Entertainment Industry

Category: Sirius XM

The Morning Fix: Big bucks for 'Big Bang'! Weinstein Co. makes splash at Toronto. Reality bites on broadcast.

After the coffee. Before wondering why Fashion Week snubbed me.

Reality bites. The Wall Street Journal uses the overhaul of Fox's "American Idol" to check in on the state of the reality TV biz. Heading into the fall season, the WSJ notes that the five broadcast networks have scheduled 14 hours of reality shows, the lowest number since 2005. Of course, in fairness, a lot of reality shows usually come on in mid-season to replace new comedies and dramas that didn't work. Also, although broadcast may be backing away from reality shows, the story doesn't note how huge they've become on cable. TLC, MTV, Bravo and dozens of other channels are basically reality-show factories these days. As for "American Idol," we're all still waiting for Fox and the producers to announce Steven Tyler, the Aerosmith singer, and performer Jennifer Lopez as the new judges. Actually, does anyone care anymore?

Big paycheck for "Big Bang Theory." Deadline Hollywood has the details on the new contracts for the stars of the CBS hit "The Big Bang Theory." Most interesting was how Warner Bros. TV, which makes the show, managed to get breakout star Jim Parsons to take the same deal as his co-stars. Initially, the Emmy winner had been holding out for a bigger deal, but Warner Bros. played hardball. The raises come in the wake of Warner Bros. selling repeats of the program to TBS. In other words, this is the reward for the last few years as much as it is a raise going forward.

They're back! The Weinstein Co., apparently trying to move on from founders Bob and Harvey Weinstein's unsuccessful effort to buy back Miramax from Walt Disney Co., has been making a splash at the Toronto International Film Festival. According to Variety, the Weinstein Co. picked up North American rights for a British coming-of-age comedy called "Submarine," its second purchase after springing for "Dirty Girl." Lionsgate has also been busy as it and specialty subside Roadside bought U.S. rights to Robert Redford's "The Conspirator," which is from new Chicago Cubs owner Joe Ricketts

Brother, can you spare a dime? Veteran movie banker Clark Hallren, who left JPMorgan last year to create Clear Scope Partners, has a grim financing forecast for the movie industry. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Hallren, who worked on the initial IPO for DreamWorks Animation, said "it's a good time not to be a banker." Why? Well, Hallren notes that foreign banks are not doing as many deals and the risks in the movie business have skyrocketed.

You say show, I say advertisement. An advocacy group is going after Nickelodeon, charging that one of its new shows is nothing more than an advertisement dressed up as a kids cartoon. The show, "Zevo-3," premieres on Nicktoons next month (actually the day after Hub, a new rival kids channel from Discovery and Hasbro, launches) and is based on characters that were created for a marketing campaign by the shoe company Skechers. The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood has sent a complaint to the Federal Communications Commission asking the agency to stop Nickelodeon from proceeding with the show. The FCC does have rules regarding advertising and kids programming, but Nickelodeon parent Viacom counters that although the characters of the show may have been inspired by the ads, it is not violating any government regulations. More on the skirmish from the New York Times.

Missing the point. The Hollywood Reporter has a story Thursday declaring that "fat is making a comeback in Hollywood" and suggesting that we can all "forget about" the super-skinny actresses that fill just about every show on broadcast and cable. What the story doesn't note is that most of these shows are reality shows about losing weight and that their overall message is that there is something wrong with the people on the show. Although obesity is a real issue, many of these shows are just exploiting people in the hopes of ratings. In other words, Hollywood is not suddenly embracing people who you can actually still see when they turn sideways.

Inside the Los Angeles Times: Sirius XM Chief Executive Mel Karmazin said he is confident that Howard Stern will sign a new deal with the satellite radio broadcaster. MGM got its seventh (that's right, seventh) forbearance on its debt payments. Lucas Cruikshank is building an empire with his Fred Figglehorn character.

-- Joe Flint

Follow me on Twitter because I said so: Twitter.com/JBFlint

Sirius XM CEO Mel Karmazin still confident Howard Stern will sign new deal

Sirius XM Chief Executive Mel Karmazin said he remains optimistic about signing a new deal to keep Howard Stern on the satellite radio service, but warned that should the shock jock bolt, some subscribers might leave with him.

Speaking at the Bank of America/Merrill Lynch Media, Communications & Entertainment Conference, Karmazin praised Stern, with whom he's worked closely for decades.

STERN "He's been a fabulous partner ... he has enabled companies to make a lot of money," Karmazin said. Stern's current contract expires at the end of the year, and he has, as he always does when one of his deals is nearing expiration, been dropping hints on his show that it may be time to walk away. Karmazin said he doesn't want to negotiate in public with Stern, but he noted that Sirius XM has successfully renewed several high-profile contracts recently, including those with Oprah Winfrey and Martha Stewart, and that he is "very confident" about getting Stern to stick around.

Stern sent shock waves through the radio industry in 2005 when left CBS Radio for Sirius. Karmazin, who has worked with Stern dating back to the 1980s at Infinity Radio and later at CBS, came to the satellite radio company soon after Stern made the leap. 

One of the reasons Stern left over-the-air radio for the satellite service, besides a huge pay day, was freedom from Federal Communications Commission regulations. Stern's radio show was often a target of the regulatory agency, which fined radio stations millions of dollars in connection with Stern's racy program. Stern has indicated that he does not have a desire to return to terrestrial radio. He could conceivably try to go solo and launch his own digital platform.

As for Sirius XM, which has almost 20 million subscribers, Karmazin downplayed the idea that there would be an exodus of subscribers should Stern leave.

"They may have come for Howard, they may love Howard ... but they listen to other channels," he said.

As for what Stern is looking for in a new deal, Karmazin would not divulge details, saying only that Stern is "compensated very fairly." When Stern joined Sirius in 2005, his contract was valued at $500 million, but that also included the costs of producing the show.

-- Joe Flint

Photo: Howard Stern. Credit: Evan Agostini / Associated Press

Clear Channel wants to kiss and make up with Howard Stern

When Howard Stern left terrestrial radio for satellite radio in 2006 he did his best to blow up his old relationships. Not only did he blast his former employer, CBS, and its boss, Leslie Moonves, regularly on the air, he also got into a legal tussle with radio giant Clear Channel Communications after it stopped carrying his show in the wake of a Federal Communications Commission crackdown on indecency.

Now though, Stern is toying with coming back to FM radio and Clear Channel might be the ones rolling out the welcome mat. BusinessWeek is the latest to weigh in on a story about Stern's next move and quotes Clear Channel radio head John Hogan saying "we would be the most logical company for him to optimize his exposure and financial return." It might be the only choice as well. Although Clear Channel is willing to forgive and forget about its rough past with Stern, CBS is less likely to want him back. Stern was particularly hostile to CBS and its chief executive, Moonves. That continued when he went to satellite radio as well.

HOWARD Stern was one of radio's biggest stars when he bolted for Sirius in 2006. His exit from so-called free radio was a big blow not only to CBS, but the industry overall. Stern was carried on almost 50 radio stations across the country. His show generated almost $100 million in advertising revenue and an additional $50 million in cash flow for CBS.

He was also one of radio's highest-paid personalities. At CBS, Stern's compensation was around $30 million (that included revenue from the show's syndication deals). When he went to Sirius, his paycheck hit the stratosphere. His package called for compensation of $100 million a year. That figure included salaries for his cast and crew but it still allowed him to take home about $50 million a year.

Sirius is run by Stern's old boss, Mel Karmazin. The two have been in business together for more than two decades, so one would think it would take a lot for Stern to jump back to FM radio when his contract is up at the end of this year.

Speaking at an investor conference last month, Karmazin gave a tongue-in-cheek preview of how his talks with Stern will go.

β€œIt will start with Howard feeling that he is working too hard and doing too many shows and not making enough money,” he said, adding that the response will be "we want you to do more, and get less money."

The terrestrial radio industry was already struggling when Stern left at the end of 2005 and the business has only gotten tougher. It is hard to imagine that Clear Channel would spend anything like what Karmazin spent to lure Stern to Sirius. Of course, considering that Sirius stock now trades for under a dollar, it is also unlikely that Karmazin can afford to keep Stern at his present salary much less give him a raise. 

Money may not be the only factor Stern considers when deciding his future. The plus side of Stern moving to satellite was that it freed him of scrutiny from the government. He can swear and have all the porn stars on his show that he wants. 

The flip side is that since going to satellite Stern has fallen off the cultural zeitgeist. He does not get the attention from the mainstream media and the general public that he used to command when he was on FM radio. And that's not something you can put a price tag on.

-- Joe Flint

Photo: Howard Stern. Credit: Stephen Lovekin / Getty Images


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