October 25, 2005

Bizzy’s Business Briefs (102505)

Paramount Says the TV Show Frasier Lost $200 Million

No one involved is laughing at this comedic claim:

The unlikely scenario of an erudite-but-frustrated radio psychiatrist sharing his Seattle apartment with his ageing father and his Mancunian carer turned out to be pure comedy gold.

But a year after the final episode of Frasier was aired, the award-winning sitcom starring Kelsey Grammer is at the centre of a Hollywood-style dispute over how it failed to turn a net profit.

Two talent agencies representing the show’s co-creators have filed a lawsuit against Paramount Pictures, claiming that they have been cheated out of their share of the profits from the show.

They are demanding to know why Frasier ended up $200m (about £110m) in the red, despite being one of the most successful shows in television history, which ran for 11 seasons.

….. According to the lawsuit, filed on 29 September in Los Angeles County Superior Court, Frasier generated gross revenues of more than $1.5bn, including nearly $830m in licensing fees from the NBC network, which broadcast the sitcom in the US. In the UK it was shown on Channel 4, where it regularly attracted audiences of three million.

In its lawsuit Paramount claimed that far from making a net profit, the series – which ran from 1993 to 2004 – lost $200m.

I won’t take time to dig very deep, except to say that Viacom, whose combined operating profit in its Television and Entertainment segments was over $1.5 billion in each of the past three calendar years, according to its 2004 10-K Annual Report (WARNING: very large PDF; see Page 102 if you go there), appears to have more than a little explaining to do.

This Is a Corrupt Business Brief (Oil For Food Money Traced to Galloway)

Maybe it will be George Galloway and not Karl Rove escorted away in handcuffs (HT the justifiably gloating Sisu via Instapundit):

George Galloway, the British MP, was last night accused of lying by a US Congressional committee when he testified earlier this year that he had not received any United Nation food-for-oil allocations from the deposed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

In a report issued here, Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman and his colleagues on the Senate Subcommittee for Investigations claim to have evidence showing that Mr. Galloway’s political organisation and his wife received vouchers worth almost $600,000 (£338,000) from the then Iraqi government.

“We have what we call the smoking gun,” said Mr. Coleman, who will send the report to the US Department of Justice and the British authorities. The MP could face charges of perjury, making false statements and obstructing a Congressional investigation. Each charge carries a possible jail term of five years and a fine of $250,000.

But Mr. Galloway again denied the allegations – as vehemently as he did last May in a bravura performance before the Subcommittee, when he accused Mr. Coleman of mounting “the mother of all smokescreens” to divert attention from America’s post-invasion difficulties, and launched a broadside against the Bush administration’s entire policy in Iraq.

An indictment of Rove for possibly saying something untrue during an investigation without an underlying crime, juxtaposed against no indictment of Galloway, where real crimes are at the least very likely to have occurred, would be a travesty. The results should be, and hopefully will be, the direct opposite.

Update: More on Galloway from Bad Hair Blog. You’ll be stunned and amazed.

Technology Developments Aplenty

  • A Nanocar has been created (HT Porkopolis), and it has potential applications in many areas.
  • Quantum computing could, and probably will, revolutionize computing (HT again to Porkopolis, who should consider a name change to Technology Central).
  • E-Tutoring makes me wonder if the time to consider abandoning schools with walls is not far away. I hope so.

Quote of the Day: On Judith Miller and New York Times’ “Journalists” (Plus More Financial Deterioration at NYT)

The Times mistreatment of Ms. Miller may be an indication of the paper’s slide into irretrievable looniness (HT Porkopolis via Powerline):

Autophagy of The New York Times

Who has been the better journalist – Judith Miller or those attacking her in her own paper’s pages? Ms. Miller was sounding the alarm about the Iraqi threat and working her sources and fighting not to get beat. Ms. (op-ed writer Maureen) Dowd was parroting unsubstantiated smears, and Mr. (Valerie Plame’s wife Joe) Wilson was falsely downplaying Iraq’s effort to obtain weapons of mass destruction, without disclosing to Times readers his wife’s institutional interests. And huge numbers of Times reporters have been complaining about her to competing news companies. To which we can only say that if Ms. Miller is to be run out of the Times in favor of Ms. Dowd and Mr. Wilson and those who believe, falsely, that the Iraq war was all just an elaborate con job by Mr. (Iraqi informer Ahmad) Chalabi and his neoconservative allies – well, then the Times is in even worse straits than we thought.

In most definitely related news, New York Times Company stock (NYT):

  • Closed at a 52-week low of $27.09 on Friday, Oct. 21, before slightly rebounding to close at $27.30 on Monday, Oct. 24.
  • Is down by over one-third since mid-November 2004, and over 45% from mid-February 2004.
  • Has lost over $3 billion in market value since mid-February 2004.

The Times Company’s investors are in even more need of relief from its papers’ ongoing journalistic malpractice (including the Boston Globe, which could have its own set of a half-dozen posts) than their readers.

Previous Posts:

Positivity: Progess on Heart Disease and Cholesterol

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:12 am

From the Oct. 12 Wall Street Journal (requires subscription):

Studies Point to Drop In Heart Attacks, Cholesterol


The Ben Bernanke Nomination: A Rundown, and a Warning

So far, this looks good–very good:

  • Larry Kudlow’s initial thoughts: “Bernanke will also support an extension of Bush’s tax cuts for capital gains and dividends, and he has told me in the past that raising tax rates would only harm the economy.”
  • Kudlow, in his Bernanke speech debriefing later in the day, liked this as he paraphrased the nominee: “The cause of inflation is excess money creation by the Fed—not rapid economic growth, nor too many people working, nor temporary oil shocks, nor hurricanes.”
  • The stock market liked it a lot.
  • Arnold Kling and Bryan Caplan at Econlog are very pleased.
  • Nat Worden at TheStreet.com is pleased, but worried that announcing inflation targets, which Bernanke would like to do, might reduce the Fed’s flexibility.
  • Jim Cramer seems more happy that Alan Greenspan is leaving than anything else, but seems pleased with his nominated successor. In a strong backhanded (and, in my opinion, largely unfair) insult to the outgoing Fed Chairman, he writes: “With Greenspan out of the picture, I believe we get rationality and reason, and with those you get price-to-earnings multiple expansion, not contraction. All good, all good.”
  • The Wall Street Journal has a free rundown (something they should do more, and I say this as a subscriber) of economist opinions on the nomination, all ranging from favorable to effusive.
  • Last but not least, Willisms likes him, and provides plenty of good reasons (“He’s for lower government spending before tax hikes to get the federal budget in order. He supports Social Security and Medicare reform. He believes in the power of the American economy. And he’s not quite as cryptic and ambivalent as Alan Greenspan when talking about these issues.”).

Bernanke does not get univeral praise, though. Back in August, John Tamny at National Review sounded an alarm: “For his views on money, Bernanke has the potential to be very dangerous.”

I was reassured by one source of early skepticism (scroll 2/3 of the way down link):

(Nevada Senator Harry) Reid, who has been sharply critical of Greenspan for supporting Bush’s tax cuts (AND even more critical of his support for individually controlled Social Security investment accounts–Ed.), added, “It will be important that Mr. Bernanke demonstrate that he is committed to guiding the economy to produce results for all Americans rather than promoting partisan policies that benefit special interests and an elite few.”

Back in March, Reid went ballistic when Greenspan spoke out in support of individually controlled Social Security investment accounts (I’m starting to really like that phrase), calling the Fed Chairman, who was confirmed 89-4 the last time he was nominated for another term, “one of the biggest political hacks we have in Washington.” If Harry Reid votes against Bernanke, it’s a pretty good bet that the guy will be great.

Speaking of real hacks, don’t forget that at the same time as Reid’s rant, far-left blogs like Daily Kos declared full-scale war on Greenspan, even seeking out civilian casualties (no link provided, as personal character assassins don’t merit one):

We should hunt down anything Greenspan has ever written, said or done that reflects poorly on him. This would include erroneous predictions, older statements which contradict things he’s said recently, and anything that’s just plain wrong, venal or stupid … And for those of you who want to really get down & dirty in the trenches, we can turn this into a one-degree-of-separation venture. That is, if you can find similar material for anyone who is closely linked to Greenspan, that’s fair game, too. Good examples would be Greenie’s idol, the nutbag “objectivist” Ayn Rand, and Andrea Mitchell, his NBC reporter wife.

The effort to defame Greenspan was a laughable, dismal failure that quickly disappeared. But the fact that it existed at all shows that there is a lot of pent-up anger out there in LeftyLand, and should serve as a warning to The White House of the possibility that the Bernanke nomination will be as contentious as the fights over its Supreme Court and lower court nominees have been. At this very moment, I believe the Mainstream Media is looking for some pronouncement from some speech or lecture Mr. Bernanke gave, or any offhand remark he might have made, that will set off the far-left fuse.

So I will suggest right now that I will NOT be surprised if Bernanke’s views on Social Security or some other far-left article of economic faith become a litmus test, or if the nominee ends up having to run the same personal and professional gauntlet Republican judicial nominees always face. Not, one, bit. I hope Mr. Bernanke and The White House are prepared.

UPDATE: Don Luskin exposes another example of Paul Krugman’s non-predictive powers: “(At the) Council of Economic Advisers …. he will be expected to prove his loyalty by defending the indefensible and saying things he knows aren’t true. That might seem a tolerable price to pay for the Fed chairmanship — but a year of it might well make Mr. Bernanke damaged goods from the point of view of the markets.” HA–Luskin also notes that the markets leaped at the Bernanke announcement, and adds that they slid a bit on the day of the Greenspan nomination announcement back in 1987.