Wall Street sluggish: The Dow is off around 60 points in early trading. December car sales are due out in a few hours, and they're expected to be ugly.
Jobs explains weight loss: The Apple CEO says he has a hormone imbalance that is being treated. Trying to knock down rumors about being close to death, Jobs says he'll stay on as CEO. Shares of Apple were up in early trading. (NYT)
Feds investigated Madoff: The SEC and other regulators looked at the firm at least eight times in 16 years, but they never came close to uncovering the alleged Ponzi scheme. There's a Congressional hearing today on the case. From the WSJ:
Concern that the SEC lacks the expertise to keep up with fraudsters is the latest criticism of the agency, which saw the Wall Street investment banks it oversees get pummeled or vanish altogether in 2008. With Congress likely to take a hard look at how to structure oversight of financial markets, the SEC is struggling to maintain its clout.
Box office still strong: Ticket sales for the year totaled $9.63 billion, up from $9.62 billion in 2007. Higher prices played a part – actual admissions for the year were down 4 percent. Among the studios, Warner Bros. was tops, at $1.77 billion. Paramount was second. (Variety)
No more public access: Time Warner Cable has shut down 12 studios that provided programming for 11 community channels. Turns out the state legislature passed a law that allows cable providers the option of dropping these channels. In return, they must pay a fee to subsidize various public education and government channels. From the LAT:
In Los Angeles, public access covers an array of citizen-produced shows, including "Soul & Sound of Watts," "East L.A. After Dark" and a late-night program by sexologist Dr. Susan Block. Between 30% and 35% of all programming is religion-oriented. Although public access television often is mocked as a showcase for eccentric narcissists and sensationalistic provocateurs -- what Cooper referred to as "naked Nazis" -- he said only a small proportion of its content fits this bill.
Universal sells movie company: Ryan Kavanaugh's Relativity Media, which has been in a dispute with one of its major lenders, is buying Rogue for about $150 million. The company has produced “Doomsday,” “The Hitcher,” and Dave Chappelle’s “Block Party.” Universal will continue to distribute Rogue features. (NYT)
Industry news: Starting today, the NYT runs display ads on the front page (the paper says it's the "latest concession to the worst revenue slide since the Depression"). Meanwhile, January ad pages for a number of monthlies took huge drops. Wired was down 47 percent from a year ago, Architectural Digest was down 46 percent, and Portfolio, which published a combined December-January issue, was down 35 percent. (NYT)