The Morning Fix: Viacom's Dauman bemoans talent costs. Film Department plans IPO. MGM bidders get ready. Comcast is now in news biz.
After the coffee. Before deciding if TNT's "Men of a Certain Age" hits too close to home.
Viacom CEO takes swipe at big pay days. In an interview with Michael Eisner at the UBS Media Conference in New York, Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman griped about star salaries, saying, "It is no longer possible for a studio to make a big-budget picture and pay a huge percentage of gross before you recover the costs." No word on whether Dauman would cut his compensation (valued at $23 million for 2008). Details from USA Today. Separately, Viacom parent National Amusements Inc., one of the largest theater operators in the U.S., has sold 35 outlets to Dallas-based Rave Motion Pictures, according to Deadline Hollywood.
MGM bidders, start your engines. At least six bids are expected for MGM by the end of next month, with Fox, Warner Bros. and Lionsgate seen as most interested in the struggling studio, says the Hollywood Reporter. MGM is hoping bids will approach $2 billion, and if that doesn't happen, it may have to go to Plan B, which would be an overhaul of the company.
The Film Department plans IPO. Carrying a heavy debt and facing a challenged business, film financiers the Film Department, headed by industry veterans Mark Gill and Neil Sacker, filed plans for an initial public offering. Details on the company's finances show how tough the business has become, notes the Los Angeles Times.
Shakeup at Oprah's Harpo Productions. Tim Bennett, a key adviser to talk-show queen Oprah Winfrey and president of her Harpo Productions, is retiring at the end of May, reports the Chicago Tribune. Winfrey has tapped Erik Logan and Sheri Salata to succeed Bennett. Harpo produces several daytime shows and is expected to keep looking for broadcast-TV projects even after Winfrey herself shifts to cable and her Oprah Winfrey Network.
CNN goes local. CNN is investing in Outside.In, an Internet start-up that gathers information from neighborhood blogs and feeds it to larger media outlets. According to the Wall Street Journal, CNN.com will carry material from Outside.In. The move is the latest by national news outlets such as CNN and MSNBC to go hyper local. Even sports channel ESPN is going down this road, launching sites in various cities to compete with local sports media.
20/20 backs off "Biggest Loser" probe. Already the subject of a hard-hitting New York Times piece, NBC's weight loss reality show "The Biggest Loser" also was being probed by ABC's news magazine "20/20." But the program backed off when the show's producers cracked down on participants, reminding them of non-disclosure agreements in their deals. The skinny from the Wrap.
Can Fred Figglehorn play the big screen? Lucas Cruikshank created an Internet sensation with his YouTube videos about a rambunctious 6-year-old named Fred Figglehorn. Now he's trying to turn it into a movie or a pay-per-view special with help from Hollywood insiders. The track record from cult following on the Internet to mainstream success is spotty at best, notes the New York Times, but Cruikshank already has started making a name for himself, even appearing on Nickelodeon's hit "iCarly."
Inside the Los Angeles Times. Comcast has lots of entertainment experience, but its deal to acquire control of NBC Universal from General Electric will put it deep into the news business for the first time. Author Dave Eggers tries his hand as a newspaper publisher. Yeah, that sounds like a good career move.
-- Joe Flint