Morning Media Newsfeed: Amazon Unveils Fire TV | Strahan to Join GMA | Peabody Award Winners

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Amazon Announces Set-Top Box ‘Fire TV’ (LostRemote)
Amazon continues its quest to become more than an e-commerce powerhouse, announcing Wednesday a set-top box that allows HDTV viewers to connect to Amazon’s video offerings. Mashable The set-top device, called Amazon Fire TV, will be sold for $99. It is a small flat box with a remote control. The hardware aims to take on the Apple TV, Roku and even the Xbox One. The Internet-connected set-top box, which uses voice search when you speak into the remote and also serves as a gaming console, was announced during a launch event in New York City on Wednesday with Amazon VP Peter Larsen playing master of ceremonies, not CEO and founder Jeff Bezos. WSJ The new Fire TV is an ambitious move by Amazon to break into the living room. Amazon offers a streaming-video service to its Prime subscribers, but until now has been largely dependent on other hardware manufacturers to deliver that content to televisions. Sales of streaming media devices such as Roku are expected to grow 24 percent this year, according to market researcher Strategy Analytics. Apple currently leads the market, followed by Roku and Google, the firm said. NYT Fire TV will show a range of content from other providers, including Hulu, Netflix and ESPN. With a separate $40 controller, it can be used to play games, including a version of the extremely popular Minecraft. Among the improvements and enhancements promoted for Fire TV: a voice search function that allows users to utter a name like “George Clooney” or a genre like “horror” and see results instantly pop up, and a prediction feature that knows what you want and queues it up. THR The small black box began shipping Wednesday, Larsen told a crowd of reporters. It has a premium price point in line with Apple TV. Roku, meanwhile, costs as low as $50 and Chromecast retails for $35.

Michael Strahan Joining Good Morning America (CNNMoney)
Michael Strahan will join the cast of ABC’s Good Morning America. Strahan, the former New York Giants defensive end turned media star, won’t be replacing any individual. The Washington Post / The Style Blog He’s not leaving co-host Kelly Ripa in the lurch on Live! With Kelly And Michael; this GMA gig would only be on a part-time basis. LA Times / Show Tracker ABC News executives are said to have begun talks with Strahan months ago, pleased with his performance during the times he substituted for Robin Roberts last year while she was out on sick leave, and heated up in recent weeks. Entertainment Weekly / Inside TV Strahan is expected to appear in GMA’s top hour without affecting the current roles of Roberts, George Stephanopoulos, Lara Spencer, Ginger Zee and Amy Robach, who this week replaced the exiting Josh Elliott. One insider insists the talks pre-date the current salary negotiations that resulted in a major pay boost for Roberts (who is reportedly making in the $14 million a year range) and Spencer (around $8 million). Stephanopoulos’ deal doesn’t expire until year’s end.

Peabody Awards Recipients Announced (CBS News)
The winners of the 73rd Annual Peabody Awards were announced on CBS This Morning Wednesday. TVSpy Four local stations — WBZ in Boston, KING in Seattle, WVUE in New Orleans and WTVF in Nashville — won awards. CBS-owned WBZ was honored for its “wide-ranging, enterprising, non-sensational” coverage of the Boston Marathon bombings. The station was praised for becoming a “crucial source not just to [its] city but to a stunned nation.” Poynter / MediaWire Other winners include “Fault Lines,” from Al Jazeera America, which told the story of a garment factory fire in Bangladesh; “The Race Card Project” from NPR’s Morning Edition; and “180 Days: A Year Inside an American High School,” from PBS. Projects from NBC News, This American Life, BBC and Frontline won awards, as did Breaking Bad, House of Cards and Scandal. New York Daily News Longtime NBC news reporter and anchor Tom Brokaw, 74, was given an individual Peabody Award for career achievement and in particular for the his work on long-form news reports after leaving the NBC Nightly News program in 2004.

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Digital First Media’s Project Thunderdome on Chopping Block (The Washington Post / Style)
Project Thunderdome, an innovative experiment in producing news content for 75 daily newspapers across the country, will be slashed by its owner in a cost-cutting move, people close to the venture said. Politico / Dylan Byers on Media The three-year-old Thunderdome project was a centralized, digital-first, news content partnership that was aimed at gathering nonlocal news and distributing it throughout the company’s network of local papers in customizable formats. The Guardian The company is in the middle of a major cost-cutting initiative, with a goal of trimming between $60 million and $100 million from its annual budget. Digital First, whose papers include The Denver Post, New Haven Register, San Jose Mercury News and many other papers in California, was created in part by a 2011 merger of the Journal Register Company and Media News Group. Chief executive John Paton portrayed the cuts as a result of local outlets taking over tasks that once were performed centrally, “and that means it is time to change again.” NYT More than 50 people at Project Thunderdome’s New York headquarters will lose their jobs, he said, and more layoffs are likely as part of a broader restructuring. When asked whether the moves signaled that Digital First’s owner, the hedge fund Alden Global Capital, might sell the newspapers, Paton said “no decisions have been made.” Later on Wednesday, The Salt Lake Tribune announced that it had been asked to cut its budget about 10 percent for the coming fiscal year, starting July 1.

Bill Hemmer Re-Signs With Fox News (TVNewser)
Fox News has signed anchor Bill Hemmer to a multi-year deal, FNC chairman Roger Ailes announced Wednesday. Hemmer will continue hosting America’s Newsroom from 9-11 a.m. ET alongside Martha MacCallum, and also agreed this past September to host the 1 p.m. ET hour on a temporary basis until the debut of a new show in that timeslot. Deadline Hollywood America’s Newsroom has been No. 1 for 86 consecutive months, with both total viewers and in the news demo — from February of 2007 to March of 2014. “Bill Hemmer is a fantastic all-around newsman and a tremendous talent,” Ailes said in the announcement. Variety Hemmer, who joined the politically conservative-leaning 24-hour news network in 2005 after 10 years at CNN, said, “There is no better boss in America than Roger Ailes. I’m proud to work for him and my wonderful, hardworking colleagues at FNC.”

Matt Lauer, Al Roker Jump The Sharknado (TVNewser)
In a great feat of corporate synergy, NBC News anchors Matt Lauer and Al Roker will have bit parts in the sequel to Syfy’s Sharknado appropriately titled Sharknado 2. NBC and Syfy are both NBCU networks. Mashable Lauer teased their cameo Wednesday on Today, explaining the sequel’s plot. The first movie told the survival story after a freak tornado hurled terrifying, ocean-dwelling sharks onto land in Los Angeles. Now, the weather madness is moving to New York City, with Tara Reid and Ian Ziering reprising their roles as April and Fin to save the day. LA Times / Show Tracker The Today pair filmed two scenes in the show’s 30 Rock studios on Tuesday and revealed the scenes on Wednesday. In the first, Roker delivers a grim weather forecast. And in the second, conditions in the city appear to have deteriorated to the point where the Today guys have some kind of dangerous creature (likely a shark) pinned down on their desk. Lauer attempted to tell viewers that the second scene was the climax of the entire film. Highly unlikely, but then again, stranger things have happened.