Rovi Pulls Out Of GuideWorks Venture With Comcast


Comcast (NSDQ: CMCSA) has become the sole owner of interactive program guide firm GuideWorks, as Rovi announced Monday that it has exited the joint venture with the operator. Meanwhile, Rovi said it also expanded its relationship with the nation’s largest cable operator to include enhanced entertainment metadata products as well as an expanded license under Rovi’s patents across mobile, online and other Comcast distribution platforms.

Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed. GuideWorks, founded in 2004, was owned 51% by Comcast and 49% by Rovi. Under the arrangement, Rovi has had the rights to distribute the i-Guide IPGs to other operators. Details in release. More on Multichannel.

Joe Peyronnin: Video Journalism: Past and Future

Recent headlines about staff reductions at ABC News and CBS News are painful, especially for those who work in the profession, and discouraging for those who are currently studying to enter the field. While uncertainty abounds, video journalism is at the beginning of an exciting new era that will present great new opportunities.

The business of television news has been slowly evolving since its inception in the late 1940's. For its first forty years three broadcast news organizations provided Americans most of the news they needed to know. Journalistic icons including Walter Cronkite, Chet Huntley, David Brinkley and Frank Reynolds led these organizations.

Television news organizations guided and informed the American public through crises such as President John Kennedy's assassination, the Viet Nam War, the Civil Rights movement and Watergate. The evening newscasts went from fifteen to thirty minutes and began attracting more advertising dollars. By the late seventies broadcast news had become big business and staff salaries were rising.

The broadcast news industry came to an important crossroads on June 1, 1980. Ted Turner launched CNN, the first 24-hour cable news channel. Cable was a totally new distribution platform that wasn't in many homes. At first broadcasters dismissed CNN and cable, but almost immediately its impact was felt. Over time CNN made video exchange deals with local television stations around the country that gave stations national and international video that they could air in advance of their own network's evening newscasts. Further, CNN spent less per story than the established networks, a fact that would be noticed by the new bottom-line focused network owners, General Electric, Capital Cities and Loews Corporation.

Meanwhile, cable and satellite television distribution was rapidly expanding into homes across the country. As a consequence, broadcast television began losing audience share. In the eighties advertisers still favored broadcasters because they offered mass viewership. Nonetheless, the new owners were concerned about the viewer shift. They were also concerned about their own huge infrastructure costs, especially in news, and the escalating costs of programming and distribution. All three networks laid off hundreds of news employees, travel costs were slashed, bureaus were consolidated or closed, and even newspaper subscriptions were canceled. In the end the network news divisions operated as usual but with fewer resources.

Then in 1991 CNN made a huge leap in viewer awareness when it exclusively carried live coverage of the U.S. bombing of Baghdad. This would cause a small shift in viewer habits. So would the launch of MSNBC and the Fox News Channel, in the mid-nineties, then the Internet explosion over the past fifteen years. The result would be an accelerated shift in viewership away from broadcast television. So much so that last year 22 million viewers watched the three network evening newscasts, down from 50 million in 1980. Meanwhile, cable news and the Internet played a dominant role in the 2008 election coverage.

Given the decline in viewership and profits, especially during the recession, it is impossible for broadcast news organizations to support existing infrastructures and salaries. Economic pressure makes consolidation more likely; The New York Times suggests CBS News and CNN or ABC News and Bloomberg might form a partnership. But similar talks have taken place many times over the past two decades always ending over issues of control, rights and how costs savings are achieved.

Wholesale cost reductions are not going to fix the underlying problem with network news. Costly legacy systems and inefficient operations are a drag on progress. But changing the culture and day-to-day operations of any organization is difficult. This is especially true in journalism, where the preservation of editorial integrity and the ability to get the story first are fundamental goals.

What is required today is an agile organization and workforce that can quickly embrace technological advancements and efficiencies. Creating a more entrepreneurial culture internally that implements new processes and better tools is key to success. For instance, the organization can use an "open" operating and production system that enables remote and/or distributed production, speedier internal communications and information sharing. The use of a "metadata" driven workflow can simplify searches, penetrate silo walls, improve operational efficiency and capture important context for each project. Serious consideration should be given to "cloud computing" systems.

The news audience is deeply fractured among many choices and platforms. The best way to succeed in a highly competitive marketplace, where news content is commoditized, is to stand out, to be distinctive. It requires consistently producing outstanding journalism, whether it is during a "live" event or for a news magazine. Just cutting costs each year is a death by a thousand cuts.

Fifty years ago the railroad companies struggled until they recognized they were in the "transportation" business rather than the train business. Network news organizations are in the "video journalism" business. Reporters should think of themselves as "video storytellers," not just television reporters. While they should embrace new production tools, they should master three essentials: original reporting, great writing and quality storytelling.

Today's news organization must aggressively expand revenue opportunities beyond the core business, and fully monetize its content on multiple distribution platforms, i.e., television, cable, the web and mobile. A long range and unified strategy should be adopted, even if it means crossing long standing territorial and political boundaries. Each of these organizations is populated with very talented and creative producers and modern facilities.

News organizations must fully embrace social networks, but apply appropriate editorial filters. Social networks, such as Facebook, Twitter and U-Tube, provided meaningful and important coverage of the Chilean and Haitian earthquakes, as well as the Iranian protests. News organizations should encourage their existing news gathering personnel to expand their news sources and learn how to use new technologies and production tools.

Journalism students at New York University, as well as other universities around he country, are learning how to be self-sufficient video journalists. They do all the research, reporting, shooting, writing and editing for each of their own pieces. They are passionate, bright and motivated by their love of video journalism. Many of them are certain to be among those who drive the future evolution of video journalism.

Did Bob Beckel Swear On Hannity Last Night?

A rather important online debate is beginning to brew over what was said (or not said) on Hannity last night. And no, this debate isn’t over the definitions of socialism or marxism, nor is it over reconciliation versus a super-majority. People are beginning to weigh on what exactly delightfully curmudgeonly guest Bob Beckel said in response to a question from Sean Hannity. “Are you guys tired of this ____?” Listen for yourself and weigh-in on what you hear.

A tipster pointed us to Inside Cable News, who believes Beckel said “yet,” while others hear the word “shit.” Ours is not to reason why; we report, you decide.

A Look Back At Harold Ford’s Magical Run For The Senate

Let us now take a moment to mourn the passing of the seriocomic campaign stylings of Harold Ford, Jr., who almost wanted to sort of run for the New York Senate seat, maybe. It was a magical time in our lives, but now it's over: Ford will not run for the Senate. A key reason behind the decision was the unerring way that whenever he opened his mouth to talk about himself, the words that issued forth failed to suggest anything remotely appealing to the voters of New York. Let's take a fond look back!

January 5, 2010: The New York Times reports that Ford is mulling a run for the New York Senate seat currently occupied by Kirsten Gillibrand. Immediately, New Yorkers begin to wonder: "Wait? Harold Ford is from New York now?"

January 11, 2010: Next, New Yorkers wonder, "Wait, isn't this Harold Ford person averse to gay marriage? And didn't he once swear up and down he was pro-life?" But Harold Ford has conveniently switched his positions on those issues, whole hours before anyone started asking!

January 13, 2010: The New York Times basically allows Ford to train a gun at his own foot and empty the clip. The results are magical: Ford comes off as a serial suckler at the Wall Street teat, he contradicts himself on the bailout, reveals that he gets around New York City by limousine and helicopter, discusses his New York football preferences based upon how well he knows the wealthy owners of the teams, BUT HE WILL NOT GUN DOWN THE CHILDREN OF NEW YORK, IN CASE YOU WERE WONDERING.

January 18, 2010: In an interview with the New York Daily News, Ford responds to the criticism over his regular pedicures by saying, "This race isn't about feet, it's about issues." Fun fact! Ford granted the NYDN the interview "under the condition that the questions be limited to his rationale for running, and not issues."

January 19, 2010: The Washington Post's Richard Cohen wrote some complete nonsense about the New York Senate race whilst in the throes of an ether stupor, or something. This column would not have happened were it not for Ford, though in fairness some other terrible column would have taken its place.

January 20, 2010: In the sum of all absurdities, the New York Post's Andrea Peyser compares Harold Ford to "punk rock." It's one of the saddest contentions ever made in print.

January 29, 2010: Harold Ford understands the pain of real Americans in the economy, as he is barely eking by on money earned from Merrill Lynch, being the member of a prominent political family and "some MSNBC" that helped to "put food on the table."

February 2, 2010: Harold Ford goes on "The Colbert Report" seemingly unaware that host Stephen Colbert is playing a character and is not actually someone whose approval he needs to win by kissing his ass. The interview does not go well. At one point, Ford dismissively refers to Kirsten Gillibrand as "this young lady I'm looking about running against." Gillibrand is, was, and always will be four years older than Harold Ford.

February 2, 2010: Then, there was this Maureen Dowd column, in which Eleanor Roosevelt's poltergeist plays a starring role.

February 10-16, 2010: Gawker's John Cook goes looking for a straight answer on whether Ford has ever filed a tax return in New York, and is treated to six straight days of nonsense from Ford flack Tammy Sun, who basically made it her mission to wrest the "Most Incompetent Campaign Spokesperson" title from sometime-Alaska Governor Sarah Palin spokeswoman Meg Stapleton.

February 12, 2010: Many, many weeks too late, a "Draft Harold Ford" website goes up online, in an attempt to prove that New Yorkers are into the whole idea of this pedicured toff they'd never heard of becoming their senator. The site attracts tens of anonymous supporters and many, many people with names like "Mike Hunt" and "Ukant B. Zerious." The page is now down, so Ford will never be able to take comfort in all of the imaginary support his almost-run for the Senate sort of garnered.

February 19, 2010: Harold Ford accuses Kirsten Gillibrand of being insufficiently forthcoming on her tax returns.

February 25, 2010: In terms of his candidacy's viability, a lot was riding on Ford's meeting with the Stonewall Democrats -- a gay rights group of historic importance who were probably interested to hear more about Ford's evolution from someone opposed to gay marriage to someone in favor of pandering to gays who wanted to get married. It did not go well, at all.

March 1, 2010: Harold Ford, Jr. quits the race in order to spend more time with Joe Scarborough, who puts food on Ford's family.

And now: is it on to the Indiana Senate race or the Arkansas Senate race or the Delaware Senate race? One can only guess at what the future holds for a candidate with an unlimited amount of prohibitive limitations.

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Kristian Digby DEAD: BBC Presenter Died In Apartment From ‘Solo Sex Game’ Gone Wrong, Police Believe

BBC presenter Kristian Digby was found dead in his apartment On Monday morning. Cause of death is still "inconclusive," however, a belt and bag were taken away by forensics, and police sources told the Daily Mail that they believe Digby died during "a solo sex game which went tragically wrong." Police say that there are no suggestions of suicide.

Auto-erotic asphyxiation, a dangerous sexual practice which involves depriving the body of oxygen to increase arousal and heighten climax, has claimed lives before. Last June, actor David Carradine was found dead with a rope tied to his neck, wrist and genitals.

Digby was an openly gay television presenter and director most famous for his work on British reality television series To Buy Or Not To Buy.

Tributes and mourning from friends and colleagues have poured out. From Allistair Appleton, a fellow BBC presenter:

"Kristian was a fine, charming, complex, rather dazzling man. TV is duller and straighter and drearier without him. I was proud to have met him, hung out with him, known him a little.

"It's desperately, desperately sad."

Sorry Team Conan, Jay Leno’s Re-Premiere Ratings Are Enormous

Jay Leno’s Tonight Show re-premiere last night, as expected, gave NBC a huge victory over CBS.

How big? Here’s a breakdown:

Here’s TVByTheNumbers:

In the local people meter markets Leno was twice as popular with adults 18-49, scoring a 2.0 rating vs a 1.0 rating for Letterman.

In the metered market houshold ratings between 11:30p-12:30a Jay Leno’s return to The Tonight Show dominated Leterman and Late Show. Leno had a 5.4/14 (household rating/share) to Letterman’s 3.0/8.

This is significantly higher than Conan’s fourth quarter averages, however less than Conan’s premiere back in June. But this isn’t exactly the same as a “premiere” since even Leno billed the 10pm show as something of a bad dream last night.

Instead, Leno was back in his comfort zone and the audience responded. It was night #1, which is sure to inflate the ratings. But all indications point to Leno building back the total viewing audience lead Conan lost to Letterman on a regular basis.

Tonight, with Sarah Palin and her ‘late night premiere’ (or not), the tune in could be even greater.

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AOL’s 2009 By the Numbers: $190M Reorg Charges; Sold For $17M; Patch’s $50M 2010

Aol Animation

AOL’s 2009 was eventful, to say the least: a new CEO, its spinoff, and a major restructuring and downsizing exercise were among the few of them. And it reflects in the numbers that have come out in its annual 10K report, filed this morning with SEC.

—AOL’s restructuring in 2009: For the three months and the year ended December 31, 2009, it incurred restructuring charges of $107.4 million and $190.3 million, respectively, related to voluntary and involuntary employee terminations and facility closures.

—Plans to reduce its presence in Europe by significantly reducing its operations in France and Germany and ceasing operations in a number of other countries.

—2010 restructuring charges are expected to be up to $50 million, most of them in first half of this year.

—Yesterday, AOL (NYSE: AOL) announced the sale of its European affiliate marketing network it bought two years ago, to London based Digital Window. No price was disclosed, but the filing says the sale was for $17.0 million in cash. It expects to record a pre-tax loss of about $15 to 20 million on this. AOL bought two years ago for $125.2 million in cash.

—In Jan it announced the acquisition of aggregation site StudioNow for $36.5 million in cash and stock. The breakdown, from the filing: $15.0 million through 595,000 shares of AOL common stock. Of the remaining $21.5 million, $14.0 million was paid in cash at the close date and $7.5 million is due in cash two years subsequent to the close date.

Patch, the local site that AOL bought last year for $7 million, will see an investment of about $50 million during the remainder of 2010.

—Bebo, which is being held for sale, had an investment of $7.8 million in 2009. AOL bought it in 2008 for $860 million.

—AOL’s Google (NSDQ: GOOG) search deal expires Dec 19 this year. Will Bing make a move? In 2009, search advertising revenues comprised approximately one-third of its total ad revenues (about $557 million), so it is a big account. For 2008 and 2007, those numbers were $677.9 million and $642.1 million, respectively.

—TMZ, the celeb site that is now fully part of Time (NYSE: TWX) Warner’s Telepictures Productions, had a down year in 2009. According to the filing, the prior-JV 50-50 revenue split between AOL and Telepictures was $8.7 million, $12.7 million and $9.6 million in 2009, 2008 and 2007, respectively. Which means full year revenues for TMZ for 2009 were $17.4 million, much lower than $25.4 million in 2008. More on TMZ: until end of AOL-TMZ deal by end of this year, AOL will still get rev share from TMZ ad sales, in return for hosting and other services. The arrangement: AOL will get 15% of gross ad revs, up to and including $10 million, and 20 percent in excess of $10 million, with a guaranteed minimum revenue share of $1.5 million to AOL.