More summertime fun: Remember when the airlines gave you all kinds of extra goodies if they bumped you from a flight - including, perhaps, a first-class ticket for the very next departure? Well, this summer you should consider yourself lucky if they give you a seat - any seat - within the day of your original flight. Actually, it could take several days before they get you on - the result of packed planes and the continued practice of overbooking (although only a small percentage of fliers are ever bumped). From the NYT:
The effort at times pits a group of young math whizzes at the airline against battle-tested gate agents, who are often skeptical of the complex computer models used to predict no-shows and to overbook flights. Some agents even take matters into their own hands, creating phantom reservations — Mickey Mouse is a favorite passenger name, for example — to keep the math nerds at headquarters from overbooking a flight. “It’s a little bit of black art,” said Wallace Beall, senior director for revenue analysis who oversees overbooking at US Airways.
NBC's ad troubles: The network may have changed programming chiefs but it's still stuck with just five shows for the fall, fewer than the other majors (and one of them is a remake of the "Bionic Woman"). Two years ago, NBC took a $1 billion hit in the upfronts after a plunge in the ratings. Last year, the network cut ad rates and sold more inventory. During the recent upfront presentation to advertisers, the network tried to peddle the idea of quality, not quantity, but no one is biting. The question is what new programming honcho Ben Silverman can do to Band-Aid the lousy fall lineup. NY Post
Clean air bill: Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein have introduced legislation that seeks to slash by 90 percent the emissions of sulfur oxides from ships no later than December 2010. The idea is to limit the use of bunker fuel burned by container ships, tankers and cruise ships calling at American seaports. Bunker fuel, a cheap, high-sulfur diesel used to power ships across long stretches of open ocean, is banned in the U.S., but readily available overseas. Cargo ships pump 30 tons of sulfur oxides into Socal each day. Press-Telegram
Lionsgate gets financing: The mini-studio has picked up $200 million from a Wall Street consortium to finance 23 films over the next three years that covers production, acquisition, marketing and distribution. As part of the arrangement, Lionsgate will kick in another $200 million. The funding consortium, dubbed Pride Pictures, includes JPMorgan Securities, Goldman Sachs, Jefferies and a group of private investors who participated in a $35 million private-equity component of the financing. JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs led a $134 million senior-debt component. THR
Pirate fight: Disney and Sony are engaged in some friendly squabbling over which of their new blockbusters is the global box office champ. The Mouse House says it's "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" and Sony Pictures Entertainment insists that its "Spider-Man 3" still wears the crown, based on "some irregularities" in the way Disney was counting. LAT
Is Wal-Mart too cheap?: Well, yes. The NYT got a hold of a confidential report prepared by the company's former ad agency and it finds that the chain "is not seen as a smart choice" for clothing, home décor, electronics, prescriptions and groceries - the stuff that's been pushed recently in an effort to boost sales. "The Wal-Mart brand," the report says, "was not built to inspire people while they shop, hold their hand while they make a high-risk decision or show them how to pull things together." A Wal-Mart spokesman says the report is out of date and in some areas just plain wrong. Nevertheless...
Wal-Mart attracts 138 million shoppers a week, a staggering figure unmatched in American retailing, but the portion of Americans who say the chain is their No. 1 destination for discount shopping has fallen from about 75 percent two years ago to 67 percent today, according to the report. No specific explanation for the drop-off is provided, but Wal-Mart’s ad agency suggested a combination of factors, like stiff competition and public relations troubles. Those troubles have included a sex discrimination lawsuit filed on behalf of 1.6 million female current and former employees and firings of top executives, like the former vice chairman Thomas M. Coughlin, for stealing company funds.
The report by GSD&M also says several big-box rivals are meeting shoppers’ needs better than Wal-Mart. Best Buy, for example, provides “information and knowledge” to help buy electronics, the report says. Kohl’s provides “a wide selection of brand-name apparel” displayed “in a stylish environment that inspires browsing,” it says. And Bed, Bath & Beyond has “great displays that provide ideas on how to pull looks together,” it adds.
Elie Tahari @ SFA: The Bev Hills Saks has opened one of those in-house boutiques for the popular ready-to-wear designer, a 5,000 square-foot number that was designed by a Milan architectural firm. Tahari told Women's Wear Daily that the new boutique would double or even triple business (apparently the designer does very well in Bev Hills). The label also is carried by Bloomingdale's, Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom. The 260,000-square-foot store was renovated last year.