Morning Media Newsfeed: Griffin Outlines Plan for MSNBC in 2015 | Liberty Reups Maffei

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MSNBC to Widen Scope, Make Other Changes (LA Times)
Change is going to come to MSNBC in 2015. “Technology is continuing to drive unprecedented changes across the media landscape — and we all should be taking a hard, honest look at how we need to evolve along with it,” Phil Griffin, president of the NBC-owned cable news channel, wrote in a year-end message sent to employees Monday. FishbowlDC In the memo, Griffin admits 2014 was a difficult year for the cable news industry as a whole, but particularly hard for MSNBC, as the news channel will finish third among viewers ages 25-54 — behind Fox News and CNN. TVNewser Griffin goes on to discuss how technology is continuing to force changes across the media landscape and challenges his staff to evolve with it. He reminds the staff to continue “covering the issues that matter to all Americans, advancing the conversation, and finding the stories that celebrate the unique spirit and strengths of our country.” THR Losing its No. 2 slot to CNN and suffering the biggest year-to-year drops (16 percent in primetime, 17 percent in total day) in 2014 meant MSNBC often shouldered most of the criticism for the industry. The lengthy note, which also praises the network’s growing digital efforts, does not specifically detail how Griffin envisions MSNBC getting its mojo back in 2015 — though he does say that the network is seeking out “exciting talent.” Variety Griffin’s note cited MSNBC’s gains among Hispanic and African-American viewers as signs that efforts to diversify its audience are paying off. MSNBC ranks No. 1 in primetime among Hispanic viewers and has been No. 1 among black viewers for five consecutive years, Griffin said. He highlighted the recent deal that brought Telemundo News anchor Jose Diaz-Balart to MSNBC’s daytime schedule as host of The Rundown. Experimenting through MSNBC’s digital program incubator, dubbed the Shift, will be a priority for 2015, Griffin said, among other digital initiatives including its newsgathering partnership with Global Citizen.

Gregory Maffei Will Stay With Liberty Through 2019 (THR)
Gregory Maffei will run Liberty Media and Liberty Interactive as CEO and president of each through 2019, the companies said Monday. Maffei’s previous arrangement will expire Wednesday. Deadline Maffei has been at the forefront of the company’s wide-ranging investments and efforts to build companies including Charter Communications, Sirius XM, and Live Nation. Maffei’s compensation package came to $3.6 million in the fiscal year that ended in 2013. But he doesn’t live on paycheck money: His take in 2012 came to $57.2 million with $53.9 million worth of option awards. His new contract includes an annual base salary of $960,750 that will rise 5 percent per year, with a target cash bonus for 250 percent of his base salary. On Christmas Eve he also received 3.3 million stock options with an exercise price of $34.04 per share, slightly lower than Liberty’s closing price that day. WSJ Maffei was previously Microsoft Corp.’s finance chief and also did a brief stint at Oracle Corp. Liberty Media’s holdings include a majority stake in SiriusXM Holdings Inc. and full ownership of the entity that owns the Atlanta Braves. Its minority investments include Live Nation Entertainment Inc. In November, Liberty Media said third-quarter revenue and operating earnings improved, reflecting strong Sirius XM results.

Today: The Musical’ Premieres With Anchors, Regis Philbin (TVNewser)
Monday, the Today show premiered “Today: The Musical,” a 14-minute tongue-in-cheek look behind the scenes of Studio 1A. THR / The Live Feed In August, co-host Kathie Lee Gifford announced that the show would put on a brief musical, written by her, featuring the Today hosts and crew sometime before the end of the year. In the initial announcement, Gifford said the show would air before NBC’s Peter Pan Live! on Dec. 4, but the Today production may have been delayed, as it made its debut just three days before the end of the year. Variety The segment featured Gifford’s former daytime TV co-host Regis Philbin, offering an irreverent look behind the scenes of the show. Sample lyrics: “We rise and shine / And we opine / And we drink wine.” Highlights of the video include Matt Lauer appearing in his boxers while waiting for his pants to be ironed, and the breakout star power of smooth-voiced stagehand Sal Cacciato. Gifford, who wrote the piece with orchestrations by David Wilde, said that the musical came together very quickly, with the cast rehearsing and filming over just three days.

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TV Ratings: Sunday Night Football Wraps Season Up A Notch (THR / The Live Feed)
The official NFL season came to a close on Sunday with NBC’s final Sunday Night Football of 2014. Ahead of the playoffs, the decisive matchup between the Pittsburg Steelers and the Cincinnati Bengals ended the season on a higher note for the network. Variety According to preliminary national estimates from Nielsen, the Week 17 matchup averaged a 5.8/17 in adults 18-49 and 18.4 million viewers overall on NBC’s stations from 8:30 to 11 p.m., and these numbers figure to rise by at least 10 percent in the nationals to account for the full duration of the game and all viewing in the West. Deadline CBS was the only other English-language network Sunday night to offer originals. They were shifted by an NFL overrun, which scrambled the fast nationals. For the half-hours only featuring one show, CBS’ Sunday programs averaged: 1.7 in 18-49 (60 Minutes), 1.8 (Undercover Boss, 1.4 last week), and 1.4 (The Mentalist, 1.3 last week).

How The Interview Performed Against Sony’s Leaked Internal Projections (Defamer)
The ongoing saga of North Korea comedy The Interview — cancelled, un-cancelled, and finally released online — seemed to enter its final stages Sunday, when Sony announced that the film had grossed $15 million from online sales and rentals, to go along with $2.85 million in box office revenue. This is being hailed as a success that might save film division head Amy Pascal’s job. But in looking at Sony’s own internal projections for the film, it’s hard to reach that same conclusion. Mediaite According to initial projections from Sony executive Doug Belgrad, along with a follow-up message once the release date was pushed to Christmas Day, Sony initially expected The Interview to gross between $60 and $110 million domestically with $75 million as a base estimate (with another $25 million in overseas ticket sales). Over Christmas weekend, The Interview opened in just 331 independent theaters, taking in a total box office gross of $2.851 million. That put it at No. 16 for the weekend. Variety In six days, The Interview has become 2014’s bestseller on a pair of Google streaming sites — Google Play and YouTube Movies — according to a Google spokesperson.

DirecTV to Hike Rates as Much as 6 Percent in 2015 (Variety)
DirecTV, in an annual tradition, said it will raise prices across all programming packages ranging between 3.5 percent and 6 percent, effective Feb. 5, 2015. The No. 1 satcaster, in a message to customers, said it will raise the baseline price of the Entertainment package to $59.99 per month (up 3.5 percent), while the Xtra package will increase to $77.99 a month (up 5.5 percent). Its Ultimate package will increase 6 percent to $86.99 monthly and the Premier plan will climb 5.4 percent to $136.99 per month. Deadline This year’s annual price hike is especially tricky for DirecTV. It doesn’t want to alarm the FCC or Justice Department, which are reviewing its planned merger with AT&T. Execs also fear that increases will alienate consumers: DirecTV lost U.S. subs in Q3, surprising many analysts. Yet DirecTV’s costs keep rising, partly due to ambitious programming deals like the one it struck with Disney last week. It added Fusion, Longhorn Network, ESPN Goal Line and ESPN Buzzer Beater to the bundle.

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Netflix Offers New Year’s Eve On-Demand Special for Kids (THR)
Netflix is putting the New Year’s Eve countdown on demand — particularly for parents of Madagascar fans. The company announced Monday that DreamWorks Animation’s All Hail King Julien will be available on the streaming platform for families who want their children to honor a bedtime well before midnight. Variety The on-demand clip hosts a musical, kid-friendly countdown to midnight and can be played whenever parents feel it’s necessary. Netflix says the clip is aimed at the 34 percent of U.S. parents who admitted to starting the New Year’s Eve countdown early to trick their kids into thinking it’s midnight, according to a survey conducted by Wakefield Research commissioned by the streaming-video provider.

Lizard Squad Member Said Group Provided Log-Ins Used in Sony Attack (Deadline)
An administrator of Lizard Squad, the anonymous hacking group that claimed credit for last week’s attacks on Sony’s PlayStation Network and Microsoft’s Xbox Live, said in an interview that the group provided the hackers behind the massive cyberattack on Sony Pictures with log-in information from “a couple” of Sony employees, information used in the initial attacks that exposed a vast trove of sensitive corporate data.

Al Jazeera Website Blacks Out to Protest Imprisoned Journalists (Mediaite)
Monday marked exactly one year since three Al Jazeera journalists were arrested in Egypt and charged with disseminating falsehoods. To mark the occasion, Al Jazeera blacked out its news site with a call to free them. The site blackout (as well as the Al Jazeera home page) featured a link to a Change.org petition to demand they be freed. Baher Mohamed, Mohamed Fahmy, and Peter Greste have been imprisoned in Egypt for a year.

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Hearst Promotes Thomas Ghareeb (FishbowlNY)
Hearst Magazines has promoted Thomas Ghareeb to vice president and controller. He has been assistant controller of budget and forecasting since 2005. Ghareeb has been with Hearst Magazines since 1989.

Late-Night Ratings: NBC’s Tonight Show Hits Six-Month High, Beats Rivals Combined (Variety)
With an assist from the season finale of The Voice, NBC’s Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon has hit a six-month ratings high — beating its Jimmy Kimmel-David Letterman competition combined in the key young adults demo.

Israel’s Channel 10 Seeks Emergency Government Funding to Avert Shutdown (Variety)
Israel’s Channel 10, which for years has been struggling to pull itself out of a financial black hole, will go dark for good on Dec. 31 without an emergency injection of cash from the government.

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Access Restored to Gmail Service in China (Financial Times)
A four-day outage of Google’s Gmail service in mainland China appeared to have at least partly ended on Tuesday, but has raised questions about the breadth and scope of China’s notorious “Great Firewall.” The episode ended as mysteriously as it began — users of Gmail via POP and IMAP servers, who had been frustrated for days trying to send and receive email, suddenly saw their inboxes full again, though some were still reporting delays in receiving emails.

Nguyen Dinh Ngoc, Blogger, Detained in Vietnam (HuffPost / AP)
Vietnamese police have detained a third blogger in a month in the latest crackdown on dissent in the communist country. Blogger Nguyen Dinh Ngoc, 48, was taken into custody and his house was searched in the southern commercial hub of Ho Chi Minh City on Saturday.

Jay From Serial Contradicts Podcast’s Narrative in First Major Interview (Mediaite)
The massively popular Serial podcast ended its 12-episode first season earlier this month, but over the Christmas weekend, Jay Wilds, the one and only witness in the state’s case against Adnan Syed in the 1999 murder of Hae Min Lee, let it be known in a since-deleted Facebook post that he was ready to talk about what happened.

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