Deals and dilemmas as the media industry begins 2019

Posted January 2, 2019 1:00 a.m. EST

— A version of this article first appeared in the "Reliable Sources" newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.

January always lifts off like a rocket. The NFL playoffs start this weekend... Golden Globes are this Sunday... CES starts next Tuesday... and I'm sure there will be some surprise announcements...

Who needs what

Disney needs the final approvals for its bid to buy most of 21st Century Fox...

CBS News needs a new exec producer for "CBS This Morning" and for "60 Minutes." At "60," Bill Owens has been interim E.P. since September...

Gannett needs a new CEO. Robert Dickey is retiring in May... Headhunting firm Egon Zehnder is helping with the search...

Condé Nast still needs buyers for Brides, W, and Golf Digest magazines. The sale plans were announced last August. The company also needs a new global CEO...

NBC needs a new plan for the fourth hour of "Today," with Kathie Lee Gifford leaving in April...


Which of the numerous investigations into Trumpworld will turn out to be the most significant?

As the cliche "walls close in" on President Trump, what will he do? And what will the White House's media strategy be? Double down on the media bashing, lean even harder on Fox, or...?

The first DNC-sanctioned primary debate will take place in June. How many candidates will be on stage?

Will journalists let Trump's insults overshadow the Dem primary process?

When will Michael Wolff's "Fire and Fury" sequel drop?

Were the fake stories of 2016 just a warm-up for the "viral deception" of the 2020 campaign?

Will more sites go the way of Mic? Is a round of digital media consolidation right around the corner?

How many more digital newsrooms will unionize?

Is the churn at CBS over yet?

Will acting CEO Joe Ianniello get the permanent job, or will the board opt for an outsider? Will anyone else leave as a result of the misconduct investigations? Will Les Moonves fight the board's decision to deny him $120 million in severance $$? According to Page Six, Moonves spent New Year's on David Geffen's yacht...

Can Zuckerberg turn this around?

He posted a joyous "here's to a great 2019" photo, but...

Hadas Gold is right: "Of all the platforms, Facebook and its CEO Mark Zuckerberg has become the poster child for all the ills of the internet." Can FB change that perception in 2019?

Big Tech predictions

"Sheryl Sandberg will leave Facebook as its woes continue." That's one of WaPo tech columnist Geoffrey A. Fowler's 2019 predictions. Also: "Congress keeps talking about tech — but makes little impact... Trump gets into a big fight with an ever-bigger Amazon..." 5G networks roll out but "wow few at first" because it'll take a few years to blanket the country... And "Apple is going to squeeze more money from you" through "subscriptions for news and video..."

More questions

What's the next earth-shattering media merger?

How will the court of appeals rule in US v. AT&T?

Will The Academy find a new Oscars host? Or go host-less?

Will Netflix enter the Oscar race in a big way with "Roma?"

When will Megyn Kelly's exit deal with NBC News be finalized?

Could the Eagles make it back to the Super Bowl? Have faith, Philly friends!

I'm looking forward to...

The return of the daily W.H. briefing. I'm an optimist!

Jill Abramson's book, "The Merchants of Truth," out February 5...

The finales of "The Big Bang Theory," "Homeland," "Orange is the New Black," "Veep," "Mr. Robot" and surely some other shows too...

"The Lion King" in theaters on July 19...

Preorder these:

Jason Rezaian's memoir about his time in captivity in Iran comes out on January 23.

I'm also looking forward to reading Ronan Farrow's "Catch and Kill" book... hopefully sooner rather than later... and Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey's book about their Weinstein reporting...

→ And: Margaret Atwood's "Handmaid's Tale" sequel is set for September...


-- Vanity Fair will release its February cover on Wednesday morning...

-- The January issue of Glamour was its last monthly edition in print... That's one of the pegs for Lavanya Ramanathan's piece about women's mags. She asks: "Will we miss them when they're gone?" (WaPo)

-- Awful Announcing has "five sports media stories to watch in 2019..." (AA)

-- IndieWire has a list of "who's poised to win and lose" in entertainment this year... (IndieWire)

-- And Peter Csathy is out with his annual 10 predictions about the media industry... (TechCrunch)

New US managing editor at the FT

In a statement on Tuesday, FT editor Lionel Barber said "America is the land of opportunity for the FT." US managing editor Gillian Tett is moving to a new role, "America editor-at-large," writing two columns a week and helping with editorial strategy. She will also chair a "newly created US editorial board," Chris Roush of Talking Biz News reported.

FT news editor Peter Spiegel is the new US managing editor, effective April 15. Both of them will report to Barber...

Who hacked Tribune and why?

Tribune Publishing said it was the victim of "malware" last Friday and Saturday. The cyberattack resulted in printing and distribution delays at papers like the LA Times, Baltimore Sun, etc. (Here's my full story.)

Some reporters chuckled at the irony of a digital bug interrupting printed papers. But there was also real concern about the effectiveness of the attack. So what was it? Per the LAT, when it comes to this particular piece of malware, "determining the origin of an attack is exceedingly difficult, as is establishing any links to state actors." Tribune told me Tuesday that "we are investigating the nature of the situation and will not comment further..."

2019: The rise of the paywalls

I asked Michael Wolf, the founder of the consulting firm ACTIVATE, what he's expecting in the year ahead... he said: "Major news outlets will break free from the tyranny of social media, largely via subscriptions to premium content. Any news organization that can charge for content, will. Media paywalls will expose consumers' willingness to choose with their wallets, and align with specific news outlets: the winners will be traditional news outlets such as Fox News, Bloomberg, CNN, NBC/MSNBC/CNBC, Washington Post, NYTimes, etc. as well as the strongest digital outlets including Vice, Vox and Business Insider."

Why more deals are on the horizon

MediaLink CEO Michael Kassan told me he's expecting more M&A across the entire media landscape -- "The traditional media players need to continue to come together for competitive and financial reasons."

Another part of his forecast: "The advertising agency holding companies need to continue their reinvention -- As marketers are in-sourcing more capabilities, the agencies have to address this as a reality and adjust. There will be more consolidation of brands at the holding company level (WPP merging JWT/Wunderman as an example). As the management consulting ( e.g. Accenture, Deloitte etc) firms continue to expand into the marketing space, the competition will intensify."

New year, new shows

Tuesday marked the premiere of "America First with Dr. Sebastian Gorka" on radio stations across the country. Jamie Weinstein tweeted: "Gorka is replacing Michael Medved at Salem, which says a great deal about the sorry state of American conservatism." He said "the good news" is that Medved is still streaming a show here...


-- Glenn Kessler's end of the year count: "Trump averaged 15 false statements a day in 2018." (WaPo)

-- Oliver Darcy emails: Adam Rubenstein, most recently an editor at The Weekly Standard, is the new executive editor at Jewish Insider...

-- The revamped and relaunched Washington Examiner magazine came out on Tuesday... (Examiner)

-- A different part of the Examiner published a Trump press release on Monday. The so-called "MAGA list" of "205 accomplishments," compiled by the White House, was dutifully reprinted by Paul Bedard. Then Trump turned around and tweeted about it, crediti Examiner, like it was their list, not his!

-- James Rosen, who left Fox News twelve months ago, is joining Sinclair "as an investigative reporter in its growing Washington bureau..." (Twitter)

-- Per Page Six, Hollywood producers are circling Michael Cohen for the rights to his life story... (Page Six)

Key dates on Hollywood's calendar

Brian Lowry emails: It's a huge year for marquee entertainment properties by almost any measure, but in terms of circle-the-date items, the hoopla should be especially huge for the final season of "Game of Thrones" (April), and Disney's Arsenal of tentpole movies, topped by "Avengers: Endgame" (late April) and the still-unsubtitled "Star Wars IX" in December, which not incidentally coincides with the launch of a dedicated land at Disney's theme parks — and possibly the studio's streaming service.

January, meanwhile, offers a potential early blockbuster to test whether 2018 box office momentum will continue with "Glass," M. Night Shyamalan's sequel pulling together "Split" and "Unbreakable." And NBC and Fox kick off the year seeking to establish much-needed and elusive new reality-competition hits, with "Titan Games" and "The Masked Singer..." Read on...

CBS v. Nielsen

CBS and the TV industry's standard ratings provider, Nielsen, "are without a contract after their current deal lapsed at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday," Variety's Brian Steinberg reported. "The situation — for now — remains fluid. Talks are likely to continue. But CBS is determined to secure a pact that it feels makes the best economic sense for the company while Nielsen believes the network will find negotiating with advertisers more difficult if it does not have access to its measures of audience viewing..."

Read more of Tuesday's "Reliable Sources" newsletter... And subscribe here to receive future editions in your inbox...


-- This is cool: "Throughout 2019, The New York Times Opinion section will publish an occasional series of essays on the ways in which the events of 1919 shaped the following century." (NYT)

-- What to read in 2019? Brandon Griggs has a list of 10 books that appeared most often on best-of-2018 lists... (CNN)

-- Tuesday marked "the first time in two decades that a large body of copyrighted works" lost their protected status." Alexandra Alter explained it all, right here... (NYT)

-- "The broadcast networks are at crossroads following unprecedented corporate upheaval, with none of the executives who were at the top of each network the same time last year in their posts now," Nellie Andreeva noted... (Deadline)