from Commentaries:


FoxTVRupert Murdoch used News Corp's fiscal fourth quarter conference call on Wednesday to say he wants to be paid ANYTIME his news is read online. Perhaps he was just in a cranky mood, but most of the reporters listening to the call thinks he's going beyond what he's said many times before on the topic.

The digital revolution has opened many new and inexpensive methods of distribution, but it has not made the content free. Accordingly, we intend to charge for all news websites.

The Sun, 6 Aug 2009That's not just for newspapers and websites, but also for his TV news channels, like Fox, and by implication, Sky, when viewed online, Murdoch said.  However, when asked if he will be charging for celebrity photos from newspapers such as The Sun or News of The World, it was by no means clear he's figured out how to make visitors pay to view these other than by watching ads.

He said he's prepared to be first among his competitors to do this and considering introducing a paid-content plan for News Corp web sites in the company's current fiscal year that ends in June 2010.   

Of course, there's nothing counter-revolutionary about content creators wanting to get paid. It just made the blog posting trifecta work.    

Good days for cable TV

A year ago, the big story around Emmy nominations was the acclaim showered on cable programs like “Mad Men” and “Damages.” A quick glance at today’s nominations indicates little has changed.

Just look at the best drama category, where Fox’s “House” and ABC’s “Lost” will face stiff competition from cable’s “Big Love” (HBO), “Mad Men” (AMC), “Damages” (FX), and “Breaking Bad” (AMC).

While the Emmy awards aren’t everything — ratings are still the holy grail — they certainly don’t hurt. Particularly when it comes to cable networks, which have built a reputation for developing more sophisticated, bolder programs than the broadcast counterparts.

Grey’s, Wives on Hulu from today

Starting today Disney content will go live on Hulu, consumating a deal that was struck earlier this year to join the two-year venture with NBC Universal, News Corp and Providence Equity Partners.

The first few shows include popular fare from ABC such as Grey’s Anatomy,  Desperate Housewives and Ugly Betty. This means Hulu is going from strength to strength in locking down its leadership as the place for watching TV on the Web.

Part of the attraction of Hulu is that it is free for U.S. residents, since most of the content can be watched for free over the air in the U.S. But we wouldn’t be surprised if Hulu’s owners added a paid service as part of the TV Everywhere initiative players like Time Warner have been promoting. Such a ‘paid-for’ service would actually be free if the customer is already a paying cable/satellite TV subscriber.

Fox upfront: Watch “Glee” and look for Kiefer at the bar

For those of you unable to make it to the Fox upfront today at the New York City Center (or skipped it and went straight to the party), here are some of the takeaways:

    Fox introduced its four new comedies and two dramas to its prime-time lineup, plus the Wanda Sykes show on Saturday nights. The best looking of the bunch was “Glee” — a cutting comedy, musical feel-good hour that has received some big hype. The show may be deserving, if the clip played for media, advertisers and affiliates today is any indication. It got a rousing cheer from the crowd. But not as rousing as the cheer for Kiefer Sutherland, who showed up (as he often does) to thank everyone for their support of “24.” He wrapped up by saying, “I don’t want to take up much more of your time, because I know you can’t wait to get to the party. It promises to be a good one. I will be looking for you… at the bar.” Nice one, Kiefer. Fox Entertainment President Kevin Reilly and Sales President Jon Nesvig took pains to remind the audience that broadcast network TV is not yet dead, and in fact still blows away cable TV and online video. They sounded a bit like newspaper executives. “All the noise and data I’ve seen over the last six months tells a great story about network television,” Reilly said. “Network TV is still the biggest branding opportunity out there.” Peter Rice, the new chairman of Fox Entertainment, made an appearance. The executive behind movies like “Slumdog Millionaire” as well as “Napoleon Dynamite,” “Juno,” and “Little Miss Sunshine” sounded happy as a clam to be over on the TV side of the business.  “In movies it just takes forever to finish a film. You can spend years, literally years, working on screenplays. Then another year shooting and editing. And perhaps as much as a year marketing. And when it hits the theaters, you all cross your fingers and hope it can do $100 million. If it does $100 million, you breathe a sigh of relief and throw a big party and it’s front page news,” Rice pointed out. “In the last eight weeks, I’ve come to realize that a $100 million movie actually translates to about 10 million people. That’s 10 million viewers. And that’s an average number of people who watch Fox every single night. With a show like ‘American Idol’ we deliver 26 million people from stage to screen at light-speed. Think about that: On Tuesday, ‘Idol’ reaches that total number of people who saw ‘Ironman.’  And then it follows it up the next night with the number of people who saw ‘Harry Potter.’ Those movies take weeks to amass that audience.

(Photo: Reuters)

Baseball makes its pitch in new ad campaign

Ah spring. Opening day. Stolen bases. Hot dogs. Rain delays. Fresh baseball commercials flashing across your TV set.

Major League Baseball has just taken the wraps off its new 2009 campaign, “The is Beyond Baseball,” supported by 20 TV spots running through the World Series.The spots will run on ESPN, Fox, TBS, MLB Network and

The idea, developed by McCann Erickson, is that baseball is more than just a game; it’s part of the fabric of our culture. In trying to get that message across, the spots will play up the stories behind star players like Tim Lincecum of the San Francisco Giants and Ryan Howard of the Philadelphia Phillies.

How much is Google to blame for newspapers’ woes?

The Web is abuzz over Eric Schmidt’s speech on Tuesday at the Newspaper Association of America’s annual meeting in San Diego — a speech, as the New York Times points out, in which the Google leader sidestepped any controversy and instead delivered “a lengthy discourse on the importance of newspapers and the challenges and opportunities brought about by technologies like mobile phones.”

So why all the fuss? Because newspapers are in deep trouble, and Google is an easy target for blame. The web search leader is weathering the recession relatively well and some have argued that Google News is making money off the back of newspaper publishers.

As Reuters puts it, “Some journalists have complained that search engines run by Google and Yahoo Inc make millions of dollars off their news, and that it should belong to them instead.”

from Fan Fare:

Piracy sinks Fox columnist Roger Friedman

hugh-jackmanIn the high stakes battle over piracy in Hollywood, a Fox News columnist lost his job on Monday after he reviewed a pirated copy of the upcoming movie "X-Men Origins: Wolverine." Roger Friedman is a big name in Hollywood entertainment news, but media reports say that fact did not protect his job when his corporate colleagues at 20th Century Fox called for his head, nor did it help that Friedman wrote a positive review of the movie (which has since been removed from the Fox website).

The New York Daily News reports that an estimated 75,000 people have downloaded the free, illegal copy of "Wolverine," which stars Hugh Jackman, and the studio is concerned that the high interest in the film online could slash its box office appeal. But no one is saying that Friedman leaked the movie, he just reviewed it. In that sense, was his punishment too harsh?

The case is interesting because it illustrates how high the stakes are for piracy in Hollywood. As in past piracy cases, the studio has enlisted the help of the FBI, which is investigating the leak. This comes as federal lawmakers consider ratcheting up the pressure on movie pirates. On Monday in Los Angeles, members of the U.S. House of Representatives held a hearing in Los Angeles, where eager entertainment industry executives and filmmakers called for harsher penalties to prevent piracy, trade paper Variety reported. "Che" director Steven Soderbergh told the congressional committee that showbiz types like himself should be "deputized" to track down pirates on their own. What would socialist revolutionary Che Guevara think?

Les Moonves: No price cuts here!

CBS’s stock may be in the tank (now under $4 a share),  but Chief Executive Les Moonves is still pretty darn optimistic. That may be because his network — home to the “CSI” franchise, “Survivor,” and “The Mentalist” — is the only one of the big four that’s been pulling in more prime-time viewers. For months it has been crushing ABC, NBC, and Fox in the ratings game.

What’s the payoff? CBS won’t have to make wholesale changes to its 2009-10 schedule and should be able to hang on to more advertising dollars than its rivals,  Moonves told an audience at the Deutsche bank Deutsche Bank Annual Media & Telecommunications Conference.

Moonves figures CBS will need to shoot six fewer pilots than it did a year ago, and bring only 2 or 3 new shows to air next season. He also says that with known hits — like “The Mentalist” — and few question marks about its schedule the network should fare well in this spring’s upfront market.

Fox Business wants you on TV on Saturday

What are you doing Saturday? Nothing? Wrong! You’re going on the Fox Business Network and you’re going to ask them questions about your finances. Here are the relevant details from the press release:

FOX Business Network (FBN) will debut “Your Questions, Your Money Live,” a new weekly series presented every Saturday from 10 AM to 2 PM (ET) starting January 24, announced Kevin Magee, Executive Vice President, FOX News.

Hosted by FBN’s Dagen McDowell, “Your Questions, Your Money Live,” is a weekly four-hour live call-in show where viewers can talk to experts about the ongoing economic crisis and raise questions about personal finance issues.

The worst vacation ever

It’s just like vacation — except that you don’t get paid and really don’t have any choice in the matter and will likely spend the days worrying this could be a hint of (bad) things to come.

Some staffers at Gannett Co, the largest U.S. newspaper publisher, will be forced to take a week off without pay in its latest move to cut costs. Already, it has cut thousands of jobs, says this furlough will help it avoid more layoffs.

Here’s what Reuters reported:

“This means that most of our U.S. employees — including myself and all other top executives — will be furloughed for the equivalent of one week in the first quarter,” Dubow wrote.