- - Monday, February 6, 2012

Verizon, Redbox to team for video streaming service

Phone company Verizon Communications Inc. will challenge Netflix and start a video streaming service this year with Redbox and its DVD rental kiosks.

Verizon and Coinstar Inc., Redbox’s parent, said the service will be national and available to non-Verizon customers as well, the Associated Press reports. It adds another leg to Verizon’s quest to become a force in home entertainment, and it looks set to compete, to some extent, with the cable-TV services it already sells.

Verizon has its own cable-TV service, called FiOS, in some areas.

With the Redbox venture, Verizon is breaking ranks with the cable and satellite industry, which makes its own video streaming services available only to people who also subscribe to its traditional TV feeds. They don’t want households switching to Internet-only services, which are cheaper - Netflix charges $8 per month for its video streaming plan.

Verizon and Coinstar didn’t reveal prices or other details of their service. It’s intended to give subscribers access to DVD and Blu-ray discs as well as streaming movies starting in the second half of the year, they said.

Presidential campaign gives Fox’s Baier a higher profile

Fox News Channel’s Bret Baier already has annoyed Mitt Romney this campaign season. Now he’s finding fault with one of Newt Gingrich’s ideas.

Mr. Gingrich, who was on Fox’s payroll as an analyst before running for president, said recently that if he was the GOP nominee, he wouldn’t agree to a debate with President Obama if a journalist was the moderator.

“I don’t think that would work,” said Mr. Baier, who has moderated five GOP primaries this election cycle. “I don’t think it would be too enjoyable to watch.”

Mr. Baier, 42, has increased his profile with the debate work and status as co-anchor with Megyn Kelly on Fox’s political night coverage. The nightly newscast he anchors, “Special Report,” is the third most-watched news show on cable television, the Associated Press reports.

Without the journalists, the debates likely would amount to little more than stump speeches, Mr. Baier said. Getting politicians off their programmed responses is the biggest challenge for debate moderators and usually produces the best moments.

But the Fox host said he understands where Mr. Gingrich is coming from.

“It’s just politics,” he said. “A lot of politicians have complained about media coverage and media questions. He just does it more frequently than others and perhaps more effectively.”

Mr. Baier’s not-so-tender moment with Mr. Romney came during a Nov. 30 interview. In a style he admired in the late Tim Russert, Mr. Baier confronted Mr. Romney with some quotes from the past that appeared to contradict what the candidate had been saying during the campaign. He asked: “How can voters trust that what they hear from you today is what you will believe when you’re in the White House?”

Off-air later, Mr. Romney told Mr. Baier that he thought the interview was overly aggressive and that he didn’t like it. Mr. Romney’s unhappiness was evident on the air, too. The unspoken subtext seemed to be that he thought Fox would be a friendlier venue than it was.

Mr. Baier’s audience skews right, as it does for most Fox shows. Forty-one percent of his audience identifies itself as Republican, 44 percent as independent and 15 percent as Democratic, according to a 2011 study by GfK MRI, a consumer research company.

The Washington-area think tank Center for Media and Public Affairs studied evening news coverage of the GOP campaign, including “Special Report,” and concluded the Fox show’s coverage was the most balanced between positive and negative evaluations of the candidates. ABC and NBC were more negative while CBS, mostly because of a lengthy story examining Ron Paul’s appeal, was more positive, the center said.

Dr. Oz’s ‘transformation nation’ now 1 million members strong

Television already has “The Biggest Loser.” Dr. Mehmet Oz is looking for the biggest number of losers.

“The Dr. Oz Show” said Monday that it had netted its millionth participant in its “transformation nation” health effort, and the number is climbing. One of those people will win a $1 million prize in May, the Associated Press reports.

Since September, Dr. Oz has urged viewers to participate in his health challenge, done together with Weight Watchers. The number of registrants has increased steadily to a point Dr. Oz said he’d never imagined the program would reach.

“It is one of the most rewarding experiences of my life,” he said.

Dr. Oz’s program has seven steps, starting with the simplest: Tell a friend to get some moral support. Participants are asked to register with Weight Watchers and go to a center to have their body mass index calculated. Other steps are connecting with a doctor, learning your family’s health history, getting more sleep, managing stress better and starting new fitness habits.

The show will select 10 finalists it believes best embody the effort - not necessarily those who lose the most weight - and viewers will choose a favorite this spring for the $1 million prize. People need to register by Feb. 26 to be eligible.

‘Sister Wives’ family can proceed with lawsuit

The polygamous family featured on the reality series “Sister Wives” is being allowed to move forward with a lawsuit challenging Utah’s anti-bigamy law, a federal judge ruled Friday.

In a lawsuit brought against high-ranking Utah officials and area media, Kody Brown and wives Meri, Janelle, Christine and Robyn assert the law infringes upon their constitutional rights. Those rights include free speech, due process, freedom of religion, equal protection and freedom of association, the Associated Press reported.

The family rose to national prominence after the launch of its TLC television show in September 2010. Utah Attorney General Jeffrey Buhman then gave interviews in which he suggested the family would be prosecuted under Utah’s anti-bigamy law.

In a 21-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups said the suggestion of prosecution potentially had a “chilling effect” on the family’s First Amendment rights. But it would now be up to the Browns to prove there was a real threat to their constitutional rights.

Compiled from Web and wire service reports.