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Morning Media Newsfeed: Amazon, HBO Ink Deal | Net Neutrality on The Ropes | Mixed News for Gannett

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HBO Classics Coming to Amazon Prime (LostRemote)
Amazon is continuing its streaming-TV push, partnering with HBO on a multi-year deal to exclusively bring classic HBO shows to Amazon Prime subscribers, the two companies announced Wednesday. Variety Terms of the deal were not disclosed; it covers only the U.S. Under the agreement, Amazon has exclusive SVOD rights for select HBO programming and will make the first wave of it available to Prime subscribers beginning May 21. That includes full seasons of The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, The Wire, Big Love, Deadwood, Eastbound & Down, Family Tree, Enlightened, Treme, early seasons of Boardwalk Empire and True Blood, as well as miniseries like Band of Brothers and John Adams. GigaOM Some of HBO’s newer shows will also be available, with a substantial delay: “Previous seasons of other HBO shows, such as Girls, The Newsroom and Veep will become available over the course of the multi-year agreement, approximately three years after airing on HBO.” In addition, Amazon said that it will add HBO Go to its recently launched streaming video box, Fire TV — “targeting a launch by year-end.” New York Post HBO’s coveted content has long been kept beyond reach of outside content bundles like Amazon and Netflix, and only available to subscribers. Amazon’s win will surely be viewed as a loss for Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, who still dominates the bundled streaming space, but who also recently announced a price increase for new subscribers. Amazon also increased its prices, but is also seeking to expand its customer base with Fire TV. THR Amazon Prime also has exclusive online-only subscription deals for PBS’ Downton Abbey and Mr. Selfridge, CBS’ Under The Dome and upcoming Halle Berry-headlined miniseries Extant as well as 24, Veronica Mars, Orphan Black, The Americans and Justified. But it has had less success with its own original series; neither Alpha House nor Betas has achieved the pop culture significance of Netflix’s Kevin Spacey drama House of Cards.

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Morning Media Newsfeed: Pulitzers Announced | Google Buys Drone Maker | Relativity Eyes Maker Studios

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2014 Pulitzer Prizes Announced (FishbowlNY)
The Pulitzer Prizes celebrate the best of the best, and Monday we learned the latest recipients of journalism’s highest honor. TVNewser The Washington Post and the U.S. edition of The Guardian have won the award. They will share the Public Service award for their series of stories on NSA surveillance, as revealed by Edward Snowden, an NSA contractor who gave the top-secret information to the news organizations. The Pulitzer committee said the journalism was “marked by authoritative and insightful reports that helped the public understand how the disclosures fit into the larger framework of national security.” Politico Snowden immediately declared the decision “a vindication.” The reporting on the former government contractor’s leaks was led by journalists Glenn Greenwald and Ewan McAskill at The Guardian, Barton Gellman at the Post, and Laura Poitras, who worked with both newspapers. NYT The Boston Globe won the breaking news prize for its coverage of the Boston Marathon bombing, which killed three people and wounded at least 260. The Post won a second award, for explanatory journalism. Eli Saslow, 31, a staff writer, won for a series of articles on American families that rely on the federal food stamp program. GalleyCat Author Donna Tartt won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for her book The Goldfinch. The novel about an orphan also won Amazon’s Best Books of the Month “Spotlight Pick” in October 2013 and was shortlisted for 2013 National Book Critics Circle Award.

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Morning Media Newsfeed: Comcast Pleads Case | DirecTV Restores TWC | Breitbart Loses Whip

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As Comcast Takes Next Step in TWC Merger, Opposition Groups Band Together (TVNewser)
Comcast took the next step in its $45 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable Tuesday morning by filing a joint Applications and Public Interest Statement with the FCC. In a blog post about the filing, Comcast EVP David Cohen argued that the deal is good for consumers, especially current TWC customers. Those opposed to the deal, understandably, don’t think so. Fifty groups sent a letter to the attorney general and FCC chairman Tuesday asking that the deal be blocked. Capital New York The 650-page document filed with the FCC outlines the reasons Comcast believes the proposed merger with TWC would be in the public interest. Much of the document spelled out in granular detail arguments made by Comcast in its original announcement of the proposed deal, but there are some notable new takes. Comcast now sees itself as a tech company, in competition with Google, Facebook and Netflix just as much as traditional competitors like DirecTV and Verizon. Comcast argues that it doesn’t compete with TWC, as they do not operate in the same areas. Variety Critics have claimed the Comcast-TWC merger, which would create an entity that controls 30 percent of the country’s pay-TV market, is decidedly not in the public interest because it would result in fewer choices and higher prices for consumers. Moreover, the combination “could compromise the open nature of the Internet,” Sen. Al Franken told Justice Department officials last month. CNET Last week, Comcast filed a Hart-Scott-Rodino notification with the U.S. Department of Justice, which will begin the antitrust review of the merger. And on Wednesday, Cohen will testify about the merger before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. Now that the official filing has been made in the merger, which was announced in February, the FCC will have a self-imposed deadline of 180 days to review and make its decision. USA Today Facing a growing number of customers flocking to streaming video and content providers demanding more payment for programs, TWC agreed in February to be bought by Comcast for $45 billion. The acquisition would give Comcast access to key media markets that it has coveted, including New York and Los Angeles, and occupy about 40 percent of the Internet service market, or about 32 million customers.

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Morning Media Newsfeed: Facebook Buys Oculus | Atlantic Makes Changes | Amazon Credits eBooks

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Facebook Bets $2 Billion on Virtual Reality (Financial Times)
Facebook is making a $2 billion bet that virtual reality headsets will be the next big social platform after computers and smartphones, with the sudden acquisition of Oculus VR. The deal marks an unexpected move by the world’s largest social network into the hardware business, at a time when arch-rival Google is investing in robots, its own Google Glass headset and other long-term ventures. Facebook believes that virtual reality’s applications could extend beyond gaming into entertainment and education. AllFacebook The transaction is expected to close during the second quarter, and it is comprised of $400 million in cash, 23.1 million shares of Facebook class-A common stock (worth $1.6 billion based on the average closing price of $69.35 for the 20 trading days leading up to March 21) and $300 million in potential cash and stock based on reaching certain unspecified milestones. Facebook said in its announcement that more than 75,000 orders have been placed for Oculus Rift development kits, adding that it plans to help Oculus expand into verticals including communications and media. Adweek The Irvine, Calif.-based company’s Rift headset covers the eyes of users and plants them in a virtual reality world in which they can play games, watch movies and interact in new ways. GigaOM Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that he sees Oculus as an opportunity to move beyond the console and toward ubiquitous computing. He doesn’t expect Facebook to make money off of selling Oculus hardware; instead, it might become a ubiquitous world for communication that might contain advertising. “Imagine enjoying a court side seat at a game, studying in a classroom of students and teachers all over the world or consulting with a doctor face-to-face — just by putting on goggles in your home,” Zuckerberg explained. Bloomberg The deal follows a spate of acquisitions that Facebook has used to build up its mobile business. Last month, the company agreed to purchase messaging application WhatsApp for $19 billion. In 2012, Facebook bought mobile photo-sharing program Instagram for about $700 million. Facebook had $11.4 billion in cash and investments at the end of 2013.

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Morning Media Newsfeed: FiveThirtyEight Is Live | Sony Layoffs Begin | Carney to Resign?

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Statistician Nate Silver’s ESPN Site Kicks Off Amid Blog Frenzy (Bloomberg Businessweek)
Nate Silver, the New York Times blogger who jumped to ESPN last year, introduced his revamped FiveThirtyEight.com website Monday as more traditional media companies seek investments in online journalism. Poynter / MediaWire In an article welcoming readers, editor-in-chief Silver says the fact that he called the 2012 presidential election “was and remains a tremendously overrated accomplishment.” It only stood out “in comparison to others in the mainstream media,” Silver writes. Politico / Dylan Byers on Media The new site already features a number of articles and visualizations on topics ranging from the Crimean independence vote to the efficacy of toilet seat covers to Silver’s highly anticipated March Madness predictions. FiveThirtyEight will also produce podcasts and documentaries. GigaOM Silver said that he doesn’t want his site to replace or supersede traditional journalism, but to fill what he sees as a “need in the marketplace” for rigorous data-oriented journalism. The site’s logo, a stylized fox head, comes from what Silver says is an ancient Greek aphorism about how the hedgehog knows one large thing, while the fox “knows many small things.” Capital New York Remnants of Silver’s time as a data wonk at the Times remain. The site includes an archive of many, but not all, of the FiveThirtyEight articles published when it was a Times brand, dating back to 2009. Several are even bylined by the current head of the Times‘ impending data venture The Upshot: David Leonhardt. Times graphics editor Kevin Quealy also makes appearances in the archives, as well as Thomas Schaller, a professor of political science at the University of Maryland who contributed to the site when it was part of the Times, and Andrew Gelman, professor of statistics and political science at Columbia University. FishbowlDC FiveThirtyEight is back, baby. And for all of you in D.C. journo-land, this likely means you will have no jobs. The overwhelming and undeniable power of Nate Silver‘s math will render your quaint approaches to “newsgathering” as irrelevant as they are devoid of insight. Sorry.

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Morning Media Newsfeed: Buffett Eyes TV | NYT Hires Fashion Critic | WSJ Editor to Facebook

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Berkshire to Buy TV Station From Graham in $1.1 Billion Swap (Bloomberg Businessweek)
Berkshire Hathaway Inc. reached a deal to acquire a Miami television station and some of the company’s own shares in a $1.1 billion swap for Graham Holdings Co. stock that Warren Buffett held for more than four decades. Deadline New York Buffett’s stake accounted for about 23 percent of the voting shares in Graham as of the last proxy, out early last year. He will receive the ABC affiliate plus an unspecified amount of cash and shares that Graham owns in Berkshire Hathaway. Variety The pact marks a turning point for Berkshire and the Graham Holdings, the publicly held firm that changed its name from the Washington Post Co. after it sold its flagship newspaper to Amazon mogul Jeff Bezos last year. Berkshire had been an investor in Washington Post Co. since the 1970s, with Buffett having served as a board member of the publishing and TV station conglomerate. Poynter / MediaWire Berkshire Hathaway purchased most of Media General’s newspapers in 2012, and it’s added lots of newspapers since. Reuters reported in February that Berkshire Hathaway was in talks with Graham Holdings “to trade the shares it owns in the education and media company for control of a yet-to-be-formed unit of Graham.” Graham Holdings still owns TV stations in Detroit and Houston. NYT / DealBook Buffett has embarked on a late-in-life run as a media mogul of sorts, assembling a prospering portfolio that includes his hometown newspaper, The Omaha World-Herald. The deal will bring Berkshire its first television station, whose call sign refers to Philip L. Graham, Katharine Graham’s husband and her predecessor as the publisher of the Post. Perhaps most notably, however, the deal sharply curtails Buffett’s business ties to the Graham family. TVSpy “Warren Buffett’s 40-year association with our company has been extremely good for our shareholders. Naturally, the deal that we have put together is one that will be good for both companies,” said Donald E. Graham, chairman and CEO of Graham Holdings.

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Liz Heron Moves On to Facebook

LizHeronTwitterProfilePicFrom the Washington Post, to the New York Times, to the Wall Street Journal, to Facebook. As a Will Hunting might say to their journalism brethren, “How do you like them apples?”

This most impressive career progression has been restated and updated just now by Liz Heron via, appropriately enough, Facebook. She’s leaving her position as emerging media editor at WSJ for a job at the social network that will be centered around the news. From her post:

To my friends and colleagues at the Wall Street Journal: Your journalism makes everyone smarter, more informed (and often wittier too). Thank you for an incredible two years. To my team in particular: From Superstorm Sandy to the 2012 elections to major tech IPOS to the Boston bombing, we made social media sourcing/verification and reader participation a key part of our news report. We made huge strides in shareable visual storytelling, built a global social media presence, experimented with news start-ups and raised the profile of mobile journalism around our newsroom. You’re amazing. Keep it up.

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Morning Media Newsfeed: Court Orders Video Down | Former Editor Stabbed | TiVo Posts Profit

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YouTube Ordered to Take Down Anti-Muslim Film (The Associated Press / The Big Story)
A U.S. appeals court ordered YouTube on Wednesday to take down an anti-Muslim film that sparked violent riots in parts of the Middle East and death threats to the actors. The decision by a divided three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco reinstated a lawsuit filed against YouTube by an actress who appeared briefly in the 2012 video that led to rioting and deaths because of its negative portrayal of the Prophet Muhammad. U.S. News & World Report A trailer promoting the film was blamed for murderous rampages in Muslim-majority countries in 2012 and was initially cited by some U.S. officials as the cause of the Sept. 11, 2012, attack that killed U.S. ambassador Christopher Stevens in Benghazi, Libya. Time The appeals court found that the copyright of one of the stars of the video had been infringed upon because the actress, Cindy Lee Garcia, agreed to appear in something other than what was produced. The film, entitled Innocence of Muslims, depicted the prophet Mohammed as a liar and a child molester. “Garcia’s performance was used in a way that she found abhorrent and her appearance in the film subjected her to threats of physical harm and even death,” chief judge Alex Kozinski wrote for the majority court. The Verge It’s well established that most people involved in Innocence of Muslims had no idea they were appearing in a diatribe against Islam. Garcia was paid $500 for a bit part in sword and sandals movie Desert Warrior, but she later found her footage had been edited for the new film and overdubbed with one of the most controversial lines: “Is your Mohammed a child molester?”

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Morning Media Newsfeed: Olympics Ratings Down | So Long, Facebook Email | Tamron Hall Joins Today

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NBC Averages 21.4 Million Viewers for Sochi Olympics, Down From Vancouver (Variety)
While NBC and Nielsen are expected to release more detailed ratings information Tuesday, preliminary estimates show the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics averaging a strong 21.4 million viewers in primetime. While down 12 percent from the 24.4 million who watched on average during the more time zone-friendly Vancouver Games of 2010, it’s up 6 percent from the 20.2 million average for the last European Winter Games in Torino in 2006. The Associated Press The games are increasingly shutting off competition: 15 rivals’ programs, including Grey’s Anatomy, American Idol and Dancing With The Stars, had higher ratings while competing against the Olympics in 2006, Nielsen said. Four years ago, three programs (all American Idol) beat the games. This year there were none. NYT The Olympics also enriched NBC’s cable sports network, NBCSN, more than doubling the audience that watched the London Games to a daily average of 1.6 million, and boosting by nearly 1,800 percent the viewership that the network reaped in the four weeks leading to the Sochi Olympics. More important, live streaming of all Sochi’s events on desktops, smartphones and tablets became further ingrained among sports fans. Altogether, there were 61.8 million unique users streaming Sochi video from nbcolympics.com and by using apps like Live Extra, a figure that was up 29 percent from Vancouver. Deadline Hollywood The Closing Ceremony is now long over, the final numbers are in and NBC has hit a record — and not one they want. Sunday night’s 8:33 p.m. – 10:36 p.m. broadcast received an 8.7/13 household rating with 15.1 million viewers. That is the lowest household rating for a Winter Olympic Games Closing Ceremony ever — dipping just below previous record holder of Torino in 2006.

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Morning Media Newsfeed: Facebook Buys WhatsApp | First Look Hires Taibbi | Greenwald Vows Return

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Facebook’s Latest Acquisition? That’s WhatsApp! (AllFacebook)
After its unsuccessful bid for photo-messaging application Snapchat last November, reportedly valued at more than $3 billion, Facebook opened up the vaults and announced its acquisition of cross-platform mobile messaging company WhatsApp for $4 billion in cash and some $12 billion in Facebook shares, also announcing that WhatsApp co-founder and CEO Jan Koum will join Facebook’s board of directors. CNNMoney Buying WhatsApp will only bolster Facebook’s already strong position in the crowded messaging world. Messenger, Facebook’s standalone messaging app for mobile devices, is second only to WhatsApp in its share of the smartphone market. The Verge In a press release announcing the monumental buyout, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said, “WhatsApp is on a path to connect 1 billion people. The services that reach that milestone are all incredibly valuable.” He also shared news of the deal on his personal Facebook page, saying, “WhatsApp will complement our existing chat and messaging services to provide new tools for our community.” Over 450 million people use WhatsApp each month, according to statistics in the press release, with 70 percent of those users active on a given day. GigaOM Facebook is going to end up competing with apps like Line and WeChat in many markets for the consumer’s mobile minutes and WhatsApp gives the Menlo Park-based company a strong competitive weapon. While potential monetization remains a bit of a head scratcher, there are more options for the company to think about, like new native advertisements in the near future. Forbes Koum picked a meaningful spot to sign the $19 billion deal to sell his company WhatsApp to Facebook Wednesday. Koum, co-founder Brian Acton and venture capitalist Jim Goetz of Sequoia drove a few blocks from WhatsApp’s discreet headquarters in Mountain View to a disused white building across the railroad tracks, the former North County Social Services office where Koum, 37, once stood in line to collect food stamps.

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