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The Morning Fix: Big surprise: ESPN says cord-cutting is a myth. 'Tangled' tops box office. What is the MPAA thinking?

After the coffee. Before viewing the racy scenes from "Black Swan" and "Blue Valentine" and deciding for myself what the ratings should be.

The Skinny. Got the Jets-Patriots and the return of TNT's "Men of a Certain Age" to be excited about. Once again cord-cutting is the topic du jour in big media. If only we worried about getting ourselves read as much as we do about people cutting their cable.

Remain calm, all is well. Walt Disney Co.'s ESPN, the cable sports empire that has the most to lose by people cutting their cord to pay-TV services, has conducted research that downplays the phenomenon. The study, which was handed to the New York Times, used the same research sample that Nielsen uses to determine TV ratings. So let's get this straight: The same ratings that most TV executives say are not accurate are good enough to determine whether cord-cutting is real or not. It's true there are a lot more stories about cord-cutting than there probably are people cutting the cord. By the way, how many folks still have land lines, and how much do you think that number will drop in the next two decades? Oh, also in the same edition of the New York Times is this story about people opting for digital antennas and free TV over cable and satellite.

Be worried, be very worried. While ESPN says cord-cutting is nothing to worry about, the Wall Street Journal checks in with an article on Netflix, one of those companies that might just cause people to cut the cord. The real interesting thing to watch will be whether cable networks try to make Netflix a new distributor and how the current pay-TV distributors -- cable and satellite operators -- will try to stop that from happening.

"Tangled" on top. On what is traditionally one of the slower box-office weekends, Disney's animated "Tangled" knocked Warner Bros. latest "Harry Potter" film out of the top spot. "Tangled" took in $21.5 million, while "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1" made $16.7 million. How slow a weekend was it? Sony's "Burlesque" was No. 3, with $6.1 million. The only new wide-release -- "The Warrior's Way" -- flopped. The total take of the box office was $88 million, second-lowest for any weekend this year. Box-office analysis from the Los Angeles Times and Movie City News.

Clint Eastwood doesn't carry a grudge. That's what Alan Horn, the president and chief operating officer of Warner Bros., tells Deadline Hollywood's Nikki Finke in an interview about the Oscars. The theme is the Oscars, and Finke suggests that Warner Bros., which has a lot of potential winners, isn't exactly the most aggressive when it comes to both making movies with Oscar potential and trying to sway academy voters.

Gotta be starting something. The Wrap has launched a five-part series on John Branca, one of Michael Jackson's longtime lawyers, that it promises "reveals the complicated relationship between the singer and the lawyer that Jackson would hire for the last time within a week of his death." The article opens with: "No one said that ruling Michael Jackson's inner circle would be a moonwalk." Actually, doing a moonwalk is very difficult, so I'm not sure that lead works or what it says about the rest of the series.

Long and winding road. The Hollywood Reporter goes behind the scenes of a hilarious video of assorted fading stars and celebrities singing the Beatles' "Let it Be" to find out how it came to be. The video, which is a promotion for the Norwegian TV show “Gylne Tider" (which means Golden Times), may have been put together under false premises. Well, hopefully the talent involved, which includes Tonya Harding, David Faustino, Jason Alexander and some ex-"Twin Peaks" cast members, will keep a sense of humor about it.

From the editorial boards. The New York Times editorial page urges regulators to give the Comcast-NBC Universal merger a long, hard look before giving it any blessing. Writes the NYT: "The combined company would have the ability, and the incentive, to hamstring online innovation. The F.C.C. and the Justice Department must carefully assess potential threats to the new competition and put precise conditions on a merger to prevent the new media goliath from stamping it out." Although the NYT wants the FCC to be strong, the Wall Street Journal has an opinion article from former hedge fund manager and author Andy Kessler, who after reading the agency's proposed rules for regulating the Internet, says it's time to close the FCC.

Inside the Los Angeles Times: Steven Zeitchik looks at the MPAA's decision to give racy "Black Swan" an "R," while racy "Blue Valentine" got the dreaded NC-17. Martha Stewart's attempt to make-over herself -- and the Hallmark Channel -- has fallen short.

-- Joe Flint

Follow me on Twitter, it's tax-free. Twitter.com/JBFlint

 
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