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The Morning Fix: 'Avatar' may be expensive. News Corp. going into digital hiding? Dish dishes out for lawyers.

November 9, 2009 |  8:42 am

After the coffee, before cursing Joe Flint for making us get up this early.

Money, money, money, money.  In the first of what is sure to be a zillion speculative articles on the topic, the New York Times says that, with production and marketing budgets combined, "Avatar" "may cost its various backers $500 million." Then again, it "may" not, we suppose, but it's safe to say it's no "Paranormal Activity," and maybe it's a good thing that 20th Century Fox got two other investors to pony up 60% of the production budget (whatever that "may" be). Unless, of course, it's a mega-hit.

CoTown Let the "lump-of-coal" jokes begin. Though some reporters preferred to focus on the positive (it was No. 1!), most pointed out that $31 million was a pretty bad domestic opening for "A Christmas Carol." Deutsche Bank even predicted that Walt Disney Co. will have to take a $50 million write-down on the film, according to the Associated Press. Box-office analysis, including the better news for Lionsgate's "Precious," from the Los Angeles Times, Variety, the Hollywood Reporter, the Wrap, and Deadline.

Where'd News Corp. go? In the ongoing series of threats "old media" moguls are making against Google and other search engines that send their websites traffic but little revenue, Rupert Murdoch has upped the ante once again. Asked by Sky News why he doesn't make his newspaper and television sites invisible to Google (which can be done with some very simple coding), the News Corp. chief executive reportedly replied, "I think we will." In the digital world, that's the equivalent of moving from the front of the mall to a back alley with an unmarked door.

An easy test? The New York Times says the possible deal for Comcast Corp. to take control of NBC Universal "is likely to be the first major test of the Obama administration’s media regulators." The guy who regularly writes this post at an ungodly morning hour says there are "no major regulatory hurdles here that could seriously impede Comcast's taking a majority stake in NBC Universal." Reuters is reporting that the two sides have agreed to value the media conglomerate at $30 billion. All we know is we're tired of reading articles with the word "expected" in them. [An earlier version of this post mistakenly said $30 million instead of $30 billion.]

Curse those lawyers! Dish Network added 241,000 subscribers last quarter, as Reuters reports. That's good. But its net income fell by 13%. That's bad. As AllThingsD points out, the $328 million that the satellite TV service has spent this year in legal costs as it battles with TiVo over a DVR patent probably had something to do with that.

Curb your enthusiasm, not your wallets. Viacom-owned TV Land and Lionsgate-owned TV Guide Network have teamed up and are spending close to $600,000 per episode for basic cable rerun rights to "Curb Your Enthusiasm," PaidContent reports. TV Land buys reruns all the time, of course, but TV Guide Network is relatively new to the game, having earlier bought rights to "Ugly Betty." These days in television, it's probably a very welcome entrant to the market.

Inside the Los Angeles Times: Best Buy prepares for a future when media goes digital; a threesome on "Gossip Girl" tonight is raising eyebrows, but the CW hopes it raises ratings; once vibrant, the Pakistani film industry has all but died.

-- Ben Fritz

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