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December 2007 Archives

Cable Is Big Victor in NFL Net Simulcast

December 27, 2007 12:34 PM

There’s been a lot of blather about how viewers are the victors now that the NFL Network, after failing to reach carriage agreements with major cable operators, caved and will simulcast the Patriots-Giants game on CBS and NBC.

The real victors are cable operators who refused to pay the high license fee and have argued that such a big-ticket item belongs on a sports tier, an option the NFL-owned network doesn’t cotton to at all. Given this decision, now the NFL doesn’t have any bargaining chips when it re-enters negotiations with Comcast Cable and Time Warner Cable, the nation’s two largest MSOs, next year.

I commend cable ops for their stance. Neither Comcast nor Time Warner wants to pass the high costs along to all of their subscribers. Both companies have been adamant about putting the NFL Network on a sports tier where it belongs.

In the end, the NFL Net, pressured by lawmakers including Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., had no leverage here. Pats fans would have thrown another Boston Tea Party if they couldn’t watch this all-important game for their team, which hasn’t lost a game all season.

Personally, I hope the debate about sports tiers heats up even more. ESPN, another pricey network, belongs on a sports tier with the NFL Network. Agree?

Can Obama Hurt Oprah?

December 26, 2007 12:45 PM

That’s a question the New York Times raised this week in a piece about the backlash on Oprah.com following her endorsement and stumping for presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama, D.-Ill. Some online commenters accused her of betrayal and selling out.

The article raises the possibility that the usual Oprah effect—everything she touches turns to gold, in essence—could help Obama but potentially hurt her own base.

Give me a break. The fact that a few malcontents don’t like what she’s doing will have absolutely no effect on her popularity. And clearly Obama will benefit from her endorsement.

The fear is that her show and magazine could be construed as pulpits for Obama.

Don’t you think Oprah is too smart to let that happen? I do.

Catch ‘Jesus Camp’ on the Small Screen

December 21, 2007 11:45 AM

Odds are, like me, you too missed “Jesus Camp,” a documentary that opened as a theatrical and won a nomination for an Academy Award. So, I’m telling you now, set your recorder to see this film on A&E, December 30, at 10 p.m. (EST).

Produced by Loki Films for A&E IndieFilms, the eye-opening saga takes place at “Kids on Fire,” and I’m not kidding, a real camp in Devil’s Lake, N.D. that recruits born-again Christian kids to become political activists.

I know that sounds sensational, but it isn’t. It’s not a fact-skewered Michael Moore production. The kids in “God’s army” have a mission “to take back America for Christ.” The movie is even-handed and presents a very sobering look at how strong the right-wing fundamentalist movement is in this country and how strong George Bush remains.

Let me know what you think because I commend A&E for airing such a controversial, but true movie.

Leno, O’Brien Return to NBC’s Late Night

December 19, 2007 12:51 PM

Well, this is interesting: Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien are returning to work Jan. 2, writers or no writers, and probably no writers. Already the odds makers are gambling that without writers to prop them up, the shows will be duller than watching paint dry and no one will watch.

Not only that, the odds makers are betting that advertisers will bail as well. Bull. If you’re morbidly curious like I am, you’ll be watching just to see how well they’ll fare. And I don’t think we’re going to be watching traffic accidents here.

The odds are actually in their favor. January traditionally has the highest number of homes using television, with the cold weather keeping people at home. So I’ll be there.

Will you?

MTV Freelancers Win Back Benefits

December 14, 2007 12:27 PM

The New York Times reports that hundreds of freelance workers for MTV Networks won back, from corporate, some of the cuts Viacom said it would slash.

I’m happy for them. But how many companies pay benefits to freelance workers or independent contractors to begin with? Not many, is the answer. So forgive me, if I’m not exuding my usual soppy Norma Rae persona about this news.

Why? That’s because the freelance workers are still demonstrating, asking for more. Get real, I say. The freelancers got healthcare plans and now they’re pushing the envelope, seeking pay for time off from work, tuition reimbursement and company matching for 401(k) plans.

I think MTV has been more than fair here, even promising to convert some of those part time positions to full time jobs.

Am I being a Grinch?

CBS: Just Do It!

December 13, 2007 12:08 PM

It’s been nearly two weeks since CBS chieftain Les Moonves told investors that his network could ride out the ongoing writer’s strike by running popular shows from sister premium cable network Showtime.

Now that is a great idea to an executive right now with the northeast being pelted by a major snow storm, keeping folks at home with nothing to watch but reruns and mind-numbing reality shows. It’s a win-win for everyone, advertisers, viewers, CBS and Showtime.

What a wonderful way for viewers who don’t pay for Showtime to sample some great shows like “Dexter,” “Weeds” and “Brotherhood.” This move could be a shot in the arm for Showtime that always plays second fiddle to HBO.

What’s Moonves waiting for? This is a no-brainer.

Cablevision to Bid in Wireless Auction

December 7, 2007 12:28 PM

According to published reports today, Cablevision Systems, a cable MSO with only 3 million subscribers, has filed the paperwork to bid in the FCC’s January auction of wireless spectrum next month. Oh sure.

I’ll believe it when I see it, given the cast of players who have announced their intentions to participate in the auction. Oddly, the nation’s largest MSOs, Comcast and Time Warner Cable, are sitting on the sidelines and will not be participating. The only other cable operator that said it would bid is Cox Cable.

So enter Cablevision, to a fray of deep pocketed companies including AT&T, Verizon, and yes, Google, the search giant that is morphing into god knows what.

Cablevision doesn’t have a hope here. So here’s my two cents: Google now has a market cap higher than some of the largest media companies in this company, dwarfing giants like The Walt Disney Co. Google appears unstoppable, with its stock trading over $700 per share, again.

So the question is, do we want Google in the wireless space? I don’t. I see a bubble in the making that could drag down other players in the tech sector.

Late Night Yawns, Not Yucks

December 5, 2007 1:46 PM

As the writer’s strike continues with no end in sight, which network executives are making the call on what reruns will appear each night? Largely it looks like a throw of the darts to me.

I’ve seen good programming strategies and really, really bad. In the plus column, NBC’s `Saturday Night Live’ programmed the Saturday after Thanksgiving brilliantly. It went deep into its treasure trove and stitched together themed segments from over the years, touching on the holidays and showing original cast members like Gilda Radner and Dan Akyrod. The humor withstood the test of time and the show was a riot.

But not so with Late Night’s Jay Leno. The other night I was watching a rerun from the ‘90’s when Bill Clinton was still in office and the government had shut down in November. There were references to the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, even though the event is over and it’s now December. Out came the remote and I zapped him.

Leno’s commentary on the headlines of the times simply does not withstand the test of time. With Christmas coming up, given the duration of his time on TV, can’t the network suits fill the time more appropriately like SNL did? I recommend stitching together some of Leno’s holiday- related monologues, for starters.

So jump in with your programming strategies, Leno’s team is clueless.