Bloomberg - Can SiriusXM Survive Without Howard Stern? 5-15min

One day last summer, Howard Stern ripped into his bosses at SiriusXM on his morning radio show. He accused them of gamesmanship, of treating him like a common employee, of disrespecting his talent. “Whenever you f--- with me, I will f--- with you worse,” he said. “I always win.” ... Explaining why he was so livid, Stern told his listeners that his bosses had recently asked him if he’d like to move the start of his show an hour later, to 7 a.m. That way everybody would get an extra hour of sleep. It seemed like a generous offer; Stern thought it over and accepted. It was then, he said, that management balked, insisting he’d misunderstood. He could start his show at 7 a.m., they informed him, if and when he renewed his contract with Sirius XM Holdings, which is set to expire in December 2015. Stern said he was enraged by what he felt was a strategic bait-and-switch. (A spokesperson for SiriusXM declined to comment.) For the next several minutes, he vented. “It’s not even clear to me who works for who,” Stern said. “I’m pretty sure if I left, it would be very bad for the company.” ... Stern is 61 years old. For 40 years he’s been rising before dawn to entertain and titillate drive-time commuters with a kaleidoscopic, screwball performance that’s teeming with anxiety, misfits, satire, celebrities, profanity, pranks, and porn stars. He’s the top rainmaker in American radio, capable of generating hundreds of millions of dollars a year in revenue for whomever employs him and his entourage of baroque sideshow performers known as the Wack Pack. ... On paper, the marriage between Stern and SiriusXM has never been better. Yet its future remains in limbo. Stern, who declined to be interviewed for this article, hasn’t said if he intends to extend his contract. ... The coming battle for Americans’ ears, whether in the car or on a computer or smartphone, promises to be fierce. In this unsettled territory, an exclusive deal with Stern could be a fearsome weapon. In theory, he could do for somebody in Internet radio what he did for Sirius in satellite radio.

Bloomberg - Inside the Murdoch Makeover of National Geographic 5-15min

For years a culture clash had been brewing within the cloistered, sober halls of the National Geographic Society, a social club-turned-nonprofit organization founded in Washington in 1888 and devoted to the mission of increasing and diffusing geographic knowledge. Some NGS executives were irritated by the reality-TV shows that had come to dominate the network, which was majority-owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. The worry was that the lowbrow shows were damaging the society’s credibility and upstanding reputation. Behind the scenes, they had attempted to quash several projects before they aired. The TV people kept fighting back. ... In addition to the media assets, Fox picked up National Geographic’s travel business, which arranges tours to places such as the Galápagos Islands, and its licensing division, which lends its name to everything from bird feeders to backpacks to bedsheets and coffee beans. The success of the brand will likely hinge on the financial performance of the TV network—and its ability to navigate a market that’s being shaken by the unbundling of cable packages and rapidly changing viewing habits. ... Fox is investing hundreds of millions of dollars to reinvent it as a more highbrow destination—a kind of HBO for science and adventure programming.

Bloomberg - Can a Company You Hate Make a Cable Box You Love? 5-15min

Comcast has installed tens of millions of cable boxes, Wi-Fi routers, and other hardware in American homes over the years. These devices have been forgettable at best. Stirling hopes that’s about to change. Later this year, the company will begin rolling out a family of slimmed-down internet, TV, and home-security gadgets. The devices are designed according to a radical concept that’s largely gone untested in more than a half-century of cable-TV history—that hardware doesn’t have to be hideous. ... The new devices are designed to work in concert with X1—the software at the heart of Comcast’s strategy to keep its 22.4 million cable subscribers from cutting the cord and defecting to Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon. Think of X1 as the company’s own Android or iOS—a technological platform upon which an empire of software, hardware, and services can be built. ... Instead of just throwing every channel into a linear grid accessed by clicking up and down with a remote, X1 aggregates programming from hundreds of TV networks and online sources and arranges everything by genre. ... Unlike most cable companies, Comcast has actually been gaining TV subscribers.

Bloomberg - tronc If You Want to Save Journalism 13min

Ferro, who declined to be interviewed for this story, began his career as an entrepreneur, launching companies in the 1980s and ’90s, including a software startup. By the time he met Fiasco, Ferro had long since transitioned from creating businesses to buying them—especially ones in financial trouble. And for an investor in distressed companies, few industries have targets as numerous and tempting as newspapers. ... The Ferro era at Tribune has quickly become one of the more baffling chapters in media history. Within eight months, Team Ferro has rejected one purchase offer, angering shareholders; promised to unveil a “content monetization engine” that would unleash newspapers’ true potential as a “rock star business”; posted a want ad for an employee to assist “news content harvesting robots”; rejected another, more lucrative purchase offer; rebranded Tribune as Tronc, or tronc, as the company insists; and split and re-rebranded tronc into troncM, for media, and troncX, for exchange. ... corporate renaming ignited extended spasms of #tronc mockery on social media. Sample tweet: “WHAT YOU GONNA DO WITH ALL THAT JONC ALL THAT JONC INSIDE YOUR TRONC.” ... yet, until recently, Ferro was on the verge of laughing all the way to the bonc, as it were. ... now the spotlight is back on Ferro and his vision for saving journalism.

Bloomberg - Big Tobacco Has Caught Startup Fever 13min

Smoking rates were in decline among well-educated consumers in developed economies; to make up for slipping sales, the companies were raising prices, which they could do for only so long. Meanwhile, a growing number of customers were switching to e-cigarettes in the hope of escaping their addiction or preserving their health. The devices, which use battery-powered coils to vaporize nicotine-infused solutions, had leapt on the scene seemingly out of nowhere. One of the first commercially available e-cigarettes had been created circa 2003 as a smoking cessation device by a Chinese pharmacist whose father had died of lung cancer. By 2013 the e-cigarette market had $3.7 billion in annual sales, according to Euromonitor International, and was expanding rapidly. ... Philip Morris International scrambled to fashion newfangled nicotine-delivering devices that would catch the wandering eye of the restless tobacco consumer. ... Everywhere you look in the industry, companies are pouring money into product development while borrowing liberally from the style of Silicon Valley. ... Tobacco executives often sound like media owners talking about content. That is, they’re open to delivering their drug via whatever pipe the consumer chooses—be it e-cigarettes, heat-not-burn devices, gum, lozenges, dip, or some medium that hasn’t been invented yet.

Bloomberg - The Sinclair Revolution Will Be Televised. It’ll Just Have Low Production Values 12min

Located in Hunt Valley, Md., little-known Sinclair is the nation’s largest owner of broadcast TV stations. It has 173 of them, mostly in small markets (Sioux City, Iowa; Fresno, Calif.; Little Rock), but with several in larger metropolitan areas as well (Pittsburgh, Salt Lake City, Washington). Whatever a particular station’s network affiliation—ABC, CBS, CW, Fox, or NBC—Sinclair viewers get a steady dose of conservative political commentary. Lately, Executive Chairman David Smith has begun assembling a kind of junior varsity squad of commentators and making unspecific murmurings about competing head-to-head with the senior lettermen and women at Fox News. To left-leaning viewers only just becoming aware of the company’s reach, Sinclair is positioned to flip a switch and turn those 173 stations’ newscasts—currently delivering bulletins on weather, school closings, and local affairs—into a cohesive network that pushes a Fox News-esque worldview of outrage and conflict into individual cities, counties, and towns. ... In May the company announced it was buying Tribune Media Co. for $3.9 billion. Among other assets, Sinclair would add 42 TV stations—including major ones in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago—if the deal is approved by regulators.