Rusty, Bruce and the guys at King Kong were a crucial asset to my photoshoot. They took a lot of stress off of my plate and came through when I needed them, allowing me to focus 100% on the production. Without a doubt, King Kong is now my go-to for production vehicles and I do not hesitate to recommend them to my colleagues. And, not only is Rusty the best and most helpful driver I have ever had the pleasure of working with, he is also awesome with a fog machine!
" Brett Spencer-Producer, Nastygal.com
CLIENT QUOTE: "
Thanks again for helping out with our party. The restrooms worked out great and the service was awesome as usual!
" Steve Brazeel
CLIENT QUOTE: "
North Six has been working with King Kong for many years now. Not only is their customer service unparalleled, but their fleet of motorhomes is always clean, reliable, and exactly what we need to support our photo productions.
" Kyd Kisvarday—Producer, North 6
CLIENT QUOTE: "
We’ve used the Helios twice now and have been quite impressed each time. It has everything production could want AND it’s earth friendly! We will use the Helios on every job in which we need a moho.
" Mario D’Amici—Production Coordinator, Beef Films
CLIENT QUOTE: "
We truly enjoyed working from the Helios, the attention to detail to make it an Eco friendly asset to our industry should be commended. The quiet workspace you get when running on the solar power is delightful! Rob was pleasant to be around and always willing to help out. Thank you Rob and King Kong for bringing us the Helios!
" Rochelle Savory-Assistant Production Supervisor
CLIENT QUOTE: "
…the moho was super nice, everything was great! I will definitely rent it again!!
" Susan Borbely – Prod Coordinator
CLIENT QUOTE: "
Thank you so much for lovely Eko lav — definitely the nicest port-a-potty I’ve ever used!
" Amanda – Producer
CLIENT QUOTE: "
I just wanted to send you a quick message and let you know how amazing Rich is. I have hired motos from all over and this was by far our best experience. Really nice to work with great people
" Crystal Raymond- Chinese Laundry
CLIENT QUOTE: "
King Kong… top notch service, incredible drivers, clean, well equipped vehicles, on time—every time! Thanks guys…. you ROCK!!!
" Elaine Lee—Producer 5th and Sunset Los Angeles
CLIENT QUOTE: "
You guys did a phenomenal job with the Helios. And Rob, as always, went above and beyond for us.
" Dan Kae—Assistant Production Supervisor
CLIENT QUOTE: "
King Kong has great motorhomes and the best drivers in the business. Working with you guys is always easy and a pleasure.
" Cat Burkley-Portfolio One
CLIENT QUOTE: "
You guys are the BEST!
" Marie D’Amore—Production Supervisor, HSI
CLIENT QUOTE: "
King Kong has the best equipment & drivers in the biz.
" Tom Baker – gangboss
CLIENT QUOTE: "
Just wanted to say thanks for the awesome customer service. Our driver was friendly and professional. He arrived early and had everything ready to go for us. The motorhome was clean and in perfect shape. Every detail matters on a shoot to help keep everything running smoothly. We love working with King Kong!
" Jamie Williams- That Girl Productions
CLIENT QUOTE: "
The Helios is a great motorhome. Not only is it energy efficient but it offers a large space for production to work in. The copy machine is great because you can wirelessly print and make color copies and send faxes. The satellite phones came in handy when we realized we didn’t have any cell service on location. We received several compliments throughout the shoot day. Crew walked into the motorhome in awe of such a beautiful space.
" Courtney Witherspoon-Production Coordinator Three One O
CLIENT QUOTE: "
The drivers were awesome to be with. Hard working drivers!! It really stands out when the drivers jump in to help set up base camp, and tear it down. Not to mention always having a fresh green tea for me just when I needed it every time. They really were great and I’d ask for them anytime we get vehicles from you. Thanks!
" Mary Brooks – 3 Star Productions
CLIENT QUOTE: "
I wanted to give Rich another glowing report, He was AMAZING on our shoot. The most helpful driver I’ve ever had. I’ll definitely be requesting him on future shoots.
But neither of the hotter-than-hot models will appear in racy attire. In fact, both will appear in formal dresses — as plans are right now. Even as Super Bowl marketers are reaching out to the world’s most beautiful models, some appear to be evolving away from ultra-racy imagery.
“It’s about intrigue and desire,” says Noreen Jenny Laffey, president of Celebrity Endorsement Network, which links celebrities with marketers. “It’s not what you see; it’s what you don’t see — but you know is there.”
For Go Daddy, it’s also an attempt to soften its image. “The new sexy at Go Daddy is all about the customer,” says Barb Rechterman, chief marketing officer.
This will be Refaeli’s first Super Bowl spot. The Israeli native, who has dated actor Leonardo DiCaprio on and off, will star with veteran race car driver Danica Patrick in the 30-second ad.
Refaeli, 27, who was the cover model for the 2009 Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, says she has no hesitation about linking up with an advertiser whose brand image has been built and tarnished by its often-racy Super Bowl commercials.
“I am a model who is well known for her body and feminine image,” she says. “I’m not here to make people think I’m the next Einstein.”
The ad, to be filmed next week in Los Angeles, also features Patrick, who will star in her record 11th and 12th Super Bowl spots for Go Daddy.
A new Coca-Cola ad, which encourages people to come together to fight obesity, is drawing fire from consumer advocates and obesity experts.
The two-minute video, appearing Monday night on several national cable networks, talks about the company’s range of beverages and how the industry voluntarily changed its offerings in schools to primarily waters, juices, and low- and no-calorie options.
“All calories count. No matter where they come from including Coca-Cola and everything else with calories,” the ad says. “And if you eat and drink more calories than you burn off, you’ll gain weight.”
Critics say the company is doing damage control to combat the widespread belief that sugary beverages contribute to obesity.
Currently about two-thirds of adults and a third of children in this country are overweight or obese. A diet high in added sugars is linked to many poor health conditions, including obesity, high blood pressure and other risk factors for heart disease and stroke.
Males consume an average of 178 calories a day from all sugary drinks, including sodas, fruit drinks, energy drinks, sports drinks and sweetened bottled waters; females consume 103 calories, according to government data.
“The Coca-Cola Company still remains one of the major causes of obesity in the USA and globally,” says Barry Popkin, a nutrition professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and one of the nation’s top experts on beverage consumption. “Yes, other foods matter, but the biggest single source contributor to child and adult obesity in the USA is sugar-sweetened beverages.”
Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a Washington, D.C.-based consumer group, says the new ad “is a page out of Damage Control 101, which is try to pretend you’re part of the solution rather than part of the problem.
“This is a public relations move to assuage public concern at a time when they are being attacked from every direction. Legislators are proposing taxes on sugary drinks, schools have kicked out full-calorie soft drinks, and New York City is imposing a size limit on soft drinks served at restaurants. The public is beginning to understand that in the volume soda often is consumed, it’s a harmful product,” Jacobson says.
Coca-Cola’s Stuart Kronauge said in a prepared statement: “Obesity is complex, and it requires partnership and collaboration to help solve it. We have an important role to play in the effort to find solutions that work for everybody.”
From DVRs to Netflix and Hulu, fewer viewers than ever watch on TV’s schedule — threatening a $70 billion business.
Stephanie George-Morgan, 33, barely knew anything about ABC’s long-running Grey’s Anatomy when she stumbled upon reruns of the medical drama on Lifetime last summer. But “before I knew it, I was hooked,” says the stay-at-home mom from Jackson, Miss.
So she briefly signed up for Netflix and caught up with all eight seasons of the show, and is now a loyal viewer of new episodes on ABC. Except that she skips all the ads, using a digital video recorder she got six months ago when she switched cable providers. “I’m a DVR freak!” she says. “I record all of my favorite shows to watch later,” often in bunches. “That way I’m not left hanging for another week.”
Technology has been kind to viewers. But it also is hastening the end of the kind of mass-audience, gather-round-the-tube appointment TV that networks have counted on and Americans have scheduled their lives around for more than half a century.
Beyond the cultural upheaval, it’s upended the economics of the $70 billion TV business, which depends heavily on advertising to pay for Grey’s and other shows. It’s sent those networks and advertisers scrambling to find new ways to get a handle on, and profit from, a viewership that is dispersing at an accelerating rate. And it’s put a premium on sports and reality TV, which are more immune to the shifts.
This fall, 38% of young-adult prime-time viewing on the major networks (and 23% of all viewing) consists of previously recorded shows, Nielsen says. That’s up from nearly zero a decade ago. “This year has really sort of been the tipping point that we’ve been expecting,” says Leslie Moonves, chairman of CBS Corp., which owns CBS, Showtime and half of CW. Increasingly, “overnight ratings don’t mean anything.”
It’s not just DVRs, now in 46% of homes, that are upsetting TV’s ecosystem. The dying DVD business has been replaced by a host of new options:
Free streaming. Hulu, the 4-year-old streaming service owned by the parents of Fox, NBC and ABC, offers viewers recent episodes. Cable’s video on demand offers an increasing array of new TV shows. And networks’ own websites are another reminder that viewers don’t need to bother tuning in at their favorite show’s regular time; they can be watched later, anywhere.
Online purchases. Apple’s iTunes store sells past season episodes for $3 apiece. For $8 a month, rival Netflix offers unlimited streaming commercial-free, encouraging binge viewing of serialized shows on a laptop or Internet-ready TV. And a paid version of Hulu offers a trove of former series.
Mobile. All that content can be watched in more places: not just on laptops but also on tablets, smartphones and other devices for which viewership isn’t currently measured, making it harder for programmers to profit from them and for advertisers to know whether they’re reaching potential customers.
“Everything is being disrupted by technology,” says Tim Spengler, CEO at New York ad firm Magna Global. “Television is very effective for advertisers, (but) we just can’t rely on it to do the whole job the way we used to. What advertisers are forced to do is look at a much more diverse mix” of media, and “the younger the target audience, the more diverse the mix needs to be.”
TV ratings slump
Nearly two months into the new TV season, ratings for three of the four big networks are down 10% to 30% from last fall, and off-channel viewership is only one reason. The crop of new series just hasn’t excited viewers, and there’s stronger competition from cable, where shows such as AMC’s The Walking Dead and FX’s American Horror Story have led many of their big-network rivals among key audiences.
One cause for alarm is that overall TV usage by young adults ages 18 to 24 is down 9% since this time last year, more than any other age bracket. That group is most likely to watch elsewhere, a habit fueled by TV studios’ sales of their content to online destinations.
“Nothing is a free lunch,” says Michael Nathanson, media analyst at Nomura Securities. “All these guys who sell their content to Netflix” have to realize that “users paying for subscriptions find it valuable, and that’s sucking time away” from TV watching.
While “top streamers are watching the least amount of television,” counters Dounia Turrill, senior VP of consumer insights at Nielsen Co., “they’re still watching 12 times more television than streaming content.”
And some see a silver lining in the wider array of viewing options, funneling new viewers back to TV the way George-Morgan, the Mississippi mom, came back to ABC for Grey’s.
A day before The Walking Dead began its third season earlier this month, the zombie hit’s previous season was released exclusively on Netflix, and a couple hundred thousand subscribers watched all 13 episodes in one day.
While the number is tiny by TV standards, it’s an extreme sign of fan devotion, and in a small way it might have helped prime the pump for the show’s new-season opener, which set a cable-drama record the next night with 12 million viewers.
“It’s canary-in-the-coalmine behavior,” says Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos, and “an indicator of a massive shift in consumer behavior around television,” especially among the young viewers most in demand by advertisers. “The more you live your life online, the more you have an on-demand expectation” to watch what you want when and where you choose.
“The network challenge is, how do you value and monetize the network (programming) off the network, which sounds crazy, but it’s what everyone’s facing,” says Mark Ghuneim, president of Trendrr, a social-media tracker.
And the habits are spreading: Because of its younger audience, “We were the first ones to feel it,” says CW chief Mark Pedowitz of a shift that helped send its traditional TV ratings plummeting. But every demographic is behaving more like millennials, he says.
Fewer quick hits
TV networks have encouraged this behavior. In marketing stunts, first episodes of more new shows were available online or on demand, often weeks before their official premieres, dampening the hoopla surrounding official premiere week.
CBS polled 2,000 viewers and found just 42% tried a new show in its scheduled broadcast slot in September, down from 53% just a year ago, while their dependence on DVRs, streaming and video on demand climbed, sometimes sharply.
Such dispersed viewing, however, makes it harder to generate quick hits in a business that depends on them, even with social media as a megaphone for fans to proselytize.
“There are so many things now that collectively upset the sense of urgency,” says Fox entertainment chairman Kevin Reilly, conceding that while “you can’t turn back the clock” on technology, “some of our efforts in general have probably exacerbated the problem.” (His boss, Rupert Murdoch, tweeted last month that DVRs are “giving networks fits.”)
NBC’s Revolution is the top new show this season among young adults and is averaging about 13 million viewers. But nearly a third of that audience — 4.4 million viewers — time-shifts the drama to another night, up to a week after its Monday premiere. All told, 14 network shows add 3 million or more viewers apiece when seven-day viewing is added, representing a net gain of 20% to 55%.
The networks point to so-called DVR “lifts” as evidence that TV remains a hugely popular source of entertainment. And that extra viewing has helped extend the lives of marginal ratings performers such as Fox’s Fringe and NBC’s Community that previously would have been sure-fire bets for cancellation.
Problem is, networks get paid for few of those dallying viewers. That’s because, in a compromise worked out years ago between Madison Avenue and Hollywood, advertisers pay only for eyeballs that pause to watch the commercials, and then only for the first three days after they air. (In an uphill battle, network executives are now angling to base ad rates on seven-day viewing, citing growth in DVR usage.)
That’s why the cost to televise (and sponsor) major sports is soaring: Unlike most other programming, they are almost always watched in real time. “There’s more of a reliance on sports, because it is sort of technology-proof,” Spengler says. Ad rates for sporting events “are going up faster than for anything else” on TV. Competition-reality shows likeThe Voice and American Idol also are recorded far less frequently than sitcoms and dramas.
Nielsen estimates that only half the ads are skipped in recorded shows. Still, programmers are leaving wads of cash on the table.
Many, in what’s perhaps wishful thinking, view DVRs as a transitional technology that will eventually give way to video-on-demand services offered through cable and satellite providers. Like streaming, on-demand viewing doesn’t require viewers to plan ahead and choose shows to record. But it also prevents them from skipping commercials, beefing up Nielsen ratings.
For that reason, Nathanson says, programmers would be better off if on-demand activity eclipsed DVRs, and if a slow-starting initiative dubbed TV Everywhere — in which cable systems stream shows to their customers on other devices — proved more popular than Netflix. “But the genie is not going back in the bottle.”
A customer and competitor
Netflix is both friend and foe to commercial networks. It’s a big source of revenue, paying hundreds of millions for the right to stream recent TV episodes to its 25 million customers. (TV now represents 70% of its streaming activity.) But it marks yet another destination for viewers no longer beholden to what’s on TV now, and it will further invade their turf with big-budget original programming.
House of Cards, produced by The Social Network‘s David Fincher and starring Kevin Spacey as a scheming congressman, is being adapted from a British miniseries, and Netflix will release the first of two 13-episode seasons all at once on Feb. 1. Three more series will follow, including new episodes of cult comedy Arrested Development, canceled by Fox in 2006.
“I honestly think we’re in some beautiful sweet spot of being both a competitor and a source of improvement to the business models of the networks,” Sarandos says.
Hulu is also airing original shows and acquiring titles from overseas broadcasters, and Google is investing $100 million in YouTube channels featuring original content.
Pay channels such as HBO and Showtime are making shows more widely available, on demand and on free mobile apps such as HBO Go, which offers every episode of nearly every series ever aired on the channel. About 7 million of HBO’s 30 million subscribers have signed up for the free app, which is unavailable to those who don’t pay for the channel.
But because HBO sells no advertising, the network doesn’t care where their viewers watch. “What we’re always trying to do is add value to the subscription,” says HBO chief operating officer Eric Kessler. “We not only need to have great programming, but we need to deliver it on devices they choose to want it on, and that’s particularly true of the younger generation.”
On average, just 20% of HBO’s viewership comes from initial Sunday night episodes of such series as True Blood and Boardwalk Empire. But Girls, an Emmy-nominated new comedy about twentysomething friends, counts just 14% of its audience that way; 22% watched on DVRs, 6% on HBO Go.
Moonves is optimistic that more viewing options will ultimately help, not hinder, TV networks. For young-skewing CW, “Netflix and Hulu (revenues) put us into profit,” he says. “That’s a totally different strategy than CBS,” which until now has been reluctant to sell shows to online outsiders.
“All this stuff is going to be a big positive,” Moonves says. “But we need accurate measurement, because people are watching all over the place. I want to get to the point where I’m platform-agnostic.”
NEW YORK — Precious few tech products are groundbreaking, no matter what the folks paid to hype them claim. But the Lytro digital camera that I reviewed when it started shipping earlier this year is indeed that rare breed, technology that epitomizes radical innovation.
Lytro is the shoot first/focus later digital camera based on”light field technology” research, the subject at which Lytro founder Ren Ng did his seminal Ph.D work at Stanford University. At the risk of overhyping things myself, the technology has the potential to reinvent photography itself.
That doesn’t quite happen yet, but using these odd-shaped cameras — they remind me of oversized containers of lipstick — enable you to capture so-called “living pictures,” images that let you choose which part is in focus, and which part blurry, even after the picture was taken. Though the first version of the camera has numerous drawbacks — tricky to learn, no flash, no video, no expandable storage — you can’t help but marvel at the technological hocus-pocus in play.
On Thursday, Lytro announced a free software update coming December 4 that expands the magic. You will now be able to interactively change the point of view in living pictures, again long after capturing them. This is true even of pictures you may have shot in the early days of the Lytro camera.
What this means is you can keep more of a picture in focus, along the way changing the way you think about what’s in the scene. Each digital file representing a living picture does have to be reprocessed through software, which can be slow.
But once you’ve done that, changing the perspective is as simple as dragging your mouse in any direction on top of the image, or, doing the same thing with your finger on an iPad. Even better, the people you share the images with at lytro.com, on Facebook or Twitter, or on their own mobile devices can also experience this Perspective Shift feature as it’s called, without needing any special software.
Ng demonstrated the new feature to me ahead of today’s announcement. Changing the perspective in some images provides an effect that feels a bit like video, which is on the Lytro roadmaps.
The software upgrade also brings another new feature, nine Living Filters that let you dress up pictures in various ways. Through the Crayon filter, for example, you can add a touch of color to an otherwise monochrome picture. A Mosaic filter creates a tiled mosaic to the out-of-focus parts of a scene. Still another filter, dubbed 8-Track, adds a 1970-ish vignette-style to a picture, while Line Art transforms your picture into a grayscale outline.
To make all this happen, Lytro captures light in every direction and point in space, capturing a lot more data than a conventional digital camera takes in. Such a process once required a roomful of cameras tethered to a supercomputer. Now it is all made possible in a camera you can stash in your coat pocket.
Lytro still has limitations. It may be able to change the focus, but it is no miracle worker when it comes to motion blur caused by a shaky shooter. Moreover, there’s still a learning curve to using these 7.55-ounce cameras, which come in different colors and start at a pricey $399 for 8-gigabyte versions that can take about 350 pictures, or $499 for 16GB or about 750 pictures.
When Lytro first launched, a Mac was required, and Windows PCs were subsequently added. The company says there isn’t much of a wait for one now as there was when the camera was first made available. After only be sold initially at the company’s website, it is now available online from Amazon.com, BestBuy.com and Target.com as well.
Even so, Lytro isn’t yet a mainstream sell. It’s not exactly a substitute for the camera in your phone, much less a digital SLR. But then it’s not really meant to be. Instead, it’s a fun, artistic — and dare I say — revolutionary companion to the other picture takers you own. And as Lytro is now proving, it can be made better through software.