• Did Hugh Hefner abandon a deal to sell Playboy because he insisted he be allowed to live at the Playboy Mansion until he dies? That's the rumor. [PC]
• CNN will finish 2009 behind MSNBC, which is a first. How is it that CNN chief Jon Klein still has a job? Ask Jeff Bewkes if you bump into him, please. [NYT]
• Daily Intel has a list of the latest layoffs at the New York Times. [NYM]
• Roy Disney, nephew of Walt and former top Disney exec, is dead at 79. [NYT]
• The war between the Times and Wall Street Journal continues apace. [NYO]
• The Journal is boosting circulation of its glossy quarterly, WSJ. [WWD]
• Pressure's on! Jim Cameron's $300 mil. Avatar debuts this weekend. [THR]
• Two of Hollywood's big PR firms, BNC and PMK, have joined forces. [AdAge]
• Teen Vogue editor Amy Astley is making a cameo on Gossip Girl. [WWD]
• Painful truths: Your boyfriend secretly loves soft-rock, Celine Dion. [NYT]
• Time's 2009 "Person of the Year" is Fed chair Ben Bernanke. Yawn. [Time]
• Condé Nast is now swinging into damage control mode: It's retained Michael Sheehan, a "crisis manager and media coach" who's faced some steep PR challenges in the past having worked with President Clinton and AIG. [NYP]
• So is Oprah moving to cable? The discussions continue, reportedly. [AdAge]
• Kyle Pope doesn't seem to have been Jared Kushner's first choice to serve as editor-in-chief of the New York Observer. Times star business reporter Andrew Ross Sorkin turned Kushner down twice over the past year. [NYM]
• More than 100 people were laid off at Lifetime and A&E today. [Variety]
• Philip Gourevitch is stepping down as editor of The Paris Review. [NYO]
• Time Warner chief Jeff Bewkes discusses the future of the media biz. [TDB]
• MTV did not rebuild the Berlin Wall for U2, in case you were worried. [UPI]
• Time Inc. is "not for sale," says Time Warner boss Jeff Bewkes. [DF]
• Meanwhile, Time Inc., Condé Nast, and Hearst are looking to team up and create a "Hulu for magazines." Another winning idea, clearly. [FT, ATD]
• Miramax is fast approaching non-existence. Disney, Miramax's parent, is cutting 50 jobs at the company, leaving it with just 20 employees. [NYT]
• The pros and cons to a marriage between Comcast and NBC. [AdAge]
• The Washington Post and Bloomberg are launching a joint news service. [AP]
• TV Guide dismissed several execs yesterday, including its publisher. [NYP]
• Former Warner Bros. and Yahoo! chief Terry Semel was interested in buying the Nets, but he couldn't compete with Russian mogul Mikhail Prokhorov. [P6]
• Will the David Letterman drama ultimately hurt the show's ratings or send skittish advertisers running for the exits? That's unlikely, say observers. [THR]
• The cover of Sarah Palin's forthcoming (and already best-selling) memoir, Going Rogue, has been revealed. Try to contain your excitement. [AP]
• It's not just TLC that is happy about the Jon & Kate nonsense. Putting them on the cover of Us six times in a row has been a "windfall" for Janice Min. [NYP]
• Get ready to pay for People.com: Time Warner chief Jeff Bewkes says the company may begin charging for access to online magazine content. [AP]
• With book sales plunging and attendance down at BookExpo America, the mood in the publishing industry is kinda gloomy at the moment. [NYT]
• Keith Olbermann is in hot water again. The waterboarding video on his show last week was staged, it turns out, and MSNBC was made aware of that fact before the show, but they went ahead with it anyway. [Gawker]
As expected, Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes announced this morning that it plans to spin off AOL, a move that puts the final nail in the coffin of one of the most disastrous mergers in history. But if the mechanics of the deal strike you a little too complicated, The Times Bits blog has outlined it in easy-to-understand celebrity tabloid terms:
Michelle Obama was the main attraction at Time magazine's sixth annual 100 "most influential" ceremony at Lincoln Center last night. She was joined by a predictably massive group of A-listers, including Oprah, Harvey Weinstein, Mort Zuckerman, Steve Schwarzman, Jeff Bewkes, Diane Sawyer, Barbara Walters, Whoopi Goldberg, Joy Behar, Carine Roitfeld, Gayle King, Stella McCartney, Claire Danes and Hugh Dancy, Kate Hudson, Liv Tyler, Jay Leno, Lorne Michaels, Jimmy Fallon and Nancy Juvonen, Charlie Rose, David Lauren and Lauren Bush, Ann Coulter, Suze Orman, Arianna Huffington, Kate Betts, Andy Serwer, Paul Krugman, Vivi Nevo and Ziyi Zhang, Andrea Mitchell, Chris Matthews ...
Dick Parsons stepped down as Time Warner's chairman at the end of 2008, and handed over the reigns as the company's CEO to Jeff Bewkes a year before that. That isn't stopping Time Warner from sprucing up his office, though! The company disclosed it plans to spend $776,000 this year to make heading into the office every couple of months a more pleasant experience for Parsons, and the company will also pay to provide him with a secretary. Considering Parsons is now the chairman of Citigroup, presumably he'll also be getting a fancy new office at 399 Park Avenue just as soon as Citi CEO Vikram Pandit is finished with his $10 million renovation of the second-floor "executive suite." And yet despite two new spaces, he still won't have access to a Zen garden! (At least not one that Citigroup or Time Warner will be paying for.) But he can always make one himself if really wants to.
• The LA Times ran an ad designed to look like an actual news story on the front page of the paper today. Much criticism has followed, obvs. [ATD, E&P]
• The NYT is asking its reporters to come up with cost-cutting ideas. [NYO]
• A Chicago-based Good Morning America staffer was given the boot after he tried to put his nose job on his corporate credit card. [P6]
• The acquisition of the Wall Street Journal was a giant misstep for News Corp., but Fox News is making Rupert Murdoch some money. [Reuters]
• Cablevision's Jim Dolan earned a $12.5 million pay package last year. [AP]
• Time Warner's Jeff Bewkes raked in $19.9 million in 2008. [MC]
• The 15 top moneymakers on primetime television. [Forbes]
• Barely-living Blackbook is now refusing to pay some freelancers. [Jossip]
• Ben Silverman and NBC have come to terms on a new contract. [B&C]
• Jeff Bewkes is taking over as Time Warner's chairman. [Bloomberg]
• As expected, Newsweek is trimming both staff and circulation. [WSJ]
• Do his 8 Golden Globe nods mean Harvey Weinstein is on the rebound? [THR]
• CBS Interactive is restructuring and making major cuts. [PaidContent]
• Hugh Jackman will be hosting the Oscars next February. [THR]
Time Warner has reported its third-quarter results, including AOL's numbers, and they are dismal. Internet-access revenues were down 26 percent, a loss everyone more or less expected, since the dial-up business is moribund. But advertising sales were down 6 percent. AOL management can't blame the market meltdown for this one, since that had barely started by the time the quarter ended. October through December, one assumes, will be much, much worse.What's odd is that Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes isn't getting more criticism for AOL's numbers. As the head of HBO, he was one of a handful of Time Warner executives who loudly opposed the AOL deal. But enacting Time Warner's revenge on AOL by driving the business into the ground seems a strange way of making things right with shareholders. Bewkes's hand-picked boss for AOL, former NBC executive Randy Falco, has been a complete disaster — a short-timer waiting for the company to be sold. Bewkes and Yahoo's Jerry Yang have been holding desultory talks on selling AOL to Yahoo. But Bewkes's negotiating position is considerably weakened by these results. Why didn't he sell sooner — and when will he pay the price for mismanaging AOL?
Good news if you're an employee of the Trump Organization! Your exceptionally kind-hearted boss, Donald J. Trump, is giving you an hour off from work next Tuesday so you can go and vote. (Just one hour, though, so don't go making excuses about how your polling station is Brooklyn.) He isn't the only one. If you happen to work for one of the 2,372 companies owned by Time Warner, consider this video by Jeff Bewkes as official notice that you're permitted to skip out of the Time Warner building to perform your civic duty. Not registered? Not a US citizen? See you across the street in Central Park!
Let us say it, since every other writer seems too kind: As CEO of AOL, Randy Falco is an utter embarrassment. Silicon Alley Insider recounts his perplexing performance in front of a crowd of media executives gathered for Advertising Week in New York. "Radio was supposed to die 50 years ago," Falco said. "The reason radio is still around is because of mobile. The reason broadcast will still be around 50 years from now is because of mobile. All of our businesses up here will continue to grow because of video applications on mobile." What?It's as if he thought that playing a game of buzzword bingo would masquerade as strategic thought. A television salesman by trade, Falco was plucked by Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes from NBC Universal to replace Jon Miller, in a universally derided move. A commonly held belief among insiders: Falco and Bewkes thought AOL would be sold off by now, with Falco moving on to some role at Time Warner's film and television properties. AOL has continued to embarrass. And so has Falco. The only question is which exit will come first.
We took the better part of two days to process the NYT's recent recognition of Warner Bros. as the crown jewel at Time Warner, where Jeff Bewkes, Barry Meyer, Alan Horn and Co. are venerated at length for emphasizing "content" (i.e. their film and TV properties) ahead of "distribution" outlets like AOL, DVD and on-demand services. It's an oddly situational success story; in fact, it opens with WB chairman Meyer literally inhaling the incoming fax telling him The Dark Knight made $66 million on opening day, and namechecks Two and a Half Men among a handful of TV series that are finding lucrative traction internationally. There's also the HBO factor and the Turner channels' flourishing as well. And while we can't and/or wouldn't argue any of these points, a ceremonious Warners rimjob also seems untimely. After all, what did Meyer do with his Speed Racer faxes on opening weekend? That and a few more pressing questions after the jump.1. What about Speed Racer? Warners' legacy is one of adventurous flops and sturdy gambles, not messianic cultural events like TDK. If the point is a "content" state-of-the-union, then it's worth noting that the studio also dropped the summer's biggest bomb. For which, by the way, we love them; Where the Wild Things Are isn't likely to fare much better, but it is nice to know it's there. 2. What about Warner Independent and Picturehouse? The slimmed-down New Line earns a cursory mention, but its return to genre-junk roots is one of Time Warner's signature (and slightly desperate) content revisions since the AOL merger. And the axed Picturehouse — which had a strong summer of Mongol and Kit Kittredge after winning three Oscars in February — was all about "content" that's hit and missed just as regularly as the mother ship. 3. What about Get Smart? Again, the sturdy gamble is the thing: A hit that's grossed $200 million worldwide, will land equally hard on DVD and VOD and has sequels on the way. Screw TDK, really — Bewkes needs more like this, and he needs them recognized. 4. Did you know that Charlie Sheen makes $800,000 per episode of Two and a Half Men? A bit of rehash of an earlier question here at Defamer, we know, but a phenomenon we've come to now grudgingly accept knowing that T&HM is the flagship of a $4 billion television empire. Not that we get it; feel free to continue discussing below. 5. Whither questions and actual answers about new media revenues? Just because Tim Arango is writing all about Warners' precious "content" doesn't mean Bewkes can get away without answering his own query, "[T]he consumption of entertainment products is growing rapidly... The question is how do you offer it, and how do you get paid for it?" And this guy wonders why TW stock still hovers around $16. Come on, Jeff.
Right as former AOL CEO Jon Miller gets a glowing profile in the Los Angeles Times, his former boss strikes back at him in the most callow way possible, by blocking his appointment to the Yahoo board. Was it not enough for Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes to ignominiously sack Miller two years ago, replacing him with the hated and ineffective Randy Falco, who instantly sent AOL's recovering business into a tailspin? Of course not! The media boss is enforcing Miller's noncompete agreement, blocking him from even working at Yahoo as a director — after Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang, who championed Miller's cause, had already announced he would join the board.