Here are ten (or more) media industry news items you might have missed recently.
1) Our top story because APPLE: This past Tuesday an Apple press event marked the announcement of two new lines in the massively popular iPhone series, the 5C and 5S. The 5S is presented as the fully upgraded new model with the 5C as a budget-friendly (relatively) version of last year’s iPhone 5. The most talked about new feature of the 5S is TouchID, a thumbprint authentication security system that has some excited over an end to PINs and others fearful of the possible hacking opportunities the feature opens up. Wall Street seemed less impress than this Tokyo man already in line, as Apple stock took a large tumble following the announcement, losing $30 billion in market cap value.
2) IT. IS. OVER! The beginning of September brought an end to the month-long blackouts of CBS, Showtime, and other channels from Time Warner Cable in a disputed negotiation over retransmission fees. It seems CBS eventually came out on top, gaining increases in fees and a rise in their stock following the new deal. CBS head Leslie Moonves claims the blackout had no financial impact on CBS, calling the cost “virtually nothing.” Time Warner Cable, on the other hand, did lose subscribers during the blackout, as well as costs for marketing expenses, distributing free antennas, and other promotions. If this story was more exciting for you to follow than, say, CBS programming, don’t worry! Analysts say more blackouts are bound to happen in similar disputes, with prices likely going up for cable consumers. Hooray!
3) There were two type of shakeups at NBCUniversal over the past two weeks. The first comes within their management, as TV executive Jeff Shell is moving up to head Universal Studios replacing Ron Meyer, who is being promoted within Comcast. The movement is seen as a bit of a shocker, as this means former Universal Pictures chairman Adam Fogelson is out, despite performing adaquetly but focusing on domestic distribution and marketing. Shell’s previous position at Universal International within Comcast indicates this is a shift towards a more internationally-focused campaign for Universal.
4) The second NBCUniversal shakeup comes on the cable channel end, as the previously announced Esquire Network will take over and replace Style on September 23, and not G4 as previously announced. Cable group chairman Bonnie Hammer noted in a memo that the shift was due to Style presenting a “brand overlap” with other NBCUniversal networks like Bravo, E!, and Oxygen. This means G4 will remain for the time being, despite canceling most of its gaming/technology original programming in anticipation of the rebrand. There are always COPS reruns to show.
5) Twitter has officially announced plans to go public, with the social media giant filing for IPO being officially announced in, appropriately, a Tweet. Estimates place the company at a worth of about $10 billion with the company making $583 million in revenue this year. This is the second major social media giant going public, and after the fiasco of Facebook’s opening that saw initial prices plummet, Twitter’s offering poses to renew the battle between the sites, as well as impact values of burgeoning social media enterprises.
6) BBC executives faced Parliament last week over excessive severance packages paid out to senior execs during widespread austerity cuts in the country. Most of the attention is on former BBC director general and current CEO of The New York Times Mark Thompson, who is trying to shift some of the blame to BBC Trust chairman Chris Patten, claiming he was misleading Parliament about the severances. In front of Parliament, Thompson made the argument that, and this is true, the severance payments helped reduce costs. The entire ordeal has lead many in Britain and Parliament to call for tighter scrutiny over the operations at BBC, with an upcoming review of the internal governance systems and relationship between BBC management and the BBC Trust, the broadcaster’s regulator.
7) In a move that seems to indicate a refocused direction, Microsoft has eliminated all contract and freelance writers from the company’s online news portal MSN. Despite the site getting solid U.S. traffic, comparable to AOL and Yahoo, all current assignments will be cancelled at the end of the month. It has not been revealed the fate of the site, or the amount or status of the freelancers affected.
8) While broadcasters continue to struggle in court over Aereo, they did gain a victory against another internet streaming service, as a collection of networks have successfully filed an injunction against FilmOn X, a service allowing live streaming of local networks online. Although just a preliminary decision, the case marks a departure from the standards set in the Aereo ruling which allowed the streaming service to continue operating during hearings. The differing opinions could lead to a date at the Supreme Court down the road.
9) SirusXM, the satellite-radio giant, is facing a fourth $100 million lawsuit in just this past month over SiriusXM not paying rights fees for playing pre-1972 recordings which are protected under state laws. It doesn’t stop there, as SiriusXM is facing its fifth and largest lawsuit yet, this one coming from major labels Sony Music Entertainment, UMG Recordings, and Warner Music Group. SiriusXM has yet to respond to any of these lawsuits.
10) And to end on a lighter (ha) note, here’s the story of a man, inspired by the Pixar film Up, who tried and failed to cross the Atlantic via a cluster of balloons. Just 12 hours after his departure from Maine, a “technical glitch” forced him down in Newfoundland. Though 12 hours, that’s something!