Leaders & Bleeders: Scripps Up, Netflix Down

It’s heartwarming that media companies are stepping up and contributing to relief efforts for Superstorm Sandy. Viacom, Disney and News Corp. have committed substantial funds, while NBCUniversal will air a telethon Friday.

As usual when funds are needed for disaster relief, education and social programs, it gets one thinking how twisted it is that so much is spent on political advertising. On local TV alone, nearly $2 billion has been spent through Oct. 21, according to a Wells Fargo report.

There’s no reason to believe the outlays won’t keep going up -- unless Congress decides to explore reforms. And, how likely is it that incumbents would do something that might hurt them?

While pondering the juxtaposition of superPACs and superstorms, it’s time for this month’s Leaders & Bleeders:


1) SCRIPPS NETWORKS INTERACTIVE – The company reported that ad sales were up 10% in the third quarter even as the Olympics took money out of the market. The housing market looks to be on the upswing, which might help HGTV. The Travel Channel may be taking off and Food Network remains healthy. At least one analyst has said Disney might look to acquire the company, though that was before the Mouse bought Lucasfilm. 



2) NBC REVOLUTION IS TELEVISED – The network hasn't beaten another network over a full season in eight years in the 18-to-49 demo, but a resurgence might be underway. By one metric, NBC leads this season by 15% over second-place CBS among 18- to-49-year-olds. Even more impressive, it has a scripted hit, with first-year “Revolution” the top drama on broadcast TV among 18- to-49-year-olds. Of course, “Heroes” started strong a few years ago and then faded.    

3) CONSUMER CONFIDENCE – The Conference Board’s index rose again in October to 72.2, putting it at the highest level since early 2008. An executive at the firm stated consumers “appear to be in better spirits approaching the holiday season.” As far as the outlook on the jobs market, consumers offered up some optimism, but not across the board.

4) SOCCER – The perpetual sport of the future in the U.S. is becoming coveted programming. NBC Sports paid handsomely to acquire rights to English Premier League games, topping a joint bid by Fox and ESPN. Meanwhile, Al Jazeera-owned beInSport has burst on the scene with all kinds of rights, including for some U.S. World Cup qualifiers.

5) THE ACADEMY – Oscar organizers made a big move to dispel the notion that they’re stuffy by tapping edgy (better description needed) Seth MacFarlane to host the Academy Awards next year. When given the honor, the “Family Guy” and “American Dad” mastermind stated: “I hope they don't find out I hosted the Charlie Sheen Roast.” One appeal: could the Academy please return to limiting Best Picture nominees to five?


1) NETFLIX – When Carl Icahn buys into your company – he just picked up a 10% stake – it can be pretty unsettling. One analyst expects him to lead an uprising in favor of a Netflix sale. Icahn did tell the AP he supports CEO Reed Hastings. Netflix recently said it would fall short of expectations that it would have nearly 29 million U.S. online-streaming subscribers by the end of the year. It deal with AMC looks better and better, though, with "Walking Dead" episodes available.

2) UNIVERSITY OF PHOENIX – The for-profit education company has been a big-time TV advertiser for several years. Kantar reports spending was up 16% for the first half of this year. (It was also Google’s largest advertiser in the third quarter, according to WordStream.) But the company is closing more than 100 locations and laying off 5% of its employees as profits have dropped.

3) WORLD SERIES – Fox picked up rights to the Fall Classic through 2021 and then carried the lowest-rated Series in history. The four-game sweep didn’t help. But baseball might be turning into a regional sport in the post-season. In other words, if a local team isn’t involved, Fox and TBS might have trouble attracting fans nationally. That of course would change if the Chicago Cubs ever made it to the Series.

4) MARTHA STEWART LIVING OMNIMEDIA – In just a few years, Martha Stewart has gone from a nationwide syndicated show to cable to PBS. Now, the pressure looks to be ratcheted up on her company to discover a new wave of TV talent as it has announced a major retrenchment in its publishing business.

5) “OFFICE” MATES – Mindy Kaling, formerly of the NBC series, has her own new comedy on Fox, which may not be a big hit, but has been renewed for another season. But the proposed spinoff starring Rainn Wilson (Dwight Schrute) was not picked up by NBC.




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