Morning Media Newsfeed: Pulitzers Announced | Google Buys Drone Maker | Relativity Eyes Maker Studios

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2014 Pulitzer Prizes Announced (FishbowlNY)
The Pulitzer Prizes celebrate the best of the best, and Monday we learned the latest recipients of journalism’s highest honor. TVNewser The Washington Post and the U.S. edition of The Guardian have won the award. They will share the Public Service award for their series of stories on NSA surveillance, as revealed by Edward Snowden, an NSA contractor who gave the top-secret information to the news organizations. The Pulitzer committee said the journalism was “marked by authoritative and insightful reports that helped the public understand how the disclosures fit into the larger framework of national security.” Politico Snowden immediately declared the decision “a vindication.” The reporting on the former government contractor’s leaks was led by journalists Glenn Greenwald and Ewan McAskill at The Guardian, Barton Gellman at the Post, and Laura Poitras, who worked with both newspapers. NYT The Boston Globe won the breaking news prize for its coverage of the Boston Marathon bombing, which killed three people and wounded at least 260. The Post won a second award, for explanatory journalism. Eli Saslow, 31, a staff writer, won for a series of articles on American families that rely on the federal food stamp program. GalleyCat Author Donna Tartt won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for her book The Goldfinch. The novel about an orphan also won Amazon’s Best Books of the Month “Spotlight Pick” in October 2013 and was shortlisted for 2013 National Book Critics Circle Award.

Google Buys Drone Maker Titan Aerospace (WSJ)
Google Inc. agreed to buy Titan Aerospace, a startup maker of high-altitude drones previously courted by Facebook Inc., as the Internet-search giant pursues aerial technology to collect images and offer online access to remote areas. AllFacebook Facebook ended up acquiring Ascenta for $20 million in late March, when it announced the formation of its Connectivity Lab, which will be tasked with using high-altitude long-endurance planes, satellites and lasers to help further the mission of — the global partnership formed by Facebook, Ericsson, MediaTek, Nokia, Opera, Qualcomm and Samsung last August — of providing Internet access to parts of the world that are not connected. Mashable Titan’s 20-person team will stay in New Mexico. Titan may also work with Makani, a Google project that is developing an airborne wind turbine. NYT / Bits Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The Titan Aerospace drones are unique because they are solar-powered and can fly for several years, according to the company’s website. Drones that can fly for long periods of time without having to land could be used to offer constant updates of images of the earth, allowing a company like Google to update the photos in its maps platform.

Relativity Media Bids for Maker Studios (WSJ)
In a last-minute attempt to spoil a deal between online-video producer Maker Studios and Walt Disney Co., film and entertainment company Relativity Media LLC jumped in with a counterbid. LA Times / Company Town Relativity, a Beverly Hills-based entertainment company, offered to pay $525 million in cash and stock for the Culver City, Calif. digital media company, plus as much as $500 million more depending on the financial performance of the company, according to a person familiar with the deal. Relativity also offered a bonus pool worth $75 million for “key talent and executives,” this person said. Reuters Disney agreed to buy Maker on March 24 for $500 million in cash, a price that could rise to $950 million if Maker hits certain performance milestones. “The agreement has been approved by Maker Studios’ Board of Directors and the majority of its shareholders and is expected to close in the next few weeks, subject to regulatory approval,” Maker said in a statement on Monday. Bloomberg Businessweek With more than 55,000 channels, 380 million subscribers and 5.5 billion views per month on YouTube, Maker Studios has become a top online video network for younger viewers, according to Disney. The acquisition is one of the biggest for Disney, the world’s largest entertainment company, since the $4 billion purchase of Lucasfilm Ltd. in 2012.

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Lawrence O’Donnell Will Be Off MSNBC for Several Weeks After Car Accident (TVNewser)
Lawrence O’Donnell will be off the air for several weeks after being involved in a car accident over the weekend while vacationing. Mediaite O’Donnell and his brother Michael were traveling outside of the country when a taxi they were riding in crashed. The host is expected to make a full recovery but will take a hiatus from his nightly show. EW Alex Wagner filled in for O’Donnell during the 10 p.m. ET time slot Monday and will fill in Tuesday this week, with Ari Melber taking Wednesday and Thursday.

Lionsgate Strikes Content Pact With RocketJump, YouTube Studio Behind Video Game High School (Variety)
Lionsgate is the latest Hollywood studio expanding its presence in the YouTube space, announcing a content-development pact with RocketJump Studios, the digital studio whose biggest hit is the Video Game High School series. WSJ The deal enables Lionsgate to access RocketJump’s upcoming slate of digital content, in-house talent and devoted fan base while allowing RocketJump to utilize Lionsgate’s content leadership and global marketing prowess, bringing more long-form projects to its audience while continuing to expand its roster of weekly shorts, podcasts and tutorials. LA Times / Company Town This comes amid a flurry of deals between Hollywood companies and digital content creators to cater to millennial consumers who increasing watch video content online. This is not Lionsgate’s first foray into digital video content. The company’s digital portfolio includes a stake in online platform Defy Media and the YouTube fitness channel BeFit. It’s also the company behind the Netflix series Orange Is The New Black and the new Hulu show Deadbeat.

Howard Owens Out as President of National Geographic Channels (THR)
After three years, Howard Owens is out as president of National Geographic Channels U.S., according to an announcement on Monday by CEO David Lyle. Variety Before Nat Geo, Owens was a co-founder with Ben Silverman of the Reveille production banner, which was acquired by Elisabeth Murdoch’s Shine Group in 2008. Owens is credited with taking the channel into the scripted programming arena with the long-form adaptations of Bill O’Reilly’s books Killing Kennedy, Killing Lincoln and the upcoming Killing Jesus. He also spearheaded the launch of series franchises including Wicked Tuna, Brain Games, Life Below Zero and highly promotable “event” programs such as SEAL Team Six and The ’80s: The Decade That Made Us. Deadline Hollywood “Our president and my friend Howard Owens is moving on — flying out the window of National Geographic and into the free world of independent production,” Lyle said in the memo to staff.

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CNN’s Anthony Bourdain, Morgan Spurlock Win Their Time Slots in News Demo (Deadline Hollywood)
TV in general pretty much underperformed Sunday night, but the season premieres of Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown and Morgan Spurlock: Inside Man both surged over their previous season bows by double digits. The 9 p.m. Season 3 opener of Bourdain’s hybrid foodie travelogue posted 325,000 persons 25-54, according to Nielsen’s Live+SD numbers, up 34 percent over last season’s Sept. 15 bow. Oscar nominee Spurlock’s episode at 10 p.m. drew 244,000 viewers in the demo — topping last year’s series premiere by 11 percent. TVNewser Parts Unknown and Inside Man won their Sunday timeslots on cable news.

WGA Jobs Report: Women, Minority Writers Lose Ground in Film, Make Small Gains in TV (Variety)
Women and minority writers are losing ground in film while notching only modest gains in TV, according to the WGA West’s latest comprehensive survey of employment for its members. Female writers accounted for 15 percent of feature film work in 2012, the latest year tracked in the survey, down from 17 percent in 2009. Minority writers remained stuck at 5 percent of film jobs, unchanged from 2009, but the survey shows minority writer earnings declined over the same period even as paydays for white male writers increased. Deadline Hollywood Women remained underrepresented by a factor of nearly 2-to-1 among TV writers in 2012, claiming 27 percent of sector employment, and they earned about 92 cents for every dollar earned by white males in 2012 — up slightly from 91 cents in 2009. Minority TV writers posted an increase in employment share (from 10 percent in 2009 to 11 percent in 2012), also closing the earnings gap “a bit.”

Universal Responds to James Bond Lawsuit: No Green Light for Section 6 Yet (THR / Hollywood, Esq.)
Universal Studios had submitted its first court papers in the new battle over whether Section 6 — a film project about the early days of the U.K.’s spy agency MI6 — is a James Bond knockoff. Last week, MGM and Danjaq, rights-holders of the lucrative 007 franchise, filed a copyright lawsuit against Universal and alleged there could be no question about the derivation of “a motion picture project, in active development, featuring a daring, tuxedo-clad British secret agent, employed by ‘His Majesty’s Secret Service,’ with a ‘license to kill,’ and a 00 (double-O) secret agent number on a mission to save England from the diabolical plot of a megalomaniacal villain.” Deadline Hollywood In a filing on April 11, Universal’s attorneys sought to shut down not only the plaintiffs’ desire for a quick discovery process, but their very premise. “The picture in question has not been ‘green lit,’ i.e., no decision has yet been made whether actually to produce it,” said Universal. “Indeed, any ‘green light’ decision is many months away,” adds the nine-page filing in federal court.

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Former Editor Andy Coulson Testifies in Hacking Trial (WSJ)
The former spokesman for British Prime Minister David Cameron on Monday took the stand for the first time in the months-long phone-hacking trial, seeking to defend himself against accusations that he knew about the use of illegal tactics to pursue scoops while he was editor of a British tabloid. Andy Coulson and six other defendants have pleaded not guilty to a number of charges related to a broad investigation into alleged illegal interception of phone messages. Coulson edited News Corp.’s now-defunct News of The World tabloid from 2003 to 2007.

Laura Ingraham Joins ABC News (Politico / Dylan Byers on Media)
Conservative radio host Laura Ingraham has joined ABC News as a contributor, This Week host George Stephanopoulos announced on Sunday. Ingraham will continue to serve as Fox News contributor and guest host for Fox’s The O’Reilly Factor. She will also continue to host her daily radio program, which is broadcast by the Courtside Entertainment Group. Ingraham, who previously served as a speechwriter-turned-adviser to President Ronald Reagan and as a law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, joined Fox News in 2007.

Lori MacPherson to Leave Disney as Studio Restructures Home Entertainment Group (Variety)
Lori MacPherson, a 23-year-vet of Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, is leaving the company as executive VP, global product management at the end of the month. MacPherson was instrumental in helping grow Disney’s Blu-ray business, digital copy and loyalty programs. Her role at the company was expanded in 2010 to include managing physical and digital Disney, Pixar, Marvel, DreamWorks, ABC, ABC Family and Disney Channels properties, along with developing new business opportunities.

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Comcast Customers Get Much Faster Netflix Streams, Thanks to Peering Deal (GigaOM)
The peering deal between Netflix and Comcast seems to be paying off for consumers: The average speed of Netflix streams consumed by Comcast subscribers has increased by 65 percent over the last two months, according to Netflix’s most recent ISP Speed Index. In January, Comcast customers accessed Netflix with an average bit rate of 1.51 Mbps. By March, that rate was up to 2.5 Mbps. This increase led to Comcast climbing the charts in Netflix’s monthly speed index, where the company is now fifth among the country’s big ISPs.

Venezuelan Journalist Freed After Being Kidnapped for A Week (Reuters)
A high-profile Venezuelan journalist was freed on Monday after a week-long kidnapping that brought attention once again to the South American country’s endemic violent crime. Nairobi Pinto, 32-year-old head of correspondents for private TV station Globovision, was found in the town of Cua, about 60 km (38 miles) south of the capital, Caracas, authorities said. While 3,000 police officers had been hunting for Pinto, no further details were given of who had kidnapped her or in what circumstances she had been released.

Yahoo! Expands Distribution Deal for Vevo’s Music Videos (Variety)
Yahoo! and Vevo broadened their distribution partnership to bring Vevo’s 100,000-plus music videos, live concert events and original programming to the Yahoo! Screen Web and mobile video services. Under the companies’ previous partnership, formed in 2012, Vevo’s programming was syndicated to Yahoo! Music. The expanded deal now covers Yahoo! Screen, the Internet media company’s video portal, which is now offering Vevo content to users in the U.S. and Canada. In the coming weeks, the partnership will extend to the U.K., Germany, Spain, France and Italy as well as the Yahoo! Screen mobile app.

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