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Morning Media Newsfeed: TV Station Mega Merger | Pakistan Censors NYT | Apple Taking on Spotify?

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TV Station Mega Merger: Media General, LIN Set $1.6 Billion Deal (Variety)
Station groups Media General and LIN are poised to merge in a $1.6 billion cash and stock deal that will create the nation’s second-largest pure-play broadcast group. With LIN’s roughly $1 billion in debt included, the deal has an enterprise value of $2.6 billion. TVSpy The deal will bring together 74 stations which are either owned or operated by the two companies in 46 markets. Combined, the new company’s stations will reach 23 percent of U.S. TV households. THR The deal is the latest in the ongoing consolidation of the TV station business as broadcasters have looked for scale to strengthen them in dealings with networks and pay-TV operators and the like. Poynter / MediaWire It is just the latest in a flurry of acquisitions and mergers in the TV industry that has seen Belo broadcast and Gannett merge and earlier, Media General and Young Broadcasting combined forces. Other players including Meredith, Journal, Tribune, NBC Universal and Sinclair have been recent buyers, too. WSJ Greater scale should help the combined company garner higher revenue from fees it charges pay-TV providers to carry its signal, known as retransmission fees. It should also gain leverage in negotiations with media companies. These factors, plus the ability to expand LIN’s digital advertising business and savings from corporate overheard, underpin the companies’ projected $70 million in run-rate synergies over three years.

Pakistan Erases an Entire International New York Times Cover Story (The Verge)
Saturday’s edition of The International New York Times was stripped of its cover story in Pakistan. Instead of seeing a lengthy report on “What Pakistan Knew About bin Laden,” readers were greeted with an enormous section of white space that dominated the paper’s front page. Mediaite In the piece, Carlotta Gall, who has reported from Afghanistan since around 2001, proposes that the Pakistani government not only knew about Osama bin Laden‘s whereabouts for years, but had a desk assigned to handle him. Bloomberg The story was censored by the publisher’s printing partner in that country. The article, a 4,800-word excerpt from a forthcoming book by Gall to be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt next month, appeared in The New York Times Magazine in the U.S. and was intended as a front-page article of the International New York Times. While the story appears on most copies of the international edition, it doesn’t show up in papers distributed in Pakistan, about 9,000 copies, according to the publisher. The Times’ Pakistan printer, part of the Express Tribune newspaper in that country, removed the article without its knowledge, according to Times spokeswoman Eileen Murphy. NYT The partner was recently the subject of an attack by an extremist group, Murphy said. Though the article appeared to have been excised from all copies of the newspaper distributed in Pakistan, the story seemed to be available to Pakistani readers online, Murphy said. Pakistan remains a dangerous place for reporters, with at least 46 killed there in the last decade, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, an advocacy group.

Apple Mulls Launching Spotify Rival, Android App as Downloads Decline (Billboard)
Apple has opened exploratory talks with senior label executives about the possibility of launching an on-demand streaming service that would rival Spotify and Beats Music, according to three people familiar with the talks. Apple is also thinking about adding an iTunes app for Android phones, the Google rival that has been growing faster than the iPhone, these sources said. SocialTimes The talks are part of a range of efforts to support the iTunes Store after seeing double-digit declines in U.S. download sales. Other initiatives might include creating exclusive digital versions of album releases that would go on sale ahead of CD releases, promoting more catalog titles and making the store easier to shop. Mashable Such a move on Apple’s part would make sense, considering recent trends. According to a January report from Nielsen, overall U.S. music sales are down by 6.3 percent, but music-streaming services have grown by 32 percent since 2012. The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry released on Tuesday a report that said global revenues from subscription- and advertising-supported streams are now responsible for 27 percent of digital revenues, a 14 percent increase from 2011. GigaOM Apple made a first step towards music services when it launched iTunes Radio last year, but a paid subscription service would go significantly further. The idea that Apple would build an Android app for iTunes seems just as controversial. Sure, Apple did bring iTunes to Windows, but that move was largely meant to increase iPad and iPhone sales. An Android app wouldn’t have such a clear purpose, and be more of an admission that around the world, Android handset sales have been stronger than iPhone sales.

MSG Buys 50 Percent Stake in Tribeca Enterprises (Variety)
Tribeca Enterprises will sell a 50 percent stake to another New York City showbiz giant, the Madison Square Garden Company. The deal, which values Tribeca at $45 million, comes on the heels of MSG Productions’ announcement Friday that Radio City’s new Rockettes show, “Heart and Lights,” was canceled less than a week before its opening. It will be delayed until at least 2015. NYT The deal, which the partners announced on Saturday, brings together two of New York’s highest-profile show business brands, one wrestling with ambitions that it has never quite been able to achieve on its own — Tribeca — and the other a deep-pocketed sports and live entertainment company that is also looking to expand. Bloomberg Businessweek The partnership plans to capitalize on MSG’s collection of entertainment venues, including New York’s Madison Square Garden and Radio City Music Hall, and marketing skills to expand the festival and the brand, according to the companies. Separately, MSG is trying to sell Fuse, its music cable channel. Interested buyers include Sean “Diddy” Combs and NuvoTV, which is backed by Jennifer Lopez, people with knowledge of the matter said on March 14.

The Day Twitter Music Died (WSJ / Digits)
Twitter said it would pull its Music app from Apple’s App Store Friday. If you’ve already downloaded the app, the full service shutdown will occur on April 18, exactly one year after its release. The Verge The app, which attempted to harness conversations around music and artists on Twitter to create a new way to discover music, failed to peel listeners away from the many competing music apps on the market. Billboard One initial problem with the music platform was its lack of breadth in Twitter Music’s recommendations. It served up two sets of recommendations: one based on what was trending on Twitter and another based on software created by Australian startup We Are Hunted that mined the Web to seek out hot new bands favored by music critics but not yet widely known.

60 Minutes Producer Adrian ‘Clem’ Taylor Dies at 60 (CBS News)
Adrian “Clem” Taylor, a television news producer who recently won a Peabody and an Emmy for an uplifting 60 Minutes segment about an improbable orchestra in the heart of the Congo, died Friday. TVNewser Taylor, 60, had been battling pancreatic cancer since last May and passed away at a hospital in Newark, NJ. “Clem was a wonderful man, a great friend to so many of us, and a world-class producer,” said Jeff Fager, 60 Minutes executive producer and the chairman of CBS News. The Wrap Taylor spent nearly 20 years at CBS News, the last four with 60 Minutes. He held a variety of producing jobs in the news division, rising to senior producer for The Early Show in the late 1990s. Before that, he served as a producer in Washington, Dallas and New York. He covered the White House during the Reagan administration.

Turkey Strengthens Twitter Ban, Institutes IP-Level Block (The Washington Post / The Switch)
After Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan banned Twitter in the country late Thursday night, many local users found ways to circumvent the restrictions. But getting around the ban is becoming more difficult, as the government appears to have changed up its technical strategy for blocking the social media platform. Mashable At first, the edict seemed to be enforced only by a DNS block, which forwarded users who tried to access Twitter to another page. To circumvent the ban, many locals manually changed their DNS server, an act of rebellion that compelled many people to graffiti surfaces all over Istanbul. However, these alternative DNS options have now been blocked. What’s more, researchers said that any IP addresses associated with Twitter’s servers can no longer be reached to begin with. Other alternative options for accessing Twitter have included tweeting via SMS or using a VPN or Tor, and it does not appear that any of these methods have yet been affected by the most recent restrictions. Bloomberg Businessweek / AP Erdoğan has confirmed that he gave the orders to shut down Twitter in Turkey. At a campaign event in Istanbul Sunday ahead of March 30 municipal elections, Erdoğan said he had given the order because Twitter was not obeying Turkey’s laws. Previously, the Turkish government said that the telecommunications authority had blocked Twitter on court orders. However, the move came shortly after Erdoğan threatened to “rip out the roots” of the website.

Jason Sarlanis Tapped as VP Alternative at ABC (THR / The Live Feed)
ABC exec VP alternative Lisa Berger is fleshing out her team. The executive, who replaced John Saade at the network in September, has tapped former E! executive Jason Sarlanis as VP alternative. In his new post, Sarlanis will oversee all development activities and current primetime programming in the alternative department. He’ll report to Berger, with whom he worked at E!, where she served as entertainment programming president. Variety Sarlanis previously was senior VP of unscripted development at Ryan Seacrest Prods., where he managed the company’s largest franchise, Keeping Up With The Kardashians. Prior to Ryan Seacrest Prods., Sarlanis was VP of original programming and series development for E!, where he oversaw shows like The Soup and The Girls Next Door.

‘NCAA March Madness Live’ Scoring Big Digital, Mobile Traffic for Turner Sports (LostRemote)
Sports fans across the country have engulfed themselves in March Madness, and Turner Sports is benefiting in a big way. In the first three days of the NCAA college basketball tournament, “NCAA March Madness Live” drew 21 million live video streams online and on mobile. The traffic was up 42 percent vs. 2013, and there had been more than 4 million hours of live video watched, up 18 percent. Deadline Hollywood CBS Sports and Turner Sports’ exclusive coverage of the 2014 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament across TBS, CBS, TNT and truTV scored the highest rating for the opening Thursday since the tourney expanded to four telecast windows for the entire day in 1991.

Once A Hit, Its Ratings Make Idol an Also-Ran (NYT)
The fall of the house of Idol continues unabated this season, despite the introduction of improved production values on the show and an appealing new lineup of judges. A onetime ratings juggernaut, American Idol on the Fox network hit a new ratings low last week, one that would have seemed incomprehensible even two years ago. American Idol sank below the 2.0 ratings barrier, scoring a 1.9 in the group that Fox sells to advertisers, viewers between the ages of 18 and 49. That 1.9 figure — which will improve somewhat when delayed viewing is counted — is surely a psychological blow to the series, which once routinely hit a double-figure rating in that 18-49 category.

More Layoffs Strike Sony’s Film Studio as Texas Office Closed (THR)
In another round of layoffs, Sony Pictures Entertainment is closing its Texas distribution office, which coordinated a film’s release with theaters in the middle of the country. Employees in the Texas outpost, numbering roughly 15, have been told the office will be shuttered as of early June. Layoffs also are expected in the accounts receivable office in Los Angeles that takes in revenue from exhibitors. Every other major studio besides Universal already had closed its Texas distribution office, instead dividing those duties between executives working in Los Angeles and New York.

Nigel Sinclair, Guy East Formalize Exits at Exclusive Media, Marc Schipper New CEO (Deadline Hollywood)
Exclusive Media co-chairmen/CEO Nigel Sinclair and Guy East have finalized their exits and Marc Schipper has taken the reins as new Exclusive CEO. Insiders say that Sinclair and East will resurface very quickly with White Horse Pictures, a company that will focus on the production of quality feature films and TV programming. The duo had been on the outs with the company’s majority owners, who no longer wanted to take big bets in the production business after a few films didn’t hit. Backed by the Dutch investment fund Dasym Investment Strategies, Exclusive has laid off most of its production department, but it has a strong library of more than 1,000 and will move forward primarily as a library and sales company.

The Great Canadian Newspaper Exodus (Politico / Dylan Byers on Media)
Imagine if the editors-in-chief at The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Associated Press all stepped down or resigned in the span of a week. That’s effectively what’s happening in Canada right now. On Wednesday, The Globe And Mail announced that editor-in-chief John Stackhouse would be replaced by David Walmsley, the head of news at television channel CBC. On Thursday, National Post editor-in-chief Stephen Meurice shocked the newsroom with an abrupt departure, leaving vice president Gerry Nott to take over in the interim. And on Friday, Scott White, the editor-in-chief of The Canadian Press, ended his 35-year career with the company and joined PostMedia. None of these departures are connected.

Afghan Journalists to Boycott News About Taliban (Mashable)
Afghan journalists have a message for the Taliban: Trying to drum up media coverage of their terror campaigns by murdering civilians will not work anymore. That’s according to a group calling itself “the gathering of Afghan journalists,” which issued a statement in response to the death of AFP journalist Sardar Ahmad. Gunmen stormed the Serena Hotel Thursday evening armed with small handguns, killing nine civilians including Ahmad, his wife and two of their children. In a statement posted across the Internet on Friday, journalists responded with grief and defiance: “…the journalism family in Afghanistan, in a collective decision, has decided to boycott coverage of news related to the Taliban for a period of 15 days, refraining from broadcasting any information that could further the Taliban’s claimed purpose of terror.”

David Eldridge Leaves TWT for Roll Call (FishbowlDC)
In a letter to staff, Roll Call editor-in-chief Christina Bellantoni announced the hiring of David Eldridge away from The Washington Times, where he had been assistant editor on the politics desk. She also announced several promotions and newsroom re-organizations. Eldridge, who starts his new gig on March 31, will now serve as Roll Call‘s House editor. He will work with Emma Dumain, Dan Newhouser and Matt Fuller on the “218” blog and be their main point of contact for short- and long-term projects.

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Mediabistro Chats

What do you think? The AP says ‘over’ and ‘more than’ are now interchangeable: http://mbist.ro/OI2TDY  (via @PRNewser)

twitter AGillhoolley I am more than joyed

twitter Debra Baker Sorry. Going to stay old school about this one.

twitter Joan Palmeri The rules are so more than whelming!

twitterMeaghan Walsh Gerard NO! For the same reason that “fewer” and “less” are not the same!

twitter aparnamuk Had a recent convo with a colleague about why over is NOT #APStyle…I give in/up!

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