MediaFile

FT hearts tablets so much, it’s spreading the joy among staff

SINGAPORE/It’s not hard to see why newspaper companies, saddled with plunging circulation and big iron presses , are so ecstatic over tablet devices. They bring a form of hope that hasn’t crossed this industry’s path since newspapers dominated classified advertising in the 1980s and 1990s making them fat with revenue and profits. Tablet computers, like Apple’s iPad and Samsung’s Galaxy Tab, just might spark renewed interest in wilted newspapers among consumers and help ease the legacy costs of paper and ink.

Consider News Corp Chief Executive Rupert Murdoch who has often expressed his love for the iPad and is busy building a team to produce a tablet-only newspaper The Daily.

The  Financial Times is just as enamored and is spreading the joy offering its employees a nice chunk of change to go toward the purchase of an iPad or other tablet.

Reuters European Technology, Media and Telecoms Correspondent Georgina Prodham reports  FT staff can claim 300 pounds, 350 euros or $480 towards the cost of a tablet for their personal use — about two-thirds of the cost of the most basic iPad in Britain or Germany before tax, and almost covering the whole cost in the United States.

“The FT is making this investment because digital channels and tablet devices are becoming increasingly important for us and the media industry in general, and as a recognition of your contribution to our strong performance this year,” FT Chief Executive John Ridding wrote in an email to staff.

Fox/Cablevision still talking, FCC also talking. Yet no change on Day 4.

NYGiants

So you know the story well by now: Fox Networks’ Fox 5 and My 9 channels have been off the air  for Cablevision’s 3 million odd homes in the New York area since midnight on Saturday morning because both sides have been unable to reach a carriage deal. As a result New York football fans have missed a key Giants game versus Detroit Lions (pictured)  and could miss more if this continues. As you might expect, the argument between Fox and Cablevision is over money.

Since then both sides have exchanged barbs and made various claims about who’s to blame — which is standard practice in a programming fee dispute. But FCC Chair Julius Genachowski appears to have had enough according to this statement:

“I am deeply troubled that Cablevision and Fox are spending more time attacking each other through ads and lobbyists than sitting down at the negotiating table.  The time for petty gamesmanship is over.

Rupert Murdoch on Obama and moose

Ever wonder what News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch thinks about the direction this country is going and how Rupert MurdochPresident Obama is handling his job?  If you were on hand during the opening panel at The New York Forum last night in mid-town Manhattan,  you got an earful.

Some background: The New York Forum is newly formed meeting of business, economic and other luminary minds to address challenges facing the global economy. The Forum plans to present the ideas developed during the conference to the G-20 Summit taking place this Saturday.

Murdoch spoke on a panel made up of a grab-bag of high level executives — Cathie Black, president of Hearst Magazines, real estate magnate Jerry Speyer and Philippe Camus, chairman of Alcatel-Lucent. CNBC’s Maria Bartiromo was on hand to moderate.

Hizzoner Roasts Murdoch

Rupert MurdochLast night, The Wall Street Journal held a party at Gotham Hall for a slew of  media, advertisers, bigwigs (Barry Diller, the cast of In the Heights!) to introduce Greater New York, a souped up metro section that debuted on Monday. Perhaps you have heard of it.

Usually at events like these, Mayor Michael Bloomberg is roped into saying some words about how great the Big Apple is followed by a note of thanks for creating new jobs for the city.  Last night was no exception.

What made Bloomberg’s speech   – really a roast of News Corp Chief Rupert Murdoch – kind of cringe-worthy was the fact that Bloomberg News is a huge competitor of Dow Jones. It’s not entirely clear if Bloomberg was joking when he said that his company had considered purchasing Dow Jones before he held up a mock-up of the Greater New York edition showing the audience how Bloomberg would have gone about things.

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.

Hulu’s rise continues…

Hulu, the video site owned by NBC, News Corp and Disney, is safely ensconced in the No.2 most viewed video site in the U.S. according to latest February data from comScore. And Hulu is making progress not just in the quantity of views but in the quality of views: Users watched a record amount of video per person during the month. The average Hulu users watched 23.3 videos  at 2.4 hours of video per viewer. This compares with the average online video length at 4.3 minutes.

It’s all very promising for the powers at NBC Universal, and its new owners at Comcast, as well as News Corp and Disney, who have been reported to be considering charging to view some of the videos on Hulu. One imagines they’ll probably add more cable content as part of the TV Everywhere initiaitve.

It’ll be more interesting to see how Hulu’s viewer numbers perform in March as it will be the first month after Viacom pulled its Comedy Central videos, including the hugely popular Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Our bet is that Hulu’s continuing growth will offset most of the losses from viewers of Jon Stewart.

Soccer goes premium in US with new Fox footie HD channel

ArsenalvsEverton

Football, sorry, soccer has never quite been a big money maker for the U.S. cable TV industry. But Fox Networks has long wagered that the popularity of the game with the  little leaguers and the changing demographic of the country will eventually translate into the kind of big bucks that parent News Corp is used to in the U.K. with Sky Sports.

Fox said today it’s launching a new high definition soccer channel called Fox Soccer Plus, which is being offered to cable and satellite distributors as a premium channel for a selected tier or as a standalone channel for a monthly fee.

No deals have been struck yet with distributors but one hopes that the Fox programming team included Fox Soccer Plus as part of  its long negotiations with Time Warner Cable into the New Year. But as a premium channel it’s unlikely to reach as many as the 35 million households of its flagship sister network Fox Soccer Channel.

Fox vs Time Warner Cable: Soccer channels go dark for a bit, coincidence?

SOCCER-ENGLAND/

We were not completely surprised when Fox Soccer Channel went dark on Sunday afternoon while we were watching West Ham take on Chelsea. (It’s not that the cable bills hadn’t been paid). Seemed the most likely cause was the  really bad snowstorm here in New York and the rest of the U.S. northeast.

But when we noticed that Fox Soccer Espanol, Speed Channel and, for a short while, FX were also down…  well, we couldn’t help wonder if the ruckus between Time Warner Cable and Fox Networks had come to a head and that the great dark screen battle of 2010 had started early.  (Adding to our conspiracy theory: Fox’s news channels were unaffected yesterday, and neither Fox News nor Fox Business are part of the current carriage fisticuffs between TWC and Fox. Hmmmm).

After all, Fox said last week that TWC might pull its broadcast network and entertainment channels because they’ve been unable to reach agreement on fees. TWC for its part thinks Fox wants too much money. And both sides are running marketing campaigns slamming the other. So the idea that everything went black because of a their dispute wasn’t all that farfetched.

Time Warner Cable ready to fight high program costs

Time Warner Cable, the normally placid No.2 U.S. cable operator, is getting ready for a fight with its programming partners at the cable networks and broadcasters over rising affiliate fees. In truth, TWC has always been ready for a fight with the programmers. This time, it wants to make the first move and get its 14 million subscribers behind it.

The New York cable operator is launching an ad campaign “on behalf of its customers” to target what it sees as unfair price demands by programmers. It argues that these price demands, which usually come around this time of year at the end of programming contracts, can sometimes be as much as 300 percent increases. TWC says programmers make the demands “secure in the knowledge that video distributors are the ones who have to pass those costs along to customers and take the blame.”

So what’s Time Warner Cable going to do about it? They’re going to launch a website — yes, a website with the catchy URL: www.rolloverorgettough.com. News Corp, Sinclair Broadcasting and cable networks must be quaking in their collective fee-hiking boots.

Rupert Murdoch, the smartest man in newspapers?

I wrote an analysis on Monday about the possibility that News Corp might take its news search results away from Google and list them on Microsoft’s Bing search engine instead. My conclusion: This one isn’t such a hot idea. Then I read John Gapper’s Financial Times item about how it *could* be a hot idea.

To recap, here’s how it would work.

    Microsoft would pay News Corp for the privilege of being the only search engine to carry results from papers including the New York Post, Wall Street Journal and Times of London. Microsoft thinks it can get more people to use its search engine, drawing them away from Google. News Corp could punish Google, in essence, for making tons of money from the ads it serves alongside news search results. Why, the thinking goes, should Google make a bunch of money off the news that we produce and our newsrooms go starving and our ad sales tank? Other newspaper publishers, if they see Murdoch making it work, might think the same thing and abandon Google en masse.

I and many others wrote that it would be a gamble at best. What if people don’t care that much about news? If the 70 percent of the search market that uses Google discovers  the news is absent, will they switch search engines? Scientists of misanthropy like me say it’s unlikely. If they don’t find it, they won’t seek it.

Gapper at the FT has another way of looking at it:

In effect, (Murdoch) would be swapping his revenue stream from online advertising with a payment from Microsoft for drawing visitors to Bing. That suggests one of two things: either, as a lot of digital evangelists have suggested, he is getting old and does not “get” the internet, or he has looked at the figures and decided that Google traffic is not worth very much. Personally, I think the latter is more plausible. …