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California Inc.: TV networks, eyeing big bucks, lay out prime-time plans for advertisers

California Inc.: TV networks, eyeing big bucks, lay out prime-time plans for advertisers
Major TV networks unveil their prime-time schedules to advertisers this week in New York. The networks sell the bulk of their commercial time in advance of the new season. (Getty Images/Brand X)

Welcome to California Inc., the weekly newsletter of the L.A. Times Business Section.

I'm Business columnist David Lazarus, and here's a rundown of upcoming stories this week and the highlights of last week.

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Trading resumes Monday after Wall Street had its best week since early March. Investors loved that President Trump's plans to rein in drug prices won't pose any immediate threats to healthcare company profits. Not sure patients feel the same way.

LOOKING AHEAD

TV guide: Major TV networks unveil their prime-time schedules to advertisers this week in New York. The networks sell the bulk of their commercial time in advance of the new season. Analysts are predicting ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and CW will take in commitments valued at more $20 billion.

Retail bellwether: Macy's reports its fiscal first-quarter earnings Wednesday, and analysts will be looking to see how well the major retailer is dealing with shifting consumer-shopping trends. After announcing plans to close about 100 stores nationwide, Macy's same-store sales turned positive in the fourth quarter after years of declines.

CBS confab: Broadcasting giant CBS, which is mulling a merger with Viacom, will hold its annual shareholders meeting in New York on Friday. Analysts will be watching for indications that recent squabbles between the two sides have been resolved.

Pool, Dead Pool: Your friendly neighborhood red-clad antihero returns to the multiplex this weekend. "Deadpool 2," 20th Century Fox's sequel to the 2016 smash hit, stars Ryan Reynolds and is projected to debut to about $140 million domestically.

THE AGENDA

In the race to start the world's first driving business without human drivers, everyone is chasing Alphabet Inc.'s Waymo. The Google sibling has cleared the way to beat its nearest rivals, including General Motors Co., by at least a year. A deal in January to buy thousands of additional Chrysler Pacifica minivans, which get kitted out with sensors that can see hundreds of yards in any direction, puts Waymo's lead into stark relief. No other company is offering for-hire rides yet, let alone preparing to carry passengers in more than one city this year.

STORY LINES

Here are some of the other stories that ran in the Times Business section in recent days that we're continuing to follow:

Pump pain: For American consumers, the effect of President Trump's announcement Tuesday that the U.S. would pull out of the Iran nuclear deal was already apparent at their local service stations days ago. Gas prices nationally have climbed about 11% since March, reflecting the possible move to reimpose sanctions on the world's fifth-largest oil producer. More price hikes could be on the way.

Weinstein auction: Lantern Capital Partners, a Dallas private equity firm, won the assets of the once high-flying Weinstein Co. studio. Lantern's $310 million bid and its agreement to assume about $115 in liabilities was approvd by a Wilmington, Del., bankruptcy court judge. The independent studio filed for Chapter 11 protection in March after dozens of sexual harrassment and assualt accusations against co-founder Harvey Weinstein.

Destination L.A.: A record number of tourists injected $22.7 billion into the L.A. County economy last year, countering fears that a strong dollar and tough rhetoric from the White House might scare off international tourists.The county hosted 41.2 million domestic visitors and 7.3 million international visitors in 2017, a 2.6% increase over 2016 — the seventh straight year of new highs, according to the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board.

Big mistake: AT&T Inc. chief Randall Stephenson said that the phone giant committed a "serious misjudgment" in hring President Trump's personal attorney and fixer as a political consultant in 2017. AT&T paid Michael Cohen $600,000 to smooth the way for the federal government's approval of AT&T's proposed $85-billion takeover of Time Warner Inc. Bob Quinn, the company's chief lobbyist, is retiring in the wake of the Cohen controversy.

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Profit hit: Fed Chairman Jerome H. Powell has decided Wells Fargo & Co. will have to receive formal approval from the Federal Reserve Board of Governors before its growth restriction is lifted — a move that could extend the cap and cut into the bank's profits. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) had pushed for a board vote on the stiff penalty, which was imposed due to the San Francisco bank's accounts scandal and other consumer abuses.

WHAT WE'RE READING

And some recent stories from other publications that caught our eye:

Brand new bag: The Wall Street Journal checks in on Blythe Masters, the Wall Street exec who helped pioneer credit default swaps, which played a pivotal role in nearly destroying the global economy prior to the Great Recession. "Now, the former JPMorgan Chase & Co. executive is focusing on another potentially transformative but unproven idea: blockchain, the technology underpinning bitcoin."

No respect: The New York Times examines the multibillion-dollar Silicon Valley Community Foundation and doesn't like what it sees. "Inside the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, which counts 'inclusiveness,' 'integrity' and 'respect' among its core values, a toxic culture festered for years, recently setting off a crisis that has now claimed three top executives."

Tech checks: Wondering how much techies get paid? Wired has some answers. "The median employee at Amazon made $28,446 last year, according to new disclosures required by the Securities and Exchange Commission. At Facebook, the median employee made $240,430, more than eight times as much."

Pod squad: Bloomberg spotlights scooter-sharing startup Lime, which is developing a new breed of shared electric vehicles, called pods. "Unlike Lime's scooters, which tend to end up littering the sidewalks and exasperating the non-scooting public, unused pods would be parked in street parking spots … Two or three of them would fit into a single spot."

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SPARE CHANGE

Behold your new robot overlord, courtesy of Skynet — er, Boston Dynamics.

For the latest money news, go to www.latimes.com/business. Mad props to Laurence Darmiento and Scott J. Wilson for helping put this thing together.

Until next time, I'll see you in the Business section.

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