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ESPN To Lay Off About 100 Employees Including On-Air Personalities And Writers

No one has been identified yet. These disclosures likely will trickle out once the people affected are told.

“A necessary component of managing change involves constantly evaluating how we best utilize all of our resources, and that sometimes involves difficult decisions,” ESPN President John Skipper says in a memo to staffers.

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Changes in ESPN content must “go further, faster…and as always, must be efficient and nimble,” he says.

That means “we have been engaged in the challenging process of determining the talent—anchors, analysts, reporters, writers and those who handle play-by-play—necessary to meet those demands. We will implement changes in our talent lineup this week. A limited number of other positions will also be affected and a handful of new jobs will be posted to fill various needs.”

ESPN said in March that the layoffs announced today were a possibility.

So far this year sports viewing on Disney networks is down about 4%, Pivotal Research Group’s Brian Wieser noted this week. Read the rest of this entry »

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Meet the Man Who is Bringing Asia into the Marvel Universe

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C.B. Cebulski is now Marvel’s man in the East, overseeing everything related to the brand. He talks about Hong Kong’s role in the expansion into Asia.

Andrew Sun writes: If Asia is to play any role in the Marvel universe, C.B. Cebulski will have a big say in the matter. In July, the comic book giant asked this loyal soldier to uproot from his New York home, for a new executive post half the world away. Cebulski, packing up everything including the family cat, said yes.

“Marvel was looking for Japan-centric stories at the time,” Cebulski recalls. “I didn’t have any connections but I just kept pitching and looking for opportunities. In the end, Marvel gave me my first writing work based on the fact that I had experienced Japan. So it wasn’t my skill as a writer that got me my first job, it was my intimate knowledge of Japanese culture and manga.”

Working out of parent company Disney’s Shanghai office, he will oversee anything and everything in Asia with the Marvel name attached. This includes licensing deals, film promotions, and special projects such as the upcoming Iron Man Experience attraction at Hong Kong Disneyland.

“My job is basically to help expand the Marvel brand in Asia, develop understanding of the characters, form new alliances and look for partners who will develop the characters and properties with us.”

“My job is basically to help expand the Marvel brand in Asia, develop understanding of the characters, form new alliances and look for partners who will develop the characters and properties with us,” explains Cebulski, whose official title is vice-president, brand management and development, Asia.

“Marvel is everywhere in America, but here it’s a roller coaster around movie releases. The movies hit and there’s a period where there are T-shirts and toys everywhere. After a while, it returns to a lull. We want to build a bridge that connects all the tent poles with all the brands, and that’s what I will focus on.”

“I’m basically reverse engineering the brand. In the West, people know we started in comics and grew to develop games, consumer products and films. But here, people know the films first, so I’ve got to figure out how we get people who don’t know who Stan Lee is to understand there is this other 75-year history.”

“Asia is of utmost importance. The brand is growing here faster than anywhere else in he world. There’s something happening in every territory, whether it’s games in Korea or films in China. I’m here to figure out what’s what and how to connect it all. Why are certain things popular in some areas and not other? Can what we do in Hong Kong translate to the rest of China?”

For non-nerds, Lee is the comic book legend who created Spider-man, the Hulk, the X-Men and other iconic characters, as well as being the chairman of the Marvel empire. The company is no longer cult or fringe in any way. It’s an entertainment powerhouse, ruling box-offices, merchandising stalls and the pop culture zeitgeist. In 2009, the Walt Disney Company purchased Marvel for US$4.3 billion.

[Read the full story here, at South China Morning Post]

As for Cebulski, you’re not likely to mistake him for just another expat executive in a suit with an MBA. His wardrobe consists primarily of bowling shirts and T-shirts with logos and characters. Even more un-corporate-like, he maintains a food blog that chronicles his gluttonous discoveries and adventures (Eataku.com).

But underneath that geek disguise, this friendly hulk has honed the superpowers to move millions of dollars in merchandise.

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“Marvel is everywhere in America, but here it’s a roller coaster around movie releases,” he says. “The movies hit and there’s a period where there are T-shirts and toys everywhere. After a while, it returns to a lull. We want to build a bridge that connects all the tent poles with all the brands, and that’s what I will focus on.”

Cebulski’s nerd credentials are impeccable. He grew up a typical superhero fanboy and collector. “The first comic I found on my own was The X-Men,” he says. “I was still quite young so the story didn’t grab me as much, but the images did.”

“American comics are more word heavy, and everything plays out at a slower pace. If a hero confronts a thug in Asia, the hero grabs the villain, looks him in the eye and then throws him out the window in five or six panels. In American comics, you see the hero enter the room, they would meet, there would three panels of dialogue, then he gets thrown across the room in slow motion, smashes out the window. The hero would say something as the villain falls and smashes into the ground. This would play out over four or five pages.”

Initially he wanted to be a comic artist, but realised he didn’t have the talent. Cebulski then decided to be a storywriter, but his submissions were constantly rejected. Instead of giving up, he took a sabbatical and explored a budding interest in manga, spending several years in Japan. After returning to the US, he finally got his break. Read the rest of this entry »


Robotic Sports: Ready for Prime Time

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Robotic Sports Will One Day Rival the NFL

Cody Brown writes: When I was 13, I watched a season of Battle Bots on Comedy Central then attempted to build a killer robot in my parent’s basement. You might think, oh, you were probably a weird kid (and you’d be right) but I think eventually this is behavior that will become normal for people all around the world. It’s had some moments in the spotlight but a bunch of factors make it seem like robotic sports is destined for primetime ESPN in the next five years.

1.) A drone flying through the forest looks incredible at 80 mph.

A new class of bot (FPV Quadcopter) has emerged in the past few years and the footage they produce is nuts. Robots can do things we’re fascinated by but can’t generally achieve without risking our own lives. Drones the size of a dinner plate can zoom through a forest like a 3 pound insect. A bot that shoots flames can blow up a rival in a plexiglass cage.

You can make an argument that the *thrill* of these moments is lightened if a person isn’t risking their own life and limb and this is true to a certain extent. NASCAR crashes are inherently dramatic but you don’t need to burn drivers to make fans scream.

Just look at the rise of e-sports. This League of Legends team sits in an air conditioned bubble and sips Red Bull while a sold out arena screams their lungs out. They’re not in any physical danger but 31 million fans are watching online.

The thing that ultimately matters is that the sport looks incredible on video and fans have a connection to the players. And right now, the video, in raw form, is mesmerizing.

2.) Robot parts have gotten cheaper, better and easier to buy.

When I was a kid, I was limited to things available at the local Radio Shack or hardware store. Now I can go to Amazon, find parts with amazing reviews and have them delivered to my house in a day. The hobby community has had many years to develop its technology and increase quality. Brands like Fat Shark, Spektrum, and adafruit have lead the way.

3.) Top colleges fight over teenagers who win robotics competitions.

If you’re good at building a robot, chances are you have a knack for engineering, math, physics, and a litany of other skills top colleges drool over. This is exciting for anyone (at any age) but it’s especially relevant for students and parents deciding what is worth their investment.

There are already some schools that offer scholarships for e-sports. I wouldn’t be surprised if intercollegiate leagues were some of the first to pop up with traction.

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4.) The military wants to get better at making robots for the battlefield.

This one is a little f***ed but it’s worth acknowledging. Drones (of all sizes) are the primary technology changing the battlefield today. DARPA has an overwhelming interest to stay current and they’re already sponsoring multimillion dollar (more academic) robotics competitions. It’s up to the community to figure out how (or how not) to involve them. Them, meaning the giant military apparatus of the United States but also military organizations around the world who want to develop and recruit the people who will power their 21st century defense (and offense). Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] CBS Panel Supports Seinfeld’s Public Rejection of ‘Creepy’ Campus PC Culture

Comedian Jerry Seinfeld is sick of the PC culture epidemic gutting comedy in America.


Verizon Agrees to Buy AOL for $4.4 Billion

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Wireless giant gets ad technology for mobile video; AOL Chief Tim Armstrong to remain

Mike Shields And Thomas Gryta report: Verizon Communications Inc. agreed to buy AOL Inc. in a $4.4 billion deal aimed at advancing the telecom giant’s growth ambitions in mobile video and advertising.

“Certainly the subscription business and the content businesses are very noteworthy. For us, the principal interest was around the ad tech platform.”

— Verizon’s president of operations, John Stratton,

The all-cash deal values AOL at $50 a share, a 23% premium over the company’s three-month volume-weighted average price. AOL shares rose 18% in morning trading to $50.18. Verizon shares fell 1.7% to $48.98.

The acquisition would give Verizon, which has set its sights on entering the crowded online video marketplace, access to advanced technology AOL has developed for selling ads and delivering high-quality Web video.

“Certainly the subscription business and the content businesses are very noteworthy. For us, the principal interest was around the ad tech platform,” said Verizon’s president of operations, John Stratton, at a Jefferies investor conference early Tuesday.

Time Warner CEO Gerald Levin, left, and America Online CEO Steve Case give a high-five after announcing that AOL was acquiring Time Warner in 2000. Photo: Chris Hondros/Newsmakers/Getty Images

Time Warner CEO Gerald Levin, left, and America Online CEO Steve Case give a high-five after announcing that AOL was acquiring Time Warner in 2000. Photo: Chris Hondros/Newsmakers/Getty Images

The U.S. wireless business has matured in recent years, leaving carriers like Verizon, AT&T Inc. and Sprint Corp. increasingly fighting to steal market share from one another. Offering digital video-over-wireless connections represents a growth avenue in coming years for Verizon, which last year brought in $127 billion in revenue and profit of $12 billion. Read the rest of this entry »


OH YES THEY DID: Journalists Who Peddled Mayweather Domestic Violence History Say They Had Credentials Revoked Before Fight

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ESPN.com news services/ABC News reports: Two reporters said their credentials were revoked for Saturday night’s Floyd MayweatherManny Pacquiao fight, and a third reportedly had his taken away as well.

Rachel Nichols of CNN and Michelle Beadle of ESPN/HBO said via Twitter that they had been told their credentials were pulled. USA Today reporter Martin Rogers’ credential was reportedly pulled as well, according to SI.com.

Beadle was credentialed through HBO and not ESPN, both networks and Beadle said.

A spokesman for Mayweather denied the allegations from Beadle and Nichols.

A source told ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap that Mayweather Promotions insisted on having approval of credential Strange-Media-Planet-250applications, a stipulation included in the fight contract.

A source with Showtime told Schaap that it had nothing to do with Beadle’s credential situation — only that it denied her permission to film inside MGM Grand arena. A Mayweather promotions source, meanwhile, said  Nichols had a temporary credential, but CNN never confirmed she’d need a fight credential.

All three of the reporters have been at the forefront of reporting in Mayweather’s history of domestic violence. Nichols had a contentious interview with Mayweather on CNN last September. Rogers has written a number of stories chronicling Mayweather’s domestic violence issues, and Beadle has been outspoken about Mayweather.

Kelly Swanson, a media relations spokesperson for the Mayweather camp, denied that Nichols and Beadle has lost their credentials. Read the rest of this entry »


The Shrink on the Seattle Seahawks’ Sideline

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The Super Bowl Champions Swear by a Sports Psychologist

Matthew Futterman writes: For most of the last two seasons, the Seattle Seahawks have been the most physically prepared team in the NFL, a collection of perfectly honed athletes that can outrun and outmuscle opponents at will.

“We want to invite the lion into the room and learn how to pet him. Our mind is easily distracted by thoughts and sounds and smells, and when our mind is distracted, we decrease our ability to perform.”

The Seahawks’ secret weapon, though, just might be the team’s willingness to give a sports psychologist the freedom to roam the training facility, locker room and even the sidelines every game, to make sure their heads are as sound as their bodies.

“We need to get better at being present, and you can be present by understanding and deepening the insight about who we are and how our mind works.”

For nearly three seasons, Michael Gervais has spent three days a week with the team, instilling what he and coach Pete Carroll refer to as “relationship-based coaching.” In the simplest terms, this means making sure coaches and players all understand each other on the deepest possible level, so that everyone feels valued and can communicate effectively.

“It’s the most fascinating culture I have ever been able to witness. There is a relentless approach to the idea that relationships matter.”

“We are an incredibly mindful team,” said Tom Cable, the Seahawks’ offensive line and assistant head coach, using an adjective that rarely comes across the lips of an NFL coach. “If I can understand someone like (guard) James Carpenter at a higher and deeper level, then I reach him further in terms of getting him to be the best he can be.”

“There is the overt objective and need to have the organization achieve. Some organizations sell widgets and some, like the Seahawks, sell outcomes, and the foundation of a great outcome is a relationship.”

— Sports Psychologist Michael Gervais

This sort of pursuit isn’t new to the sports world. Sports figures have long aspired to what is commonly referred to as “mindfulness”—an ability to perform without worrying about what has just happened or what might happen next. The Seahawks also are hardly the first team to give players access to a shrink. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] This Month’s Best News Bloopers

…blunders include video bombs — both intentional and completely accidental — along with plenty of technical mishaps. You also get Tom Brady talking incessantly about his balls and an anchor bravely letting a tarantula rest on her chest…(read more)

Also see –  Funniest News Bloopers of 2014

 


Marshawn Lynch Fined $20,000 for the Post-Touchdown Luxury of Grabbing His Dick

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 reports: The NFL has fined Marshawn Lynch $20,000 for his post-touchdown crotch grab in the NFC Championship, and more fines could be forthcoming if Lynch decides to continue his tradition of not talking to reporters.

“Johnny Manziel was hit with a $12,000 fine for flipping a bird at the Washington Redskins in preseason.”

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that the NFL is also considering fining Lynch significantly more than the $50,000 for each of the past two seasons for not talking to the media. Lynch again declined to speak on Sunday after the NFC Championship.

“Kansas City’s Travis Kelce was fined $11,025 for a gesture that we really can’t even describe here…”

Lynch, along with the rest of the Seahawks, is slated for media availability on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday of next week. If he decides to go with his usual repeat-a-single-phrase routine, the Super Bowl trip could end up being a significant hit to his wallet. Read the rest of this entry »


Comedian Artie Lange Banned from ESPN After Controversial Tweets


Carol Costello Apology Countdown Clock

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TICK TOCK CNN media reporter: Costello deserves all the criticism she’s getting TICK TOCK TICK TOCK

Hot Air‘s Ed Morrissey writes:

And CNN deserves some too, although their media reporter Brian Stelter didn’t go quite that far yesterday. Give Stelter credit for covering the controversy at all, though; he’s not an ombudsman or Carol Costello’s editor, after all, but just CNN’s media-beat analyst. Stelter provides a fair, if limited, look at Costello’s giggly adolescent delight at hearing Bristol Palin recount an assault in an audio clip, but doesn’t get around to discussing CNN’s responsibility for the segment or Costello’s refusal to apologize on air:

Stelter’s predecessor went a little further. Howard Kurtz, now at Fox, said his former employer should make Costello apologize on air:

That brawl in Alaska involving Sarah Palin’s family has gotten a lot of media attention. And when police audio was released, CNN anchor Carol Costello played it. And, boy, did she think it was a hoot. …

How on earth is that funny? Would Carol Costello have said enjoy if, let’s say, Chelsea Clinton was getting roughed up? Now Sarah Palin is…(more)

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At Mediaite, Joe Concha thinks an on-air apology may come today. CNN is out of options, Concha writes, and the controversy won’t go away:

In the past 72 hours alone, the Washington Post’s respected media writer, Erik Wemple–who has described Costello as “outstanding” in the recent past–has called on her to apologize on CNN air. Fox’s media analyst–Howard Kurtz–stated on Sunday’s Media Buzz the following: “Carol is a good journalist, but to make fun of the woman (Bristol Palin) in this episode no matter who started that brawl is horribly insensitive.” Kurtz added a need for Costello to apologize on-air as well.(more)

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If you’ve forgotten Costello’s take on Stephen Smith, it took place in late July, after Smith actually did apologize on air for suggesting that Janay Rice played a role in the incident of domestic violence that put the NFL under the microscope this season. Read the rest of this entry »


Presidential Early Retirement Update

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[Also see Matt K. Lewis’: Barack Obama has already checked out of his job]

“The degree to which Barack Obama is now phoning it in – sleepwalking perfunctorily through his second term, amid golf rounds and dinner parties – is astonishing…”


WIRED: No One Knows Who Designed These Products — But They’re Perfect


Jonathan Wilner: Bundled Cable Channels Are Here to Stay — And That’s a Good Thing

Illustration: elapela/Getty Images

Illustration: elapela/Getty Images

Note: Jonathan Wilner is a pro-bundler, he defends the practice. In this article for WIRED, he speaks for the cable companies, not the consumers. Founder of the broadband pay TV platform Unlimited Football, and former VP of technology at Foxsports.com, Wilner represents the sellers of bundled programming, not the interests of individual customers. His opinions should be viewed with that in mind. My comments are in italics.

Wilner writes:  These days, barely a week passes in the U.S. entertainment industry without litigation, legislation, or argumentation over bundling–the practice of offering a “package” of channels instead of the option to buy a la carte. I, for one, say enough with bundle bashing. Bundling is hardly unique to the entertainment industry, nor is it solely an American phenomenon. There’s a reason for this: Bundling benefits consumers and vendors in more ways than one.

Bundles exist and are popular with consumers across a range of goods and services: Computer software, automobile trim and option packages, restaurant meals, gym memberships, even amusement park tickets…

I have to interrupt Wilner for a moment, to point out the obvious. These are bad examples. With the exception gym memberships (bundle-only) none of these examples put consumers in the position of “buy a bundle, or no deal”. Amusement parks, computer software, restaurant meals, sure, those things are offered in package form, but are also available individually. Clearly you can buy one restaurant meal, you can buy one software program, one amusement park ticket, one pair of custom headlights for your car. Hell, if you wanted, you could buy one headlight. Ala carte.

Cable companies don’t “offer” programming in bundled form–that’s your only choice. Take it or leave it. (and they arrange the bundles, not you) You “get” to choose among bundled packages. In order to get programming from a cable TV provider, accepting a bundle is they only way to get it . Why does Wilner offer such poor examples?  

Imagine if you wanted to buy an airline ticket, and your only option was to buy a vacation package that included dozens of airline tickets? Or if you wanted to one out, but had to buy a booklet of 25 meal tickets? That’s the current arrangement with cable companies.

And despite all the furor over television bundling, non-TV programming often is bundled too: NBA League Pass, Netflix, Hulu, even Sirius radio subscriptions require consumers to pay a flat rate for a package that may include programs they don’t want.

In other words, “hey, these other providers do it.” So what? It’s still an anti-consumer practice. 

While anti-bundling advocates purport that a la carte programming would reduce costs to consumers, it simply isn’t true. In a series of posts from his blog Stratēchery, Ben Thompson provides compelling evidence to show that if ESPN was offered on an a la carte basis, it could maintain its current profitability only if individual subscribers paid about $100 a month for it.

Read the rest of this entry »


The Obama Scandal Bracket

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ESPN Removes, Apologizes for Qatar Puff Piece by Writer Who Received ‘All-Expenses Paid Trip’

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ESPN apologized for and removed a puff piece about Qatar and the 2022 World Cup by writer Phil Ball from its website on Friday after the outlet was lambasted when it was revealed that Ball, the writer, had received an “all-expenses paid” trip to Qatar to write the article.

In what read like a promotional article for the oil-rich nation amidst intense criticism Qatar is receiving for hosting the World Cup in what may be dangerous temperatures and using low-wage workers in “slave-labor conditions” to build the infrastructure, Ball wrote that the “witch hunt” against Qatar was being led an “anti-Qatari brigade” of “Western journalists who have never stepped foot in the country, according to Business Insider.

The article also mentioned that the “space-age stadium cooling system that the Qataris promise will protect players and fans from the oppressive summer heat ‘will work,'” without offering an explanation of how.

Read the rest of this entry »