Thursday, 30 August 2012

Canadian Media Merger Creates High Market Power and Runs Against Concentration Trends Elsewhere

The proposed merger between Bell Canada Enterprises and Astral Media will shortly be considered by the Canadian Radio and Television Council (CTRC). The merged company will own 70 television and cable channels, more than 100 radio stations, and some of the country’s most popular websites.

The combined company will serve nearly one-third of the national TV audience, more than 40 percent of the national cable TV audience, and about 30 percent of the nationwide radio audience. In addition the merger will increase Bell’s vertical integration and its power over distribution systems used by competitors. This later factor is particularly important because Canada lacks much of the regulatory control seen in Europe and the US over business practices of distribution systems that are also used by competing firms.

The merger will benefit the two companies by giving them more market power and permitting efficiencies at the corporate and divisional levels. It is also likely to produce efficiencies at the operational level by using more common content, something that is especially likely in its radio operations.

Investors will see benefit in the future. Share prices often go up before mergers as speculators jump into the market and then sell before the merger is completed, but prices typically decline after mergers when the realities of the costs of integration reduce short- to mid-term performance.  It will take some time before the benefits of the consolidation reach investors as dividends and heightened share value.

The downside of the merger will be borne by consumers and advertisers because the combination will create more market power to push up prices and reduce incentives for better service and quality. Competitors will also face a stronger company that controls the distribution infrastructures for their products and this should lead to higher prices. Additionally, one can expect social harm because the merger reduces plurality of those selecting content and the original content made available—particularly in radio—will probably be diminished.

How the CTRC will respond is unknown.  However, Canada has traditionally permitted far greater media concentration than other countries arguing that it helps strengthen Canadian ownership. It has permitted media concentration levels 2-3 times higher than those found in US and Europe and has one of the most concentrated media markets in the world.

Most other countries have been using broadcasting law and competition law in recent decades to reduce concentration in content provision and those policies have been quite successful. Why not Canada?

Canadian policy has been hampered by its nationalistic rhetoric, a significant degree of regulatory capture, and also because there are inconsistencies among broadcasting and competition policies  that allow regulators to downplay public and consumer interests.  The CRTC deals with station ownership, for example, but has set a market cap of 45% on total national television audience—about twice that in most countries. The Competition Bureau can review media mergers, but has tended to be concerned only about effects on advertising prices. Existing policies do not effectively address cross media ownership effects.

Ironically, the public service broadcaster (Canadian Broadcasting Corp) was heavily criticized when it served about 40 percent of the television audience. Commercial firms were particularly vocal arguing that having such a large firm distorted the market and their complaints led Parliament to reduce support for the CBC and over time its audience has been cut in half.

It will be interesting to see whether CRTC is willing to take a broader view and is willing to stand up to the interests of Bell and Astral when it considers this massive merger.

Monday, 27 August 2012

The Business on The Playa 2012

Taking The Business to the Spirit World for a special desert session on Thursday August 30th:

Chris Garcia
Caitlin Gill
Alex Koll
and very special guest
Moshe Kasher
plus
Cory Loykasek
Donny Divanian
and Cornell Reid
Thursday August 30th
7:00 & Edelweiss (SE Corner)
Black Rock City

The Business August 29th 2012, The "No Burning, Just Men" Edition

The Business is proud to announce a new employee for San Francisco's finest alternative comedy showcase. It's Mike Drucker, regular Business guest and comedian extraordinaire. He's performed at the Just For Laughs Festival in Montreal, written for The Onion, IGN, McSweeney's, and Saturday Night Live, and his cuddly exterior masks a virile man's man.

That's what this week's show is about: manliness. Chris Garcia, Alex Koll, and Caitlin Gill are busy taking The Business to the Spirit World with a Thursday sh

ow at Burning Man (two admissions for one dream catcher; bring-your-own-peyote), so regulars Bucky Sinister, Sean Keane (and now Mike Drucker!) are leaving out the Burning, and delivering nothing but Men.

One such man is Anthony Bedard, of the legendary bands Hank IV and the Icky Boyfriends. Mr. Bedard books Club Chuckles, a monthly comedy series at the Hemlock Tavern, and runs Talent Moat Records, producer of comedy albums by such artists as Brent Weinbach, Nick Flanagan, and Bucky Sinister. Mr. Bedard is extremely manly, having once built his own log cabin out of old-growth redwoods and remaindered Styx albums. You can follow his collection of ridiculous band PR on Twitter at @FolderRock.

Another manly man is Ben Kolina, fresh off a killer performance at the Savage Henry comedy festival in Humboldt. Kolina's pretty savage himself, having once fist-fought a grizzly bear to a standstill in the forests outside of Livermore, and made a rug out of its carcass. He's performed at the SF Punch Line and Tommy Ts, and he's got more testosterone in his bloodstream than Melky Cabrera.

 
Finally, man's man Joey Devine joins us. The former most inspirational player from Tim Hardaway's basketball camp, Joey also destroyed at the Savage Henry festival. He also once destroyed a small fishing village just by shouting at it. He can grow a beard faster than a lumberjack, and he can charm an audience faster than a three-legged stripper. Joey is a member of acclaimed sketch group Frown Land, the creator and host of Joey Devine: After Dark, and a three-time MMA champion.

Even with all this manliness, The Business is still just five bucks, and fist bumps are totally free, bro. Bring your own burrito policy is still in place, although if you bring a veggie burrito, we just might slap it out of your hands at the door and douse you with Axe body spray. Men!

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

The Business August 22nd 2012, The "LoyKLASSIC!" Edition

If you were lucky enough to get into the sold-out Business last week, you saw what we have all come to call “The Perfect Business”: Two-and-a-half hours of amazing comedy, surprises, fluid energy and rolling laughter. Now you ask: Will lightning strike twice? Can we repeat perfection? Hell yeah, and you best bear witness lest you miss out on the transcendent and supreme, true believers. This week The Business welcomes Cory Loykasek and Mike Drucker to help us reach the top of the mountain again. Testify!

Cory Loykasek’s flawless golden mane of hair warms a mind boiling with astute and challenging comedy. Cory uses his stand-up, as well as sketch and video work, to approach a variety of topics with grounded profundity, mixed with left-field thought through a layman's lens. Some call his approach casual, but just because you’re laid back in the drivers seat doesn’t mean your not still steering the ship right. He’s a lion of a man: Commanding, hairy and sometime he sleeps in the dirt.

After dropping in as a surprise guest on last week’s “Perfect” Business, Mike Drucker returns again this week to continue what is shaping-up to be a nice little residency here at the The Dark Room. After all: practice makes perfect. You know the stats: Writes for IGN, The Onion, McSweeny’s, SNL, Your Mom and Your Grandma. Terribly talented and horribly funny, he’s the nerd who can turn a word. He’s a gummy bear of a man: sweet, semi-opaque and you’d love to pull his head off and attach it to something else.

Joining these perfect beings are regular Business Employees Bucky, Caitlin, Sean and Alex. We are once again Chris-free this week, both Garcia and Thayer holding it down Hollywood style. But they are easily replaced by a burrito from the neighborhood.

The Business is at 8pm, the perfect time for comedy. We are still just the perfect price of $5,

Monday, 20 August 2012

Contemporary Trends Change Magazine and Newspaper Printing Markets


The markets of magazine and newspaper printing firms are undergoing significant changes, reflecting on-going transformations in the customers they serve.

Some of the changes have been under way for 2 decades with traditional printing companies morphing into printing service companies offering more profitable value-added services and products.  These included high-end specialized printing capabilities and services, database printing, and wide-ranging distribution services. At the same time, the increasing number of magazine titles, accompanied by lower average press runs, pushed the companies toward higher efficiency and acquisition of presses and systems designed for lower press runs.

In this environment, many printers could not effectively compete and consolidation began creating large regional players in the industry.

Shorter-term trends have also played havoc with the printing industry by killing off some magazine and newspaper titles, lowering the average number of pages printed because of advertising reductions, and by decreasing demand for catalog printing by mail order companies.

These changes created excess capacity and financial problems for many printers, opening the way for private equity firms to purchase trouble companies, restructure their operations, and consolidate the industry even further. Walstead Investments, for example, bought the St. Ives Group, Southern Print and Wyndeham in the UK to do just that.

About the only bright spot for the printing industry has been that many newspapers have now decided to outsource printing—increasing the number of customers in that segment for the short term, at least. Even some large newspapers that had given up commercial printing decades ago have changed the size capacity and flexibility of their presses to gain more production options and they are now offering printing services to other publishers and advertising service firms.

The consolidation has allowed big players to grow bigger. Donnelley has expanded by acquiring firms across North America.  Quad/Graphics has moved into Europe and Latin America. The German publisher Guner & Jahr acquired Brown Printing in the US and Prisma Presse in France.

The current economy is limiting the ability of these firms to push up prices, but one can expect that to occur when better times return and capacity utilization increases.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

The Business August 15th 2012, The "Karmel Coated Kinane" Edition

Our guests this week are so great we could just EAT THEM UP. Since we can’t literally devour them, here are some quotes about things they have eaten in the past:

Mr. Ian Karmel on delicious things enjoyed on recent travels:

“I had cheese steaks in Philly, BBQ in Austin, breakfast burritos in Austin and Panda Express in the Mall of America... but the best thing I had on the whole trip has to be the Juicy Lucy in Minneapolis, a hamburger with cheese INSIDE of it. WHAT!? HOW? Dark magics, only explanation.”


Mr. Kyle Kinane on accidentally eating a chocolate chip cookie with bacon in it:

“Yeah, it was disgusting at first, but it got better the more that I ate it.”

These two are making the Business their dessert after some seriously sexy Competitive Erotic Fan Fiction (http://
www.brownpapertickets.com/
event/263704) where they will be battling a few of your Business regulars for erotic supremacy.

We are happy to welcome Ian Karmel. Ian came from an improv background, which included time with The Groundlings and the Upright Citizens Brigade. Ian was honored as the 2011 Funniest Person in Portland, won the 2010 Portland Amateur Comedy Competition and has performed at the Bridgetown Comedy Festival, Bumbershoot, Portland’s Helium Comedy Club, Philadelphia’s Helium Comedy Club, Austin’s Cap City Comedy Club, Seattle’s Comedy Underground and Los Angeles’ Comedy Store. In addition to stand-up, Karmel has appeared on television, playing a character in IFC’s sketch show Portlandia and as a post-game analyst and commentator for the Portland Trailblazers.

Friend of the show and Iron Comic CHAMPION Kyle Kinane will join us as well. Kyle Kinane has been up and at it for almost half his life, mostly searching for what "it" might be. He has performed in the Leicester, Vancouver, Washington D.C., Portland, Just For Laughs/Chicago and the USCAF/Aspen comedy festivals, and has been on the TV via "Last Call with Carson Daly," "The Very Funny Show" on TBS, "Live at Gotham," "Comedy Central Presents" and "The World Stands Up" on the BBC. He was called "bleak and misanthropic" by the London Evening Standard, which he still feels may be a compliment.

We are also very pleased that Chris Garcia and Alex Koll have returned from their adventures to join us this week. There is still a Chris Thayer sized hole in our hearts, but he would want us all to enjoy the show even though he can’t be here.

Don’t miss this one! Get your $5 and print out a coupon so you can bring a friend.

The Business sells out. With this line up, the Business will SELL OUT. Get there on time and BYOBurrito.

Monday, 6 August 2012

The Business August 8th 2012, The "Yukon Ho to Sacramento!" Edition

There’s gold in these here guests! This week at the Business we welcome comics from lands of great riches. Two Canadians and two Sacramentans (Sacramentese? Sacramenti? Sacatomatoes?) will be joining us and presumably teaching us how to use a sluice box to get our own nuggets.

We happen to know Ray Molina is from Sacramento, but when asked he usually responds by saying a "Random City." When asked for a bio, he will tell you "A bio won't make me funnier" but added "my favorite food is mermaid." W
e have fresh mermaid on the grill just for him.

Also coming to us from Sacramento but starting from a humble beginning in Parts Unknown, Johnny Taylor has fought against the struggle and has emerged as an amazing stand-up comedian, humanitarian, and incredibly nice guy. If you asked most people, they would agree with the part about him being a nice guy. He is also attractive and loves cats.

And now the Canucks!

“Julia Hladkowicz is not only pretty, but super funny!”-indiscover.net. This blonde dynamo is a rising star at YukYuks and just landed a US National commercial for Lindt Chocolate with tennis icon Roger Federer. This year she showcased at LAFF (Ladies are Funny Festival) in Austin, Texas, was a semi-finalist in The Great Canadian Laugh Off, and performed with Comedy Records at NXNE.

Matt O’Brien is one to watch in the Canadian comedy circuit. In 2010 he was named Canada’s Next Top Comic by XM Radio and was featured at the Global Comedy Festival in Vancouver. In 2011, he filmed his first Comedy Now! special for the Comedy Network at the legendary Masonic Temple in Toronto. He has headlined and performed across North America, selling out shows at Yuk Yuk’s, The Improv, The Punchline, The Comedy Store, The Comedy Mix, Absolute Comedy, and Second City with his brand of high energy story telling.

Your Business regulars are still all glowy after an EXCELLENT Business LA with Guy Branum and Bobcat Goldthwait. Chris Garcia, Chris Thayer and Alex Koll are still off in the wild. Sean Keane, Bucky Sinister and Caitlin Gill will be there holding down the funny fort.

Come join us! $5 gets you in.  BYOBurrito cause we probably won’t share ours.

NBC's Olympic Coverage Shows Audience Expectations Aren't in Its Cross Media Strategy

NBC’s Olympic coverage in the U.S. reveals the conflict media companies face as they try to simultaneously manage traditional media delivery and digital distribution.

The company is getting it right with the traditional broadcasts, garnering excellent audiences and more than $1 billion in advertising—a figure that surprised even its most optimistic executives and may allow the broadcaster to break even on the games which have traditionally been a loss leader for the company.

The company is also giving audiences more coverage than every before by streaming additional content on cable channels and digital live streams. These are provided on platforms that consumers have come to expect will give them the power to choose when, where, and on what device they will be viewed.  

In order to support its traditional, advertising supported services, however, NBC has used tape delays on the broadcast services and has excluded many sports or blacked them outs on live streams—angering millions of consumers and setting off one of the greatest storms of criticism in the history of social media.

In trying to put its feet in both distribution markets, NBC is forcing the digital community to live by broadcast rules and in doing so has disrespected the audience and norms of cable and online platforms. The result has been widespread audience frustration and anger.
The only thing keeping audiences from going elsewhere are the exclusive national rights and the fact that most users don't have enough technical skills or inclination to bypass the ISP-based protections against streaming material from other countries. 

Hopefully, NBC will learn from the experience and get the formula better for the 2016 Olympics.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

The Daily’s rocky performance shows legacy brands create digital advantages

The News Corp’s launch of the tablet newspaper The Daily in February 2011 was heralded as the future of news and revealing opportunities for major new entrants in the news market. After a year and a half of operation, the digital newspaper has lost more than $30 million, managed to gain only 100,000 subscribers—not a trivial amount but low for a global player, and has just announced that it is cutting 1/3 of its editorial staff and ending original production of sports news and commentary.

Journalistically The Daily is not a bad news product and its app is facile and effective. So why hasn’t it been more successful? The fundamental problem is that the digital-only paper has been overshadowed by the success of legacy print newspaper brands in the market for digitally delivered news.

The Daily has never been so brilliantly written and edited that it could gain the significant attention and acclaim needed to overcome the brand advantages of legacy news providers. Major newspaper—such as The New York Times, The Guardian, and The Financial Times—have used the strengths of their reputations and brands to make the largest inroads in digital subscriptions. Concurrently, larger
local and regional players have also been grabbing paid digital customers in their markets and providing additional competition to the digital startup.

The Daily has also had to compete with widespread availability of free digital news from news providers such as BBC.com, CNN.com and aggregators such as Yahoo! and Google. These have all been successful in attracting consumers who are less attached to print news providers and paid services.

Those who predict the demise of legacy newspaper companies often forget the critical importance of the credibility and trust those companies have with news consumers and many assume that print organizations cannot transform themselves into digital players that may become so successful they may one day drop their print editions. 

Brands are important for habitual news consumers and they tend to be highly loyal consumers of specific news brands. The Daily has been unsuccessful in breaking that loyalty, but more successful in creating relationships with persons who have not been strongly bonded to legacy brands. It remains to be seen whether News Corp. will be willing to maintain a relatively small news digital brand among its holdings, even if it manages to move The Daily into operating profitability.