Johnnie L.

Stories by Johnnie L. Roberts

  • I Want My (Web) MTV

    Digital impresario Mika Salmi is transforming Viacom's MTV Networks into a new-media powerhouse, saving it from a fate worse than death: middle age.
  • Twilight of the Media Moguls

    John Malone helped build a generation of media titans like no other—only to cut them down to size and reveal them as mere mortals. Just ask Barry Diller.
  • Regan and Murdoch Settle

    She bought O. J. Simpson's manuscript. She got fired. After that, it got ugly.
  • Foxy Business News

    Rupert Murdoch serves Wall Street to the masses with banter, beer and breasts. Watch out, CNBC.
  • Prick Up Your Rabbit Ears

    When cable TV arrived in the ' 70s, rabbit ears seemed destined to go the way of the polyester pantsuit. So, too, the clunky outdoor antenna, a rooftop fixture that once upon a time signaled the rise of television in American life. But a funny thing happened on the way to the analog dust heap: it turns out that a new generation of rabbit ears and antennas can receive high-definition television broadcasts. And it's free.The irony is marvelous. Pushed into obsolescence by the technological advances of cable and satellite, antennas are re-emerging thanks to one of the most promising high-tech services of the digital age. High-def channels can be plucked out of thin air by antennas just like regular broadcast signals--no cable, no satellite dish, no monthly bill, no waiting for the cable man. It's like the old days, except this time antennas (which cost between $18 and $150) may offer the clearest picture. "More than 90 percent of our customers say they want the antennas for high-def,"...
  • Out of Bounds

    Jimmy Dolan's sports empire is a humiliation. Does that make him unfit to run Daddy's cable company?
  • The Redstones: A Family Feud for the Ages

    Sumner Redstone is cranky. He's having a huge falling-out with his daughter, Shari—once considered the 84-year-old mogul's heir apparent—and it looks as if she may leave the family media empire, which controls Viacom and CBS. And the split with Shari, 53, is hardly the only conflict Sumner has had lately. His son, Brent, wiped his hands of the family business this spring after suing his dad and sister for allegedly freezing him out—settling for as much as $250 million, people familiar with the matter say. Sumner's battling a multibillion-dollar lawsuit by his nephew, who accuses him of "self-dealing" that deprived the nephew and his late sister of their stake in the Redstone enterprise. Sumner sent Tom Cruise packing from Paramount Studios, and then did the same to Viacom honcho Tom Freston. He's bickering with CBS chief Leslie Moonves over the size of the executive's compensation. And at Herbert Allen's annual mogul fest in bucolic Sun Valley this month, Redstone got into a war of...
  • How Murdoch Would Change Dow Jones

    Rupert Murdoch is destined to dramatically change The Wall Street Journal's culture. But not in the way most critics are predicting.
  • Inside the Murdoch-Dow Jones Courtship

    The Bancrofts are the most important family you've never heard of. With the Murdochs in the hunt for Dow Jones, a media saga takes a new turn.
  • HBO: Who's Who in the Post-Albrecht CEO Race

    No sooner had Time Warner announced that it forced out HBO's chief executive, Hollywood started buzzing about his likely successor.  Rating some of the contenders.
  • Starr: Don Imus Is Us

    There is no excuse for what Don Imus said about the Rutgers women's basketball team. There is, however, an explanation. And you probably won't like it.
  • Embarrassing Moment for Katie Couric

    An entry from the CBS's anchor's video 'Notebook' shares some uncomfortable similarities with a Wall Street Journal column. How musings about a library led to some embarrassing moments—and the firing of a network producer.
  • Hollywood's New Moguls Shake Things Up

    Superrich Sidney Kimmel and Sam Nazarian are out to shake things up in Tinseltown. But will the old guard shake them down before they get the chance?
  • Prick Up Your Rabbit Ears

    When cable TV arrived in the ' 70s, rabbit ears seemed destined to go the way of the polyester pantsuit. So, too, the clunky outdoor antenna, a rooftop fixture that once upon a time signaled the rise of television in American life. But a funny thing happened on the way to the analog dust heap: it turns out that a new generation of rabbit ears and antennas can receive high-definition television broadcasts. And it's free.The irony is marvelous. Pushed into obsolescence by the technological advances of cable and satellite, antennas are re-emerging thanks to one of the most promising high-tech services of the digital age. High-def channels can be plucked out of thin air by antennas just like regular broadcast signals--no cable, no satellite dish, no monthly bill, no waiting for the cable man. It's like the old days, except this time antennas (which cost between $18 and $150) may offer the clearest picture. "More than 90 percent of our customers say they want the antennas for high-def,"...
  • Media: Trying A New Journey

    Adventures in Capitalism" was the high-testosterone tag line for The Wall Street Journal's previous ad campaign, in 1997, to promote the brand. The paper was recently made over--taking three inches from the width and adding an emphasis on forward-looking journalism--so it's time to freshen up with a new campaign. "Every journey needs a Journal," says the new tag line, positioning the paper to speak less to readers' inner Striver than their inner Seeker. The ad blitz begins next week in major publications and Web sites. The ads are essentially celebrity endorsements, highlighting the Journal's role in the inspiring "life journeys" of a diverse mix of people including singer Sheryl Crow, "Freakonomics" coauthor and University of Chicago professor Steven Levitt and Jack Burton, founder of Burton Snowboards.The Journal wanted people who weren't megafamous but who "had an interesting life journey, read The Wall Street Journal and were successful," Ann Marks, Dow Jones's chief marketing...
  • The King Of HDTV

    John Malone Built A Cable Empire That Changed Television Forever. Now He's Trying To Repeat The Feat With A High-Definition Satellite-Tv Dynasty.
  • CNBC, Take Two

    Back in the roaring '90s, CNBC anchor Maria Bartiromo was the face of business news--the "Money Honey" whom everyone on Wall Street wanted to sit down with for a sexy chat about convertible subordinated debentures (or some such). But then the tech bubble burst, and CNBC's fortunes sank with the market. Struggling to recover, the GE-owned network seemed dazed and confused, hiring bad-boy tennis great John McEnroe and dubious others for primetime talk shows that failed. Now the market's back--and so are CNBC and Bartiromo. Just last week she snagged "gets" with Treasury boss Henry Paulson and embattled Yahoo CEO Terry Semel. "I do feel a great reception when I'm calling people to come on the program," she says. Things are even more fun for CNBC's unlikely star Jim Cramer, manic host of "Mad Money," a stock-touting show that's inexplicably won him a cult-like following on college campuses. "Suddenly, I get good tables at restaurants," he says. "But my 12-year-old daughter is...
  • Kill Fee

    The O.J. Simpson book debacle seemed like an unmitigated disaster for media mogul Rupert Murdoch and his maverick publisher Judith Regan. In fact, Murdoch’s empire had reaped a financial windfall before the embarrassed mogul cancelled pub­lication of the “If I Did It.” Newsweek has learned that ABC’s Barbara Walters had explored so seriously the idea of doing a Simpson interview to promote the book that when she balked at proceeding, ABC’s Entertainment division had to pay Mur­doch’s publishing arm a “kill fee” of as much as $1 million.Kill fees are common in the publishing industry and in Hollywood. Typically, such a fee is paid after a prospective buyer has made a good-faith commitment to a project (although not necessarily signed a contract) before ultimately rejecting the content.None of the people familiar with the ABC/News Corp. dealings would discuss the matter on the record for fear of anger­ing their employers. Both News Corp. and ABC are bound by non-disclosure agreements...
  • NBC Universal: Naming The Heir Apparent

    Industry followers have long been watching GE's NBC Universal, speculating about when CEO Bob Wright would be out. Last week two veteran execs left NBC for CEO jobs at AOL and at the parent of Discovery Channel. The departures only increased the murmurs about Wright's future. Would he be out by the end of the year? And who would succeed him? Most of the betting was on NBC's high-profile chief, Jeff Zucker.We have one of those answers already: according to an NBC spokesperson, Wright will be in place until 2008. And his successor? A high-level insider, requesting anonymity on the subject of personnel, says NBC Universal plans to announce anew executive lineup that will make the succession clear as early as the first quarter of 2007 and definitely by July. The heir apparent will be named to a newly created position of NBC Universal president or chief operating officer, one rung below Wright on the corporate ladder, allowing for a transition of 12 to 18 months.But who will it be?...
  • How to Count Eyeballs

    For 55 years the couch potato has belonged to Nielsen Media Research, the company that meticulously catalogs TV viewing habits for the benefit of advertisers that want to sell suds to the spuds. But now couch potatoes are waddling to their computers to consume entertainment online--and in Cyberland, Nielsen doesn't dominate the business of counting eyeballs. "There's close to 100 companies" battling it out to become the Nielsen of the Web, says Josh James, CEO of Omniture, one of the top Internet-measurement firms. "We see competitors all over the place.""Begun the Web Ratings War has," as the potato-shaped Yoda might say. In the TV Ratings War, in which networks battle for the most viewers, Nielsen holds a monopoly as the official scorekeeper. But on the Web, Nielsen is right there in the trenches, fighting foes with names like comScore and Hitwise, which measure the number of "unique visitors," or "UVs," to a given Web site. Nielsen, of course, has no intention of surrendering to...
  • Hello, You've Got Game Show!

    This week on "Gold Rush": who will walk away with $1 million in genuine gold bars? Will it be Michael Kearney of Memphis, who holds a world record for graduating college at 10? Will it be David Delaserda, the unemployed single dad of two from Freemont, Ohio? Or maybe it will be one of the 16 others who've survived a barrage of pop-trivia quizzes, rounds of charades and frantic treasure hunts in their coast-to-coast battle for the gold. Tune in this Thursday and unlock the secret combination to "Gold Rush."What? You can't find "Gold Rush" on your 500 cable channels? That's because it isn't there. It's on the Internet. And nearly 11 million users have tuned in. Chalk up another home run for reality-TV king Mark Burnett, the man who changed the rules--and economics--of television with "Survivor" and "The Apprentice." Now he's applying his lucrative formula to a Web confection that's helping long-suffering AOL in its quest to reclaim the gold itself."Gold Rush" is a hybrid online...