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January 2008 Archives

What Does $2.7 Million Buy a Super Bowl Sponsor?

January 30, 2008 1:08 PM

A whole lot of buzz, not much in cash register sales and in some cases a negative stock downgrade.

Take the case of Under Armour, an athletic apparel company that shelled out its $2.7 million to advertise its new cross-trainer sneakers in this Sunday’s Super Bowl. Yep, it got buzz, but bad buzz, as Wachovia instantly downgraded the company’s stock, saying it was an irresponsible move in such an anemic economy.

Ouch. That story now has Wall Street traders saying very few Super Bowl advertisers actually reap sales, only short-lasting buzz, and that the spots do nothing to make the cash register ring.

Yeah, the spots sure make great fodder to fill that sometimes awkward quiet time in long elevator rides on Monday morning, but it’s hard to believe they don’t actually help the brand.

I think Wachovia is a whiner. If I were an advertiser I’d leap to be in the Super Bowl. After all, at what other time of the year do normal people—those not in the business—actually talk about TV commercials?

Pats QB Brady Missing in Action

January 25, 2008 1:06 PM

Yikes, you’d think it was the second coming with all the pre-game hype leading into the Super Bowl, which airs Feb. 3 on Fox and pits the New England Patriots against the New York Giants.

The media frenzy accelerated on Monday when the Pats’ quarterback, Tom Brady, was caught on camera wearing a protective boot brace, fueling rumors that he had an ankle injury.

Adding to the drama, the Associated Press and other newsgathering organizations told us he hadn’t shown up for pre-game practice on Wednesday and Thursday, at least in the 12 minutes they were allowed to see, or afterwards in the locker room, where reporters also are allowed. No Brady, anywhere.

Not quite, sports fans. Today I saw a promo, actually several times, on CNBC touting its upcoming special “The Patriots and the Business of Winning.” I suffered through those gushing but mercifully short interviews with Pats owner, coach and, yep, the heretofore missing Brady as well. Don’t get too excited: No mention of his injury.

Does anybody really care, except the oddsmakers in Las Vegas? The CNBC special airs Sunday at 10 p.m.

NBCU’s Zucker Utters ‘R’ Word

January 23, 2008 1:32 PM

According to today’s New York Times, NBC Universal chief executive Jeff Zucker said, “It’s clear we are in a recession in the United States, and we’re going to have to manage our business accordingly.”

That means the meltdown in the economy, coupled with the ongoing writers strike, are two factors pushing the network to drastically cut the number of pilots it generally orders, in the hope of saving $50 million a year.

Instead, the company announced it had agreed to buy a 26% stake in New Delhi Television of India. According to the New York Times, that stake is worth about $150 million.

So while economists now are talking about the “uncoupling” of the global markets, NBCU plans to grow through international expansion.

Question of the day: Does anyone believe that we are not in a recession?

‘Mad Money’ Host Jim Cramer Is Everywhere

January 17, 2008 12:53 PM

There is simply no escaping Jim Cramer, host of CNBC’s “Mad Money.” He’s everywhere. Apparently, the memorable quote “It’s the economy, stupid” still resonates big-time today.

Cramer is ubiquitous. He pops in and out of CNBC during daytime, has his own evening show that’s repeated in late night, and often appears on “The Today Show.”

There’s more. Yesterday morning he and the cast from the theatrical release “Mad Money” presided over the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange.

Cramer has a cameo role in that comedy that opens tomorrow. Katie Holmes, Queen Latifah and Diane Keaton star as three women, down on their luck and underemployed, who plot to steal money from a bank.

And there’s more. Tonight Cramer appears on Donald Trump’s “Celebrity Apprentice,” as CNBC reminded me all day in promos and quick interviews with Cramer about the experience.

I’m a fan. Hey, I admit I got on the show in the lightning round. But don’t you think Cramer’s stock is oversold, as he would say?

Tada: Enter the Oprah Winfrey Network

January 15, 2008 12:35 PM

Word came down today that Oprah and Discovery Communications would launch OWN, a new cable network that will debut next year in place of the Discovery Health Network.

Oprah will serve as the chairman of the new co-venture and have all editorial control in what was a non-cash transaction. Certainly OWN is in an enviable position, already having distribution in some 70 million homes as Health goes bye-bye.

Not much more is known about the new network that is described as one that will “entertain, inform and inspire people to live their best lives.”

Reading between the lines here, there’s absolutely no word about what her on-air role will be on OWN. So here’s a prediction: Unless Oprah is very visible throughout the day and evening, this network will be another non starter, even given its enviable distribution start.


MSNBC to Air Dem Hopefuls

January 11, 2008 12:58 PM

Given the blood bath the economy took this week, and voters now saying that the economy is their most pressing issue, be sure to catch MSNBC to see the Democratic presidential hopefuls debate on Jan. 15 from the Cashman Center in Las Vegas.

As I write this (with CNBC on in the background) I’m watching the tape showing the market down 275 points just 30 minutes from the final bell. I’m hopeful one of the hopefuls can douse the fears of recession that the market seems to be signaling.

Absolutely nothing worked this week. The Fed said it would lower the prime interest rate, but didn’t do it yet. Bank of America bailed out Countrywide, and Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) suggested her plans for an economic stimulus.

Even the safety havens of the market or the so-called Joe Lunchbucket stocks like McDonald’s got hammered today. Is what we are witnessing just a long overdue correction to a bubble, or is it indeed a sign that we’re in recession but just don’t know it yet? Vote here.

Lifetime Series Projects Healthy Image

January 9, 2008 1:03 PM

In general I tend to avoid reality-based programming, but Lifetime Television’s “How to Look Good Naked” is an exception.

Starring fashionista Carson Kressley of “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” fame, the new show teaches women to love their bodies without resorting to radical dieting or cosmetic surgery. Although it airs at 9 p.m., I’d certainly let young girls stay up to see this inspirational program.

In the episode I saw, Kressley encourages a young overweight woman to learn to love her body and shake her perception of herself as a loser.

While the title sounds suggestive, and yes, all of these women who appear on the show gain enough self -confidence to pose semi-naked, it’s not salacious at all.

So catch it on Friday night, a time when many overweight young women are unfortunately sitting at home alone out of low self-esteem. Kudos to Lifetime for hosting this new reality series for real women.

Weather Tests M&A Climate

January 3, 2008 12:55 PM

Landmark Communications president and CEO Decker Anstrom confirmed a report that appeared in the New York Times today that the company has retained JPMorgan Chase to sell the Weather Channel and Lehman Brothers to handle Landmark’s other holdings that include two powerhouse TV stations in Las Vegas and Nashville and several newspapers.

Among the interested buyers of the Weather Channel and its popular weather.com site are General Electric, News Corporation and Comcast Communications. Anstrom told me those companies were potential buyers but also said there were others.

He said he expects the sale to go quickly and that he probably would not be a part of the transition if a sale indeed takes place. “I am the biggest redundancy,” he said about what role he might play with a new owner.

The Weather Channel assets alone are expected to fetch north of $5 billion, but a deal is far from done, although Anstrom suspects it will happen quickly.

Staffers were notified by email that a sale might be pending and business unit managers held town meetings to openly discuss what was going on at the privately held company. A deal indeed sounds imminent, given that employees were given details about severance, 12 weeks for all employees who might be affected, plus two weeks per each year of service.

Whether a deal happens quickly is another story in this economic climate. CNBC reported today that merger and acquisition activity for 2008 has had its slowest start out the gate in eight years.

So, for the oddsmakers out there, which media giant will buy the Weather Channel and how long will the deal take, given the business climate so far?