Dec 14, 2017
4:37 pm

FCC Votes to End ‘Net Neutrality’ (AP)

The battle over “net neutrality” entered a new phase today after the Federal Communications Commission voted along party lines to repeal the Obama-era net neutrality rules, the AP reports.

The vote gives “Internet service providers like Verizon, Comcast and AT&T a free hand to slow or block websites and apps as they see fit or charge more for faster speeds,” the AP reports. The GOP-controlled panel voted 3-2 to scrap the rule that all Web traffic must be treated equally.

“The move represents a radical departure from more than a decade of federal oversight,” the AP reports. “The big telecommunications companies had lobbied hard to overturn the rules, contending they are heavy-handed and discourage investment in broadband networks.”

The report quotes Ajit Pai, the Republican FCC chairman, saying: “What is the FCC doing today? Quite simply, we are restoring the light-touch framework that has governed the internet for most of its existence.”

The AP adds: “The FCC vote is unlikely to be the last word. Net neutrality supporters threatened legal challenges, with New York’s attorney general vowing to lead a multistate lawsuit. Some Democrats want to overturn the FCC action in Congress.”

Dec 14, 2017
4:29 pm

Whoa: Disney to Pay Astronomical ‘Breakup Fee’ if Government Regulators Block the Disney-Fox Deal (Variety)

Disney has committed to pay a massive “breakup fee” to 21st Century Fox if the $52.4 billion acquisition of Fox assets is blocked by federal regulators. Variety reports that Disney agreed to pay $2.5 billion.

“The agreement unveiled Thursday also provides for a breakup fee of $1.52 billion payable by either side if Disney or Fox pulls out of the transaction for reasons other than regulatory problems,” Variety reports.

The report adds: “The hefty fee tied to the regulatory review process reflects the industry’s uncertainty about the Justice Department’s approach to media consolidation now that it is suing to block the AT&T-Time Warner merger.”

Dec 14, 2017
4:25 pm

Netflix Exec Fired Over Rape Comment (NY Times)

An executive for Netflix was fired after making a comment to a woman on the sidelines at a children’s soccer match earlier this month in Los Angeles. The New York Times reports that Netflix confirmed that the executive, Andy Yeatman, no longer works for the company.

Yeatman, who was director of global children’s content for Netflix, reportedly told the woman that people at the company did not believe rape allegations against actor Danny Masterson, who was starring in the series “The Ranch.”

The Times reports that Yeatman “did not know that the woman he was speaking to was one of several who had come forward to accuse Mr. Masterson of rape, HuffPost reported. Shortly after she revealed this, the conversation came to an abrupt end.”

“Four women have alleged that Mr. Masterson sexually assaulted them,” the report adds. “A spokeswoman for the Los Angeles Police Department said it was investigating the claims, and Netflix said last week that it had fired Mr. Masterson from ‘The Ranch,’ a comedy series also starring Ashton Kutcher.”

Masterson has denied the allegations, calling them “outrageous.”

Dec 14, 2017
4:14 pm

Oscar-Nominated Filmmaker Reveals His Own Sexual Misconduct, Says ‘I Am Part of the Problem’ (TVWeek, Twitter)

An acclaimed filmmaker is stepping down from his production company, revealing in a public confession that he is “part of the problem” of sexual misconduct.

Morgan Spurlock, the Oscar-nominated documentary filmmaker behind “Super Size Me,” “Where in the World Is Osama bin Laden?,” “One Direction: This Is Us” and other films, posted a detailed Twitter message examining his history of sexual misbehavior, under the headline “I am Part of the Problem.”

You can click here to read his message in full.

“I’ve come to understand after months of these revelations, that I am not some innocent bystander, I am also a part of the problem,” Spurlock writes. “I’m sure I’m not alone in this thought, but I can’t blindly act as though I didn’t somehow play a part in this, and if I’m going truly represent myself as someone who has built a career on finding the truth, then it’s time for me to be truthful as well.”

Spurlock goes on to detail a number of incidents from his past, including an encounter when he was in college in which a woman accused him of rape, and another incident in which he settled a sexual harassment allegation.

“I would call my female assistant ‘hot pants’ or ‘sex pants’ when I was yelling to her from the other side of the office,” Spurlock wrote. “Something I thought was funny at the time, but then realized I had completely demeaned and belittled her to a place of non-existence.”

Spurlock’s partners in his production company, Warrior Poets, sent out a release today announcing that he is stepping down from his role with the company.

“On behalf of Warrior Poets, we as partners have always supported our company and its endeavors,” the release from partners Jeremy Chilnick and Matthew Galkin states. “As of today, Morgan Spurlock will be stepping down effective immediately. We will continue to lead the company as equal partners, producing, distributing & creating from our independent production company.”

Please click here to read Spurlock’s full statement.

Dec 14, 2017
12:43 pm

Fallout From the Disney-Fox Deal: Four Words the Companies Used That Should Make Employees Nervous (Business Insider, TVWeek)

One message contained in news about the agreement announced today in which Disney will acquire much of the 21st Century Fox assets is at least a little bit ominous for employees of the companies.

Business Insider notes that in their press release the companies said the acquisition would bring at least $2 billion in “cost savings from efficiencies” — four words that appear to translate at least in part to “layoffs.”

The pertinent passage in the press release reads: “The acquisition is expected to yield at least $2 billion in cost savings from efficiencies realized through the combination of businesses, and to be accretive to earnings before the impact of purchase accounting for the second fiscal year after the close of the transaction.”

You can read the full announcement by clicking here.

“In corporate speak, ‘cost savings from efficiencies’ indicates areas where investment bankers or the firms involved in the deal have identified redundancies or opportunities to make the combined company leaner, thus saving on costs,” Business Insider reports. “While so-called synergies can also mean cutting redundancies in things like software and machinery, a large chunk of the savings typically comes from reduced employee headcounts.”

The report also notes: “As we’ve pointed out, these synergies often aren’t what they’re cracked up to be and don’t help earnings after mergers. Many of these cost-cutting measures may never come to fruition.”

For more about the acquisition, please click here to read our initial report from this morning, including links to coverage by Bloomberg, The New York Times and The Hollywood Reporter.

Dec 14, 2017
12:39 pm

One Cable Channel Just Notched 53 Consecutive Weeks of Growth — the Longest Active Growth Streak in Ad-Supported Cable (TVWeek)

See if you can guess which cable channel just chalked up its 53rd consecutive week of growth to boast the longest active streak among all ad-supported cable channels. The answer, according to a press release just out today from CMT, is … CMT.

“This quarter alone, CMT is generating the highest year-over-year gain of any Top 50 ad-supported cable channel in Women 18-49,” CMT says in the announcement. “Furthermore, CMT finished the 2017 Fiscal Year up +12% among Adults 18-49 and up +13 among Women 18-49 from the prior year and earned its highest-rated year since 2014.”

Frank Tanki, General Manager of CMT and TV Land, says in the announcement: “CMT’s ratings trajectory is further proof that our new mission of embracing and redefining modern country culture is working. Music is our brand cornerstone and key to our growth. Franchises like ‘Listen Up’ allow us to join forces with new artists at the forefront of evolving the genre and give them a massive megaphone to reach countless new fans.”

The announcement also includes the new list of “18 for 2018” “Listen Up” emerging artists, which includes Abby Anderson, Delta Rae, Jordan Davis, Maggie Rose and The Sisterhood Band.

Click here to read today’s full announcement from CMT, including the full “18 for 2018” list.

Dec 14, 2017
12:31 pm

Opinion: Disney Will Regret Its Acquisition of Fox Assets (Bloomberg)

Following today’s announcement of a mega-merger with the potential to reshape the entire media industry, some observers are already criticizing Disney’s decision to snap up $52.4 billion in assets from 21st Century Fox.

Among them, Joe Nocera suggests in an opinion piece written for Bloomberg that Disney CEO Bob Iger, who just extended his deal to 2021 to oversee the deployment of the Fox assets, had “better hope this deal isn’t his legacy. If it is, I fear he’ll be remembered as this decade’s Gerald Levin, the former chief executive of Time Warner who merged his company in 2000 with the wrong partner (AOL) at the wrong time (two months before the internet bubble burst), and orchestrated one of the worst deals in history.”

Nocera goes on to say: “Disney is characterizing the Fox purchase primarily as a way to combat Netflix. The idea is that when you gather Disney and Pixar movies, along with Fox shows like The Simpsons and Fox-produced shows like Homeland, and put them all on one streaming app, you’ll have a powerhouse that can go toe-to-toe with Netflix as well as Amazon.”

But Nocera adds: “I’m skeptical. First, Netflix and Amazon have what used to be called first-mover advantage; they have such a head start, both in terms of buzz-generating content and superb technology, that Disney is going to be hard-pressed to catch up. Second, most of what Disney is buying is tied to the cable bundle, which Disney has been loath to abandon.”

We encourage readers to click on the link above to Bloomberg to read Nocera’s full analysis.

Dec 14, 2017
11:59 am

Tavis Smiley Responds to Suspension by PBS, Sexual Misconduct Allegations (TVWeek)

Tavis Smiley, who was suspended by PBS following an investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct, released a statement this morning in response to the allegations and the suspension. In it the longtime talk host said he was shocked by his suspension, and denied the allegations.

He also criticized the PBS investigation, accusing the organization of a “rush to judgment,” and vowed to fight back.

Here’s Smiley’s statement:

On the eve of the 15th season and 3,000th episode of my nightly talk show, I was as shocked as anyone else by PBS’ announcement today. Variety knew before I did.

I have the utmost respect for women and celebrate the courage of those who have come forth to tell their truth. To be clear, I have never groped, coerced, or exposed myself inappropriately to any workplace colleague in my entire broadcast career, covering 6 networks over 30 years.

Never. Ever. Never.

PBS launched a so-called investigation of me without ever informing me. I learned of the investigation when former staffers started contacting me to share the uncomfortable experience of receiving a phone call from a stranger asking whether, I had ever done anything to make them uncomfortable, and if they could provide other names of persons to call. After 14 seasons, that’s how I learned of this inquiry, from the streets.

Only after being threatened with a lawsuit, did PBS investigators reluctantly agree to interview me for three hours.

If having a consensual relationship with a colleague years ago is the stuff that leads to this kind of public humiliation and personal destruction, heaven help us. The PBS investigators refused to review any of my personal documentation, refused to provide me the names of any accusers, refused to speak to my current staff, and refused to provide me any semblance of due process to defend myself against allegations from unknown sources. Their mind was made up. Almost immediately following the meeting, this story broke in Varietyas an “exclusive.” Indeed, I learned more about these allegations reading the Variety story than the PBS investigator shared with me, the accused, in our 3 hour face to face meeting.

My attorneys were sent a formal letter invoking a contractual provision to not distribute my programming, and that was it.

Put simply, PBS overreacted and conducted a biased and sloppy investigation, which led to a rush to judgment, and trampling on a reputation that I have spent an entire lifetime trying to establish.

This has gone too far. And, I, for one, intend to fight back.

It’s time for a real conversation in America, so men and women know how to engage in the workplace. I look forward to actively participating in that conversation.

Dec 14, 2017
11:44 am

Netflix Drama Series Renewed (TVWeek, Netflix)

A scripted drama series has just been picked up by Netflix for a third season, with the streaming service announcing plans today to bring back “Frontier.” The Jason Momoa adventure series will have a six-episode season premiering in 2018.

Along with Momoa (“Justice League,” “Game of Thrones”), the show features Landon Liboiron (“Hemlock Grove”), Alun Armstrong (“New Tricks,” “Braveheart”), Zoe Boyle (“Downton Abbey,” “Sons of Anarchy”), Jessica Matten (“A Red Girl’s Reasoning”), Allan Hawco (“Republic of Doyle”) and Katie McGrath (“King Arthur: Legend of the Sword”).

Momoa stars as Declan Harp, a part-Irish, part-native American outlaw campaigning to breach the fur trade. The Netflix original series is produced in association with Discovery Canada.

“Frontier” is co-created by Rob and Peter Blackie, and produced by Take The Shot Productions and ASAP Entertainment, in association with Discovery Canada. Edwina Follows is Executive Producer for Discovery. For Take The Shot Productions, Alex Patrick, John Vatcher, Rob Blackie, Peter Blackie, Allan Hawco, Perry Chafe and Michael Levine are Executive Producers. For ASAP Entertainment, Brad Peyton and Jeff Fierson are Executive Producers.

Dec 14, 2017
11:37 am

New Jim Carrey Series — His First Series Regular Role in More Than Two Decades — Brings Aboard Two-Time Oscar Nominee (TVWeek)

The new Jim Carrey TV series is rounding up some heavy hitters to support the Golden Globe winner as he tackles his first series regular role in more than two decades. Showtime announced today that the comedy series, “Kidding,” has added Oscar, Emmy and Golden Globe nominee Catherine Keener to the cast as a series regular.

The project will be directed by Oscar winner Michel Gondry (“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”).

“Keener will play Deirdre, who thanklessly builds all the puppets on the hit children’s show hosted by Jeff (Carrey) while never being allowed to voice them,” Showtime said in today’s announcement. “She struggles to take the simple lessons preached by Jeff and apply them to the darker complications of actual parenting.”

The announcement adds: “In addition to Academy Award nominations for Best Supporting Actress honoring her performances in ‘Being John Malkovich’ and ‘Capote,’ Keener received an Emmy and Golden Globe nomination for her lead role in ‘An American Crime.’ She earned three Screen Actors Guild Award nominations for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role — for ‘Being John Malkovich,’ ‘Capote’ and ‘Into the Wild’ — and shared additional SAG Award nominations with the casts of each of those films, as well as this year for ‘Get Out.’ Keener has also received three Film Independent Spirit Award female lead nominations for ‘Johnny Suede,’ ‘Walking and Talking’ and ‘Lovely and Amazing,’ along with two other noms (for the Robert Altman Award) with the ensembles of ‘Synecdoche, New York’ and ‘Please Give.’ Additional memorable performances by Keener include ‘Show Me a Hero,’ ‘Begin Again,’ ‘Enough Said,’ ‘Cyrus,’ ‘Friends With Money’ and ‘The 40-Year-Old Virgin.'”

In its description of “Kidding,” Showtime says: “Carrey plays Jeff, aka Mr. Pickles, an icon of children’s television, a beacon of kindness and wisdom to America’s impressionable young minds and the parents who grew up with him — who also anchors a multimillion dollar branding empire. But when this beloved personality’s family — wife, two sons, sister and father — begins to implode, Jeff finds no fairy tale or fable or puppet will guide him through this crisis, which advances faster than his means to cope. The result: A kind man in a cruel world faces a slow leak of sanity as hilarious as it is heartbreaking.’

The show has a 10-episode first-season order, with Carrey set to executive produce with Gondry, Emmy nominee Jason Bateman (“Arrested Development”), Jim Garavente (“Bad Words”), Raffi Adlan (“The Green Hornet”) and Michael Aguilar (“I’m Dying Up Here”). “Kidding” was created by Dave Holstein (“Weeds,” “Raising Hope”), who wrote the pilot and will serve as showrunner.

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