THE SLOW TRANSITION
Some 3.6 million homes will be without TV reception on June 12, the date now set for the transition to mandatory digital broadcasting, according to the Nielsen Company. The figure represents 3.17 percent of all households, but in some cities the figure is strikingly higher. In the Albuquerque/Santa Fe market, it amounts to 9.13 percent of households, nearly one in ten. But market size apparently has little to do with transition readiness. For example, while 5.24 percent of Los Angeles households (the second largest U.S. market) still are completely unprepared for it, only 1.35 percent of New York households (the largest market) are not. Language may play a part in the matter. According to Nielsen, 5.9 percent of Hispanic households are unready for digital TV, suggesting that in those homes that are exclusively Spanish-speaking, word of the transition may not have been effectively conveyed. Nielsen's figures have been challenged by David Rehr, president of the National Association of Broadcasters.
BOOM! MADDEN QUITS
The announcement hit TV football viewers with the impact of one of John Madden's signature "booms!" The longtime NFL broadcaster and former football coach had decided to retire midway through a six-year contract with NBC. The network announced that he would be replaced by Chris Collinsworth. In a statement, NBC Sports chief Dick Ebersol said that he had tried to talk Madden out of leaving, even offering to allow him to cover just a portion of next season, but that Madden turned him down. Ebersol called him "the absolute best sports broadcaster who ever lived."
ADVERTISERS RETURNING TO TV?
In what some analysts regarded as another sign of economic recovery, advertisers have begun increasing their television spending. But Advertising Age said it was difficult to determine whether the money that is now coming for so-called "scatter buys" (last-minute purchases) is money that had previously been pulled out of the market. The trade magazine quoted Ira Berger, director of network broadcasting at the Richards Group agency, as saying, "There's some money coming back. I couldn't tell you if it were canceled money, or if it's just normal scatter. ... At the end of the day, money is down."
DILLER: THE WORST IS YET TO COME
Media mogul and Internet investor Barry Diller says that he's holding off adding to his holdings because prices of companies he may be interested in are "still artificially high." In an interview with CNBC, the IAC chairman said that the "same kind of overleveraging that went on in financial institutions" went on in other companies in order to pay for "acquisitions and recapitalizing." Diller's comments came just one day after investor Sam Zell admitted that his highly leveraged purchase of the Tribune Co. was "a mistake." Some analysts have commented that the massive cutbacks Tribune has been forced to make at its newspapers and television stations were brought about less by a decline in advertising than by the necessity of servicing the enormous debt incurred in their acquisition.
L.A. TIMES HIRES TV COLUMNIST FLINT
After a string of lay-off announcements, the Los Angeles Times on Thursday announced a new hire -- Joe Flint, the former television columnist for the Wall Street Journal (1999-2006) and, before that, Entertainment Weekly and Daily Variety. On his LinkedIn.com summary, Flint wrote: "I am well connected with a deep knowledge of how the television industry operates, who the major players are, and what challenges and opportunities lie ahead." At the Times, Flint will oversee the newspaper's "Company Town" blog. In an email to staff, Sallie Hofmeister, Assistant Managing Editor of Arts and Entertainment at the newspaper, said that Flint "brings to the job an acerbic wit, three gigabytes of Outlook contacts and nearly 20 years of experience covering the business." [Hofmeister may have exaggerated a bit; a gigabyte of disc space can store 100 million words.]