Morning Media Newsfeed: Raven to Retire From A&E | NBC Undecided on Virgin Galactic Series

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A&E Networks Chairman Abbe Raven to Retire (THR)
Cable pioneer Abbe Raven is set to retire. Her last day as chairman of A&E Networks will be Feb. 2. The news comes nearly a year after Raven’s protégé, Nancy Dubuc, was elevated to CEO and Raven to chairman. Deadline Hollywood Dubuc took oversight of the day-to-day operations of the company, while Raven remained in charge of A&E Networks’ long-term business and revenue opportunities, including distribution, as well as public policy initiatives and corporate outreach. A year ago, Dubuc also took over distribution. She will remain president and CEO. Variety Raven’s role as chairman will not be filled. Raven is without question one of key architects of A&E Networks’ growth, particularly in the past 15 years. The company, a joint venture of Hearst Corp. and Disney, is home to some of cable’s most prosperous channels, but as a private concern it is shielded from quarterly earnings scrutiny. Under Raven and Dubuc, A&E has rapidly expanded its domestic and international portfolio, which generates an estimated $3.8 billion in annual revenue. TheWrap Prior to her position as president and CEO, Raven held high level executive roles at the company’s properties A&E Network, The Biography Channel and The History Channel. WSJ The handoff also comes at a challenging time. After setting cable-television ratings records last year with hits like Duck Dynasty on A&E and The Bible on History, the company’s two biggest channels have endured sharp declines this year. A&E’s ratings are down 32 percent so far this year in total viewers and 25 percent in its target demographic of 25- to 54-year olds, while History’s ratings are down 15 percent in both total viewers and those 25 to 54.

NBC Undecided on Space Race Series After Fatal Virgin Galactic Crash (TheWrap)
NBC is reassessing the future of its planned series with Richard Branson‘s Virgin Galactic after Friday’s fatal crash of SpaceShipTwo, an individual with knowledge of the situation said. A decision has yet to be made on the series announced in October 2013 under the title Space Race. Variety The pilot was killed and another person was seriously injured Friday when the craft crashed in California’s Mojave Desert near the Mojave Air and Space Port facility where Virgin has been testing its ambitious venture. The NBC series was ordered this time last year and was meant to be a competition show putting contestants through their paces to win a flight on the Virgin Galactic. Deadline Hollywood Space Race marked a reunion of NBC and producer Mark Burnett in the space travel reality TV genre. Thirteen years ago, NBC outbid several other networks for Burnett’s Destination: Mir, which was later scrapped when the Russian space station that was to be the series’ destination was brought down. Burnett later tried again with Destination: Space, which also didn’t get off the ground — also a partnership with the Russian space program, and using Soyuz rockets. CNNMoney The Space Race series would also have “unprecedented access” to Virgin Galactic’s Spaceport America facilities in New Mexico, where contestants would train for their winning flight, according to a press release issued last year. Virgin Galactic’s plan for the $500 million spaceship is to transport passengers 62 miles above Earth, where the planet meets the onset of space.

Analyst Blames SVOD for Falling TV Ratings (B&C)
In a new report, analyst Todd Juenger of Sanford C. Bernstein says the big third quarter drop in C3 ratings for ad-supported TV is largely the fault of subscription video on demand players like Netflix and Amazon. And that the erosion is likely to increase. Checking data from both Nielsen and Rentrak, Juenger believes the decline is real and not just a measurement error. Deadline Hollywood He figures that the 4 percent decline in total day TV viewing vs. the same period last year equals about 13 minutes per day. And he concludes it’s not a blip: They’ve gone to subscription video-on-demand services led by Netflix and its shrewd CEO Reed Hastings. Its viewing has increased about 12 minutes a day, to 95 minutes, as its audience has grown and each subscriber spends more time with it. So — contrary to the party line in media — Netflix viewing is a substitute for traditional TV, not a supplement. Re/code What makes it even worse for the TV guys is that they’ve helped create the problem, by selling off their old shows to Netflix and the other services. For the past three or four years, the networks have been happy to offload their old stuff to the streaming services, in part because they needed to replace declining revenues for syndication and DVD sales, and in part because it was such easy, high-margin money.