What Are You Missing? Nov 11 – Nov 24
Here are ten or more media industry news items you might have missed recently:
1) The Simpsons are going to… cable! FXX, the recent comedy-focused spin-off of Fox-owned FX network has claimed the first cable rights to The Simpsons in a massive, $750 million dollar deal (though this could rise as new seasons are produced) that includes over 530 episodes (and counting). This is the biggest off-network deal in television history, adding another record to the long-running series. Perhaps even more intriguing is the deal’s inclusion for online streaming on the soon-available FXNOW mobile app as well as via video-on-demand. More details on the deal and scheduling are sure to emerge before the syndication begins next August.
2) An even bigger deal may be soon on the horizon as Time Warner Cable appears to be on the market with interest from both Comcast and Charter. First, the Wall Street Journal reported Charter Communications Inc. was nearing an agreement to raise funds for the purchase, a move that falls in line with Liberty Media’s John Malone’s (which owns 27% of Charter) recent pushes for cable consolidation. If that wasn’t enough, CNBC reports Comcast is also interested in a deal for Time Warner Cable, a move supported by their shareholders. This officially makes Time Warner Cable the belle of the ball, as TWC stock jumped to a 52-week high amid the purchase chatter. The FCC hasn’t said anything yet because of course not. But one has to wonder what role they’ll play.
3) Speaking of those guys, the FCC, under newly-appointed chairman Tom Wheeler, has voted to raise the cap on how much foreign entities can own of broadcast stations, both radio and television. Currently, there is a 25% cap on how much foreign companies can invest, a level current commissioners are described as outdated.
4) A new study out of (the) Ohio State University and Annenberg Public Policy Center has found the level of gun violence in PG-13 films is now greater than R-rated films. The study looked at 945 films from 1950 to 2012, noting an overall increase in gun violence and a marked increase in PG-13 rated films since that rating’s inception. The authors call for new restrictions from the MPAA as related to gun violence, particular in those lower rated films.
5) Two of the most iconic pop culture figures of the last 50 years, Superman and James Bond, have now had long-standing copyright lawsuits settled. First, Warner Bros. won an appeal case against the estates of Superman co-creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, ending a copyright claim filed back in 2003 and giving them complete control. Next, MGM & Danjaq have now acquired all copyrights for James Bond after settling with the estate of Kevin McClory, who opened the case 50 years ago after claiming he proposed the idea for making a Bond film to creator Ian Fleming.
6) A big courtroom victory for Google and fair use as a federal judge has ruled Google Books is considered fair use and “provides significant public benefits.” The case had been active for nearly 10 years, when a coalition of authors and publishers started the case in 2005. The ruling will surely move to appeal, but the precedent for fair use is powerful and will certainly have impact beyond just Google’s service.
7) From lawsuits ending to one just beginning: the National Music Publishers Association (NMPA) held a conference where they announced their intention to take legal action against music lyric websites, claiming the sites profit from copyrighted works through their ad revenues. The publishers have targeted 50 websites and sent takedown notices, claiming they will not push for legal action unless the requests for heeded.
8) A new wrinkle in the enduring, critical lawsuits against network streaming startup Aereo as the National Football League and Major League Baseball have taken a side against Aereo, claiming they will move all of their games to cable if Aereo is found to be legal. This “friend of the court” filing with the Supreme Court aims to sway judges and show support for the multiple broadcasters taking Aereo to court. Barry Driller, a major investor of Aereo, doesn’t seem fazed, claiming the NFL is “just making noise.”
9) In the same week Sony released its next-generation video game console Playstation 4 with over 1 million sales, the company announced plans to cut $100 million from Sony Entertainment, making the company leaner and more focused. A large part of this will be reduced film production, a move Amy Pascal says will create “a more equitable balance between risk and reward.”
10) It probably won’t lead to Obamacare level criticism, but Barack Obama hasn’t made friends with some visual effects artists. After it was announced President Obama would visit DreamWorks Animation studio for a speech and visit with Jeffrey Katzenberg, visual effects artists at the company have planned to protest the visit due to the increased outsourcing of jobs to foreign countries.
And finally, two silly stories from a silly industry:
The Internet exploded this week when it was reported an “It’s A Wonderful Life” sequel was being planned. In a surprising twist (like in the movie!), Paramount announced it would fight any proposed sequel, claiming any project would require a license from the studio. With the film possibly dying a quick death, we will all have to ask an angel to show us a world where this sequel did, in fact, get released.
Mike “The Situation” “The Stupid Nickname” Sorrentino of Jersey Shore ‘fame’ is under federal investigation as the U.S. Attorney’s office has issued subpoenas for company records from businesses Sorrentino owns like MPS Entertainment and a clothing line. I would make a joke about this, but I don’t know enough about this ‘celebrity’ to say something witty.