Kiss Off! ABC Un-Invites Adam Lambert From Jimmy Kimmel & New Year’s Eve

Screen shot 2009-11-21 at 4.17.37 PMABC still hasn’t forgiven Adam Lambert for his performance at the AMAs: Not content to have un-booked him from Good Morning America (delivering him neatly to the CBS Early Show for a nice ratings bump), they have now disinvited him from Jimmy Kimmel on Dec. 17th, as well as the network’s New Year’s Eve special. He must be made to pay.

Like, seriously. I could have sworn I saw Jimmy Kimmel and Ben Affleck dressed in mesh and lamé for “I’m F*ing Ben Affleck,” the blockbuster follow up to the mega-blockbuster “I’m F*ing Matt Damon.” But let’s keep it clean, kids! As EW’s Michael Slezak points out:

ABC is the home of allegedly family-friendly Dancing With the Stars, where popular pro Derek Hough celebrated a win this past season in the “Group Mambo” round by forcibly thrusting partner Joanna Krupa’s head into his nether-regions. (Lambert fans are also dismayed that their man has become a possible FCC pariah despite the fact that Pink and a male dancer executed a similar “please come closer and examine my zipper” dance move — with tongue! — during the 2004 Billboard Music Awards on Fox.)

This seems like a pretty blatantly homophobic double-standard, if you look at that Pink moment (and I have to give that point to Glynnis MacNicol, who said that a woman doing it to a man would not be a big deal — she was right). An ABC spokesperson said, “We decided not to move forward with the booking at this time,” declining to elaborate, but what other reason could it be? How “unpredictable” he was? Come on, he’s been a good boy on all his appearances since then — even on his Twitter, where he cheerfully brushed off the cancellation (”Yes, sadly friends, ABC has cancelled (sic) my appearances on Kimmel and NYE. :( don’t blame them. It’s the FCC heat”) despite the fact that the FCC only applies “heat” before 10 p.m. and both Kimmel and his AMA performance hit the airwaves later than that.

EW’s Slezak is unimpressed with ABC’s “shaming as public relations strategy”; so am I. Give this kid — and the rest of us! — a break. It was an envelope-pushing musical awards show moment, and we’ve seen plenty of them across all the networks. Enough with holding this kid up as an example, especially to appease the less enlightened members of your audience. As Lambert says, “It’ll all blow over,” which is true — and then ABC will wonder why, in a few years, future superstar Lambert is signing huge deals with every other network.

In the meantime, look for Lambert on Jay Leno on Dec. 21st. As much as people bash Leno for being mild and un-edgy, he’s still welcoming him to his show. Maybe, for at least one night, his ratings will reflect it. If those Glambert fans have anything to say about it, I bet they will. ABC’s loss.

In the meantime, for your entertainment, I present Adam Lambert:



Andrew Napolitano: Afghanis Think Like It’s “The 12th Century” (VIDEO)

Glenn Beck's substitute host on The Glenn Beck Show is working hard to fill his shoes.

In a discussion about U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, Fox News senior analyst Andrew Napolitano proclaimed Afghanistan was "a mountainous region with illiterate people who still think like it's the 12th century." Therefor, Napolitano argued, we would gain nothing by leveling the country.

WATCH

Napolitano is sub-hosting while Beck is away touring with his live show, "The Christmas Sweater."


Harold Feld: Where Does Comcast/NBC Rate On The “Trade Association Scale”?

As a longtime Washington lobbyist (albeit on the "white hat" consumer advocate side) I propose a new metric for measuring antitrust impact of mergers, the uniquely Washington "Trade Association Scale." How many trade associations/lobbying groups will you qualify for after the merger? If the number is too high, that shows you are getting into far too many lines of business to be healthy, because you have too much influence on everybody else's business. And on the Trade Association Scale, the Comcast/NBC merger ranks a 10 out of 10.

To get a sense of how much clout Comcast will have, in Washington and in the media and telecom sector, consider the fact that Comcast will now be able to join the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB). In ideological terms, it is rather like Vatican City joining the Arab League -- and as a dominant member. Few rivalries in the media world match those of cable operators and broadcasters, who have fought for regulatory advantage over one another since the FCC started regulating cable in the 1960s. But the NAB is not the only powerful trade association Comcast would now be eligible to join, and because of its size transform from an opponent to an accomplice. Comcast will also be able to join the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). Until now, MPAA has been one of the few organizations able to go Trade Orgo a Trade Orgo with cable. Now, with the help of fellow cable content provider Time Warner, Comcast will have another trade association -- with powerful links into the Democratic Party it previously lacked -- it can deploy at need.

But Comcast's new sphere of influence doesn't stop with content. Depending on how Comcast develops its broadcast spectrum and other wireless assets, it could join CTIA and other wireless trade associations. These organizations, of course, join the impressive list of trade associations Comcast already belongs to as the largest broadband access provider, one of the largest residential phone companies, one of the largest purchasers of telecommunications equipment, etc.

The more I contemplate the length and breadth of this merger, the more stunning it becomes. Indeed, while conventional wisdom holds that it will be approved with conditions, I think there is a small but not unreasonable chance that it will collapse under its own weight. For example, while the DC Circuit's pro-business judicial activists eliminated the rule against cable operators owning broadcast licenses that cover their franchise areas back in 2002, the FCC and the FTC/DOJ will need to consider the very legitimate concerns of independent NBC affiliates in Comcast territory (who could find their affiliation agreement threatened if they don't grant retrans consent on Comcast's terms), group owners with NBC affiliates even if the stations in Comcast territory are not NBC affiliates ("give us retrans for your ABC affiliate here or we yank your NBC affiliation in another market") and the myriad of ways Comcast could benefit itself to the disadvantage of DBS or overbuilder/Telco rivals with its possession of so much broadcast content -- including whatever broadcast clearance scheme the FCC may evolve.

And those concerns are just one piece of the larger puzzle of how allowing the largest residential broadband provider, which is also the largest cable operator, to include all the rich content assets that will drive evolution of video online. As cable companies fret about customers "cutting the cord" (giving up cable subscription for broadband), Comcast will have an ownership interest in one of the major online video providers (NBC's stake in Hulu) as well as plenty of content to seed its TV Everywhere initiative. At a time when the Commission is considering the importance of competition in the cable network attachments market to our national broadband plan, the largest single purchaser of cable set-top boxes, which is also the largest residential broadband access provider, will suddenly acquire a whole new set of content interests that it will wish to simultaneously exploit to its advantage and protect from rivals. At a time when the Commission is being importuned night and day by Hollywood about how important it is to get movies on VOD, and when Hollywood wants to start cutting into the profits of DVD rental operations such as Netflix and Amazon, Comcast proposes to combine with a studio and unite unprecedented control over the physical network with unprecedented interest locking up content.

Comcast's opening salvo in its charm offensive has been rather weak tea instead of a strong prescription to address concerns about creating this kind of market power in every sector of the American media and telecommunications market. David Cohen, Comcast's Executive VP for Government Affairs, offered a five page letter which proclaimed that while the merger was "pro-competitive and pro-consumer," Comcast anticipated there would be parties that raised "competitive concerns" that it would address with "voluntary commitments." Tellingly, not a single one of these voluntary commitments touches on the competitive concerns raised in the past about TV Everywhere, or any other concern about how the merger will impact the evolution of online video -- such as whether or not Comcast will make content available to "over the top" video providers such as Netflix and Amazon or whether it will give its video on demand service early releases of movies (with or without the SOC waiver). Nor does Comcast even make a nod to network neutrality by promising not to favor its own content online, which, given that Comcast has gone to court to argue that the FCC has no authority to prevent it from degrading competing online video content by enforcing its network neutrality principles, would have been somewhat reassuring.

Instead, most of the concessions involve things that are either: (a) arguably already required by law (don't migrate Public Educational and Government (PEG) channels to digital early and stop screwing with them; negotiate the agreements for broadcast programming in good faith under the "program access rules" standard); (b) freebies to consumers that don't actually cost Comcast anything (include PEG in On Demand programming); or (c) things the FCC would require Comcast and NBC to do without the merger if it had any interest in promoting program diversity (expand Telemundo's multicasting to increase Spanish language programming, put more independent programmers on Comcast's system).

It's not that these things are unimportant, mind. It's just that such gestures cannot be taken seriously as an effort to address the multitude of concerns this merger raises in every single sector of the media and telecommunications business in this country. It is rather like the way in which Congressional Republicans in 2006, desperate to stem voter anger over so many things going wrong, proposed a $100 gas rebate as a "solution" to skyrocketing gas prices, and then were surprised that voters pilloried them as clueless idiots hopelessly out of touch.

I recognize this is just Comcast's "opening gambit," but it's a damn poor one. Comcast either does not grasp just how many toes this merger stomps on, or it thinks it can bull its way through by pretending otherwise. When Craig Moffett -- normally the cable industry's #1 cheerleader -- warns that Comcast will face "probably 12 months of regulatory hell as they try to get this deal closed," it behooves Comcast to come out of the gate with its "A Game" and face the broadband competition issues head on rather than try to low-ball the opening offer and pretend the Internet questions are somehow irrelevant because, gosh darn it, this is just an old media merger no one focused on the future of broadband ought to think twice about.

Bottom line, on a scale of 1-10 on the Trade Association Scale, this merger ranks a 10. That means lots of people, from big companies to cute little public interest groups like us, are all going to ask federal regulators to take a close look at this and reject the merger if Comcast cannot come up with better answers to these very real concerns than the "voluntary commitments" offered so far. Perhaps Comcast should wait a bit before filling out an NAB application.


Web-TV Divide Is Back in Focus With NBC Sale

How people watch TV on demand — and whether they should pay for it — is a critical issue in a deal that will give control of NBC Universal and co-ownership of Hulu, the Internet’s most popular streaming hub, to Comcast.

The War on Christmas Is Back! O’Reilly Takes on “Anti-God” Ads

Screen shot 2009-12-03 at 9.12.10 PMEvery so often, we can really see why so many people tune into Bill O’Reilly every night. He can be engaging and charming and has a sense of humor — which, despite whatever outrage he’s fomented about the so-called “War on Christmas” in the past, was clearly on display tonight as he returned to that favorite topic. Tonight, O’Reilly zeroed in on “anti-God” ads by the
The American Humanist Society. That may be a bit of an exaggeration, since the ads are less anti-God than pro-atheism (the tagline is “No God? No Problem!” with a kicker of “Be Good For Goodness Sake!”), but atheism certainly isn’t pro-God, so it does make sense. O’Reilly seems more amused than perturbed by it, and maybe even seems to be spoofing the usual umbrage just a little.

O’Reilly welcomed Gretchen Carlson and Margaret Hoover to discuss the issue, and while Hoover seemed just as amused as O’Reilly, Carlson definitely took offense (”This is a direct and deliberate smear against Christianity”). Here’s where we’re sure O’Reilly was just having fun with her: “Why do they loathe the Baby Jesus? He’s just a baby!” Carlson maintained that they are trying to capitalize on the growing ranks of atheists, but O’Reilly wasn’t convinced: “How do you sell atheism by running down a baby?”

O’Reilly had a theory about the reason for the ads: Jealousy. “What do atheists have in December, the latest Bill Maher special?” At this point someone off-camera laughed, and you had to know that no one thought he was serious. Except, maybe Carlson: “Oh, please, you don’t think atheists exchange presents with one another? They just don’t have Jesus!” This is a highly enjoyable segment about some fairly obnoxious ads, and I enjoyed it greatly. Watch below:



Career Daily Show watchers will recall that Jon Stewart took on O’Reilly’s “War on Christmas” mongering back in 2005 (after O’Reilly complained that it was part of a “secular progressive agenda” — a phrase that he was popularizing on his show well before the publication of his book, Culture Warrior, in fall 2006, that officially coined and used that phrase). Stewart’s choice rejoinder is below. Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! God bless us, every one!


p.s. Congratulations to the lovely Margaret Hoover on her marriage!


Hearst’s Skiff Plans To Set Sail Next Year With E-Reader Platform, Devices—And Sprint Deal

Skiff

Forget First Paper. The incubated startup Hearst is looking to as a digital content savior is now Skiff, LLC, although the better name might be “Swiss Army E-Reader Ink” given all that it’s trying to do. Skiff, led by Gilbert Fuchsberg and headquartered in NYC with offices in Palo Alto, promises a 2010 launch with a “complete” digital content solution that can handle it all but will specialize in magazines and newspapers via a platform that can be used across devices and its own dedicated devices to be sold at retail. It also promises a business model that respects publishers’ needs. 

It’s unclear where the Hearst startup fits in with the digital magazine consortium Time Inc’s John Squires is working on and that we expect to be officially announced any day. Hearst is part of that consortium along with Time Inc., Conde Nast and Meredith (NYSE: MDP). Ken Bronfin, the president of Hearst Interactive Media, told the WSJ, which first reported about Skiff’s plans late Thursday (the formal announcement is planned for Friday morning), that he hopes the consortium will work with Skiff. Hearst confirmed to the Journal that it already plans to offer some of its own publications, including the San Francisco Chronicle along with titles from unidentified other publishers.

The company provided us with details; Skiff.com is also live. On the dedicated device side, Skiff says it has a multi-year deal with Sprint (NYSE: S) to provide 3G service for the dedicated devices—and to sell them at its 1,000-plus retail outlets and on Sprint.com. It’s not an exclusive but Skiff says it won’t announce other deals until next year. Under its FirstPaper moniker, the company said last month it is working with chipmaker Marvell (NASDAQ: MRVL) Technology group on its integrated Armada 166E for e-readers designed to render high-res PDFs “ultra fast,” save power, extend battery life and support ePaper in thin formats and a variety of screen sizes.

On the platform side, Skiff promises “visually appealing layouts, high-resolution graphics, rich typography and dynamic updates” that make it easier for publishers to migrate premium content to e-readers while allowing them to maintain their own design sensibilities. No names but Amazon’s Kindle, for instance, essentially reduces everything to the same greyscale, flattened format. The Skiff Store promises “a rich selection of newspapers, magazines, books, and blogs.”

Among other aspects, the business model includes optimizing for advertising by blending the “impact” of print with digital technology. Skiff’s partners on this front include Nielsen and comScore (NSDQ: SCOR) for media planning and analytics.

In addition to Fuchsberg, who led the interactive services division for Interpublic Group, Skiff’s execs include vets from Sony’s Digital Reader launch, Intel (NSDQ: INTC), Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) and Apple (NSDQ: AAPL).

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