NFL Has a Lot of Leverage in Negotiating TV Deals

September 5, 2014  |  Media Week  |  No Comments

When the NFL negotiated with TV networks on the rights to broadcast eight "Thursday Night Football" games this season, the contract stipulated that term was only for one year, that games would air simultaneously on the league's own NFL Network and that the winning bidder would cover all production costs on all sixteen "Thursday Night Football" broadcasts (including two Saturday games). “Media companies lined up to bid anyway,” The Wall Street Journal reported. CBS ultimately prevailed, agreeing to pay $300 million for the broadcast rights, with the first game in the new lineup premiering next week (tonight's season opener is being broadcast by NBC as part of an earlier agreement). The negotiation and what CBS paid illustrate the extreme leverage the NFL wields with networks. NBC, CBS and ESPN together have contracts that make up between $5 and $5 billion per year to broadcast NFL games through the 2021-22 season. "It's almost like the networks are afraid to say no to the NFL," one senior executive told The Wall Street Journal. Anyone in a traditional TV exec’s shoes would be. While networks face threats like the rise of streaming video services, the NFL offers a bankable product that consumers won't just wait to catch on Netflix. According to securities firm Jefferies Group, 97 percent of all sports are watched live. Add to that the NFL's short season and 17.4 million average regular season game viewers in the 18-49 demo and each game becomes a hot ticket. At the same time, the NFL is amping up its digital push by offering new or expanded online programs. This includes NFL Now, a new online video service offering NFL-made films, shows, documentaries and new footage from teams for $1.99 per month. The NFL also is strengthening a one-year agreement with Twitter to tweet highlights from in-progress games and increasing the number of games streamed to smart phones as part of a four-year, $1 billion agreement with Verizon. As The Wall Street Journal notes, both of these deals include rights denied of the NFL's television broadcast partners. What's more, some television executives fear that NFL Now will stream games directly to fans. Brian Rolapp, evp of media for the NFL, doesn't rule out such a possibility. "If the world shifts dramatically as people think, it'll be nice to have an asset like NFL Now just like it's nice to have NFL Network," he told the Journal, adding that "selling game-streaming rights to an online company is a matter of 'when, not if.'" DirecTV also finds itself backed against a wall in negotiations with the NFL.

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Netflix Grabs Distribution Rights to Fox’s Gotham

September 4, 2014  |  Media Week  |  No Comments

The era of distributing a new TV series on traditional channels has been turned on its head in a deal that makes Netflix a legitimate second-tier distributor. Netflix has sealed worldwide distribution rights to the first season of Gotham—the Fox television series based on the Batman franchise—even before the series has begun. The deal opens the gate for similar agreements via rival global streaming services that may be at the forefront of a new wave of primetime programming . The Netflix/Fox/Warner Brothers Gotham trifecta illustrates that studios financing TV productions are hedging their bets with global multi-channel distribution strategies. That's where Netflix enters the picture. Warner Brothers Worldwide Television Distribution gains access to the company’s entertainment streaming service , which reaches 50 million subscribers in more than 40 countries who collectively watch an estimated one billion hours of TV shows and movies each month. The head of content development at Netflix labelled the deal a new model for distributing a show that's designed to appeal to both domestic and international audiences. Warner, Netflix and Fox are betting that viewers will be hooked by what amounts to a prequel of the Batman movies in television series format—even though the Batman movie franchise produced some duds at the box office. Gotham digs deeper into the characters of Commissioner Gordon and Batman’s enemies in a storyline penned by Bruno Heller, the man behind the The Mentalist. The Gotham distribution rights give Netflix first crack at its existing global footprint, but Warner Brothers retains rights to distribute Gotham in countries where Netflix is absent, such as France and Germany. Another proviso in the deal: Netflix will distribute the first season after it airs on Fox, which won a bidding war for the series. Fox hopes to broadcast the second season simultaneously. Also, the Gotham creators can still shop their show to syndicators and cable channels. The Fox, WB and Netflix nexus leverages streaming services with traditional television revenues, spreading the risk into a global marketplace that increasingly is embracing subscription-based, video on demand services. The studios also are betting that the crossover audience from Netflix to Fox will boost TV ratings. It was not immediately clear how much Netflix paid Warners for the distribution rights to Gotham. The company reportedly paid Sony $2 million per episode to distribute the NBC hit TV drama, The Blacklist.

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Netflix Sides With Government-Run Broadband Providers

September 3, 2014  |  Media Week  |  No Comments

Netflix filed a startling comment with the FCC today: the company wants the Telecommunications Act amended to allow for "a pro-consumer policy of limitless bandwidth," or to put it plainly, so government-run broadband providers can exceed limits set by the law. The company is echoing FCC Commissioner Tom Wheeler's post from June on the FCC blog, in which Wheeler said with surprising candor that phone and cable companies "chose to delay improvements in broadband service to the Chattanooga area market." If Chattanooga seems tangential to debates that are going on in Washington, D.C. and Silicon Valley, it's worth noting that the city does something unusual: it runs the broadband service available in its area. As the city's power authority says on its website, "Only in Chattanooga, Tennessee is 1 Gigabit-per-second Internet speed available to every home and business—over 150,000 of them—throughout the entire community." Why is it doing this? Well, to attract businesses—the city's unemployment rate is 7.7 percent, well above the 6.2 percent national average—and to improve its network infrastructure, which previously had been served by a cobbled-together union of T-Mobile, Verizon and AT&T's more interpid broadband arms. Nobody wanted to build the pipe necessary to fix the place up all the way out into rural Tennessee, so the city took on the task. "Federal preemption is appropriate when state laws unduly interfere with municipal broadband," said Netflix, in its comments on the petition to overturn the Tennessee law. It remains to be seen whether the FCC will agree but Wheeler has been dinged more than once as too soft on the cable industry and overturning these local laws would be a major blow to industry stalwarts like AT&T.

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Allison Williams Plays Peter Pan in NBC’s Next Live Theater Show

September 3, 2014  |  Media Week  |  No Comments

Allison Williams has traded in the long tresses and glam style she flaunts on HBO’s Girls for the boyish charm of Peter Pan, NBC’s second installment of live TV theater, and today we have evidence to prove it. The television network released photos of Williams today in the title role of the boy who flies and never grows up. Peter Pan Live! will air Dec. 4, a year after a live broadcast of The Sound of Music, which starred Carrie Underwood in the title role and drew 19 million viewers. Live events are a staple of TV marketing in the contemporary ad world as more viewers express a preference for DVRed or over-the-top content.

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Behind the Scenes: Jim Parsons Poses for Adweek’s Cover [Video]

September 2, 2014  |  Media Week  |  No Comments

Right now, most TV actors wish they were Jim Parsons, and for good reason. He just won his fourth Emmy Award for best comedic actor for his role as Sheldon on CBS's The Big Bang Theory. But America's favorite nerd isn't just witty punch lines and jokes, as we saw with his dramatic performance in the HBO's The Normal Heart. Amid this whirlwind of success, Parsons took time to pose for Adweek's cover this week. We asked him how he felt when he read the first script for The Big Bang Theory—and what types of ads and commercials resonate with him. Video directed by Jeremy

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Intruders Star Mira Sorvino Waits Until Her Kids Are Asleep to Binge on Banshee

September 1, 2014  |  Media Week  |  No Comments

Specs Who Mira Sorvino Age 46 Accomplishments Oscar-winning actress, currently starring in The Intruders on BBC America (Saturdays at 10/9c); United Nations Goodwill Ambassador to Combat Human Trafficking Base Los Angeles

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Jim Parsons Hits the Stratosphere

September 1, 2014  |  Media Week  |  No Comments

Honestly, if this keeps up, they’re just going to have to rename the Emmy Award for Lead Actor in a Comedy the Jim Parsons Award. Last week, the 41-year-old won the prize for a fourth time for his role as Sheldon Cooper, main character on CBS’ The Big Bang Theory . It was a busy August for Parsons. Two weeks earlier, he and his cast mates Johnny Galecki and Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting signed a three-year deal with the show for $1 million per episode each, and more than one observer suggested CBS should be happy to pay so little. (Big Bang returns for Season 8 on Sept. 22.) Jim Parsons was photographed Aug. 27 by Randall Slavin on the Warner Bros. lot in Los Angeles. Parsons in particular is worth it. The sitcom is the most-watched show on broadcast, averaging a 6.2 rating in the dollar demo (the next-most popular show gets a 4.4). It’s also an incredibly valuable rerun, bringing in $2 million per episode for studio Warner Bros. Domestic TV. In many ways, it’s the swan song of the multicamera, laugh-track comedy era, with Parsons’ Sheldon at its center. Parsons, an accomplished stage actor, took time between seasons to play Tommy Boatwright in a revival of Larry Kramer’s groundbreaking autobiographical play about the AIDS crisis, The Normal Heart, in 2011, and then again in 2013 to reprise the role for Ryan Murphy’s adaptation for HBO . Over the phone, Parsons is warm and deferential, discussing his career successes the way you’d talk about finding a $50 bill on the ground. But it’s clear after a moment or two of conversation that he’s also a guy who takes nothing for granted. Adweek: You started your career on the stage, and you’ve come back to New York to work in The Normal Heart on Broadway in between seasons. Do you miss that part of your career? Parsons: Yes, without a doubt

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And the Year’s Hottest TV Show Is…

September 1, 2014  |  Media Week  |  No Comments

The Big Bang Theory. True Detective. Orange Is the New Black. The Walking Dead. Which was the year's must-see show, on TV or the Web?

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CBS Exec Steve Capus Discusses the Evolution of the Evening News

August 31, 2014  |  Media Week  |  No Comments

Specs Who

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No Less Than 5 Shows Inspired by Sherlock Holmes Find Homes on TV

August 31, 2014  |  Media Week  |  No Comments

A shadowy cabal of influential media barons went to war with a lone mastermind earlier this year in the court. This, of course, was the legal battle between Sherlockian Leslie S. Klinger and the estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, which tried to argue that, more than 100 years after the first Sherlock Holmes story was published, Holmes had not yet passed into the public domain because not every story starring him had been written yet by Doyle. The estate's licensing strategy was a novel one: demand licensing fees. And if the demandee pointed out that the character was more than 100 years old and thus in the public domain, threaten to sue. In his ruling, 7th Circuit judge Richard Posner said not just that the estate was in the wrong but that Klinger had performed "a public service" by fighting the Doyle estate's lawsuit and awarded Klinger some $30,000 in court fees. But the television world has long made a habit of creating almost-Sherlock versions of Doyle's famous consulting detective; so many that the abrasive, crime-solving para-cop genius trope is all over the TV dial—and, a little surprisingly, it remains popular in several different contemporaneous versions. Sometimes showrunners perform genre reassignment surgery on the fabled detective and his various pals: make irascible, drug-addicted Holmes a doctor, change his name so it's a synonym for its homophone, and instead of Holmes and Watson you have House and Wilson.

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