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Marketplace with host Kai Ryssdal produced and distributed by American Public Media focuses on the latest business news both nationally and internationally, the global economy, and wider events linked to the financial markets.
The only national daily business news program originating from the West Coast, Marketplace is noted for its timely, relevant and accessible coverage of business, economics and personal finance.
Tuesday, March 11, 2014 4:47pm
This is the season of the television pilot. Networks are shelling out boatloads of cash to produce what they hope will be mega- hits. Of course, most of the pilots produced each season are not mega-hits, they're not even micro-hits. The vast majority don't even make it to air. But there is a way to tell which ones the studios are banking on. It's sort of like a pilot pre-nuptual agreement. It's properly called a put pilot.
Let's say you are a bright-eyed young TV writer. You've just pitched your first pilot to the networks and they love it. Actors are hired, sets built, the pilot is shot, and...it's terrible. The studio kills the project and tells you to get lost. Welcome to Hollywood. Now, if your pilot had what's called a put pilot commitment, things would have gone much differently.
"Put pilot means that the network or the studio behind the pilot has ordered it and committed to putting it on the air," says Ben Travers, a TV editor for Indiewire.
The put gets added because it means the show will be put into production. But here's the important guarantee: If the network doesn't air the show, it pays you a hefty penalty.
So how does a pilot get put?
"Well, if it's a sexy hot script by a very hot writer, then you are going to have competition all over town," says Jay Gendron, a former executive with Warner Brothers. He says studios can gain an edge over other networks by offering put pilot commitment for a show. While throwing money at a pilot can secure a hot series, it doesn't guarantee it will be a hit.
Here are all the ways a put pilot can go down in flames:
Didn't even get to pilot: "Murder She Wrote"
Despite a put pilot commitment, NBC changed their mind before the pilot of the "Murder She Wrote" reboot was even made. Rumor has it Angela Lansbury is investigating the mysterious death of the show.
Whacked after pilot: "Beverly Hills Cop"
Eddie Murphy signed on as an occasional guest star in a series based on the "Beverly Hills Cop" movie. But after the pilot was produced, CBS pulled the plug on it. Rumor has it the show was axed after Eddie Murphy refused to appear on screen unless he could play every character in the show.
Killed after pilot, brought back to life: "The McCarthys"
Ordered as a put pilot, shot as a single-camera show last season, nixed by CBS, and then rejiggered as a multi-camera comedy for this season. Rumor has it Eddie Murphy will be operating all the cameras.
Wait, actually made it!: "Sleepy Hollow"
The series was put on air and became Fox's top rated series. Rumor has it Washington Irving's ghost is using supernatural powers to manipulate the Nielsen ratings.
Tuesday, March 11, 2014 3:33pm
Here's a note to self: If you’re in Silicon Valley, never mistake the web for the Internet. It’s sort of like being in France and asking, 'So what’s the difference between Champagne and bubbly?'
That’s what Don Nielson taught me. In the 1970s, Nielson was a computer scientist at the SRI, a tech research company, and he was on one of the teams that started the Internet. And when I met him, I said, "You were one of the guys who helped created the web!"
"Absolutely not, I had nothing to do with the web," he said.
Nielson doesn’t have a problem with the word "web." He’s got a problem with the fact that I don’t know the difference between said "web" and "the Internet." He says back in the 1960s, when we relied on the telephone and the telegraph to communicate, the U.S. Military wanted another way to interact, and they wanted to do it through computers. So Nielson’s team basically wrote the protocols -- or rules -- that got computer networks around the world to talk to each other. And really, simply put, that’s what the Internet is -- a global connection of computer networks.
"Arcane as it may be, this was absolutely revolutionary. And the World Wide Web would not have functioned without the Internet," Nielson said.
Marc Weber is a curator at the Computer History Museum in Silicon Valley. He says back then, computers were huge and mostly owned by universities, governments and large computing companies like IBM. And they saw the value of the Internet as a fast way to communicate and to gather and transfer large amounts of information.
"In the late 80s, the Internet was growing really fast. It’d gone from 200 computers or so back in the beginning of the decade to over half a million," Weber said.
But as the Internet grew, there was no "easy to use" system that let you find all the information online. Companies were trying to fill the gap by basically creating toll roads. For a price, you could connect to their network and get all the information you needed.
"The easy to use interfaces were in the commercial systems, so like Compuserve, which had its own network, was easy for anybody to use," Weber said. "Minitel in France -- which by that time well over 10 million users -- was also easy to use, but that was owned by France telecom."
Their vision of the Internet was a patchwork of information superhighways owned by companies, said Brad Templeton, a professor at Singularity University. He says the Internet could have evolved that way if not for Sir Tim Berners Lee, who published a paper 25 years ago, proposing a different system for managing information -- one that came to be known as the World Wide Web.
"So Tim called it 'Information Management, a proposal,'" Templeton said.
And it was a manifesto of sorts. Berners-Lee argued that information on the Internet shouldn’t be confined to a structure.
"One of the great realizations: You think want to do it structured, you think you have a vision of the order of how it should all work and be laid out," Templeton said. "[But] the idea is that you don’t have an official hierarchy. Remember the dewey decimal system? You’d go in and say 'Let’s look up information on a science, and in science there’ll be anthropology, and so you’ll go down and find things. Instead, it’s just a big sea of documents," he said.
These "documents" came to be known as "web pages" that could be found quickly, by punching in an address or a URL. Information would be linked to other websites, thereby creating a "web of information."
It took Berners-Lee a couple of years to actually create the first website and when he did, he made the technology free for anybody to use. Templeton says, it wasn’t until 1994, when the web browser Netscape was introduced, that the web became accessible to the general public. But Berners-Lee’s proposal established the ethos that allowed the web to flourish and become a commercial success.
"Look at Google, and Facebook, and all these other companies that didn't have any idea how they were going to make money when they began," Templeton said. "And they were able to become some of the world’s biggest companies because they got that zone and didn’t need to ask anybody’s permission to do it. That’s what gave us all this innovation."
And Templeton said, it’s that idea that we’re celebrating today.
Tuesday, March 11, 2014 1:00pm
I said I would do it, and I did: In my conversation at SXSW with Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, I asked about aliens.
We didn't talk about whether or not aliens would have an appetite for cats (Alf), or if they could make bicycles fly (E.T.). I didn't ask if he thought they would use their technology to rejuvenate the elderly. Cocoon, anyone? Instead, we talked about what aliens might find surprising about the human condition. According to Tyson, they would be appalled by our conflicts over antiquated fuel sources.
"I’d be embarrassed to say that we still fight wars over lines in the sand to extract fossil fuels out of the ground so that we can power our automobiles. The alien would just laugh. They’d say ',What? What’s wrong with you? The universe is full of energy.' And then they’d leave, and they’d report back to their alien leaders that there’s no sign of intelligent life on earth."
Certainly, there's a lot of intelligent life working on Tyson's new television show, the re-booted Cosmos series of Carl Sagan fame. What is particularly stunning about the show is the visual effects; a product of having network television behind the venture. As Tyson points out, if the best visual effects are available, what better place to use them than when portraying the universe?
"If there’s any project that needs extraordinary visual effects, it’s one that involves the universe, because you can’t go there. And you can’t just put a picture of it. You want to experience phenomena in the universe. It has the power to influence you not only intellectually but emotionally, and occasionally, perhaps, even spiritually."
And in case you were wondering, Tyson would not bring a computer to the Bahamas. Clarification: I asked him about the idea of preserving one's psyche on a computer chip, and if he thought it was feasible. Tyson isn't so preoccupied with whether or not it's possible. He's more concerned with the fact that he doesn't think the technology would ever be able to actually preserve a person's experience.
"If in this instant, I upload my mind to a silicon-based chip, and then tomorrow I go to the Bahamas, the chip didnt go to the bahamas...it’s not going to have a new idea that, for me, is stimulated by an experience that happened after the upload date stamp. So I’m ok in my own body having my own life experience. And the computer is not going to the Bahamas. And if it wanted to go, I wouldn’t take it."
For the record, I would go to the Bahamas with a computer... but Tyson's point is well taken.
Tuesday, March 11, 2014 12:50pm
Would a company by any other name be more profitable? Billionaire investor Steven A. Cohen seems to think so. The name of his troubled hedge fund, SAC Capital, is changing to Point72 Asset Management. SAC Capital was forced to pay $1.2 billion to regulators last November, and it looks like the hedge fund is trying to distance itself from an association with securities fraud and mismanagement. This may be a smart move for the company, and the newly-christened Point72 can count themselves lucky, since they got to choose their new name. Many companies are forced to change their names and the names of their products, whether it’s through lawsuits, rulings, or legal shenanigans.
World Wrestling Federation to World Wrestling Entertainment
The World Wrestling Federation, famous to middle-schoolers the world over for its unique brand of testosterone-soaked mayhem, was forced to change its name to World Wrestling Entertainment in 2001. This stemmed from a dispute with the World Wildlife Fund, which was also using the initials WWF. Unfortunately, this dispute was settled via a lawsuit resulting in a court ruling, not, as it might be fun to imagine, in a wrestling match featuring The Rock and a giant panda squaring off.
Lawsuits are actually how most name changes are forced upon companies. If one company starts using a name that another organization has the trademark on, then the second company can bring the first to court in order to make them change it. This happened when BlackBerry makers RIM tried to use the name BBX for its software. And Microsoft had to change the name of its SkyDrive into OneDrive, after a British Satellite company brought a trademark suit against them.
Boston Urban Iditarod to Boston Urban Idiotorama
Sometimes just the threat of a lawsuit is enough to get a company to change their name. This often happens when large organizations learn that a smaller company is using a trademarked name. That was the case with the Boston Urban Iditarod, which was threatened with a lawsuit from the more well-known Alaskan Iditarod. Since legal fees could be potentially crippling to a tiny organization, most just change their names to make the issue go away. That’s what went down at Mission Burrito, Cafe Roubaix Bicycle Studio, and Twisted Root Restaurant & Bar. It’s actually not that surprising that so many corporations have threatened local businesses with lawsuits, large corporations have to go after trademark infringements, or they risk losing their copyright.
What’s really surprising is the fact that the band Twisted Sister (you might remember them from the 80s) has gone after not one, but two small businesses for copyright infringement: a coffee shop and a food truck.
Cornish Pasty to Beef and Vegetable Pasty
But as protective of their name as Twisted Sister might be, the European Union takes its names even more seriously. Right now, as part of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, the EU is trying to get the US to stop using ‘protected’ cheese names. So that soft cheese you’ve been spreading on your cracker? Unless it was from a specific region of France, it shouldn’t be called ‘brie’. And that would be true for around 180 other cheeses, if the U.S. goes along with the partnership. Why would Europeans cause such a fuss? Essentially, if a food is culturally significant enough, the EU gives it protected status, and can only be made in the region it’s historically from and by the methods historically associated with the foodstuff. Which meant U.K. supermarket Greggs was forced to change the name of their Cornish Pasty because they weren’t made in Cornwall and didn’t include the right mix of ingredients. And when Croatia was let into the EU in 2013, Croatian winemakers weren’t allowed to use the name ‘Prosek’ because it was too similar to the Italian prosecco wine. The EU also tries extremely hard to make sure anything labeled ‘Champagne’ comes from the Champagne, France. In short, the EU takes its names very seriously.
Philip Morris to Altria
But more often than not, name changes happen for the reasons SAC Capital changed its name to Point72 Asset Management. Companies aren’t forced to, they just want to rebrand. So when Philip Morris no longer wanted to be associated with poisoning untold numbers of people and causing agonizing, drawn-out deaths, they simply changed their name to Altria.
Netflix tried (unsuccessfully) to change part of its business to Qwikster, and after a particularly bad airplane crash, ValuJet transitioned to AirTran. So, the newly named Point72 is in good company.
Oh, and the rumor that Kentucky Fried Chicken was forced to change its name to KFC because they weren’t using real chicken? That’s completely false.
Tuesday, March 11, 2014 6:12am
It's international quiz time on the Marketplace Morning Report. Stephan Richter, editor-in-chief of the online international affairs magazine, The Globalist, brings us a question that will test your knowledge of pay around the world. Across industrialized countries, women make, on average, 85 percent of what men make, so...
QUESTION: In which (pick one) of the following do women make closest to the average pay across industrialized countries?
A. South Korea
C. United Kingdom
D. United States
Scroll down the page to see the answer -- and click play on the audio player above to hear our report about the gender pay gap.
ANSWER: D. United Kingdom. In South Korea, Germany, and the United States, women's pay falls below the 85% average.
September 24, 2013