The Morning Fix: Box office blues ... or not? Sumner's eye for talent. Versus wants soccer
Nielsen goes public. TV ratings service Nielsen has filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission to raise $1.75 billion in an initial public offering. Bloomberg says the company wants to use the proceeds to lower its $8.6-billion debt load. Nielsen is owned by several private equity firms including Blackstone Group, Carlyle Group and KKR. The filing will likely also detail Nielsen's revenue streams. The filing said Nielsen had earnings of about $1.3 billion on revenues of $4.8 billion in 2009.
The Conan factor. Turner Broadcasting is looking to get the same rate for commercials for Conan O'Brien that the broadcast networks get for their late-night shows. The New York Post says TBS wants rates that are 25% higher than the usual cable late-night rates. But many media buyers say TBS is dreaming. "He's a high-priced property that they clearly overpaid for," one buyer told the paper.
Box office fatigue. One bad holiday weekend and everyone starts analyzing what's wrong with the movie biz. Yeah, "Prince of Persia" disappointed, as did "Sex and the City 2." No, it didn't have anything to do with hockey or basketball. Is it a sign of tough times ahead? Probably not. As Hot Blog notes, there are already seven movies that made over $100 million in the U.S., two of which were sequels and one was a remake. Summer 2010, Hot Blog says, "always looked soft from a distance. Why? Because of a lack of sequels. No Spider-Man, Batman, Transformers, Bourne, or Harry Potter."
Sumner's eye for talent. The Daily Beast's Peter Lauria has a tawdry story about Viacom Chairman Sumner Redstone becoming smitten with a girl group called the "Electric Barbarellas" that he wants to see on MTV. Redstone, Lauria reports, is pressuring MTV chief Judy McGrath to put the program on, and she is resisting. All I know is what Sumner wants Sumner usually gets.
Whatever happened to going with your gut? OTX, an online test-screening service, is now going to start a "script evaluation division," according to Variety. OTX President Vincent Bruzzese told the paper that the company isn't claiming to be able to forecast box office based on a script, but "we can give an assessment of a script's potential. We know what people will respond to." Isn't that what the studios and producers are supposed to do?
Comcast thinkng goal! Comcast's sports channel, Versus, has had some exploratory talks with Major League Soccer about a TV deal. MLS currently has deals with ESPN and Fox Sports. Comcast, is, of course, in the process of trying to acquire NBC Universal, and part of the plan is to use its sports assets to help build Versus into a serious competitor to ESPN and Fox. Broadcasting & Cable chief and soccer nut Ben Grossman has the scoop.
New big man at the Beeb. Former Nickelodeon President and MTV Networks Vice Chairman Herb Scannell has been tapped to head BBC America, the U.S. arm of the BBC. BBC America has had something of a revolving door in its executive suite over the last decade or so. The channel, which is in about 70 million homes, primarily carries shows from the BBC and other British networks. Scannell told the New York Times that he wants to make the outfit "a more diversified producer of television” and hopes to create more original programming on the channel. Will the shows be set in the U.K., and will the actors have to use British accents?
-- Joe Flint
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