Morning Media Newsfeed: North Korea Loses Internet, Blames U.S. | The Interview Cashes in

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North Korea Blames U.S. for Internet Shutdown (WSJ)
Pyongyang’s highest decision-making body blamed the U.S. government for causing an Internet outage across its major websites and for pushing Sony Pictures Entertainment to release The Interview, a satirical film that portrays the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. NYT The statement, carried by the North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency, also called President Obama a “monkey” for urging the film studio to release The Interview. Sony had canceled the movie’s release after online threats of attacks on theaters, but then reversed itself after Obama criticized it for capitulating to North Korean pressure. Mashable / AP The statement described the movie as illegal, dishonest and reactionary. An unidentified spokesman at the North’s powerful National Defense Commission’s Policy Department said in the statement: “Obama always goes reckless in words and deeds like a monkey in a tropical forest.” He also accused Washington for intermittent outages of North Korea websites last week, after the U.S. had promised to respond to the Sony hack. Variety “The U.S., a big country, started disturbing the Internet operation of major media of the DPRK, not knowing shame like children playing a tag,” the spokesman said before threatening the U.S. with unspecified consequences. The country released a similar statement on the same state-run Korean Central News Agency Dec. 20 when it denied responsibility for the cyberattack that has crippled Sony. Re/code The five-hour Internet disruption was flagged Saturday by DYN Research, a research firm that tracks the performance of the Internet’s global infrastructure. Reuters reported the 3G wireless outage, citing China’s official state news agency Xinhua, which said that service went down about 7:30 p.m. Pyongyang time (2:30 a.m. PT). It is unclear whether the two outages were connected. Unlike Internet service, which estimates suggest reaches no more than 1,000 people in the nation, a wireless phone service outage would affect a much wider population segment.

The Interview Reports $15 Million in Online Sales, Rentals (Deadline)
The unplanned day-and-date release of The Interview raked in more than $15 million in online revenues through Saturday, Sony Pictures said in a release. The film, which launched Sunday morning on Apple’s huge iTunes Store, debuted Christmas Eve on YouTube Movies, the Google Play Store, Microsoft’s Xbox Live network and the stand-alone site SeeTheInterview.com. Mediaite The Interview‘s limited theatrical release took in $1 million in 300 independent theaters on Christmas Day, despite threats of 9/11-style terror attacks on theaters screening the controversial film. Variety The comedy, which earned nearly $3 million in theaters through Saturday, was rented or downloaded more than 2 million times since hitting the Web on Tuesday, Sony disclosed Saturday. The film about a hapless TV host tasked with assassinating Kim Jong-un was originally intended to be released on roughly 3,000 screens on Christmas. It was expected to generate $20 million during its opening. THR The Interview has also been making news in Russia. A senior Russian cultural official spoke out against the release of The Interview in Russia, while North Korea’s embassy in Moscow issued a statement calling on Russians not to watch the film. Meanwhile, Russian news agency RIA Novosti quoted a spokesman for the Russian office of Sony Pictures as saying that a decision about a release of the film in Russia would be made in the new year.

PlayStation And XBox Networks Go Down, Hackers Claim Credit (THR)
Two online video game services suffered connection outages on Christmas, and a hacking group took credit for the disruption. Microsoft’s XBox Live and Sony’s PlayStation Network crashed Wednesday evening. Deadline An anonymous hacker group called Lizard Squad claimed responsibility for the outages in posts on Twitter. Lizard Squad also claimed credit for distributed denial-of-service attacks on the PlayStation Network in August and again earlier this month. New York Post As of 3 p.m. Friday, Microsoft reported that Xbox Live Internet service was “up and running” but players were still reporting problems with their service. Sony acknowledged their ongoing Internet problems at 11:31 a.m. Friday, urging Twitter users to “follow @AskPlayStation to get the latest updates as we work to restore full network functionality.” THR A man who claimed credit as being part of the hacking group that caused Christmas Day connection outages on Sony’s PlayStation Network and Microsoft’s XBox Live is explaining his motivation as wanting to “raise awareness.” “These companies make tens of millions every month from just their subscriber fees, that doesn’t even include purchases made by their customers,” said a man identified as Ryan, part of the hacking group called Lizard Squad, who spoke to Sky News from Finland. “They should have more than enough funding to be able to protect against these attacks,” the alleged hacker said.

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Court Allows Aereo to Auction TV Streaming Technology Assets (Re/code)
A bankruptcy court has allowed defunct video streaming company Aereo to auction its TV streaming technology assets, according to court papers published on Friday. Deadline The latest news comes after Aereo filed for voluntary Chapter 11 reorganization last month following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in June that Aereo must pay broadcasters to retransmit their free, over-the-air signals. WSJ Under the revamped auction rules, Aereo will also provide weekly updates on the status of the sale process and will allow the broadcasters to attend the auction. Until June, Aereo provided customers with the ability to watch and record broadcast TV through the Internet and on mobile devices. That business model faltered after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that found Aereo violated copyright laws.

Reporter Claims AP Is Contractually Obligated to Print Whatever N. Korea Tells It, AP Responds (NK News)
Despite trumpeting itself as the “first independent Western news bureau” in North Korea, top executives of the Associated Press in 2011 agreed to distribute state-produced North Korean propaganda through the AP name, a confidential document and interviews with current and former AP staff indicate. Mediaite The watchdog group NK News obtained the draft copy of the agreement between the AP and the Korea Central News Agency, the official state media arm of the DPRK, which the AP agreed to in order to open a news bureau in the secretive country in 2011. But despite the promise to operate like a normal AP bureau — that is, without interference from the government — the draft of the agreement clearly dictates what the AP is and is not allowed to print, basically forcing the AP to become another propaganda arm of the regime. Politico / Dylan Byers on Media The Associated Press is pushing back on the report by NK News’ Nate Thayer. “No serious news organization would hand over the kind of business agreements, salary information and other payment documentation that Mr. Thayer sought. His latest articles from Dec. 24 are full of errors, inaccuracies and baseless innuendo,” AP spokesperson Paul Colford said in a statement. “The ‘draft agreement’ between AP and North Korea’s KCNA news agency that he cites is remote from the final document.”

Time Inc. Cuts Loose Founding Editor of People (New York Post / Media Ink)
There are probably not too many tears shed when someone in his 80s retires, but there was still surprise that Time Inc. decided to cut loose the founding editor of People. Richard “Dick” Stolley had been Time Inc. senior editorial adviser since 1993, when he retired from day-to-day management of the magazine. FishbowlNY Despite having his hand in Time Inc.’s most profitable magazine ever, Stolley is most well known for his work at Life, where he served as a managing editor. Stolley was editor of Life when JFK was assassinated. Stolley met with Abraham Zapruder and convinced him to sell Life the only known video of the assassination for $150,000. Life then ran stills of the tragic event.

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Dish Network Claims ‘Extortion’ in Fox News Carriage Fight (Variety)
As the carriage fight between Fox News Channel and Dish Network stretches into its second week, Dish Network chief Charlie Ergen is blaming an “extortion” attempt by Fox for the impasse that led to a blackout in the early hours of Dec. 21. Deadline Dish updated its Facebook page Dec. 24 with a video message from Ergen, in which he says that, during the talks about the two news channels, Fox demanded a “surcharge” that tripled rates on an “unrelated, less popular” Fox channel on which Dish already had a carriage agreement that was not set to expire “for some time.”

NBA Nets Big Christmas Day Ratings for ABC, TNT, ESPN (Variety)
ABC’s marquee doubleheader of NBA action — highlighted by LeBron James’ return to Miami as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers — generated hearty numbers on Christmas, a day that featured five games across the league’s three television partners. ABC’s doubleheader averaged 7.69 million viewers, up 16 percent from last year. The Cleveland-Miami nightcap drew 9.30 million (up 19 percent from last year’s Lakers-Heat game in the window). THR The Doctor Who Christmas special on BBC One, starring Nick Frost as Santa Claus, and the Downton Abbey special on ITV, drew lower ratings in the U.K. on Thursday night than last year, with Doctor Who again winning the ratings showdown.

Cable Networks Break in With News of Missing AirAsia Plane (THR / AP)
As news broke on Saturday night of a missing AirAsia plane with 161 people aboard, cable networks shifted programming plans and broke in with coverage. TheWrap CNN and MSNBC preempted their regularly scheduled Sunday programming during the 11 a.m. ET hour to cover missing AirAsia Flight 8501. Fox News stuck with #Media Buzz with Howard Kurtz but broke in several times with live news alerts on the jetliner. The Airbus A320-200 with 162 people on board was on its way to Singapore from Surabaya city in Indonesia, when it lost contact with air traffic control at 7:24 a.m. local time (late Saturday night in the U.S.).

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Fox Hails 280 Percent Jump in Digital Sales in U.K. (THR)
British consumers are embracing legal digital formats, leading to what one studio executive from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has called a “step change” in the business. Robert Price, managing director of Fox’s home entertainment operations in the U.K., said the studio’s digital sales were up 280 percent year-on-year in 2014.

Amazon Touts Big Numbers for Prime During Holidays, Shares Best-Selling Songs And Albums (Billboard)
Amazon released figures touting the performance of its Prime shipping and media subscription service during this holiday season. Ten million people “tried out” Prime during the holiday season, according to a statement from the company. A company representative said its holiday season falls between Nov. 1 and Dec. 25.

Mauritanian Journalist Sentenced to Death for ‘Insulting The Prophet’ in Article (HuffPost / Reuters)
Mauritania on Thursday condemned a man to death for “insulting the prophet,” a human rights group said, a day after the country opened the trial of an anti-slavery activist. Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mkhaitir, 28, was arrested a year ago for writing an article about the Prophet Mohammad and the caste system.

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Wolf of Wall Street, Frozen Top List of 2014’s Most Pirated Films (THR)
Director Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street, starring Leonardo DiCaprio as real-life stockbroker Jordan Belfort, was the most illegally downloaded movie of 2014, according to piracy-tracking firm Expicio. Wolf was illegally downloaded 30.035 million times between Jan. 1 and Dec. 23.

Pinterest Pushing Deeper Into Ads (NYT)
On New Year’s Day, Pinterest plans to start selling ads on the site to any marketer, sounding the call that Pinterest is open for business and that it wants to compete for ad dollars with the likes of Google, Twitter and Facebook.

China Is Reportedly Blocking Access to Gmail (Mashable)
China is blocking access to Google’s popular Gmail service, according to data from Google and analysis from Dyn Research. Traffic has dropped to nearly zero, per Google’s transparency reports, which provides real-time information about usage of its services.

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