Al-Jazeera Reporters Plead for Release (The Associated Press / The Big Story)
Three Al-Jazeera journalists on trial in Egypt directly asked the judge on Monday to release them, insisting the terrorism charges against them were preposterous. The judge denied the request for bail by Australian Peter Greste, Canadian-Egyptian Mohammed Fahmy and Baher Mohammed during the fourth hearing in the trial that opened on Feb. 20. TVNewser The judge did not accept their plea, adjourning the case until April 10. Australian Broadcasting Corp. It was Greste’s fourth appearance in court after more than 90 days in prison, and in an unusual move he was allowed to directly approach the judge and tell him why he should be freed. In words translated for the judge, Greste said that he had only been in Egypt for two weeks before his arrest and he had no connection with the Muslim Brotherhood. NYT One of the journalists even recounted drinking alcohol, which is forbidden in Islam. It was the first time the journalists were allowed to speak in court, about a hundred days after being detained. All three worked for Al Jazeera’s English-language news channel, and their case has elicited protests from human rights and free-speech groups. Mansour has said in public letters to the journalists’ families that he hoped they were soon released. And for a brief moment on Monday, the judge appeared sympathetic to the journalists’ arguments. CNN International Fahmy told the court that he and his colleagues worked in public rather than in secrecy, and covered Egypt as they would other countries. He questioned how any journalist could be labeled a terrorist. Their lawyers also took up the issue of Fahmy’s health. Fahmy injured his shoulder before his arrest in December. He has complained about not getting proper medical treatment while in prison and says that because of the lack of treatment, he no longer has full use of his right arm. The trial was adjourned until April 10.
CNN Hits New Digital Heights in March (TVNewser)
When March cable news ratings come out Tuesday, CNN will show a vast improvement over last March, likely finishing second to Fox News Channel in several measures. Monday morning, CNN Worldwide chief Jeff Zucker took an early victory lap and thanked his team. Politico / Dylan Byers on Media “On our digital platforms, March was our best month ever for both page views and video streams across our domestic and international desktop sites. And our best month ever for mobile Web traffic,” he wrote. “We will likely have more unique users across our global sites than any month in our history.” FishbowlDC As March came to a close, CNN had been getting some flak for its wall-to-wall coverage of Malaysia Airlines flight 370. But while that mystery has dominated its television programming, other big stories are also getting play online. Mashable Zucker added that CNN didn’t only see strong traffic in the U.S. International properties also experienced a bump. The memo, however, didn’t outline the extent of the increase or include any figures. The claims by CNN indicate that the patterns of television consumption may mirror Internet traffic.
FCC Votes to Limit TV Stations’ Banding on Advertising Sales (Reuters)
U.S. communications regulators voted along party lines Monday to limit so-called joint sales agreements among broadcasters, deals that allow TV stations to share advertising staff, though promising to respond to any waiver request within 90 days. TVNewsCheck During the meeting, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler said that Congress gave broadcasters the right to charge for their programming and that’s not changing. “All we’re doing today,” he said, “is leveling the negotiating table.” TVSpy The FCC also voted to bar broadcasters from negotiating retransmission deals for multiple television stations in the same market. The Hill / Hillicon Valley Under current FCC rules, a single broadcast company cannot own more than one of the top four broadcast stations in a media market. But prior to the agency’s actions on Monday, a broadcast company could use a Joint Service Agreement (JSA) to control advertising sales across multiple broadcast stations. Critics said it allowed broadcasters to control multiple stations in practice without technically violating the agency’s ownership rules. Poynter / MediaWire The FCC’s new rules will ban JSAs in which one station sells 15 percent or more of the advertising time of another station. The JSAs have become especially useful to stations that could not get FCC approval to outright manage another station in the market.
Russian Media Tycoon Launches London Live (Financial Times)
Local TV arrived in the U.K. capital on Monday evening with the launch of London Live, the most significant product yet of a £40 million government experiment in invigorating local economies. “It’s about creating a service for London,” said Evgeny Lebedev, the project’s backer, whose family also owns London’s Evening Standard newspaper. “To me, it looks like nothing else out there.” THR Lebedev has been looking to diversify beyond the newspaper business. The channel will air 24/7 and seven days a week, hoping to provide a local rival to U.K. public broadcaster BBC, commercial networks operator ITV and pay TV giant BSkyB, in which Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox owns a 39 percent stake, with programming built around five and a half hours of news. Variety The backbone of the programming will be five and a half hours of London news and public affairs shows. Acquired programming includes comedies Twenty Twelve, which stars Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey), Misfits and Peep Show, and crime drama Shadow Line, all of which have London themes. The objective is to make it profitable in three years, by which time it is hoped the revenue will be £25 million ($41.7 million) a year.
Machinima Hires TV Executive Chad Gutstein as CEO (Re/code)
The giant YouTube network Machinima has hired Chad Gutstein, former chief operating officer of niche cable network Ovation, as CEO, according to people familiar with the decision. Gutstein will replace Machinima co-founder Allen DeBevoise, who will stay on as chairman at the company, which caters to young men who like playing video games and watching other people play video games. WSJ / Digits The appointment comes a few weeks after Machinima secured $18 million in new financing from Warner Bros. and others. It also recently cut 30 percent of its workforce. Adweek But fanboys and gamers can breathe a sigh of relief. With 2.5 billion views and almost 200 million views per month, according to the company, Machinima doesn’t feel the need to change its audience. Machinima believes it has the best way to tap into the young male demographic and it’s not in the business of alienating the people who have come to love the brand.
Ratings May Sink Ronan Farrow’s Show on MSNBC (New York Daily News / Confidential)
Ronan Farrow’s MSNBC talk show is facing cancellation amid poor ratings, sources say. The channel took the frequent cable-show guest and handed him his own program, Ronan Farrow Daily, which premiered in late February. “He sort of stinks on TV,” an MSNBC source said. “He hasn’t turned out to be the superstar they were hoping for.” NY Mag / Daily Intelligencer For context: Last Wednesday’s episode trailed an 8 a.m. repeat of Golden Girls on the Hallmark channel in the ratings, coming in 708th among all programming. And yet, MSNBC insists the rumors of the show’s early demise are “simply not true. We’re happy with the debut of Ronan Farrow Daily and the show’s progress this first month. MSNBC will continue to support Ronan and his team as they develop and grow the program.” TVNewser While reporting on the death of former Texas state legislator, Ray Hutchison, who was the husband of former Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, Ronan Farrow Daily showed a photo of Bailey Hutchison with former transportation secretary Ray LaHood. Fifteen minutes later, Farrow aired the correct photo.
YouTube to Offer Advertisers Some Guarantees (WSJ)
Google Inc. is ramping up its assault on traditional television’s advertising business. In a renewed effort to lure a bigger share of the advertising dollars that now flow to major TV networks, Google’s YouTube is making a number of concessions long sought by marketers, ad executives say. Most prominently, in discussions ahead of this spring’s TV ad-selling season, YouTube has told marketers it will offer audience guarantees to advertisers that make advance commitments, according to people familiar with the matter. VentureBeat If advertisers pay for an ad and expect to get 8 million unique views in a set time period but only get 6 million, YouTube will air that same ad until it gets the full impact. The guarantee is nothing new, and is something that advertisers are routinely guaranteed by TV networks. Silicon Valley Business Journal YouTube also plans to reserve ad space for advertisers who agree to purchase time in advance in the best performing 5 percent of shows on its channels, according to the Journal.
News Corp. Boss Brands Washington Post Journalists ‘High Priests’ (The Guardian)
Robert Thomson, the chief executive of News Corp., has branded Washington Post journalists “high priests” who have failed to embrace the transition to digital. Thomson, appearing with WPP chief Sir Martin Sorrell at an Adweek Europe session in London on Monday, said he believed that the new Post owner, Jeff Bezos, will be a shot in the arm for the paper’s commercial and distribution strategy. Politico / Dylan Byers on Media Thomson said Bezos will have clever ways of extending their reach, but he’ll have to work around a stodgy newsroom culture. “That will be the real challenge for [Bezos]. To listen to the sometimes lugubrious Bob Woodward tell you how lucky you are to have them is very different to making the most of a newsroom full of individuals who think they have a role as high priests,” he said. Thomson added that the Post‘s journalists “haven’t understood that we are in a different moment in history.”
Telepictures Nabs Former Fremantle COO Donna Redier Linsk to Head Business Operations (TheWrap)
Donna Redier Linsk, former chief operations officer of FremantleMedia North America, will head the business operations at Warner Bros.’ Telepictures. In the newly-created position of executive vice president of business operations and programming, she will report to Warner Bros.’ unscripted and alternative television president Mike Darnell. Variety The move reunites the production vet with Darnell, who previously worked with Redier Linsk at the Fox network. Redier Linsk becomes Telepictures’ top business exec, overseeing all financial and administrative aspects of the company’s busy roster of shows for syndication, cable and digital outlets. The list includes The Ellen DeGeneres Show, TMZ, Extra and the upcoming daytime talk show The Real.
State Department Steals Atlantic Media CTO (FishbowlDC)
Tom Cochran, formerly the CTO of Atlantic Media, has a new job at the State Department. He will now serve as the managing director of the department’s Bureau of International Information Programs. This will be a homecoming of sorts for Cochran, as he previously worked in the White House as director of new media technologies. There he led the team of people that created the “We The People” petition website.
Yahoo! Is in Talks to Buy Online-Video Service NDN (WSJ)
Yahoo! Inc. is in preliminary talks to acquire online-video service News Distribution Network Inc., a deal that would help chief executive Marissa Mayer compete with Google Inc.’s YouTube for viewers and ad dollars. Yahoo! could pay roughly $300 million for NDN, according to two people who have been briefed on the matter and asked to not be named. The discussions are still early and a deal may not be reached for several weeks or may fall apart, said one of the people. NDN, a video syndication service that supplies newspapers and other Web publishers with clips about news, sports, politics and other topics, would help Yahoo! expand its video offering to thousands of new sites and potentially create lucrative opportunities for marketers to work with the company.
Audiobook Revenues Reach $1.6 Billion (GalleyCat)
Audiobook sales are on the rise. From 2008-2013, revenue for audiobooks is estimated to have grown at an annualized rate of 12 percent to $1.6 billion, according to a new report from IBISWorld. The increasing popularity of Internet-connected mobile devices among consumers has helped drive these sales. From 2013 to 2018, IBISWorld predicts that these numbers will continue to grow. Led by rising disposable income and consumers who are new to adopt audiobooks, revenues should grow “significantly over the next five years,” reports IBISWorld.
CNN Taps Maggie Haberman as Contributor (Politico / Dylan Byers on Media)
CNN has tapped Politico‘s Maggie Haberman to serve as a political analyst, bolstering its political coverage ahead of the 2014 elections, host Jake Tapper announced on his show Monday. Haberman, a senior political reporter for Politico, has appeared on the network several times in recent days, chiefly on John King’s Inside Politics, which airs Sunday mornings, and in segments on the weekday morning show, New Day. Based in New York, Haberman joined Politico after covering the 2008 presidential election for the New York Post.
Pluto.TV Launches Free, Curated Video Platform (THR)
A new streaming platform launched Monday to bring a television-like experience to Web video, and it’s got a cadre of Hollywood investors backing it up. Pluto.TV offers nearly 100 channels of curated content — topics include entertainment, lifestyle, news, sports, children’s programming, etc. — that has been hand-selected and programmed into blocks. The idea is that sometimes people want to watch short online videos the same passive way they often watch TV. The channels on Pluto.TV range from top 40 music videos to commercials to dog videos. The company pulls its videos from sites such as YouTube and Vimeo. It also has partnerships with content creators such as Funny or Die, QVC, Refinery29 and The Young Turks.
Hulu Names Warner Bros. TV’s Craig Erwich Head of Content (Variety)
Hulu announced that it has hired Craig Erwich, previously with Warner Horizon Television, as senior VP and head of content. Erwich will officially start at the Internet TV joint venture April 7, reporting to Hulu CEO Mike Hopkins. As head of content for Hulu, Erwich will lead overall content development, including investments in original first-run programming, primetime programming from broadcast and cable networks, and library TV series from the U.S. and internationally.