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TV Business

Jeff Zucker: CNN To Be ‘Digital First’ Going Forward

CNN president Jeff Zucker spoke at Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech conference today.

A good chunk of the conversation (you can see the entire transcript here) was about topics we have covered, but Zucker did reveal that he believes CNN’s future is digital, not analog.

To that end, Zucker says they expect to add a number of “digital correspondents” in the coming months. Kelly Wallace was just the first of many.

You know, if you go back to the Boston bombings, more people learned about what happened in Boston from CNN than any other source in the world.  And that’s because they watched it on CNN.  They watched it on CNN International around the world, and they accessed it through CNN.com or CNN Mobile or any of our digital assets.

And I think that really is the future of CNN is we’re not going to care what screen you’re watching CNN on, as long as there’s a CNN red logo on whatever asset you’re accessing.  And to us, mobile is probably the most important part of our future, but digital as a whole is where we’re concentrating everything.

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Dispute Could See CBS Stations Pulled From Time Warner Cable

A dispute over retransmission fees could see Time Warner Cable customers lose access to CBS as soon as July 24. The two companies have gone public with the negotiations, having failed to come to a deal in the boardrooms.

If CBS does get pulled from Time Warner Cable, TWC customers in New York City, Los Angeles, Dallas and other markets will not be able to see “CBS This Morning,” “60 Minutes,” “The Late Show” and “CSI,” among other programs. Suffice it to say the ratings will suffer as a result, though for CBS, the most important thing is getting higher fees from the cable company.

CBS has launched a website, keepcbs.com, to get its point of view out, and both companies have taken out print ads (see photo above). The LA TimesJoe Flint has more details on the dispute.

The dispute–the latest in a strong of disputes over carriage and retrans fees–will adversely affect consumers no matter which company ends up winning. If CBS gets pulled, people won’t be able to watch shows they want to see (and if it keeps going, NFL football would be affected). If TWC pays CBS what it wants, the monthly price of cable service will go up even more.

For CBS News, it would also stymie the ratings progress made by “CBS This Morning” and the “CBS Evening News.”

21st Century Fox And News Corp. Trumpet ‘Day 1,’ As Independent Companies

Today, the company formerly known as News Corporation officially began trading on the public markets as two new companies: News Corp. and 21st Century Fox.

The former News Corp.’s TV assets, including Fox News, FX and Fox broadcasting, are now part of 21st Century Fox, alongside film production. The company’s newspaper and publishing holdings, as well as Dow Jones and Australian pay TV company Foxtel, are now the new News Corp.

To mark the occasion, mimosas were served at the News Corp. building as employees walked in. and the companies bought full page spreads in the Wall Street Journal (a News Corp. paper) and the New York Times.

Check out the ad(s), after the jump.
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CNN Targeting Younger Viewers To Attract New Advertisers

It is hardly a secret that cable news viewership skews old… sometimes very old. While viewers 55+ can goose total viewer numbers, the bottom line is that aside from somewhat shady gold dealers and certain male-enhancement pills, most advertisers prefer younger viewers. The TV news “key demo” is adults 25-54,” while most of the rest of TV sells adults 18-49.

According to Variety‘s Brian Steinberg, CNN is hoping to attract new advertisers for programs that it think will skew younger than its competitors. “Parts Unknown” is already vastly younger than msot cable news programs, and the network expect the same of “Inside Man” and the doc “Girl Rising.”

The subject matter drew ad dollars from Procter & Gamble’s Always feminine-hygeine products. Procter has advertised on CNN before, but this product had not, according to D’Alba. Likewise, MillerCoors has used the Bourdain program –centered on travel and food – to promote Leinenkugal, a craft wheat beer. The advertiser had not appeared on CNN in some time, D’Alba said.

“We are looking for more travel-related revenue. We are looking for more automotive, especially younger-skewing automotive, as well as the beverage categories,” D’Alba said.

Reading between the lines, don’t be surprised if CNN adds another travel program or two to its lineup at some point.

Then there is the new morning show “New Day,” which will have some sponsorship integration at launch from insurance company Allstate:
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News Corp. Board Approves Company Split

The board of News Corp. has formally approved the motion to split the company in two. News Corp.’s newspaper and publishing businesses, along with its Australian businesses, will become the new News Corp., while the company’s TV, film and studio businesses (including Fox News Channel) will now be part of 21st Century Fox.

“Today’s announcement is a significant step in creating two independent companies with the world’s leading portfolios of publishing and media and entertainment assets,” said Rupert Murdoch, who will serve as Chairman and CEO of the proposed 21st Century Fox, and Executive Chairman of the new News Corporation. “We continue to believe that the separation will unlock the true value of both companies and their distinct assets, enabling investors to benefit from the separate strategic opportunities resulting from more focused management of each division.”

The company also announced the board members for the new companies. More information here.

Senator John McCain’s Plan To Torpedo TV As We Know It

This afternoon Senator John McCain (R-AZ) introduced legislation (The Television Consumer Freedom Act of 2013) that would completely upend the television business.

There aren’t many things that can unite News Corp., Turner Broadcasting, NBC, CBS and Disney, but stopping this legislation is sure to be one of them.

In a nutshell, McCain’s legislation would allow cable, satellite and telco companies to unbundle TV channels, either selling them “a la carte” or in smaller bundles (think a “sports” bundle). It would also prohibit media conglomerates from shifting popular programming from free over the air networks to cable channels (think the NCAA basketball championship being shared between CBS, which is free, and Turner Sports, which is on cable).

McCain, speaking on the Senate floor, noted that the cost of cable has gone up 4X more than the purchasing power of U.S. consumers, thanks largely to the ever-increasing bundles which force cable companies to carry “Nat Geo Wild” if they want Fox News, or “Cloo” if they want USA Network.

“It is unfair and wrong, especially when you consider how the regulatory deck is stacked in favor of the industry, and against the consumer,” McCain said.

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NBCU Spent $195 Million To Buy Back Half Of MSNBC.com

Thanks to Comcast’s 10-K filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, we now know how much NBCUniversal spent to buy back the 50% of MSNBC.com that was owned by Microsoft.

The total purchase price for Microsoft’s stake was $195 million, “net of $100 million of cash and cash equivalents held at MSNBC.com that were acquired in the transaction,” according to the SEC filing.

The deal, which was signed last July, saw NBCU take control of the site and its employees, and redirected visitors to a new site called NBCNews.com. MSNBC.com is in the process of being transformed into a site dedicated to the politics-centric cable news outlet.

It is a fascinating deal because websites tied to TV operations are rarely if ever broken out financially. The purchase price means that Microsoft and NBCU valued MSNBC.com at around ~$500 million. It is not a perfect science, but general traffic stats have MSNBC.com slightly behind CNN’s digital properties, and almost double that of Fox News Channel’s digital properties. Obviously advertising sales and revenue models can vary from company to company, but it at least gives a ballpark estimate of the value of some of these digital properties.

How CNN Monetizes Breaking News

Whenever there is big breaking news, be it an inauguration or a cruise ship adrift, CNN’s ratings spike. AdWeek‘s Sam Thielman talks to CNN’s ad sales chief Greg D’Alba about what it takes to monetize those news stories.

Obviously news events that happen on a schedule, like an election or royal wedding, are the easiest sells.

“Some of the news events that occur are tough because of how graphic they can be and how life-changing they become,” D’Alba said. After all, you can’t exactly pitch Nokia on a spot about the death of Muammar Gaddafi, even though cellphones were directly involved. But D’Alba said that CNN doesn’t just sell on royal weddings and elections. “We have a good track record,” he said. “That makes it easier for our guys to represent the brand and the product in the marketplace.”

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TruTV Cutting In Session To Two Hours A Day

Turner Broadcasting’s truTV is cutting back on In Session, the channel’s daytime court news coverage, according to a spokesperson for the channel. Instead of airing live for six hours each weekday, In Session will now air for only two, and in a new format.

In Session currently airs from 9AM-3PM every weekday, but will shift to 9AM-11AM on March 4th. In Session anchor Vinnie Politan will anchor the new two-hour format. A handful of production positions have been eliminated.

In place of In Session, truTV will air replays of its primetime programs, along with acquired programming. The new lineup “is designed to provide a better flow into truTV’s early fringe and primetime lineup,” according to the spokesperson.

In Session is the last vestige of Court TV, which truTV replaced in 2008. In 2009 In Session shifted its production from New York to Atlanta, with HLN taking over programming responsibility for the block.

Comcast To Acquire Full Control Of NBCUniversal

Comcast will acquire control of 100% of NBCUniversal, buying General Electric’s 49% stake in the company for $16.7 billion. Comcast will also acquire the property that GE has at 30 Rockefeller Plaza and at CNBC’s headquarters in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey for an additional $1.4 billion.

By acquiring the property, it is likely that the GE logo that has adorned the top of 30 Rockefeller Plaza since 1988 will be replaced. Before being called the GE Building, it was known as the RCA building. According to CNBC’s Carl Quintanilla, Comcast will be getting the naming rights to the building in the deal.

“The management team at GE has been has been a wonderful partner during the past two years and their support has been very valuable,” said Comcast CEO Brian Roberts in a statement. “Our decision to acquire GE’s ownership is driven by our sense of optimism for the future prospects of NBCUniversal and our desire to capture future value that we hope to create for our shareholders.”

Comcast was expected to acquire full control of NBCU eventually, though the process was originally slated to begin in 2014. Now it appears the deal will be done in March.

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