How The Simpsons Saved FXX

November 17, 2014  |  Media Week  |  No Comments

When FX Networks CEO John Landgraf sealed the deal last November to secure exclusive cable, VOD and non-linear rights to The Simpsons for his fledgling cable network FXX, he was elated ("It's arguably one of the greatest shows ever made!")—but terrified. "I was really nervous about it. If it hadn't worked, it would have been a financial drain on the company's competitive abilities and resources for the better part of a decade…. There was a lot of sticker shock associated with the price we paid," said Landgraf, who shelled out an estimated $750 million for the long-term deal. Plus, given that The Simpsons was in its 25th season at the time, "there was no way to calculate how many times people had already watched. There was no way to calculate the nostalgia factor for people that might have fallen off the Simpsons train. And, by the way, we chose to put it on a channel that didn't exist, essentially." That would be FXX, the former Fox Soccer network, which relaunched Sept. 2, 2013 as FX's younger, edgier sibling. But early on, even Landgraf seemed unsure of what defined an FX series versus one that aired on FXX. By Nov. 13—almost exactly a year ago—things seemed bleak for FXX's future when the network canceled its late-night talk show, Totally Biased With W. Kamau Bell, which was drawing as few as 10,000 total viewers per night after relocating from FX.

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The Academy Is Ready for Its Closeup

November 17, 2014  |  Media Week  |  No Comments

Mickey Mouse, Ronald McDonald, the Geico gecko, Mr. Clean—brand icons so embedded in the global mind-set that babies can recognize them before they can even speak. And then there’s Oscar, that distinguished little gold man honoring achievement in film, presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences since 1929. So why would the Academy, of all things, find it necessary to undertake a consumer- facing marketing and branding overhaul? Surely no member-based organization (with the possible exception of the United Nations) gets more exposure than the Academy. The annual Oscar ceremony endures as one of the most popular televised events in the world and that rare thing for advertisers: a chance to reach tens of millions of people in one shot. And yet, the nearly 7,000-member Academy has remained a largely inscrutable body, steeped in secrecy much like those sealed envelopes it’s famous for—and it’s been a mystery not only to the public at large but even within the Hollywood community. As Craig Zadan—a producer of the Academy Awards show who has belonged to the organization since 1991, and producer of films like Chicago and Hairspray—says, “All those years, I didn’t know anything about the Academy other than the Oscars—and I was a member.” The Costume Exhibit, Presented in association with the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the show features more than 150 pieces from films like Shakespeare in Love, The Wizard of Oz and Star Wars.

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L.A. Dodgers’ Adrian Gonzalez Spends His Offseason Playing Fantasy Football

November 17, 2014  |  Media Week  |  No Comments

Specs Who

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VW of America Will Start Sponsoring CNN Documentaries

November 14, 2014  |  Media Week  |  No Comments

Volkswagen of America has been chosen by CNN Films to sponsor its documentaries, expanding the relationship between the two companies. The car maker’s ads will start airing later this month during the CNN showing of the film Ivory Tower about the high cost of a college education in the U.S. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the ads will include co-branded, custom material that will air during film breaks and lead-ins. The deal gives Volkswagen of America exclusivity when it comes to automotive advertising during the film presentations. The car maker’s agency, MediaCom, engineered the sponsorship deal. The three companies have worked together before when Volkswagen of America sponsored several episodes of CNN’s series, The Sixties. The New York Times reports that Volkswagen of America has more than doubled its ad spending on CNN in the past year. A CNN senior executive says there are plans to extend the Volkswagen relationship into social media and digital platforms. VW of America is also looking at an expanding relationship to get its brand message out in a softer-sell approach via quality documentaries. Jennifer Clayton, VW’s general manager for marketing communications, told the Times, “I want to let the experts do what they do. We are in the business of selling cars, not show business." CNN will reportedly have seven new documentaries completed by year’s end.

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#TBT: Sorry Jar Jar, the Star Wars Holiday Special Is George Lucas’s Most Embarrassing Creation Ever

November 13, 2014  |  Media Week  |  No Comments

A long, long time ago—Nov. 17, 1978, to be exact—in a television galaxy far, far away (one that only had three major networks), Star Wars unleashed what would become its single most embarrassing artifact upon 13 million unsuspecting CBS Friday night viewers. More embarrassing, even, than the title The Force Awakens . It was the Star Wars Holiday Special, the subject of this week's Throwback Thursday. Forget Jar Jar Binks, the rest of The Phantom Menace, Princess Leia making out with her brother Luke in The Empire Strikes Back, and the immortal Revenge of the Sith line " Hold me, like you did by the lake on Naboo! " None of those ignominious Star Wars moments can compare to this debacle, which aired only once. A year after Star Wars became the highest-grossing film ever, George Lucas was sold on the notion that the special, airing on CBS the Friday before Thanksgiving, would help tide fans over until The Empire Strikes Back's 1980 release—and sell some toys along the way. His name doesn't actually appear on the Holiday Special, though he reportedly insisted on the show's ridiculous storyline, about Chewbacca's efforts to return to his family and tree-house home on Kashyyyk

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The Definitive Ranking of Every Adult Swim Show Currently Running

November 13, 2014  |  Media Week  |  No Comments

Over the next few weeks we're going to be looking at some of the highest-rated cable networks on the airwaves in much the same way we ranked the shows on ABC , NBC , CBS and Fox back in September, and we figured we'd start off with an ambitious one: Adult Swim. Our rationale is pretty simple: It's a top 10 network in prime-time even though most of its programming airs in late-night, in total day rankings it beats out everything on cable—ESPN, USA, its huge sister networks like TNT and TBS—for the No. 1 slot, and its median age is 23. If you want those millennials abandoning traditional TV, especially young men, here they are. Much of Adult Swim's staying power is in its acquired or syndicated content (especially its anime programming and its reruns of Family Guy), but its originals are mighty, as well. And of course another part of the network's success is its commitment to really, really weird stuff, and to a pretty free-form renewal/cancelation policy. Everybody's seen the bugnuts 11-minute-long segment from the network's irregular show Infomercials, called Too Many Cooks, that devoured the internet last week—it's not like anything, anywhere. Under senior evp Mike Lazzo, Adult Swim has become a huge financial success; it's also sort of the Wooster Group of cable television. To some extent, this means that its offerings will appeal to disparate audiences from show to show.

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We Spent the Morning With Adult Swim’s Eric Andre and This Is What Happened

November 12, 2014  |  Media Week  |  No Comments

The Eric Andre Show on Adult Swim is now in its third season, and there is absolutely no question: It's over the top. We caught up with the show's host in New York, where he spoke about some of his comedic and punk rock inspirations. Given those, it's not surprising he literally destroys his set prior to every show. "I was influenced by GG Allin," Andre said in an interview with Adweek. "He was my favorite." In the video above, Andre talks about the show's new season, drops a few names of his upcoming guests and takes his sense of humor to the street.

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Why No One Comes Back to See Your Great Second Season

November 11, 2014  |  Media Week  |  No Comments

Very few TV series emerge fully-formed. Most shows take at least a season to figure themselves and their characters out, or to course-correct after a rocky beginning. Often by Season 2, a series—like FX's The Bridge or ABC's Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.—can finally complete its necessary adjustments and become the outstanding show it was always meant to be.

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Canadian Regulators Rescind ‘Netflix Tax’

November 11, 2014  |  Media Week  |  No Comments

Canada’s equivalent of the FCC has backed off trying to regulate Netflix by rescinding what has become known as the "Netflix tax," a move which could have significant implications for other U.S. entertainment content providers doing business there. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has ruled that Netflix will not have to pay fees to subsidize Canadian TV productions nor will the company be subject to minimal Canadian content requirements. Canada’s largest cable companies reportedly already provide 30 percent Canadian content, and Netflix features Canadian programs , which has apparently satisfied the CRTC. Netflix has been doing business in Canada since 2010. CRTC Chairman Pierre Blais reportedly told La Presse news site that "Regulating Netflix is the least of our worries." Last week the regulatory agency gave the go-ahead for Canadian television subscribers to be able to change companies without giving thirty days notice. The CRTC has been conducting hearings to determine the extent of regulating U.S. content providers.

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Viacom’s Downturns Have Gotten So Predictable They’re an Easy Buck for Investors

November 10, 2014  |  Media Week  |  No Comments

As usual, Viacom is doomed. People have been preaching the End of Days for the company since Tom Freston left and was replaced by Philippe Dauman in 2006, and yet it still trundles along, making quite a bit of money despite myriad objections to its programming decisions, its executive appointments and its advertising strategy (Spike, at one point, was airing a 38-minute hour). Union: Manny Hernandez/Getty Images; Minaj: Jason Laveris/Filmmagic Not only does none of this matter, but the conventional wisdom presents an incredible opportunity for investors, according to Michael Nathanson of r esearch firm MoffettNathanson. "For the third time in less than seven years, Viacom is again beset by collapsing ratings ... negative advertising ... and a free fall in its relative valuation," Nathanson wrote in a report. "Historically, this sequence of events has given contrarian and patient investors a ‘fat-pitch’ way to make money." None of this is to say that Viacom (or, indeed, cable TV) is doing well—PUT levels fell dramatically in the third quarter of this year, both across the board and particularly seriously at Viacom’s networks, with demo declines, too, at MTV (which is off by a full 25 percent) and Nick (off by 20). Those two are the company’s bread and butter, and they’ve tended to rely disproportionately on individual franchises. In Nick’s case, it simply had an amazing third quarter last year—the network ranked No. 1 not just in the demo but in total viewers—and in MTV’s case, it was the Teen Mom franchise that tanked. (The network went through much the same thing when Jersey Shore got canceled.) All of this makes the network appear volatile. But the truth is that it manages to pull in disproportionate numbers of viewers in a demo that is fast abandoning television with buzzy series; the model looks more like a win-some-lose-some film studio strategy than a television network, especially with the largely unsung Comedy Central (which recently had three consecutive quarters of monster growth—33.8 percent up in Q3 of last year alone). This week’s earnings report from the company should prove interesting. Dauman had to field questions about the weak ad market last quarter; this time he’s pretty much certain to get grief about low ratings. But Nathanson observes that Viacom isn’t merely experiencing speed bumps like PUT and ad revenue declines—it’s at the vanguard of an industry that is going to have to cope with those problems en masse. Viacom is also fighting with small cable operators, who are simply dropping its package in an effort to keep costs down as carriage agreement renewals rear their heads, but you can bet the company’s strategies on this front are being analyzed carefully by all of its competitors. AMC Networks, A+E Networks and Scripps are all in a similar boat. Either Viacom will figure out an effective strategy or it will consolidate until it’s part of an entity big enough to get its way

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