeland and the comedy Modern Family.

Several channels broadcast U.S. shows in India, but Star World Premiere HD is the first to broadcast episodes a day or two after they air in the United States.

from India Insight:

India’s TV import duty taxes travellers… and grey markets

India on Monday imposed a 36 percent duty on flat-screen televisions that travellers bring back from other countries, seen as another step to support a falling rupee. The move, however, will do little to help the economy but will cheer television manufacturers in India and hit grey markets, experts said.

India has taken various measures in recent months to deter the import of commodities such as gold as Asia's third-largest economy tries to tamp down its current account deficit and a weak rupee that touched record lows below 65 per dollar this week.

from Jack Shafer:

In praise of tabloid TV

Allow me to defend cable TV's extended live coverage of the George Zimmerman murder trial, even though I've not watched a second of it, nor have I tuned in to any of the nightly rehashes aired on CNN, HLN, MSNBC and Fox News Channel. Championing the Zimmerman telemania puts me at variance with the critics of tabloid TV, who want the cable news networks to focus their cameras instead on the Cairo uprising, President Barack Obama's climate speech, the slaughter in Syria, voters’ rights, the NSA outrages, Wall Street, congressional hearings, and other examples of "meaningful" and "important" news. Directly disparaging CNN's Zimmerman surplus at the expense of the Egyptian uprising is New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen, who asserts that the network's new president, Jeff Zucker, "wants everyone in his company to know what the priorities are: Mini-series in the center, world events off to the side."

Rosen is right about what Zucker wants. But the call for more broadcast hours devoted to news "that matters" and fewer hours of TV trials -- that, as many have accurately put it, are barely distinguishable from CSI episodes -- might have been more persuasive in the days when the television audience had only the three broadcast network newscasts to choose from, when the only national newspaper was the business-oriented Wall Street Journal, when there was no real-time access to foreign newspapers and broadcasts, and when researchers were only fantasizing about something as ubiquitous as the Web. But today's media menu gives the news audience more opportunities than ever before to find the news that others might describe as meaningful and important. It might have made sense three decades ago, when CNN was getting started, that its over-coverage of one story was blotting out other, more worthy stories. But that critique doesn’t apply to 2013. CNN, which used to be the only TV news meal at times of breaking international news like this, is only one of the entrees. Any number of sites have live-streamed the Egyptian protests on to the Web and sharply reported, photographed, and filmed accounts from Cairo are only a hashtag search away the reader's eye. Go ahead and complain about CNN if you want to, but footnote your critique with easily accessible alternative sources.

from The Great Debate:

Gandolfini brought a poet’s sensibility to a mobster role

In the end, I think what sucked me in were those damned ducks.

I’ve been thinking about James Gandolfini, the actor who died on Wednesday, and whose performance on HBO’s The Sopranos became iconic. That series revolutionized TV drama and ushered in what has been described as a golden age of television.

Gandolfini was cast in the difficult, crucial role of Tony Soprano, and from the outset the show’s fate rested largely on his broad shoulders. But the actor grappled with a dilemma. Play the role too sympathetically, and you’d have a show that was sentimentally dishonest about organized crime and the capacity of a sociopath to redeem himself. Play it too harshly and you’re left with a far less complex and dramatically compelling character.