Crisco, a textile executive and former state official, died in an accident at home less than a week after apparently losing a close North Carolina primary race against the former American Idol singer.
Each year, the leading TV networks stage star-studded events displaying their best new programming and most reliable talent to advertisers. And while "The Upfronts," currently underway in New York City, can be great entertainment for those invited, they are also a competition for billions of dollars in ad revenue. On Monday, at the NBC upfronts, buzz surrounded the forthcoming show, "State of Affairs," starring Katherine Heigl.
The formula: well-known movie star + popular genre (the national security spy thriller) = likely to pique the interest of advertisers.
When the upfronts have finished, negotiations begin.
"The advertisers meet with sales representatives of the networks and they negotiate how many commercials they're going to buy, [and] what the cost [is] going to be," said Brad Adgate, the Senior Vice President for Research at Horizon Media, who says more than $20 billion in ad revenue is at stake.
The spectacle of the upfronts hasn't changed much over the years. But these days, due to competition from digital endeavors, advertisers are shying away from a quick committment.
"It's really because of the TV marketplace in general," said Jeanine Poggi, who reports on television for Advertising Age. "We talk about the other digital opportunities that are out there. And the ability to shift some money out of TV and into digital."
Digital producers like Maker Studios, Hulu and Buzzfeed, have grown so powerful that they now have their own version fo the upfronts, called the NewFronts, which took place last month.
Last year, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave the country's infrastructure a whopping grade of D+. That was actually a step up. It was a D in 2009, says Casey Dinges, senior managing director of public affairs at ASCE.
We have a rickety power grid, falling bridges and water mains that date to the 19th century.
"Nationally, there's a water main break every two minutes," Dinges says.
Groups as diverse as the right-leaning US Chamber of Commerce and the labor union AFL-CIO are spending a few days in Washington this week figuring out how to get more money and attention for our nation's roads, and bridges and everything else that makes the economy run.
They're calling it Infrastructure Week, and organizers say they want to highlight how important infrastructure is to the economy.
"Currently, the United States is investing less than 2 percent of its GDP on infrastructure," says Robyn Boerstling, director of transportation and infrastructure policy at the National Association of Manufacturers.
And, there's a more pressing issue. The nation's gas tax-funded Highway Trust Fund is running low on cash. That means the government could soon delay paying for highway repairs.
The gas tax hasn't changed in more than two decades, but Congress doesn't want to touch it during an election year.
"If not the gas tax, then what are we going to do to pay for it?" says Janet Kavinoky, Executive Director, Transportation & Infrastructure, at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
One measure of Infrastructure Week's success is if someone can answer that question.
In Harrison, Ark., residents troubled by the area's reputation as a hate group hotbed are working hard to make the town more inclusive. White supremacists say the effort amounts to "white genocide."
The announced merger will bring Hillshire’s well-known meat offerings—such as Jimmy Dean sausages and Hillshire Farm luncheon meats—under the same corporate roof with Pinnacle’s leading frozen and packaged food brands—such as Duncan Hines cake mixes, Birds Eye frozen vegetables, Vlasic pickles, Wish-Bone salad dressings and Hungry-Man TV dinners.
Industry analysts say the deal will increase Hillshire’s marketing clout with grocery chains, in an era of intense competition with private-label (store) brands, and smaller niche brands that promote themselves as more healthy, natural, authentic, and/or local than big legacy brands.
“It’s really one big junk food company buying another big junk food company,” says food-industry critic Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. “Although Birds Eye does make some very healthful frozen vegetables.”
Health-conscious consumers these days are shopping more around the outskirts of the grocery store—for the fruits and vegetables, the fresh-prepared salads and other ready-to-eat fare. “The grocery aisles are getting flooded with a wealth of new products—either all-natural, organic, whole-grain,” says Hester Jeon, a food-industry analyst at IBISWorld. “So these household brand names are facing intense competition right now.”
Companies like Hillshire will continue trying to lure people back into the center aisles, says Paul Weitzel at retail consultancy Willard Bishop. Weitzel calls the center aisles the “economic engine” of the store--where the packaged, processed, and more profitable items are shelved.
“Convenience is one trend that everyone continues to chase—re-sealable, portion control,” says Weitzel. He adds that post-merger, Hillshire will have more clout to promote its center-aisle brands: by doing more in-store promotions and end-of-aisle displays, and by trying to muscle in on premium shelf space.
Hillshire Brands of Chicago:
Jimmy Dean sausages
Ball Park franks
Hillshire Farm luncheon meats
Sara Lee baked goods
Golden Island Premium Jerky
Pinnacle Foods of Parsippany, NJ:
Duncan Hines baked goods mixes
Birds Eye frozen foods
Van de Kamp’s
Log Cabin syrup
Wish-Bone salad dressings
Celeste frozen pizza
Hungry-Man TV dinners
The debate over net neutrality rages on. Last month, the FCC unveiled new rules for regulating internet traffic. Opponents of the new rules believe they don’t do enough to ensure equal access to digital content. FCC chairman Tom Wheeler took those concerns seriously, and is set to finesse last month’s rules with some new language.
At the heart of this debate is a question: How should we regulate the internet, like a private service or a public utility?
Kevin Werbach served as counsel for new technology policy at the FCC in the '90s. He says on one hand, the internet has become essential infrastructure for life and business, much like other public utilities. But he added, “in telecommunications regulation, calling something a utility has a particular legal meaning.”
The legal framework in this case revolves around Title II, the law that gives the FCC the authority to regulate the telecom industry. “If broadband access is under Title II ,” says Werbach, “then it’s subject to much broader authority of the FCC to prohibit what’s called unjust and unreasonable discrimination.”
Proponents of net neutrality argue that the FCC could use Title II to stop cable companies from creating fast lanes, like when Netflix agreed to pay Comcast extra for faster streaming. Christopher Yoo, a law professor who specializes in internet regulation doesn’t expect that to happen. “When the Supreme Court and Federal Communications Commission have looked at whether the internet is properly regulated as a public utility, they have consistently said no,” says Yoo.
Under the FCC’s revised proposal, internet providers are still allowed to make deals and create fast lanes. But, the new proposal suggests that the FCC will use its authority to make sure those deals are fair.
Any efforts to regulate those deals however, will likely be challenged in court. “So there are substantial legal obstacles to regulating the internet like a public utility,” Yoo says.
In the end it may not be the FCC, but the courts that decide how the internet should be regulated.
A peek inside our wallets by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
They did a study on how we spend money. Not on what do we spend money, but literally how does it get spent: Cash? Credit?
Here's how it breaks down:
By absolute number of transactions: Cash is king at 40 percent.
But once you take the value of transactions into account, it's a whole different ballgame.
The average value of a cash transaction is only $21, compared with $168 for checks and $44 bucks for debit cards.