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