Monday morning headlines

Writers nearing deal?: Nikki Finke has a reliable source telling her that an agreement is in place, although a settlement is not expected this week (but perhaps by Christmas). "It's already done, basically," the source told Finke. Formal negotiations between the Writers Guild and the media companies will resume today. Ever since both sides agreed to resume bargaining, there's been considerable optimism (probably too much) that a deal was within reach. Former Warner Bros. CEO Bob Daly told the WSJ that "this is their window to make a deal." By the way, the NYT profiles Finke, with Paramount CEO Brad Grey grudgingly noting that “Like it or not, everyone in Hollywood reads her.”

Happy Cyber Monday!: Consider it a bookend to Friday morning's crazy doorbuster promotions. An analyst at BDO Seidman said Cyber Monday sales would account for about 12 percent of the expected $39 billion in online revenue this season - pretty remarkable considering that Cyber Monday has only been around for a few years. What's different this year is the focus on price promotions. From the NYT:

For some online merchants, the idea of Cyber Monday still rings hollow. Bill Bass, the chief executive of Fair Indigo, a seller of fair-trade apparel based in Madison, Wis., said his site would still not offer special price promotions. “There’s something inherently dishonest about it,” he said. “If you’re giving a promotion now, you’re kind of saying you stuck it to people who bought from you when there wasn’t a promotion.” Mr. Bass acknowledged that the policy could mean his site would lose sales to retailers that offer Cyber Monday discounts. “If you go down that path, you’re training your customers to expect promotions,” he said.

Recession in the cards?: Wall Street keeps pointing to the R-word, while the Federal Reserve and most private economists say that the nation can avoid a downturn, though growth will definitely slow down (it has already). Post-Thanksgiving shopping offered few clues: Friday business was actually stronger than expected, but individual shoppers spent less than a year ago. From the WSJ:

The stock market is notorious for predicting downturns that never materialized, while economists have failed to acknowledge some recessions until after their arrival. "Economists are extremely bad at predicting turning points, and we don't pretend to be any better," Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke told Congress earlier this month. This time around, much depends on how tight a rein financial institutions keep on their lending and consumers keep on their spending. By itself, the housing slump seems unlikely to choke off U.S. economic growth. Home construction accounts for less than 5% of the nation's gross domestic product. But if banks curb their lending in response to billions of dollars of mortgage-related write-offs, or if consumers cut their spending as home values fall and gasoline prices rise, it could knock the economy out of its delicate balance.

Citi planning big cuts?: CNBC reports this morning that the number could total anywhere from 17,000 to 45,000. A Citi spokeswoman said "any reports on specific numbers are not factual," but there's no denying that the largest U.S. bank, is reviewing ways to cut costs. Mortgage writedowns may lead to its first quarterly loss since at least 1998. (Bloomberg)

The Pico/Olympic plan: Originally the idea was to make them one-way streets, but residents and merchants quickly put the kibosh on that. So today Mayor Antonio announces an alternative that would keep Pico and Olympic two-way streets while supposedly making them behave more like one-way streets (huh?). The mayor's aides say it will significantly reduce travel time. From the LAT:

The first step in the mayor's plan would be to immediately begin to eliminate parking on both streets during rush hour. Then, beginning next year, traffic lights would be re-timed so that those traveling west on Olympic and east on Pico would be rewarded with longer green lights. Those driving in the other direction might see their rides take longer. If those two steps speed up traffic, mayoral aides say the city might take an additional step and restripe both streets, so most lanes on Pico would be for eastbound motorists, while westbound lanes would predominate on Olympic.

Convention business makes comeback: All it takes is construction of a 54-story, $900 million convention center hotel to get organizations interested. More than 40 new conferences have been booked in the past year. From the Downtown News:

In fiscal year 2004-2005, L.A. Inc. booked just 12 conventions, paling in comparison to West Coast cities such as San Diego and Anaheim, which each have thousands of hotel rooms within walking distance of their convention facilities. One year later, after breaking ground on the Nokia Theatre, the number of conventions jumped to 22. In the last year, 41 conventions signed contracts to come to Downtown L.A., for events as far off as 2016. Since July, 12 more convention deals have been inked. With the hotel scheduled to be completed in 2010, L.A. Inc. officials said they expect bookings to continue to grow, and even break the record of 22 major conventions held in a single year.

All ads all the time: We already have advertising-only magazine, so a commercial-only TV show isn't such a big leap. A company called Firebrand puts on the collection of new and classic ads from the U.S. and overseas. It debuts tonight on ION Television. Firebrand will weave in spots that are paid placements along with those included for sheer entertainment value. There's no delineation between free ads and paid placements. (NY Post)

More by Mark Lacter:
American-US Air settlement with DOJ includes small tweak at LAX
Socal housing market going nowhere fast
Amazon keeps pushing for faster L.A. delivery
Another rugged quarter for Tribune Co. papers
How does Stanford compete with the big boys?
Those awful infographics that promise to explain and only distort
Best to low-ball today's employment report
Further fallout from airport shootings
Crazy opening for Twitter*
Should Twitter be valued at $18 billion?
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Mark Lacter
Mark Lacter created the LA Biz Observed blog in 2006. He posted until the day before his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
Mark Lacter, business writer and editor was 59
The multi-talented Mark Lacter
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