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AT&T and Time Warner's CEOs Explain the Benefits of Their $85 Billion Merger

Mon, 24 Oct 2016 13:17:58 +0000

After a whirlwind weekend in which AT&T announced its $85 billion deal to acquire Time Warner, the companies' two CEO sat down to explain what it all means. In the megamerger, the telecommunications powerhouse will buy Time Warner for $107.50 per share, or about $85 billion, half in stock, half in cash. The new behemoth will combine Time Warner's hefty film and TV properties (including Warner Bros., HBO, TNT, TBS and CNN) and AT&T's robust broadband (U-Verse), wireless (AT&T) and satellite (DirecTV) offerings. AT&T chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson and Time Warner chairman and CEO Jeff Bewkes appeared on CNBC's Squawk Box this morning to talk about the deal, which stems from a lunch they had together two months ago. "We meet regularly and we were talking about what's happening in media," including SVOD [subscription video on demand] and the increase in mobile consumption of video, said Bewkes. "We realized that if we had ourselves together, that we could create more innovations for consumers." The deal came together quickly because "once you get conviction, and you agree on what the deal should look like, you move. And that's what we did," said Stephenson. One of the biggest advantages of the merger will be more effectively targeted advertising. "There's going to be basically more effective advertising, so it won't be as disruptive. You'll have more efficiency there. And that means that more of the cost of all the great programming that's on TV can be borne by advertising and it can be advertising that's useful to you, rather than something you're not interested in," said Bewkes. "Last year, more than half of the growth of advertising in the United States went to two companies, Google and Facebook. We need to increase competition for advertising across television, internet companies," Bewkes continued. "When you do that, what you end up with is more of the burden being born by advertising companies, less of it being borne by consumer." The deal is all about speed. "The world of distribution and content is converging, and we need to move fast," said Stephenson. AT&T wants to curate content differently for mobile environments, and give consumers the ability to make clips of content and share it quickly via social media. As a result of the merger, "we're going to be pushing really, really hard to innovate and iterate much faster," said Stephenson. He expects the demand in this mobile environment to drive demand for his company to invest in 5G, which will deliver 1 GB speeds in mobile technology. "We could have a viable nationwide competitor to … Comcast," he added. Because of the added competition, "If I'm an advertiser, I love this. If I'm a content creator, I love this," said Stephenson. The companies anticipate that it will take a year for the merger to win the necessary regulatory approval. "The nature of this deal is unique from anything we've done before in that it's a vertical integration," said Stephenson, noting that most of the deals that haven't survived regulatory scrutiny have been horizontal mergers. "This has none of that. There are no competitors being taken out of the marketplace." Six years ago, said Stephenson, the biggest regulatory issues surrounding the Comcast/NBCUniversal merger were the government's efforts to preserve net neutrality and protect over the top players. Now, net neutrality is "done," he said. "On OTT, I somehow think Netflix is going to make it. … Amazon just might make it too." Stephenson said the reports that indicate AT&T would restrict access to Time Warner content to outside companies are "nonsensical," given that AT&T is buying Time Warner specifically because of its broad content distribution. Constricting that "makes no economic sense." Both men said they hope all of Time Wa[...]

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AT&T Has Reached a Deal to Acquire Time Warner. Now What?

Sat, 22 Oct 2016 20:34:33 +0000

After a report just two days ago that AT&T and Time Warner had engaged in "informal" talks about a possible merger, the two companies have reached a deal in which the telecommunications powerhouse will buy Time Warner for $107.50 per share, or about $85 billion, half in stock, half in cash. The deal was officially announced tonight in a video message from Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes.  "The driving force," said Bewkes, "is not cost savings it's growth opportunity." The new behemoth will combine Time Warner's hefty film and TV properties (including Warner Bros., HBO, TNT, TBS and CNN) and AT&T's robust broadband (U-Verse), wireless (AT&T) and satellite (DirecTV) offerings. AT&T has a market capitalization of around $230 billion, while Time Warner is valued at $70 billion. It's the biggest media merger since Comcast's acquisition of NBCUniversal in 2013. After AT&T's unsuccessful attempt to acquire T-Mobile in 2011, the company shifted its focus to video, acquiring DirecTV last year for $48.5 billion. As TV viewing habits have rapidly shifted in recent years, owning content is becoming even more important than distributing it, and AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson had been looking to add more original content. The Time Warner deal offers a variety of intriguing possibilities to entice cord cutters, cord shavers and cord nevers. Bewkes acknowledged as much tonight, saying it was a driving force behind a deal.  "This combination is going to put us in an even stronger position to go where our audiences are going," he said. "Joining forces with AT&T gets us, and them, there faster and better than either of us could do on our own." Assuming the deal withstands regulatory scrutiny, many questions surround the new company that comes out of the surprise megamerger. Here are three of the biggest: How will the combined content portfolio be organized? While Time Warner has the bulk of the film and TV properties, the new company will have to decide what to do about AT&T's Audience Network, which is available to DirecTV and U-Verse subscribers but offers many shows—like mixed-martial-arts drama Kingdom—that would seem right at home on the rebranded, grittier TNT. Its various sports deals will also require attention. Turner has long-term rights to March Madness, NBA and MLB games, and had early talks with the NFL about this season's Thursday Night Football package, which was ultimately split between CBS and NBC. But the combined company also has DirecTV's lucrative NFL Sunday Ticket package. AT&T will have to determine whether those sports deals are more valuable separately—NFL Sunday Ticket is a major contributor to DirecTV's subscriber base—or together, where they power a sports network offering that could go head-to-head with ESPN. AT&T might want to look at how Comcast successfully merged its own networks (E!, Golf Channel and what was then called Versus) into NBCUniversal's portfolio. No matter how things shake out, Peter Chernin, who previously ran Fox Broadcasting, 20th Century Fox Television and Fox Filmed Entertainment, could take on a major role overseeing the combined companies' content operations, according to the Hollywood Reporter. In 2014, Chernin Group formed a joint venture with AT&T called Otter Media to create and acquire media and digital brands. Will the company want dueling streaming skinny bundles? The interest in over-the-top—or OTT—services has intensified as companies look to entice the 20 million U.S. households without a pay TV subscription. The new company will find itself with competing streaming services offering skinny bundles of network and cable channels, both of which are expected to launch within in the next several months. Time Warner bought a 10 percent stake in Hulu last August, and as part of that deal, the company's Turner portfolio of netw[...]

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Presidential Debates Set Ratings Records in 2016, but Does the Format Need to Change?

Sat, 22 Oct 2016 15:03:13 +0000

The results are in, and 2016 delivered the most viewers of any presidential debate cycle in U.S. TV history. Wednesday's third and final debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump brought in 71.6 million viewers, making it the third-most-watched debate ever, behind only Clinton-Trump I (84 million) and Jimmy Carter-Ronald Reagan on Oct. 28, 1980 (80.6 million). The three Clinton-Trump debates and the Tim Kaine-Mike Pence vice presidential debate delivered a total of 259 million viewers, per data from Nielsen Media Research. The 1992 debate cycle held the previous record, with 250 million viewers watching the three George H. W. Bush-Bill Clinton-Ross Perot debates, and the Dan Quayle-Al Gore-James Stockdale vice presidential debate.  "These presidential and vice-presidential debates were appointment television, and advertisers took advantage of the huge audiences that tuned in to watch them live," Fox News vp of eastern sales Dominick Rossi told Adweek. "Many of the movie companies promoted their latest releases. Much like the Super Bowl, multiple clients launched new campaigns during these debates." Rossi also noted that advertiser feedback for Fox News has been positive. "Clients were thankful that their spots were positioned so close to the start and end of the debates, thus reaching the largest audiences possible," he said. "And the praise keeps pouring in for Chris Wallace for how well he moderated the final debate, which is the source of great pride for everyone in the company." More people watched the final Clinton-Trump debate on Fox News Channel than on any other network.  Interest in cable news is as high as it's ever been, and that trend showed up in debate viewership. A total of 91.7 million viewers watched the four debates across CNN, Fox News and MSNBC in 2016. That's a 10.5 percent rise from the networks' 2012 total of 83 million and a 3 percent increase over 2008 (89 million). Why the improvement? "Cable news wasn't quite as partisan eight or 12 years ago as it is now, and each network is bringing an opinionated, devoted audience to these debates," said Al Tompkins, senior faculty for broadcast and online at Poynter. "I think that's why you have seen ratings for cable through the roof." But how was Clinton-Trump 2016 able to attract so many viewers considering all the other programming options out there? "One of the major ingredients here is uncertainty and unpredictability," Tompkins said. "In previous elections, you think you probably know where the race is and what the people are going to do. That's not the case here, and that makes for compelling TV." While ratings have been great, some think The Commission on Presidential Debates should make some changes to the format for 2020. "They need to do away with the town-hall format," said Tompkins. "Journalists like Chris Wallace can sit there and ask hard-hitting questions that matter, as opposed to asking, 'What do you admire in the other person?' That's an interesting sound bite, but not very illuminating." Like many, Tompkins also supports doing away with a live audiences in debate halls. But there also are positives to the current debate format. "They give insight into a person's character, a tiny peak into whether or not a person can hold it together when things aren't going well," Tompkins said. "Regardless of how rehearsed they might be, debates have historically given us a glimpse into someone when the heat is on, and I think that's important." Whether or not debate format changes are made in 2020 remains to be seen. Even though we may never see two more polarizing and recognizable candidates again, interest and viewership of televised debates will almost certainly continue to be high. Hopefully that interest translates into people heading to the polls on Nov. 8. [...]

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Randi Zuckerberg Hopes to Battle Inequality in Silicon Valley With Her New Kids Show

Fri, 21 Oct 2016 19:33:20 +0000

"I've spent a decade in Silicon Valley," said Randi Zuckerberg. "Innovation is everywhere. It's supposed to be the center of forward thinking. [So] why can I count the number of women executives on one hand? Or people of color?" At Thursday's premiere event for Zuckerberg's new television show Dot, based on her children's book of the same name, she discussed everything from inequality in the industry to the right way for kids to use new technology. Press were invited to bring their children to the event. As a result, there were milkshakes dripping and mini burgers in hand as Zuckerberg streamed an episode of the show. Attendees could also don wigs for a GIF photobooth, or pose for a snap on the pink carpet. Coloring books, and tablets loaded with coloring book technology, were also provided for the kids to play with. Dot, in the book and now as a TV character, is a tech-savvy young girl. She taps and types, shares and swipes, and carries her tablet everywhere. She's the perfect way to help parents teach their kids about the technology surrounding them today. "Dot and her group of friends don't look like your typical cast of characters," Zuckerberg said. "I wanted them to reflect all levels of diversity."  "I loved working in Silicon Valley, but at the same time I hated the fact that there were no women in the room," she said. "We need to start challenging people on the notion of what an entrepreneur in America looks like, and it needs to happen early on." Kids today are starting to use technology earlier and earlier in life. And that, Zuckerberg thinks, can create some fear or anxiety for parents. "No matter what their level of expertise in their job, every parent is an amateur at parenting when they first start," said Zuckerberg. "Especially with this very digital group." Dot will air at 11 a.m. ET Saturdays on Sprout, a network just for children which launched in 2005 and is now owned by NBCUniversal. Zuckerberg considers it another type of startup. "It felt like we came together at a really critical moment for both of us," she said. "I needed Sprout as much as they needed me. I knew they'd give this program the love it deserved." Zuckerberg wants her sons, Asher and Simi, who are both under six years old, to grow up in a "different world" than what she experienced in Silicon Valley. "Dot is about finding a balance in a high-tech world through the waters of modern childhood," said Zuckerberg. "Dot is inquisitive," said Amy Friedman, Sprout's head of development. "We want to give kids the tools and role models that will help them show up in the world." Sprout's motto, after all, is 'Free to grow.' "When parents see the Dot logo or book or show, I want them to know that it's safe and appropriate," said Zuckerberg. "I'd love to see a Dot iPad, designed specifically for kids, one day. I want parents to know how technology can add to your household. It doesn't have to detract." [...]

Media Files:

Donald Trump's Lack of Ad Spending Is Leaving a Hole In Local Media's Pocket

Thu, 20 Oct 2016 19:55:43 +0000

The presidential debates provided plenty of free airtime.Gif: Dianna McDougall; Sources: CNN, Shutterstock The presidential election has been momentous and memorable: the first woman nominee of a major party, a businessman/reality show candidate, leaked emails, bigly, Ken Bone and Billy Bush. But local media will remember the 2016 race for what it didn't provide: significant ad revenue. Media forecasting firm Magna originally projected this year's political ad spend to be 15 percent above 2012, which would have set a new record. But current forecasts put the ad buy in line with the 2012 campaign. "[Donald Trump] is not nearly spending what Mitt Romney or John McCain's campaigns did eight years ago," said Mark Fratrik, svp and chief economist for BIA Kelsey. "That disappointed the outlooks of local media companies." Local TV ad sales were underwhelming despite a 10 percent increase this year. "Good, but it fell below our anticipations," added Vincent Letang, evp of global market intelligence for Magna. Around $2.8 billion was booked in local political TV ad sales this year, up 3 percent from 2012 dollars. It's particularly not impressive because a total of $20 billion was spent on local TV ads overall, excluding political ads. "When Trump was a candidate in the primaries, he spent very little," said Letang. "We thought once he got the nomination and gained more access to GOP fundraising, he'd spend closer to what Romney did during his general election [of 2012]. That didn't happen." But it's not just Trump's underwhelming spend that surprises analysts. "We all thought Virginia would continue to be a battleground state for the campaigns. But it just isn't. [Hillary] Clinton has been spending more in Arizona, which comes as a surprise," Letang said. Close Senate and governor races have helped fill the political ad gap created by the presidential campaigns. For example: Indiana Gov. Mike Pence created an empty seat when he joined Trump on the Republican ticket for president. Fratrik similarly noted the close senatorial and gubernatorial races in Florida, traditionally a battleground state as well. "The presidential race is only about a third of the total political spending in an election cycle," said Letang. "The bulk of spending is on congressional, gubernatorial and local ballots." The presidential campaigns also took some of that TV money and moved it to digital which offers a "low cost" option for marketers, according to Fratrik. According to the forecast report from Magna released in earlier this month, "digital advertising sales will equal TV ad dollars for the first time, with both generating $68 billion, a market share of 38.5 percent." Earlier this year, an IAB report found that digital media matches TV as a source of information about candidates. In fact, more than a third of registered voters claimed that digital sources would be their "most important method of getting candidate information." Engaged U.S. voters, the IAB report also stated, find digital media and TV as essentially equal in importance as primary sources of information about presidential candidates and political issues.  "Overall, it's still a strong year for political ads," said Fratrik. "Since campaigns are saving money by using digital marketing, there's plenty of money left for over-the-air television ads and local cable." "One could argue you'd spend an enormous amount of money to reach a small amount of people [through local TV ads], but they can make or break an election, especially in swing states," said Letang. [...]

The Rocky Horror Picture Show Will Feature Snapchat's First Live TV Activations

Thu, 20 Oct 2016 13:00:01 +0000

Even if viewers don't throw rice or shout at the screen tonight during Fox's remake of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, they'll have a new way to participate—via Snapchat. For the first time ever on TV, Fox and Snapchat have created a trio of Snapcode activations that will go live during the telecast. Fox will air Snapcodes three times in bumpers between the show and the ads. Viewers can snap them to unlock exclusive filters and share with friends. It's one of several activations from Fox and Snapchat surrounding the remake of the 1975 cult classic, which is subtitled Let's Do the Time Warp Again. As it researched the fans who continue to flock to midnight screenings of the original film and the response to the first trailer in May, Fox noted heavy millennial engagement, which it also attributes to its millennial-friendly stars, Ryan McCartan and Victoria Justice, who play Brad Majors and Janet Weiss. Laverne Cox stars as Dr. Frank-N-Furter. "It's really about celebrating the iconic classic with custom fan engagement experiences, and both an homage and a love letter to a cult classic on a very current platform," said Angela Courtin, Fox Broadcasting evp and CMO. "It was a great audience. It was obviously a great platform to reach them, and the creativity allowed us to lean in what we love—fan participation." Fox ran Snap ads on Oct. 11 celebrating Coming Out Day. Then on Tuesday, the network launched a custom sponsored lens, which let users dress up as Frank-N-Furter, complete with makeup and the film's iconic lips. Cox and Justice also held weekly Snapchat activations and takeovers heading up to the premiere. Snapcode is a new Snapchat offering that began rolling out last month, offering brands a new way to disseminate filters. Any brand that buys a national filter also can get a Snapcode that unlocks that filter. Tonight's Rocky Horror telecast will be the first time Snapcodes have been utilized during a TV program. The Snapchat activations "go back to how fans experience the original classic," said Courtin. "You would go to the theater, and you'd throw the rice. You'd toss the toilet paper, you'd [do the] call and response. What better way to do that than in the show, being able to have fans unlocking ways to participate digitally and socially by unlocking a filter, being able to take a photograph and share that? That is what participation looks like in today's social language." Networks have increasingly been partnering with Snapchat as a way to expand their reach and engagement with Snapchat's 150 million users. The platform reaches 41 percent on average of all 18- to 34-year-olds in the U.S. each day, according to Nielsen. Fox's social media-centric marketing campaign for Rocky Horror also included a month of "midnight streamings," which its stars teased on various social platforms, of new footage and clips on Fox Now and Hulu every Thursday. Fox is already planning on using Snapcodes on TV again. "We will look at the adoption on this, but I think that we should absolutely be exploring this for our shows," said Courtin, who suggested that Snapcodes could be used to unlock content during the second half of Empire's season, as well as Fox's upcoming 24 reboot, 24: Legacy, which launches after the Super Bowl. "With success, I can see this being a part of our arsenal," Courtin said. [...]

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New YouTube Red Series Shows Off the Weird World of Rhett and Link

Wed, 19 Oct 2016 21:26:53 +0000

In a world where an evil co-ex-girlfriend, an "infomercial queen," has taken over a super popular YouTube channel in order to sell her products, only one team can stop her (because they kinda have to): Rhett and Link. This comedy duo, who've been best friends since they met in first grade, have teamed up with YouTube Red to create a brand-new scripted series, a first for the pair. YouTube Red is an ad-free, subscription-based platform that provides viewers with exclusive content.  In Buddy System, an eight-episode series exclusively available on YouTube Red, Rhett and Link have to take back control of their internet empire and go through many fun misadventures, all to stop their mutual ex-girlfriend from leaking a huge secret. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="367" src="" width="652"> "We wanted to work with YouTube because it made the most sense based on where our audience is," said Rhett McLaughlin. "We thought it'd be fun to play ourselves, with an internet show, and throw in the same kind of ridiculous ideas and songs our fans know from us already." "Buddy System takes a lot of what worked for us in the past into a new realm and into a scripted musical world," said Link Neal. "Our audience pretty much peaks in the 18 to 24 range," said McLaughlin. "Most people assume that because our show is on YouTube, then it's most popular with kids. Teenagers are typically our most vocal fan group, and they comment the most, but our core audience are college kids who love weird comedy." Rhett and Link's particular type of weird comedy has evolved over the years, and most recently they've begun experimenting with new types of videos on different platforms. Earlier this month, they uploaded a kind of parody video on how to create a "Birthday Bean Cake." allowfullscreen="true" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="652" scrolling="no" src="" style="border:none;overflow:hidden" width="652"> In a style that feels similar to other instructional food videos online, a disembodied set of hands teaches viewers how to smash three kinds of frozen beans together. And despite the use of Goya beans, it's not a piece of branded content. At first glance, it might seem like a tongue-in-cheek way to create something with a brand partner, but it really just came out of McLaughlin's love of beans. "It was uploaded on my birthday, and everyone knows I love beans," said McLaughlin. "Our hardworking team over at Mythical Entertainment came up with the idea when thinking on other ways to reach people through social media," said Neal. "They just combined Rhett's love of beans with what works on Facebook." "You're not sure if it's serious, when it first starts out," said McLaughlin. "But then the end is just a mess of beans on a plate. We've done other parody-type videos before, but I think this one did so well because people believed it. And people like beans!" "It wasn't sponsored by the bean," Neal said, "but we're happy to take their money after the fact. We'll take it posthaste ... or post-taste!" These two creators, who've worked together for so many years, really want to show their fans all the different sides of what they can do. "Both with Buddy System and this bean video, you get to see how we want to create different things. We want to be experimenting and exploring new ideas," explained Neal. "We can make those bite-sized shareable videos, or we can make a story you can immerse yourself in over eight weeks." &[...]

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You Can Buy Everything You See on Lifetime & Wayfair’s New TV Series

Wed, 19 Oct 2016 13:00:02 +0000

A+E Networks this weekend is rolling out its most ambitious branded content push yet, a new Lifetime lifestyle/home improvement series co-produced by Wayfair in which every item that appears on the program will be available for purchase on Wayfair's site. The Way Home, which A+E is calling the first "fully-shoppable" TV series, premieres Saturday at 11 a.m. on Lifetime. Its two hosts, interior designer Evette Rios and lifestyle expert Megan Colarossi, will discuss how to save time and money during home renovations, with segments focusing on do-it-yourself tips, renovations, design and home makeovers. Each episode has a different theme, including fall, Black Friday, Christmas and organization. After each of the 10 weekly episodes premieres, viewers can go to, the online home goods merchant, for The Way Home-themed sales events spotlighting the products featured on the show. "There's been a huge explosion of interest in interior design websites and people wanting to see inside homes, and this plays into that in a big, approachable way," said A+E Networks executive producer Steve Ascher of The Way Home. "We didn't want this to be solely, hey, here's a product, and you should buy this. It was all about context and how this can simplify your life." Audiences will be able to buy all of the items that appear on The Way Home. "Everything, from the smallest pieces on set to pieces you see in a makeover in a taped package, is on sale at Wayfair," Ascher said. After each segment, the hosts will direct viewers to, and the show will have "snipes" and bugs on the bottom third of the screen to drive viewers to the site. While A+E Networks has been active in creating branded content, the company had been looking for an opportunity to make a bigger splash with a brand. "It was always our hope to be able to find a partner that wanted to experiment and co-create together," said Amy Baker, evp of ad sales at A+E Networks. She found that in Nancy Go, Wayfair's vp of brand marketing, and pitched her the idea when the pair got lost on their way to a Sundance Film Festival event in January. She was on board, as was A+E Networks president and CEO Nancy Dubuc, whom they saw at a dinner that night. "This show is launching nine months after the idea was conceived," Go said. "This pace is pretty unbelievable." The fall premiere allows Wayfair to capitalize on the holiday shopping season. "It's important for us as a retailer, but home furnishings are purchased all through the year. We did have a very strong Q4 retail plan, and supporting that with this show was awesome," she said. The Way Home will have regular ad pods with traditional 30-second spots, but Wayfair will not be purchasing advertising during the show. Episodes will repeat on Lifetime throughout the week and be available on Wayfair's site (split into smaller segments), (where they will be available to all visitors, not just authenticated Lifetime subscribers), and Lifetime VOD. A+E Networks and Wayfair are also teaming up with Samba TV, which will provide cross-platform measurement and report how effectively on-air marketing drives viewers to The Way Home, and how the show drives engagement with Wayfair's website. Both companies will use those insights to shape their marketing and merchandising strategies around the show. "Some of the insights that we glean will be used to help us identify audience overlap so we can say, if we were to air a promo in FYI, on this particular series on A&E, it would likely drive purchasing viewers to our show. And those promos are scheduled pretty close to real time, so there is flexibility there," said Lee Boykoff, svp of digital analytics and CRM at A+E Networks. Lif[...]

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Chris Matthews on What The West Wing, House of Cards and Veep Get Right About Politics

Tue, 18 Oct 2016 23:16:52 +0000

Specs Age 70 Claim to fame Host of MSNBC's Hardball With Chris Matthews (weeknights at 7 p.m.) Base Washington, D.C. Twitter @HardballChris Adweek: What's the first information you consume in the morning? Chris Matthews: History. I start the day knowing most of what's happened in politics since World War II, so it's always there as a point of comparison. Everything is a mash-up of past and present in my brain. For instance, [Alicia Machado] is very much a case of how you treat the little people if you're a big shot, and this is what happened with [Republican presidential candidate Thomas Dewey] back in '48 when he yelled at some train conductor and said he ought to be fired because he accidentally jolted the train, and that really hurt Dewey. These things happen in patterns. Where do you get your news? I start my day very traditionally. I go out in the driveway and pick up the New York Post, The New York Times, sometimes The Wall Street Journal. I look at the front page, then I might check the Philly scores, then I'll read the op-eds, then I'll go back and go through the political section. I like Maureen Dowd [at The New York Times] and Peggy Noonan at the Journal. The international overnight and Playbook come in my email [in the morning]. And there is a half-inch pile of clips that I get in the afternoon to read. What TV shows do you watch? I never missed an episode of Downton Abbey or House of Cards. I think I've seen all of Veep. I like Madam Secretary. I tried to watch The Affair for a while, but I couldn't watch that anymore. It was too depressing. I tried to watch Ray Donovan, but that was depressing, too. But I'm really a movie buff. I've had a philosophy about feature films all my life, basically, that feature films are always about the present, even if it's a period piece or historical drama. If you want to understand our culture, go to the movies. In fact, I love watching old movies because I can tell from the movie what was going on that year. Have you seen any movies recently that do a good job of showing the current political climate? I saw Hell or High Water, which is getting back to that antihero thing from the '60s where the good guys are the outlaws, which is fascinating. It's sort of about the current times, too, because the bad guys are the banks and somehow they're responsible for everything bad. The movie never connects it up very well, but that's the idea. You get the spirit of the Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders point of view. I think the millennials will like that film. And as far as political TV shows, which ones do you think really get it right? Well, there are different aspects. The West Wing captured the total loyalty and devotion of the White House staff to the president. House of Cards is correct in one regard, that people who are elected to the House of Representatives, for example, really do try to project years, even decades ahead to where they're going to be in the pecking order and how long it will take them to get to a position of real authority. I imagine Veep is accurate in the sense that the vice president is often overlooked by the president's people in every administration. The vice president is totally under the president's control; it's not really a partnership. That's pretty interesting. This story first appeared in the October 17, 2016 issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe. [...]

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Even as TV Creators Come Around on Integrations, Buyers Are Starting to Look Elsewhere

Mon, 17 Oct 2016 23:02:04 +0000

After years of treating "integration" as a dirty word, the people behind many of TV's biggest shows have changed their tune and are embracing them as something beneficial to their shows, rather than a punishment that must be endured. "We like having that extra money that allows us to do some scenes, or buy music, we otherwise wouldn't be able to," said Modern Family co-creator Steve Levitan. "In some cases, it actually helps the scene. It sounds more natural to say, 'Who wants to go to Target with me?' than, 'Who wants to go to the department store with me?'" Yet in a surprising role reversal, as TV's showrunners (including a dozen that spoke with Adweek) are more receptive than ever to integrations, buyers and brands no longer have the same enthusiasm for them. "It used to be the showcase in a buy, to say we brought in integration," said Neil Vendetti, president of investment at Zenith. "Now we're talking about integrations with clients a bit less." That sentiment is reflected in new data from Nielsen TV Brand Effect, which indicates that the number of integrations in original, nonsports prime-time programming on the five broadcast networks has fallen each year, from 4,701 in the 2013-14 season to 4,538 in the 2015-16 season. That's not to say that TV integrations aren't still plentiful, or high profile. In last season's most successful partnership, Empire featured a multi-episode arc in which rising star Jamal Lyon (Jussie Smollett) was wooed by Pepsi to endorse the soda. As the cast sat down to watch the ad, Empire cut to commercial where the actual spot played. "That was pure kismet because we broke a story in the [writers] room where we said, Jamal is going to get a major endorsement, and it's going to be a threat to [his father] Lucious because it means he's going to be a bigger star," said Empire showrunner Ilene Chaiken. "Then I got a call from the network, saying, 'We have this opportunity with Pepsi,' and it was exactly the story we were telling." But the mindset of many advertisers is much different from when integrations were the shiny new toy. "Nine or 10 years ago, there was a big migration toward product placement. Then we moved away from it because it became too overt and almost too generic," said Maureen Bosetti, chief investment officer at Initiative. Back then, "the demand for integrations was greater than the supply," said Melissa Fallon, svp of digital, film and TV at The Marketing Arm. "The networks were scrambling to find solutions for the declining impressions for advertising. Now there's more solutions." Those include branded content, which "has filled in the gap" as some have backed away from integrations, said Vendetti. In-house branded content studios have popped up at several media companies, including NBCUniversal, Viacom and Turner. Branded content requires less hoops for brands to jump through than integrations, which have to be incorporated into a storyline; unlike integrations, the finished spot can be featured on the brand's channels as well. Meanwhile, other brands that would like to be integrated into shows aren't allowed at the table. "Emerging brands like Lyft are looking for that increased awareness, affinity and brand identification, but they don't meet the media buy threshold, so they don't even get to play," said Fallon. "It's not that the producers aren't interested in those brands; it's that the networks are shutting them down." Until that changes, the showrunners, tasked with producing movie-quality episodes each week on a TV budget, said they're happy to take advantage of any opportunities to or[...]

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