Category Archives: Media Management

Women In Media: An Interview with Sandra Payne

One of the most inspiring sessions at the National Association of Broadcasters Show was the Women in New Media Session. I originally expected the session to talk about the struggles women were facing in the media industry and offer some cliches about what we can do to overcome the sexism we face. However, this session was full of strong, empowered women who discussed their achievements. The panelists were skilled filmmakers, internet content creators, producers, hosts, and writers (who were accomplished in more than just one area). They discussed how they got their projects off the ground, how they marketed for their projects, and why they chose their career path. The main focus of the session, and how the professionals were able to pursue their passions, was networking to break into the media industry.

Jenn Page
Jenn Page

Jenn Page, one of the talented panelists, emphasized the problems women faced, “as women, we get in trouble because we are nurturers, we want people to like us, and we say ‘yes’ to too much shit.” As women who wish to break into the industry, she suggests asking for help. “Don’t be scared to ask because the worst that can happen is ‘no;’ ask for help and build a community [of women who will help]” Page expressed. So basically, stop being such a Regina George. Women will change the face of the media industry (and society in general) by bonding together and lifting each other up.

Sandra Payne
Sandra Payne

We had the honor of interviewing another panelist, Sandra Payne, an LA-based writer, director, producer, and owner of PurseDog.TV, who wholeheartedly agreed with networking with other women. “We need to continue on the path of making our own opportunities,” Payne said. “[Women bring] so much to media. We need a balance of how life is approached, and women provide the balance. If everything is male-centric, you lose a lot of wisdom and you lose a lot of what the world needs: our compassion, our ability to be inclusive… which is an important thing in media.” Payne is the prime example of a strong woman in media that the session discussed; in an interview she gave us, she touched on her struggles to pursue her passion, not the gender-based complications she had faced. Payne did not think of herself as a female writer, director, producer and owner; she holds all of these accolades without any reference to her gender (as if gender impacts the ability to hold a career in any field… LOL). I think this attitude is incredibly important for the millenial generation of women to embrace. As future industry pros, we are not relegated to female prefixes. “Media is how a lot of us experience the world,” Payne accurately observed. As women, we need to get our stories out there. Our gender is not a handicap; being women in media provides an incredible opportunity to join together, rise up, and kick ass.

Lauren Peterman

Jeffrey Katzenberg: Broken Dreams

DreamWorks Animation 
recently announced that it
would be shutting down one 
of its main studios, PDI/Dreamworks, displacing approximately 500 employees. Dreamworks’ chief, Jeffrey Katzenberg said job cuts were a painful but necessary step to improve the company’s bottom line. PDI was responsible for box-office hits such as Antz, Shrek, and Madagascar.

Dream Works Movies“It’s not cost effective to
maintain separate campuses”, said Katzenberg.

Recently, DreamWorks posted a fourth quarter loss of $263.2 million. This was largely a result of restructuring costs and impairment charges from its recent film releases.

The clouds seem to be evaporating below and Katzenberg can see the ground, but he hasn’t fallen. Katzenberg has hired a new team of executives and has implemented some new strategies within his restructuring plans. The line may have snapped, but can Katzenberg continue to recast in hopes of reeling in a profit?

DreamWorks StudiosAs part of his restructuring strategy, Katzenberg hired a team of veteran producers, Bonnie Arnold and Mireille Soria as co-president of feature animation. He claims they are the “best of the best.” They will be replacing executive Bill Damaschke.

Another restructuring strategy Katzenberg is putting into action is that the company will now be releasing two feature animation films
a years for the next three years. He felt that the previous number of three films was “too ambitious… it has been anything but successful for our company.” One will be an original and the other a sequel. Starting in 2016, the films will be Kung Fu Panda 3, Trolls, Boss Baby, The Croods 2, Larrikins, and How to Train Your Dragon 3.

Aside from DreamWorks upcoming films, Katzenberg anticipates new revenues from rapid growth in merchandise sales and television programming. He boasts the YouTube teen network AwesomenessTV, has become an “online powerhouse”. Also, the company plans to start outsourcing films, such as Captain Underpants, in 2017.

“The number one priority of DreamWorks Animation’s core film business is to deliver consistent creative and financial success… I am confident that this strategic plan to deliver great films, better box office results, and growing profitability across our complementary business.”

Building on franchising and technology initiatives is critical to DreamWorks success. Katzenberg plans to build on his successful franchises, which are a very low risk investment. Even though he is putting a lot of money into franchises such as How to Train Your Dragon and Madagascar, Katzenberg is seeking to diversify his investments.

Though DreamWorks seams it could be headed towards a dead end, Katzenberg continues to push on and look for the light at the end of the tunnel. He has a lot of confidence in his team and believes that the company could break even by the end of 2015.

Will Katzenberg’s restructuring plans prove successful, or is he just the captain of a sinking ship, riding it until the end? Will the new executives live up the hype? The upcoming sequels seem to be safe investments but is the investment in three new original films too much of a risk?

– Craig Michels

Netflix’s Reed Hastings: Honesty Is the Best Business Plan

You can’t discuss the overwhelming success of Netflix without giving due credit to its CEO and co-founder Reed Hastings. Hastings’ visionary direction for Netflix and, coincidently, television has undoubtedly shaped an entire culture, and he isn’t planning on letting up anytime soon.

NetflixBut what really sets Reed Hasting apart from other CEOs isn’t his influence over an industry movement, but his genuine servant attitude in the delivering of content to consumers. These visions and concepts of the company’s future have been clear since the beginning when he decidedly dubbed it the name Netflix (rather than something obvious like Mailflix or Postflix). Hastings and his company have always had their sights set towards the possibilities of the future and online distribution, so it only makes sense to see how personal he takes the issue of persevering on the Internet.

Today most rival streaming services are busy developing and perfecting their own personal streaming infrastructures. However, Hastings is helping further the development of not only Netflix (both home and abroad) but the entire infrastructure of the Internet in general, constantly voicing his opinions in redefining the relationships between businesses and ISPS with their consumers.

Reed HastingsWith great power comes great responsibility, and Hastings has far from taken his influential position for granted. He has been know notoriously for speaking out against the powerful grasp of ISPs saying, “Comcast would love to be the post office and be a national monopoly collecting on everything, but that’s not the way the Internet works”.

Hastings understands the infrastructure of the Internet and is a strong supporter of a neutral Internet with free interconnectivity. While we wait to see what the recently passed Net Neutrality rules have in store for the Internet, Hastings remains cautious and realizes it is a mere stepping stone to achieving a true free and open Internet.

In addition to his business savvy, Hastings has brought to the company (and to the entire Internet) a sense of honesty and well-being to consumers. As a powerful CEO, we’ve seen Hasting is quick to adapt to a changing market, to experiment and take risks. Even more importantly, he has proven again and again to be just as quick at admitting fault when those innovations fail.

Most recently, He has been one of the most prominent voices speaking out against Comcast’s potential 45 million dollar acquisition of Time Warner Cable (currently awaiting FCC approval to move forward). Hasting argues that the current system is already backward enough saying if “1/3 of the Internet use is customers using Netflix member, we (Netflix) should get 1/3 of Comcast’s revenue. If they (Comcast) want to give us (Netflix) 1/3 of the revenue, we’ll give them (Comcast) 1/3 of the cost… Do you really want 50 percent of the Internet controlled by one company?”

These values of honesty and transparency, which Hastings has passed on to his company, have been a huge contributing factor to Netflix’s propulsion as the industry leader in subscription based video on demand (SVOD).

Whether it be admitting to the press that he loves HBO (he’s openly stated multiple times that Veep is his favorite shows) or speaking well of the very conglomerates Netflix is lobbying against (referring to Comcast’s Brian L. Roberts as a “great guy”), the sense of humanity and truthfulness Hastings brings to Netflix, and the entire industry, is a breath of fresh air during this time of online uncertainty.

Netflix’s unwavering flexibility to change with the times coupled by Hastings’s undivided willingness to provide media consumers with the best viewing experience (as well as the best Internet experience) will undoubtedly help set Netflix apart from the competition of emerging SVOD.

– Aaron Sprengeler

Saturday Night Live: Late Night Comedy Is No Joke.

Lorne Michaels has helmed “Saturday Night Live” for 40 years, but in the entertainment business that might as well be an eternity. So how has Michaels kept ‘SNL’ current and fresh after all these years?

Lorne MichaelsOne way he’s accomplished this is by having complete control over the show. Except for an absence in the early ‘80s—when the show was nearly cancelled—Michaels has been the main decision maker for the duration of SNL. Whether it’s who is chosen as a cast member, whether or not a joke works, or who gets let go, ultimately Michaels has that decision.

Saturday Night Live first aired in October 1975, becoming a shining star in the dark landscape of television at the time. Its premise was simple: a late night sketch comedy show broadcast live across the United States once a week. Expectations for the show lasting past its first season weren’t set particularly high, especially by Michaels himself. In an interview with The New York Post, he said, “At the end of the first season I’d written everything I’d wanted to write several times over. I thought of it as ‘That Championship Season.’ I didn’t know what I would do for a second season.”

But SNL survived a second season, then a third and a fourth, and last month it celebrated its 40th season on the air. An anniversary special was aired for this occasion, which brought back cast members from the last four decades.

Michaels uses a specific formula for his show, and will combat anyone who tries to change it. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Michaels describes a few instances when a guest host or the network tried to change that formula. When a network exec tried to cut music from the show, Michaels relented for a few episodes, but ultimately Lorne got his way. Another issue he’s run into is hosts trying to push the envelope of what’s appropriate, but Michaels and his crew have been through it all before, and know when something works and when it doesn’t.

SNL40Ratings for this show were the best SNL—or NBC for that matter—has seen in years. According to Variety, Nielson ratings garnered 23.1 million viewers from 8 to 11 PM for the February 15 celebration. That’s the highest number of viewers for an NBC primetime show since the Frasier finale in 2004. This is clearly a huge success for the network as well as the show, and proves that to this day SNL has remained a relevant television staple.

When asked if SNL should go on without him, Michaels—who will be 71 this year—replied, “I don’t know. I’m going to keep doing it as long as I possibly can because I love it and because it’s what I do.”

Lorne Michaels has kept SNL alive by keeping to a strict formula and maintaining control of his production by overseeing all parts of it, from casting to writing to the format of the show. Saturday Night Live is truly a Lorne Michaels production.

What will the future hold for Michaels and SNL? Do you think the show will celebrate a 50th anniversary?

– Kyle Flathers

If You’re Not An Agile Business, You’re Doing It Wrong

Agile. What started as way to more quickly develop software, has turned into the mantra of everyone from marketers, media professionals, to business startups. It is the way in which these industries are attempting to structure their strategies in order to keep up with a quickly and constantly changing market.

Agile Business In terms of marketers, when framing your marketing strategies in the agile format, have the benefits of quicker launch times and better adaptation to problems and campaigns that aren’t showing the returns you need. Media professionals are able to break large projects and initiatives into smaller, more manageable sizes and can adapt to a changing market. And business startups can improve their success rate and increase investments by showing those growths.

Andy Beal knows a thing or two about building a business. His resume includes having been one of the most respected online reputation consultants, and most recently launching trackur, a social media metrics tool. During his career as a business builder he has started three companies with enormous success. He is also a huge proponent of agile as a business planning and management tool, and he has used agile to reach many successes. He lays out 5 reasons why being an agile business is better than being perfect.

Agile BusinessIn a world of consumption, the product or service that provides the most value is the one that will win over other products or services. The more efficiently you can provide your customers with adequate solutions and motivations to use your product, the better you can provide value. In the end, the company that adapts the fastest to the ever-changing value streams of consumers, is the company that is going to win out over their competition.

According to the book Value Proposition Design, created by the folks at Strategyzer, the way to create value is to neutralize the pains associated with your product or the problem your product solves and to optimize gains that your product provides. Seems easy right? The problem is that values are always changing. What people value today, they might not value tomorrow. Take myspace.com for example. In the early stages of the social media tech boom, myspace provided value to consumers by being able to customize their own webpages. Values changed to the point where people prefered to have an organized and clean layout rather than the messed up, html code, monstrosity that occurred when people customized their myspace pages.

MySpaceAnd just like that, myspace was out, and facebook and twitter were in. The key to being a stalwart company in media is providing evolving value to customers. Agile is helping businesses do this. The philosophy is in contrast to the old style of business planning and management that sought to create the perfect business plan. Using market research and months of planning to fit find a market space. Then doing more market research to plan the perfect product to meet the needs of your consumers. Agile seeks to accelerate the process. Planning a business with the “quick to fail, quick to adapt” mantra is what is guiding businesses today. John Lasseter famously quoted,

“We don’t actually finish our films, we release them.”

This is indicative of the agile, never finished, mindset that has been helping businesses build and maintain good patronage. Do you agree? What other frameworks are guiding business in a market of changing values? Is Agile just a fad? Or is it the way to success and the future?

Ethridge Netz

Mark Lazarus and His Quest for NBC’s Sports Domination

mark lazarusIn the sports world, there is no doubt that ESPN leads in sports programming. While Fox Sports just recently launched their competition for ESPN with Fox Sports 1, NBC has had a little bit of a head start to compete with the sports media giant. The NBC Sports Group is headed by Mark Lazarus. Before he was president of NBC Sports, Lazarus was the President of Sports and entertainment at Turner Sports. In 2011, Lazarus took over for longtime Chairman Dick Ebersol, who resigned due to arguments with upper management.

During his brief tenure at NBC Sports, Lazarus has already accomplished many successful things. In the sports world that we live in, the National Football League dominates everything. Lazarus helped extend NBC’s Sunday Night Football contract for nine years up until 2020. Lazarus and NBC only had to pay $950 million each year. Lazarus also helped extend NBC’s Olympics deal until 2020 for $4.38 billion.

NHL NBCWhile those two contracts have come easy to Lazarus, there are still plenty of challenges that he faces if he wishes to put up a fight against ESPN. One sport that Lazarus has put at the forefront of NBC Sports is hockey. After the NHL had its lockout in 2004, ESPN dropped its hockey coverage, and NBC took over in 2006.

In January of 2012, Lazarus helped rebrand the Versus Network into the NBC Sports Network. Today, the NHL is slowly digging itself out of a hole when it comes to ratings. On opening night of this year, the Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins combined for 956,000 viewers. That was the most watched opening night game since 1993, and was the highest watched program on NBCSN ever. Lazarus has a plan in place to return the NHL to its glory, and it looks like it is in motion.

NBC NascarThe second sport that Lazarus is trying to help dig out of a hole is NASCAR. From 2001-2006, NBC shared its NASCAR television rights with FOX. At the end of their contract, NASCAR’s popularity was at its highest. However, in the eight years that NBC has been out of the game, NASCAR has seen its ratings drop. Now, Lazarus and NBC are back after they signed a 10 year/$4.4 billion deal.

Starting this year, NBC will once again split the NASCAR coverage with FOX, as NBC will take over when the series returns to Daytona in July. NBC has already started their return to NASCAR with their daily NASCAR news show “NASCAR America.” Lazarus has also made some great hires along the way, as he signed former FOX play by play man Rick Allen, former race winning crew chief Steve Letarte, and 21 time race winner Jeff Burton. I can tell by some of the NASCAR personalities that were hired that Lazarus wants NBC’s return to NASCAR to be a huge success.

While the ratings for the NHL and NASCAR are still above water, Lazarus’ biggest challenge will no doubt about be NBC’s new deal with boxing. It is no secret that boxing is long past its glory days. From the battles between Ali and Frazier, to the superstars of Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis, boxing certainly has been a thing of the past.

NBC BoxingTo try and resurrect boxing, Lazarus and boxing will be carrying their first fights in almost 30 years as “Premier Boxing Champions” comes to NBC. PBC is where not only some of boxing’s best battle, but also some of the up and coming stars. While the boxing talent alone may not give NBC its ratings, Lazarus is hoping that having storied voices Al Michaels and Marv Albert, as well as boxing legend Sugar Ray Leonard, will be enough to start to revive boxing.

After one week, PBC gives some hope to the future of boxing. “Premier Boxing Champions” had 3.4 million viewers, which translated to a 2.5 overnight rating. That was most viewers for a boxing event on cable television since 1998. PBC also won the 18-49 age demographic, which is the age range that the UFC has lived on. While it is just a small sample, Lazarus looks like he might be the one that can save boxing.

The task for Lazarus is not small by any means. To compete with ESPN will take a lot of time, but if he is able to bring back the popularity to the NHL, NASCAR, and boxing, I don’t see why he can’t bring a challenge to ESPN.

Here are a few questions for you: Do you think this strategy by Lazarus will be enough to challenge ESPN? In what ways could you see this potentially backfiring on Lazarus? If you were Lazarus, would you do anything different?

Andy McConnell

Jason Whitlock: Controversial columnist and radio commentator chosen to lead ESPN’s ‘Black Grantland’

To the dismay of some of his peers Jason Whitlock will (hopefully) be to ESPN’s new web venture, theundefeated.com, what Bill Simmons is to web-hit grantland.com. The web page pictured below was launched on February 12th. It is the homepage of ESPN’s new web venture theundefeated.com. The website that former Fox, AOL Sports and FoxSports.com columnist Jason Whitlock was chosen to lead. This homepage arrives 17 months after Whitlock was brought back to ‘The Mothership (ESPN)’ (as former employee Dan Patrick routinely calls the sports conglomerate) and states in regards to its launch, “coming summer 2015.”

theundefeated.comAlong with some notable stops as a columnist, Whitlock has held employment for years as a radio commentator, and in both his written and spoken words there is a permanent record of the never-ending narrative of the intersection of race, culture, and sports.

According to Whitlock, “Through the lens of sports, The Undefeated will be the premier platform for intelligent analysis and celebration of black culture and the African-American struggle for equality. The Undefeated will challenge, engage and advocate for people of color in a manner consistent with the black-press pioneers, such as Sam Lacy, who led the charge for Jackie Robinson’s civil rights-sparking baseball career.”

As a former columnist and radio commentator, Jason Whitlock has understandably built a reputation for himself that isn’t without controversy. When he departed ESPN.com’s ‘Page 2’ column for AOL Sports, Whitlock had been unafraid for some time to call it like he saw it, even if that meant consequences. On his way out the door at ESPN Whitlock defined fellow ‘Sports Reporters’ co-host Mike Lupica as ‘an insecure, mean-spirited busybody,’ and Scoop Jackson — an african-american ESPN.com writer, as a “clown.” Whitlock added that Jackson’s ‘ghetto posturing’ in his articles that published on ESPN.com were ‘an insult to black intelligence.” In 2007, after radio shock jock Don Imus made racially insensitive remarks about the Rutgers women’s basketball team Whitlock made it a point to quell the media backlash in regards to Imus’ comments, saying the shock jock’s remarks were ‘insignificant’ among other vivacious hot-takes in regards to black culture.

Needless to say, the network known for employing fans—ESPN—knew they had quite possibly one of, if not the most preeminent voice of sports and black culture under their umbrella. Well, not until Whitlock made those remarks about colleagues Mike Lupica and Scoop Jackson. ESPN does not take too kindly to in-fighting and the company completely pulled the plug on Whitlock in his 2006 move to AOL Sports, after initially displaying the want to keep Whitlock doing television appearances on their networks.

theEDshowNot quite a year after joining AOL Sports Whitlock made the move to Fox Sports in August of 2007. What is now the infamous (at least in Fox Sports 1’s eyes) ‘move before the move’ back to ESPN. After writing—with much success—about the intersection of sports and African-American culture for Fox Sports for five years, Whitlock did not show interest in playing an eminent role in the new Fox Sports 1 television network by upping his TV appearances, fearing his writing would fall off as a result.

That’s when the call came from ESPN President John Skipper.

With ESPN fully aware of the burgeoning Fox Sports 1 television channel an arms-race of talent-seeking/acquiring broke out between the two networks. And as soon as Whitlock lost his clear view of a future at Fox Sports, ESPN president John Skipper was able to woo the longtime columnist back to the Worldwide Leader with the promise of his very own website.

Bill Simmons, a former ESPN.com Page 2 columnist himself has a successful ESPN website grantland.com, therefore it’s only right that Whitlock get his, right? Wrong. Well, at least to some it is wrong. Namely Greg Howard of Deadspin.com who wrote a scathing expose—or so he thought—of the longtime race/culture/sports columnist.

Whitlock was reported to be in some stage of discussions with Hoard when a Deadspin article, entitled ‘Can Jason Whitlock Save ESPN’s “Black Grantland” from himself,’ was released. Some of that article reading verbatim; “At least a dozen of Whitlock’s black colleagues have “accused him of attacking black culture generally and young black men and women specifically for personal profit and career advancement,” Howard reported. “What struck me was how many of them outright referred to Whitlock as an ‘Uncle Tom,’” wrote Howard, who had been in talks to work for black Grantland before his prospective mentor accused him of betrayal.

As capitalnewyork.com’s Nicole Levy pointed out, Whitlock characterized the majority of Howard’s article as a “total fabrication and lie, provable by the writer’s emails, text messages and phone messages” to him.

Nonetheless, in spite of the critics who point out Whitlock’s shortcomings, or ESPN’s dragging of their feet to launch the site (now 18 months after Whitlock’s hiring) the ‘Worldwide Leader’ likely has another web juggernaut on their hands. While Stephen A. Smith is considered the sports industry leader of the radio and sports television talk show discussion of african-american culture and sports — Jason Whitlock undoubtedly leads the in-print discussion of african-american culture and sports. And if Jesse Washington’s 9,000 word piece on Charles Barkley’s Alabama upbringing, entitled ‘Up From Leeds,’ is an indication of what’s to come at theundefeated.com, that ‘likely web juggernaut,’ will be a ‘can’t-miss web juggernaut.’

So what are your thoughts on the new partnership between ESPN and Jason Whitlock? Is Whitlock the right guy for “Black Grantland?”

Cole Bair

Quality Social News? : Is Peretti changing BuzzFeed into a Reliable Source?

Content and accessibility is almost everything when it comes to social news sources. Jonah Peretti, founder and CEO of the online social news and entertainment company BuzzFeed, believes that in order to be considered a news source which is respected, original content is important. Furthermore, he feels it is important to publish to wherever consumers want to interact with their content.

BuzzFeedlogoBuzzFeed was launched by Jonah Peretti in 2006 as an “experimental lab”, which focused on tracking and posting content that was trending and posts readers wanted to share. Currently, BuzzFeed covers topics like politics, sports, business, entertainment and travel.

Recently, Peretti has been driven to make BuzzFeed a more respectable media news source, specifically with regards to its content. They have worked toward this goal in a couple of ways.   First, posts were deleted from their website because they were thought to be a version of plagiarism, and secondly, Community Brand Publisher accounts were frozen.

In August 2014, Peretti called for over 4,000 BuzzFeed articles to be deleted. Before doing this, they did not offer any communication to readers. All Peretti said was that the posts did not meet editorial standards. In other words, BuzzFeed was experiencing a plagiarism issue with writers. Peretti felt the posts were from back when the company was more of a tech company and was designed to detect and track trending content. However, does that make it right?

A second way BuzzFeed attempted to be a more respected media news source was by freezing all Community Brand Publisher accounts in early 2015. They are trying to encourage brands to purchase advertising on BuzzFeed’s sites rather than attempting sell something or use BuzzFeed‘s brand as an implied endorsement of a product or a political position. This is not what Peretti wanted from his company.

Not only is BuzzFeed trying to be more respected, they are also trying to branch out into different media sectors. Peretti wants to remain true to the company’s roots, which is technology. In 2014, BuzzFeed acquired two different media organizations. One of the acquisitions was Hyper IQ. Peretti acknowledged the increase in the use of apps and wanted to take advantage of where readers prefer content. By doing this, BuzzFeed was able to take an app that crashed frequently and turn it into one that was named one of the Best Apps of the Year. Thanks to the help of Hyper IQ, of course.

The Cute or Not app launched in February 2015, and was the first app to be released in several years from BuzzFeed. This app has been called a version of Tinder for pets. People who download the app are able to vote whether a pet is cute or not, like the name suggests. Subscribers are also able to upload pictures of their own for others to vote on. The Cute or Not app is obviously not driven to media news, but media entertainment.

buzzfeed-cute-or-not-app-finalAfter looking at the various business advancements BuzzFeed has accomplished over the past year or so, it is confusing on what the goal actually is. Peretti seems to have at least two goals for the organization, but they seem to contradict each other. If they want to become a respected media news source and take advantage of creating new apps, Peretti should encourage more news worthy apps to be released, right? Not an app where users decide if a pet is cute or not. So, my questions are do you feel that readers will deem BuzzFeed less credible due to the Cute or Not app? Also, are Peretti’s efforts in ‘cleaning up’ their website going to make BuzzFeed more credible? (i.e. creating own content and encouraging brands to purchase ads)

-Alexieva Speer