Company Town
Hollywood & entertainment industry news
Time Warner Cable says 'yes' to arbitration to end Dodger TV standoff

Time Warner Cable is willing to let an arbitrator determine a fair price for SportsNet LA in the hopes of resolving its dispute with DirecTV and other pay-TV providers over distribution of the Dodger-owned channel.

"We prefer to reach agreements through private business negotiations, but given the current circumstance, we are willing to agree to binding arbitration," a Time Warner Cable spokesman said.

SportsNet LA launched earlier this year by the team is the exclusive local TV home for Dodger games. Time Warner Cable secured distribution rights for the channel in a 25-year deal worth $8.35 billion, according to a valuation by the Dodgers and Major League Baseball.

Other distributors are balking at the price Time Warner Cable wants to carry the channel. According to people close to the situation, Time Warner Cable is seeking more than $4 a month per subscriber in the first year with the price rising steadily through the life of the deal.

Time Warner Cable said it would agree to...

Read more
DreamWorks Animation hires ex-Disney executive Mark Zoradi as COO

DreamWorks Animation has promoted Ann Daly to company president and tapped former Disney executive Mark Zoradi as the studio's chief operating officer.

The Glendale company behind the "Shrek," "Kung Fu Panda" and "Madagascar" movies said the management changes were intended to help DreamWorks grow as an increasingly diversified family entertainment business.

The studio has been expanding its entry into television, consumer products other areas to lessen its dependence on producing animated feature films. After an uneven stretch at the box office, DreamWorks has vowed to be more selective about its choice of films and expand its business beyond the big screen.

DreamWorks also has been adding to its executive ranks. The company last year hired former Target and J.C. Penney executive Michael Francis to the newly created position of chief global brand officer.

The company also tapped former Nickelodeon executive Marjorie Cohn as its first head of television.

"As DreamWorks grows, we are...

Read more
Premiere of WGN America's 'Manhattan' draws in 1.8 million viewers

The series premiere of WGN America's second original drama, "Manhattan," drew 1.8 million viewers Sunday night across the network and on Tribune’s 14 metered market local stations.

Set in a top-secret lab in Los Alamos, "Manhattan" is a fictionalized retelling of the U.S. race to build the atomic bomb during World War II.

Though it aired in 33 local markets on the same night, WGN America only had data available for 14 of the markets as of Monday. Complete data will be available Friday.

The 70-minute premiere telecast at 9 p.m. delivered 904,000 total viewers, more than tripling the network's season-to date average of 300,000 among total viewers on Sundays during that same time slot. 

In the key 18- to 49-year-old demographic, the show had 233,000 viewers. The telecast ranks as WGN America's second-highest performance among total viewers year-to-date.

"We are extremely encouraged by the 1.8 million total viewers who tuned in to watch ‘Manhattan’ last night ... and the wide critical acclaim...

Read more
Sarah Palin launches online channel

Sarah Palin wants the Internet to “go rogue” with her.

On Sunday, the former governor of Alaska and 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee launched subscription-based “The Sarah Palin Channel” on online video platform “TV App,” or TAPP Platform.

“Tired of media filters? Well, so am I,” Palin Tweeted. “So, let’s go rogue together and launch our own member-supported channel.”

The channel, of which Palin serves as executive editor, is available for $9.44 per month or $99.95 a year. Active military members can subscribe free of charge.

Palin is not the first to take her political commentary to the web -- after his departure from Fox News in 2011, Glenn Beck launched GBTV, an online video channel, at

Beck then merged GBTV with, the right-leaning news site Beck founded in 2010. In 2012, Dish Network announced his 24-hour online news and opinion network would be available to its subscribers.

TAPP co-founders Jeff Gaspin, former chairman of NBC Universal...

Read more
Music streaming company Rhapsody hits 2 million subscribers

Rhapsody International, a streaming music company that competes with Spotify, has reached 2 million paying subscribers, it said late Monday.

The milestone for the Seattle company that owns Rhapsody and Napster comes as the firm looks to countries other than the United States for growth. The digital music stalwart last reported subscriber numbers in April, when it said it had 1.7 million after long declining to reveal specific numbers.

"The growth is really being driven by two things, and that's mobile and international," said Paul Springer, Rhapsody International's chief product officer.

Though the company, founded in 2001, was one of the first to embrace the idea of getting people to pay a monthly fee for on-demand access to music, Rhapsody is well behind Stockholm-based Spotify, which counts 10 million subscribers among its 40 million active users.

Rhapsody's on-demand streaming service costs U.S. users $10 a month.

The company, in an effort to compete directly with Oakland's Pandora...

Read more
Al Jazeera America's Gaza coverage boosts ratings

The crisis in Gaza has provided a ratings boost for Al Jazeera America.

Over the past two weeks, Al Jazeera America has seen its ratings grow by 30% compared with the previous four weeks. Its prime-time audience has jumped 40%.

Al Jazeera America, launched last August, has struggled to establish itself. While it has gotten critical acclaim for its journalism and recently won a Peabody Award, that has not translated into big ratings.

To be sure, Al Jazeera America still has a tiny audience compared with Fox News and CNN. Funded by the government of Qatar, Al Jazeera America has recently reduced staff. Earlier this month reporters and producers were told to exercise restraint when it comes to live shots that require costly satellite time. 

When it launched, Al Jazeera America said its focus was to cover the United States and it opened bureaus throughout the country. That its best numbers and greatest response from viewers is for coverage of an international crisis may give credence to...

Read more
TV ratings: 'Big Brother' boosts CBS to No. 1

CBS' "Big Brother" earned the No. 1 spot in Sunday's ratings, while ABC's competition show "Wipeout" took a plunge.

"Big Brother" made it to the top with a rating of 2.1 in the key 18-to-49-year-old demographic and roughly 6.5 million viewers, according to Nielsen ratings.

Though "60 Minutes" had a lower rating of 0.9 in the key demo, it was the most-viewed show overall with more than 7.6 million tuning in. "Unforgettable" and "Reckless" were No. 3 and No. 4 in overall viewers, with 6.3 million and 4.1 million, respectively. The network earned a rating of 1.2 in the key demo.

Encores of "Family Guy," which had a rating of 1.4, and "American Dad," which had a rating of 1.3, helped Fox earn second most watched network in the key demo.

On ABC, "Wipeout" earned a rating of 0.8 in the key demo, down 27% from last week. Singing reality show "Rising Star" didn't fare well with audiences either, down 10% from last week with a rating of 0.9. More than 3 million people tuned in to each show.


Read more
'Lucy' floors 'Hercules.' FCC asked to weigh in on Dodgers TV mess.

After the coffee. Before seeing how "Manhattan" did in the ratings.

The Skinny: I was on TV on Sunday and realized I look older than I feel. It may be time for an eye job. Since this is Hollywood, I'm sure there are plenty of people my readers can recommend who will do a good job. Today's roundup includes the weekend box office recap and Fox's latest effort to woo Time Warner shareholders.

Daily Dose: The seven lawmakers looking for the Federal Communications Commission to help get Dodgers  games on TV for all of Los Angeles (see below) may be disappointed. The FCC has shown little willingness to weigh in on or try to resolve disputes between programmers and distributors. However since Time Warner Cable, which distributes the Dodgers channel SportsNet LA, is in the process of being acquired by Comcast,  the agency might be more inclined to at least look at the situation.

No contest. "Lucy," the science fiction/action thriller starring Scarlett Johansson and Morgan Freeman, blew away...

Read more
FCC should help reach deal to end Dodgers TV standoff, lawmakers say

A group of Southern California lawmakers wants the Federal Communications Commission to broker a deal to end the bitter standoff between Time Warner Cable and other pay-TV providers over distribution of SportsNet LA, the new channel that is home to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Launched this year, SportsNet LA is not available in the majority of pay-TV homes in the Los Angeles market. Time Warner Cable secured rights to distribute the Dodgers-owned channel in a 25-year deal worth $8.35 billion, according to a valuation by the Dodgers and Major League Baseball.

Time Warner Cable has been unable to land carriage agreements with other distributors serving the market including DirecTV, Cox Communications, Charter Communications and Verizon FiOS. Only Time Warner Cable subscribers have access to the channel which means about 70% of the market has been unable to see Dodger games on TV except for the handful that have been nationally televised on Fox and ESPN.

At issue is the price Time Warner...

Read more
Box office: 'Lucy' outmuscles 'Hercules'

This weekend’s box office was an action-packed showdown between a drug-induced superhuman and a fearless Greek god. The drug-induced superhuman won.

Universal’s “Lucy” led the multiplex after it took in an impressive $44 million in its first weekend, according to studio estimates.

With “Lucy,” director Luc Besson (“La Femme Nikita,” “The Fifth Element”) continues to craft sophisticated, female-driven action.

The high-concept action flick stars Scarlett Johansson as Lucy, a party girl-turned-unwitting drug mule who after an accidental chemical overdose begins to utilize a higher percentage of her brain and gains metaphysical and intellectual powers. 

The R-rated film, which costars Morgan Freeman and cost $40 million to make, benefited from a sleek marketing campaign that attracted a mostly older audience (65% of ticket buyers were 25 and up) and was evenly split between male and female, according to exit-poll data.

That performance was more than enough for “Lucy” to trump Paramount...

Read more
Murdoch's 21st Century Fox selling stakes in two satellite TV firms

In a deal that enables Rupert Murdoch to amass a bigger war chest, 21st Century Fox Inc. is selling its stakes in two European satellite TV companies for $9.3 billion.

Fox's sale of its Italian and German pay-TV systems would provide the company with approximately $7.2 billion in cash — money that could be used to help finance a proposed takeover of Time Warner Inc. It is widely expected that Murdoch will make another run at Time Warner after the company rejected Fox's initial $80-billion offer.

Some analysts contend 21st Century Fox needs to increase its bid to above $90 billion.

"Fox reloads with cash," Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. media analyst Todd Juenger said in a research report. "Fox and Time Warner are now both engaged in posturing."

In a complicated deal announced Friday, Fox agreed to sell its interests in Sky Italia and Sky Deutschland to satellite TV service British Sky Broadcasting Group. Fox owns a 39.1% interest in BSkyB, which it plans to maintain.

The transaction marks...

Read more
Florida accuses former Digital Domain Media officers of fraud

The state of Florida has filed a lawsuit against the former officers of Digital Domain Media, accusing them of defrauding the state and local governments out of $82 million.

Digital Domain Media was the former owner of the Venice visual effects company co-founded by James Cameron, who directed "Titanic" and "Avatar."

The company filed for bankruptcy protection from creditors in September 2012 after incurring heavy losses and making a series of costly investments, including building an animation studio in Port St. Lucie that closed. The closing resulted in 280 layoffs.

Digital Domain also launched a new animation and digital arts institute in West Palm Beach, billed as a "pioneering public-private partnership" with Florida State University's College of Motion Picture Arts.

To finance its Florida expansion, Digital Domain Media secured a $20-million grant from the state and an additional $62 million in funds from St. Lucie and Palm Beach counties.

In a lawsuit filed this week, the...

Read more