Rather Big News from HDNet

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Poke

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http://yahoo.businessweek.com/bwdaily/dnflash/content/jul2006/db20060713_031339.htm

Mark Cuban is bringing in Dan Rather to host an hour of hard-hitting, high-def news. The suits won't be watching. What about viewers?

Just ask the National Basketball Assn. No one sticks to his guns more than Mark Cuban, the billionaire owner of the Dallas Mavericks, whose strong views about basketball officials have cost him more than $1 million in fines. That's nothing compared to the megamillions Cuban has likely dropped on his other favorite plaything: Five-year old HDNet, which he launched to beam high-definition TV shows and movies.




Never heard of HDNet? You're not alone. The network, carried by more than 40 cable or satellite companies, is seen in less than 4 million of the nation's 112 million TV homes. Cable TV giant Comcast (CMCSA)—in more than 20% of U.S. homes—refuses to carry HDNet, prompting the brash Cuban to tell reporters at a recent press conference to "write some stories that will encourage people to drop them for [satellite operators] DirecTV or Dish."

POWER OF THE IMAGE. Never one to miss an opportunity to make his point, Cuban grabbed the spotlight on July 11 at the Television Critics Assn. tour in Pasadena, Calif., introducing former CBS anchor Dan Rather as the star of an hour-long newscast that HDNet will debut this October.

The pitch from Cuban and Rather (who appeared at the conference as much to defend his rocky last few years at CBS as to promote his new TV show) was simple enough: good, solid reporting, unshackled from corporate oversight, will be a draw. So presumably will be the viscerally vivid high-definition pictures accompanying stories about violent conflicts in places like Baghdad.

"One of the things that TV does best is to take you there—it puts you in Baghdad, puts you in Afghanistan," says Rather of the HD-TV shots he has seen so far. He promises that his show, Dan Rather Reports, will have "hard-edge field reports, investigative reporting.

Rather and Cuban figure quality news, shown with out-of-this-world TV pictures, will mean more subscribers. Perhaps. High-definition TV is the hot new buzzword among cable and satellite TV operators. So far, that's been good for HDNet, which also includes the HDNet Movies channel. Cuban says his subscriber base is growing at 5% to 10% monthly, and that the 15 million or so HD-TV sets in the U.S. will mushroom as folks trade in their clunker analog sets for those that will give them better quality pictures.

But Cuban has plenty of competition. Every TV channel from ESPN to HBO (TWX) and local stations galore offer high-definition channels. In June, EchoStar Communications (DISH) hiked the number of high-definition channels it's offering to 29, adding channels from National Geographic and the National Football League, among others, to its roster of HDNet and other channels.

With all that clutter, the hottest content will lure subscribers first, and that could mean HBO gets the first look and HDNet a later glance, figures Josh Martin, digital media analyst for the iHollywood Forum, which arranges technology conferences. Can HDNet compete? "That's where the rubber meets the road," says Martin.

Getting hot content is no doubt what prompted Cuban to take a shot on the 74-year-old Rather. Cuban has been collecting as much ammunition in the way of content as possible to build HDNet into a contender. Not unlike his bold bids in basketball to sign high-priced free agents, Cuban spent heartily to outfit crews in 65 countries with state-of-the-art high-definition cameras to capture key events including Pope John Paul II's funeral in high-definition. He signed up pro hockey, pro soccer, and NASCAR races, along with some hot TV shows like HBO's Deadwood. There have been U2 specials, and he's launched a movie production company to make high-def films like the documentary Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, and Good Night and Good Luck, starring George Clooney.

RATHER HOT? Rather clearly fits into that category: a headline-grabbing act who may not appeal to everyone (indeed, his ratings as the CBS anchor were nearly in free-fall during his last few years). If Cuban is right, he will appeal to enough news junkies to lure a few more to buy an HDNet subscription. "You offer a little here, a little there, and people start to say, 'hey, I heard about that, I want it,' " says Cuban. And by flooding his own network with high-definition news footage from around the world, says Cuban, he is collecting archival footage of key events that no one else will have. He recently signed, for instance, a five-year deal with NASA for the exclusive high-definition rights to film shuttle launches through 2010.

But is Dan Rather enough of a headliner? At his press conference, Rather looked like a shadow of his former self, getting misty-eyed and even briefly choking up when he talked about his CBS career and a legacy that included falling TV ratings and accusations that he relied on fake documents to question President Bush's military record. But there was no mistaking his resolve to create a first-class news program. "This is just one wee small flag waving in the breeze saying, 'can we at some time talk about the quality of news?' "

As for staff and resources, Rather said he didn't know the details, but that he had signed on for three years and that Cuban had promised him "complete creative and executive control" and the money to hire whom he wanted. " As long as my health and his money hold out," joked Rather, "maybe we can accomplish something."

Fear not about Cuban's money holding out. Cuban made it clear he isn't in this to make money, at least not yet. He's already dumped a bundle, he allowed, but has no plans to take HDNet public. "I don't give a damn about earnings per share," he says. "I'm going to eat no matter what."

TRADING UP TO HD-TV . And folks are starting to buy up those HD-TV sets. By 2010, 65% of U.S. homes will have a HD-TV set, figures digital consultant Leichtman Research Group, as falling prices help energize sales. Cuban says he expects that as people get those souped-up TV sets they'll want to tune into pictures that are better than what they're getting now. "People are always saying folks won't want something new but every time something comes along it finds an audience," he says. "When there were only broadcast networks, people said who needs cable. Then they said who needs CNN and 24-hour news."

The math, at least to Cuban, is clear: "When all those people buy high-definition TV sets they're going to want something to watch on them." Cuban, of course, figures he has the answer. Maybe Dan Rather is part of it, maybe not. But don't try to tell Cuban to shy from the battle. If his basketball exploits are any example, Cuban doesn't mind spending his own money to get what he wants. High-definition TV may never be the money machine that the billionaire envisions. But he doesn't intend to go quietly into the night.
 
Harold

Harold

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"Mark Cuban is bringing in Dan Rather to host an hour of hard-hitting, high-def news."

Forged documents in HD. He could have got someone far better than Dan Blather. Who wants to look at Danny boy in HD anyway? @_@
 
Tom Bombadil

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Rather didn't forge any documents. He, and his researchers, were simply taken in by a con artist.

Just like several conservative news agencies were taken in by the Swift Boat people.

I think this is a big item for Cuban & HDNET. Whether or not everyone will like him isn't that important, this is more like a small market football or baseball team landing a big name free agent. It attracts attention. Cuban will get several million dollars worth of publicity from it.
 
H

HDTVFanAtic

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Tom Bombadil said:
Rather didn't forge any documents. He, and his researchers, were simply taken in by a con artist.

Just like several conservative news agencies were taken in by the Swift Boat people.

I think this is a big item for Cuban & HDNET. Whether or not everyone will like him isn't that important, this is more like a small market football or baseball team landing a big name free agent. It attracts attention. Cuban will get several million dollars worth of publicity from it.

More like the small market team getting Dwight Gooden.

Well, you can't even be that polite. Gooden didn't kill the Yankees chances for the penant from the inside for 20 years. Rather did.

And sadly, Rather cannot even be honest about anything else:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20060713/tv_nm/rather_dc_1

"They handled it in a curious way," Rather told King about the circumstances surrounding his departure. "I wish I knew the whole story, I wish I had an opportunity to say, 'Hey, what's happening? It's Dan, you know me."'

He also said that he had never heard from the head of the corporation or the head of the news division. Rather didn't mention in Wednesday's interview that the day after CBS announced he had left the network, he went to lunch with CBS News president Sean McManus. McManus is said to have explained to Rather that it was McManus's decision and that there wasn't enough work on "60 Minutes" to suit Rather.
 
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nazz

nazz

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I'm very interested in the hour of hard hitting news in HD but not so much in Rather. I'd like to see real news without a partisan agenda and that's not seeming likely with Rather having full control. If he was so easily fooled by the fake document then he'd have to be a fool. It's not like after his long career he doesn't know how to authenticate before airing. He wouldn't have been in such a rush to present documents complimentary to the right.

I'll watch this to witness the historic HD footage but I'll be taking the anchor with a large dose of skepticism.
 
H

high def mon

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It's not in HD, but if hard hitting, non corporate news is what your looking for try Democracy Now on Dish-9415 and 9410 or DTV on 375!!!
 
D

diat150

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I like the move. while rather isnt my favorite person in the world he has a good delivery and I think moves like this push hd forward.
 
riffjim4069

riffjim4069

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Nothing big about this...Rather does nothing to increase viewership nor raise the bar of HDNet being a legitimate news source. I predict 40 year old reruns of Hogan's Hero's fare better in the ratings.
 
shanewalker

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I think a household name like Rather moving to a venue like HDNet is a watershed event for the medium. Koppel made the move to cable as well (docs/reports for Discovery Channel, I think)...but going HD is definitely the way to get out ahead of the pack.

Way to go, Cuban/HDNet team. What we need is a news program that doesn't have to suck up to corporate sponsorship--no self-censorship, no tip-toeing around 'conflicts of interest', just real hard-hitting journalism. To have that in HD is all the better...esp. given the know impact of well-done photojournalism, the resolution will carry the story even more potently into one's homes. The VoomHD coverage of Katrina was, well, eye-opening...and you just can't describe the shuttle launches in all their HD glory.

As for those of you who couldn't wait to dis Dan for the scandal...saw that coming. We'll see whose reputations are intact in a few years or less I think. Scandals, improprieties, mis-information...with this White House, its a dime a dozen.
 
N

New_User_Name

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Harold said:
"Mark Cuban is bringing in Dan Rather to host an hour of hard-hitting, high-def news."

Forged documents in HD. He could have got someone far better than Dan Blather. Who wants to look at Danny boy in HD anyway? @_@
WOW, you are a *********!
 
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H

HDTVFanAtic

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shanewalker said:
As for those of you who couldn't wait to dis Dan for the scandal...saw that coming. We'll see whose reputations are intact in a few years or less I think. Scandals, improprieties, mis-information...with this White House, its a dime a dozen.

As the old saying goes, 2 wrongs don't make a right.
 
goaliebob99

goaliebob99

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New_User_Name said:
WOW, you are a *********!

We do not tolerate User flaming of this type here. Take it some where else. The next time will result in a perminate bann. Consider this your first and only warning!
 
nazz

nazz

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HDTVFanAtic said:
As the old saying goes, 2 wrongs don't make a right.

Exactly. I never said that the Republicans were without scandal. What I did say is that Rather has a left leaning agenda and what I'd 'rather' have is news that tells it like it is instead of like they want us to think it is.
 
David Dietzel

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Snagging a longtime professional newsperson like Rather, who was around long before the news industry decided to go after the trailer trash tabloid audience, is a smart move for HDNet.

Yes he's aged, he's not particularly handsome and his delivery can be a bit slow at times, but he is an old dude afterall.

I'd also like to see Walter Cronkite and Bob Schieffer come to one of the HD news shows (maybe even Voom's news channel).

I thought Bob Schieffer was terrific as anchor at CBS and much better than Rather.

I guess I've grown weary at the rise of tabloid TV news with more graphics on the screen than journalists and the slow demise of the aggressive investigative journalism needed to keep the feet of powerful people to the fire in a true democracy.
 
houselog442

houselog442

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Why is it that these communist pinkos like Dan "buckwheat" Rather get more chances to spew thier communist ideology on tv? This is just as sad as MSNBC putting Phil Donahue back on the air a few years ago and his ratings were so low they measured 0.0!
 
David Dietzel

David Dietzel

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I don't think reactionary and inflammatory language really adds to the discission.

It really doesn't matter to me what political party a journalist or any other professional registers with when voting.

Just out of curiosity, tho, two questions:

#1. How do you come to know that Dan Rather is affiliated with the communist party?

#2. What is the formal definition of "pinko" as you used it in a sentence?
 
houselog442

houselog442

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1. Dan Rather has ties to liberals and democrats, including the ones in Texas that gave him the forged documents he hoped were real in an effort to take down Bush. He also has a daughter that works for the democratic party. Plus, if your a democrat, you are a communist as far as i am concerned!

2. Princeton has a definition on there website dictionary.
Pinko: a person with mildly leftist political views
http://wordnet.princeton.edu/perl/webwn?s=pinko
 
houselog442

houselog442

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David Dietzel said:
And I thought McCarthyism was dead. Silly me. :rolleyes:

Yes, but McCarthy was right, almost everyone he accused of communism was true! McCarthyism has been damned by communist liberals for years because McCarthyism exposes the truth about who liberals really are and what they are about!
 

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