NEWS BRIEFS

police dog

  • Conan O’Brien got tired of people always asking him about The Simpsons, so he did a lengthy roundtable discussion with his former co-workers Al Jean, Jay Kogen, Jeff Martin, and Mike Reiss that touches on Tracey Ullman, the writers’ room, Reiss’s feud with a line producer, Sam Simon’s impeccable writing and drawing skills, and The Brady Bunch Variety Hour. My favorite anecdote is Jay Kogen running up to Bruce Springsteen, who instinctively shielded his wife from the crazy person. [Team Coco]
  • After a 30 year run, Santa Monica radio station KCRW is replacing Harry Shearer’s Le Show with something called “TED Radio Hour,” which is either Seth MacFarlane making raunchy jokes in the guise of a horny teddy bear for an hour or repackaged TED Talk lectures where captains of industry share “inspiring” words of wisdom cribbed from Chicken Soup for the Soul. Not sure which is worse. [Los Angeles Times]
  • Not only does Fox’s parent corporation News Corp. have an education division (“If you have three Pepsis and drink one, how much more refreshed are you?”), but said division has created their own Android-based learning tablet. Which is great, because why wouldn’t you want to buy a communication device from a company embroiled in a massive phone-hacking scandal? [New York Times]
NEWS CORP. NEWS

staticSo there’s this service called Aereo that streams broadcast television (you know, the stuff that you can get for free on your TV) on the web for a monthly fee. The “Fab Four” networks (Fox, CBS, UPN, and the DuMont Network) aren’t too happy about it, since none of that monthly fee is going to them. It also undermines the princely retransmission fees they get from cable & satellite providers, because then a cable company could say to them “hey, that internet service gets your content for free, why can’t we?” and they don’t really have a good answer to that. Naturally, they tried to sue Aereo out of existence, except it didn’t work out because the courts say Aereo is a-okay-o.

Well, Fox isn’t having any of that. A guy from their parent company News Corp. is straight up threatening to take the Fox network off the air and have it become a cable company if Aereo is allowed to continue operating:

“We need to be able to be fairly compensated for our content,” Carey said. “This is not an ideal path we look to pursue, but we can’t sit idly by and let an entity steal our signal. We will move to a subscription model if that’s our only recourse.”

…he said, twirling his whimsical mustache evilly. Does News Corp. train its executives to sound like supervillians or does it come naturally to them?

This move would leave millions of viewers who watch via antenna (many of them economically disadvantaged) deprived of their favorite Fox shows like The Cleveland Show and The Following. If the other networks follow Fox’s lead, this could mean The End of Television As We Know It.

In a weird twist, Aereo is backed by Barry Diller, the founder of the Fox network who the evil corporate plutocrat Mr. Burns is partially based on. Is he a bad enough dude to bring down the very network he created??? Only time will tell…. [Bloomberg]

NEWS CORP. NEWS

I’m seeing double here! Four Krustys! “Spinoff!” Is there any word more thrilling to the human soul? Well, today billionaire tyrant Rupert Murdoch, CEO of FOX’s parent company News Corp., confirmed he’s splitting his baby in half and spinning off his cherished print assets (including the publishing company HarperCollins, which has published almost all Simpsons books) into a separate company within the next 12 months. Although Murdoch denies it has anything to do with the phone hacking scandal, this move will help insulate FOX News from the British tabloids that done did the hacking, allowing the cable news channel to maintain its high standards and journalistic integrithahahaha

[FOX Business]

KANCELLATION KOUNTDOWN

krusty kancelledAccording to Reuters, Fox is finally weaning off their bad Simpsons-renewing habit, and have declared they they only want one more season of The Simpsons at most, if the voice actors agree to their “draconian” pay cuts. That would be Season 24, the 2012-2013 season, falling just short of the unthinkable 25 year milestone (unless you go by the Simpsons’ Tracey Ullman Show debut, which marks its 25th anniversary this April). But keep in mind these are anonymous executives, in the middle of some big-time renegotiations where they repeatedly use the press as a conduit to spread rumors and innuendo to get a more favorable deal, from a TV network that once straight up lied said their plan “is not all Seth [MacFarlane], all the time” while giving him three and maybe four shows, which happens to be a subsidiary of one of the most cartoonishly evil corporations in the world, so take that with a pillar of salt.

Also according to these unnamed executives, “the show is no longer profitable for the network.” Forbes asked a bunch of analysts, and found that ending the show would likely more profitable for Fox than continuing it:

The freedom of selling the show into syndication on cable or even to online streaming providers like Netflix or Amazon could generate $1-2 million an episode for a show that has produced nearly 500 of them, RBC estimates.

Those revenues – around $750 million of incremental content monetization – are likely to come across a number of years, because of the original syndication deal and the likely preference for smoother earnings, “but the upside is real.”

RBC estimates broader syndication for The Simpsons post-cancellation could add 10 cents per share to News Corp.’s bottom line.

So now we appear to have reached the point foretold by Troy McClure, who once asked, “Who knows what adventures [the Simpsons]’ll have between now and the time the show becomes unprofitable?” Extra credit goes to former Simpsons writer Greg Daniels, who back in 2008 predicted the show would end when “the per episode syndication price falls below the cost of producing an episode.”

[Reuters/TheWrap]
[Forbes
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KANCELLATION KOUNTDOWN, VOICE BOX

hey hey, it’s slideshow melOh boy, it’s that lovely time every three years or so when the Simpsons cast re-negotiate their contracts with Fox! And this time the stakes HAVE NEVER BEEN HIGHER. The Daily Beast reports that this time the voice actors are asking for a pay cut, instead of their usual pay raise. Say whaa??? Have we wandered into Bizarro World??? No, while they’re asking for a 30 percent pay cut, it’s because they want a piece of that hot, hot syndication and merchandise action worth billions of dollars in CA$H MONEY. Fox doesn’t want to give up that money (after all, their parent company News Corp. has tons of phone hacking victims to pay off), and this time they’re threatening to sirenCANCEL THE SIMPSONS. siren

Difficult bargaining is nothing new for the show, which was created by James L. Brooks and Matt Groening. Fox studio execs have occasionally threatened to replace uncooperative cast members with sound-alike actors. But for the first time in nearly a quarter century of haggling, the executives have insisted that if the cast doesn’t accept a draconian 45 percent pay cut, The Simpsons will die an abrupt death as a first-run series.

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D'OH REPORT, WEB-WATCH

dohBack in 2007, rival media conglomerates News Corporation and NBCUniversal put aside their differences and joined forces to create Hulu, a video site designed to combat rampant piracy. If you miss your favorite shows, you can just catch ’em the next morning on Hulu for free in exchange for watching some commercials. It’s been a big success, and something that many viewers have become accustomed to. Well, if you’ve been using the service to watch Fox shows, THE FREE RIDE STOPS HERE, BUCKO. Recently, Fox changed its rules so that Hulu viewers will have to wait eight days to watch new episodes from Fox shows, unless they pony up the cash for the subscription service Hulu Plus or prove they pay for DISH Network.

Unsurprisingly, people have turned to piracy to get their fix:

Over the last week TorrentFreak tracked two Fox shows on BitTorrent to see if there was an upturn in the number of downloads compared to the previous weeks, and the results are as expected […] During the first 5 days, the number of downloads from the U.S. for the latest episode of Hell’s Kitchen increased by 114% compared to the previous 3 episodes. For MasterChef the upturn was even higher with 189% more downloads from the U.S.

And keep in mind the fall season hasn’t started yet; these trends may increase once shows like House and The Simpsons return to the airwaves.

Admittedly, ad revenue from Hulu is paltry compared to television – former NBC executive Jeff Zucker once quipped “We’re exchanging analogue dollars for digital dimes.” But surely it’s better to make some money rather than no money, right? [TorrentFreak via TechCrunch]

NEWS CORP. NEWS

rupert murdoch sideshow bob’ last gleamingBad news for The Simpsons‘s corporate parent’s corporate parent: it turns out people get mad when tabloids hack into their phones! Over the past decade, some News Corp.-owned UK tabloids have hacked, or at least have tried to hack, into the phones of former prime minister Gordon Brown, 9/11 & 7/7 victims, and the families of dead soldiers. Journalism! Once it was revealed that News of the World had hacked into a dead girl’s voicemail – and even deleted some her messages to make room for more – the newspaper was shut down this week after 168 years of publication, nearly half the lifespan of The Simpsons.

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NEWS CORP. NEWS

News Corp. finally unloaded money-losing social network MySpace on Justin Timberlake (?!?) for $35 million (that’s about $1.50 per user!), $445 million less than what they paid for it in 2005. $445 million is only more than half of what News Corp. makes off of Simpsons merchandise per year. [Los Angeles Times]

AZTEC THEATRE

p>Everybody’s favorite Taiwanese animation studio, Next Media Animation, has made another one of their trademark CGI news reports about the Simpsons/Fox News pseudo-rivalry, exposing the Simpsons writers’ secret creative process and Rupert Murdoch’s shark fetish:

The Simpsons now joins Jersey Shore and Conan in an exclusive club of TV shows that have been NMAted, which is a verb I just made up and will be charging royalties for. [Next Media Animation via Cartoon Brew]

NEWS CORP. NEWS

fox newsLast week’s Simpsons episode featured a Fox News helicopter adorned with the slogan “Not racist, but #1 with racists.” Everybody liked this joke so dang much, especially smug schmucks who proudly buy coffee mugs that say “FAUX NEWS” on them, so The Simpsons just had to do it again this week. If you haven’t seen the show after they went high-def, they now have a “cloud gag” where something WACKY flies by show’s title, destroying Matt Groening’s original intention of it being a transition from the real world to the Simpsons’ world. This time, another Fox News helicopter flew by, with the slogan “Unsuitable for Viewers Under 75.”

But if you’re too cool to watch TV shows on TV at their correct bat-time, and opted instead to watch it Monday morning on Hulu (which is directly helping keep the show on the air, so knock it off), you didn’t get to see this ever-so-precious sight gag; instead you got Homer as King Kong (one of those depressing “hey guys, remember this thing from back when we were funny?” callback gags for the “old school” fans).

Blogs like Mediaite and Think Progress were immediately suspicious: did Fox News, which according to the liberal hivemind is responsible for Everything Bad In The World, exert their vast influence within News Corporation to force their corporate cousins The Simpsons and Hulu censor a mildly critical jape at their expense??? Is Fox News leading an assault on comedy??? Is Bill O’Reilly going to tear out Doonesbury from everybody’s newspaper???

No, says The New York Times‘ ArtsBeat blog, which actually bothers to ask the show’s producers about these things:

The “Simpsons” producers could not let that remark stand, so they rushed their second Fox News joke into Sunday’s episode — so late in the production process that the gag could only be inserted into the version shown in North America, but not into versions shown in foreign markets or on the Internet.

I remember feeling super-special when I watched “Trilogy of Error” for the first time and noticed that the closed captioning was occasionally different from the spoken dialogue, because they had changed jokes at the last minute, after the episode had already been sent to closed-captioning factory (or whatever, I don’t know it works). I was getting bonus jokes! This silly non-conspiracy is just the same thing, just on a larger scale. So while it’s tempting to believe Fox News, the Koch brothers, and Satan are all cruising around in a Halliburton blimp, snatching up people in their tractor beams and throwing them down the memory hole because they criticized Sarah Palin’s choice of eyewear on their Tumblr, it’s important to remember The Simpsons hasn’t been controversial in about a decade. [ArtsBeat]