MediaFile

Media Moguls to iPad: How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…

The relationship between Apple and the media industry has had its ups and downs, as Apple expanded its reach and exerted increasing control over businesses like music and television program distribution.

But when it comes to Apple’s newest gadget, industry honchos go ga-ga.

We’re midway through the first day of the All Things Digital conference in California’s Palos Verdes on Wednesday, and already the event is turning into something of an iPad lovefest, with heartfelt paeans to the iPad as common as Rolexes at the exclusive gathering of business bigwigs.

Jeffrey Katzenberg, CEO of DreamWorks Animation SKG, said the iPad was destined to become Apple boss Steve Jobs’ greatest legacy.

“The intuitive nature of it is so spectacular,” Katzenberg told the audience, noting he ditched his laptop PC entirely and now relies solely on an iPad and a Blackberry.

Comcast COO Steve Burke sounded equally head-over-heels, describing the iPad as “elegant” and “extraordinary.”

Is Comcast really the Worst Company In America? Really?

Comcast-worstcompanyawardBrianRobsSo Comcast ‘won’ the Worst Company In America award from readers of The Consumerist blog, which as its tagline suggests, is the place where “shoppers bite back”. Yet we have to ask, is Comcast really the worst company in America or is it all relative?

The Consumerist’s readers are likely to have contact with Comcast through its customer service. They, like many, have likely been frustrated with waiting for hours for a technician (sleeping or awake). Or maybe it’s taken Comcast a day or two too long to fix their high-definition DVR boxes?

Fairly or unfairly, Comcast’s reputation had gotten so bad the company took the opportunity of a new product launch  to change its customer-facing name to Xfinity. But it’s not just customer service. Consumerist’s readers have also been ticked off by what they see as  above-inflation price rises, throttling Internet access, and Comcast’s plans to buy NBC Universal.

Hulu to charge? It’s getting closer…

Everybody loves free. But free has a price. And that price might just be $9.95 a month, according to The Los Angeles Times,  which writes that Hulu, the second most popular video site in the U.S, will soon start charging for a premium version of its site called Hulu Plus. We haven’t been able to confirm the details yet (Hulu’s staffers are sticking to the ol’ decline to comment). But rumors of premium version of Hulu have been doing the rounds for the last year. Back in October an NBC executive said the company was experimenting with various business models, including subscription content.

Let’s also not forget Hulu is soon to be a third owned by Comcast (through its ongoing acquisition of NBC) — which is not known for giving video programming away for free. Its other parents, News Corp and Disney, also aren’t known for their charity in the video programming business.

And it’s not just Hulu, YouTube has also started to experiment with pricing models and has indicated it would be open to subscription models if its content partners asked for it.

from Shop Talk:

Check Out Line: Duke wins, but there’s another bracket to fill

duke1Check out a different kind of tournament bracket still underway.

The Duke Blue Devils may have won yet another college basketball title Monday night, but consumers can still make their "Sweet 16" picks in Consumerist.com's annual "Worst Company in America"  tournament, which runs through April 26.

In its fifth year, the website, owned by Consumers Union, the publisher of Consumer Reports, lets consumers vote for their least favorite companies in matchups much like the NCAA tournament. Starting with 32 "teams," the tournament pairs companies in votes in which the "winner" (think about it, in a worst company vote you want to lose) advances to face the next competitor.

In the first round this year, Bank of America beat Citibank, GM beat Toyota and in an "upset" Cash4Gold beat defending "champion" AIG. Other companies that advanced included Walmart, Ticketmaster, United Airlines, Best Buy, Apple and Comcast, which has lost in the title game the last two years.

from DealZone:

Comcast the Barbarian?

Conan O'Brien could well be headed to Fox after making it clear to NBC that he will not go graciously into the later night. But a channel-changing question that is making the rounds has more to do with what the drama unfolding between O'Brien and former Tonight Show host Jay Leno says about NBC and its agreed joint venture with Comcast. If nothing else, the lack of replacement programming for the slot Leno is vacating, and the purported profitability NBC still enjoyed by having a cheaper, single-star variety show in a traditionally pricey prime-time slot, raise an obvious question -- why the rush?

John Hudson at the AtlanticWire does a nice job of collecting some thoughts on pressure that was probably building from Comcast, from angry affiliates who wanted Leno and his show's crummy ratings out of that vital pre-news slot, to improving PR.

"Though NBC Universal Chairman Jeff Gaspin said the Comcast deal has nothing to do with the decision, pundits say Gaspin has 'every incentive to show improvement' before his new bosses at Comcast takeover," Hudson says.

UPDATE: Everybody loves Steve Burke, even Warren Buffett

Stephen BurkeWhen news of Comcast’s bid for NBC Universal broke on Sept 30 most of the spotlight focused on Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts.

But as the weeks dragged on, some of that spotlight began to shine on his number 2, Stephen Burke, chief operating officer and a former senior Disney executive.

As we now know since the deal was confirmed on Dec 3, NBC Universal’s top brass will report to Burke, making him (once you count the 24 million subscribers he also oversees) one of the most powerful men in TV.

Zucker praises Comcast; but will it be a good fit?

zuckerWhen it comes to the Comcast-NBC Universal deal, one of the big stories over the coming year will center on corporate culture. Maybe too much is made of this, maybe different cultures had nothing to do with the disaster that was Time Warner-AOL, for instance. But I doubt it.

Which brings us back to Comcast-NBC Universal. The New York Post got a jump on the culture clash story today, and UBS banker Aryeh Bourkoff followed up on it during an interview with NBC Universal boss Jeff Zucker at the UBS Media and Communications Conference.

Asked about his relationship with Comcast’s Brian Roberts and Steve Burke, Zucker said up the following. (Perhaps he’s already figuring out the Comcast culture of bland, family friendly diplomacy).

Viacom: Don’t look to us for major dealmaking

After Comcast-NBC Universal, investment bankers are clearly drooling at the thought of some big money wheeling and dealing in the media business. Probably best not to count too heavily on Viacom being a player.

Viacom Chief Executive Philippe Dauman, speaking at the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference, was asked about his company’s interest in acquisitions. His response was less than inspiring if you’re thinking about blockbuster deals:  “I’ll tell you the kind of acquisition we like. We recent bought the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for $60 million.”

While Dauman said Viacom would also consider looking at some independent cable networks in the U.S. or overseas, he made it know that “we are not interested in making the big splashy acquisition out there.”

from DealZone:

Comcast: the antitrust sequel and the M&A trilogy

If you were all twitchy with anticipation about Comcast's NBC Universal deal, just wait for parts two and three! The gathering storm over the merger in Washington and other political power points not only promises to be more riveting, but the rights to part three are already being sold to a wave of media mergers hanging on the outcome.

As Anupreeta Das reports, media dealmaking could pick up if regulators impose minimal conditions on the NBC Universal transaction. But U.S. regulatory scrutiny is expected to be heavy, and the deal could take more than a year to be cleared. The LegalTimes blog notes that even the beauty contest among regulators hoping to oversee the process promises to have many twists and turns.

That might sound like a long wait, but it's not likely to stop M&A lawyers from booking lunches and logging hours to get the balls in place to roll if the deal goes through. That kind or pressure could also work its way behind the scenes in Washington, where lobbyists will be armed with the argument that the merger will save capitalism as we know it by reigniting the dealmaking powderkeg of the early part of this century.

from DealZone:

No longer just a dumb pipe

Comcast's deal to buy a majority stake in NBC Universal from General Electric should put to rest fears at the cable operator that King Content will kill its business. But even if it becomes a thoroughfare of programming genius, the new venture will still have to convince a skeptical marketplace. The train wreck of Time Warner-AOL threw the idea of new media into financial purgatory.

Just how the venture will wring savings from its disparate businesses and avoid suffocating regulatory scrutiny are issues that could also create Comcastic headaches.  Robert MacMillan points out on our Mediafile blog, with a sensible dose of skepticism, that the new venture is affirming its commitment to local news, in effect, promising to keep the garden hoses pumping even as it primes for a media gusher with big-ticket programming.

Still, while making a new media juggernaut could still turn out to be a pipe dream, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts (pictured above) cannot be faulted for allowing his company to get stuck in a dumb pipe nightmare.