- - Monday, January 23, 2012

Hitachi to stop making televisions

Japanese high-tech giant Hitachi said Monday it will stop making televisions by the end of September, Agence France-Presse reports from Tokyo, as intense price competition hurts TV earnings at many electronics manufacturers worldwide.

Hitachi will “terminate television production by the end of September” in Japan, said Sayori Nishino, a company spokeswoman, having already outsourced overseas TV manufacturing to foreign firms in 2009.

But it will still sell televisions branded with its “Wooo” logo made by contractors.

For Japanese manufacturers in various sectors, the surging yen has weighed on sales in foreign markets by making Japan-made products more expensive, as well as reducing the value of repatriated earnings.

Ratings agency Moody’s last week downgraded both Sony and Panasonic, citing losses in the two firms’ TV divisions, among other factors.

Television manufacturers around the world have been badly hit by rampant competition and minuscule margins, making profits difficult to squeeze out with consumers increasingly unwilling to shell out sky-high prices for sets.

Rapper Vanilla Ice back as star of home-improvement show

An unlikely home-improvement show hosted by 1990s rapper Vanilla Ice is back for its second season with the remodeling of another South Florida home.

During the run of “The Vanilla Ice Project,” which airs Saturdays on the DIY Network, the artist, whose real name is Rob Van Winkle, and his crew will take a dilapidated Palm Beach County mansion along the Intercostal Waterway and bring it into the 21st century with technology that isn’t on the market yet.

Mr. Van Winkle’s passion for real estate and renovation took hold in the early 1990s, after his hit “Ice Ice Baby” made him an international star with millions in the bank. He first bought a home on Miami Beach’s exclusive Star Island. He subsequently bought homes in the Laurel Canyon area of Los Angeles, New York’s Greenwich Village and Snowbird, Utah, a skiing and snowboarding destination.

“I went on tour for three years and never saw any of those houses,” Mr. Van Winkle said.

Fearing they may have been a waste of money, he decided to sell them - and a new career was born.

“I literally made millions of dollars on them,” Mr. Van Winkle said. “I was like, you gotta be kidding me. It can’t be that easy. Let’s go buy some more.”

After Mr. Van Winkle’s early 1990s stardom faded, he became more heavily involved in real estate. While he acknowledges that the housing market is different than it was 15 years ago, he said he’s been able to make money over the years by educating himself, studying markets and taking advantage of short sales and foreclosures. The longtime Miami resident estimated that he’s bought and sold more than a hundred homes, most of which were in Florida.

“The Vanilla Ice Project” came together after a producer remembered Mr. Van Winkle talking about his real estate experience during an interview for another show.

Matt Levine, with Departure Films, said he had done a special on Vanilla Ice for the Biography Channel several years ago. So when the production company was looking to duplicate the success of “Flip This House,” a hit on the A&E Network, Mr. Levine thought of Mr. Van Winkle. When Mr. Levine called, he learned that Mr. Van Winkle was in the process of buying a large, completely gutted foreclosure in Palm Beach.

“I flew down with a camera, and we shot a little demo of him showing off the place and talking about his experience in real estate and what he wanted to do with this house,” Mr. Levine said. “It was really very impressive, and it became this little teaser reel. And DIY was immediately interested in it.”

That house became the project for the first season, which aired in fall 2010. The show became an instant hit for the DIY Network, and the home sold a short time later.

“I think it was unexpected, his likeability and how much he knew,” Mr. Levine said. “I think once it became clear that he really knew his stuff, people started to look at him in a different way. Instead of seeing him as a one-hit wonder or a blast from the past, people started to appreciate him much more than they expected.”

Cuban’s HDNet gets relaunch, will feature lifestyle shows

Mark Cuban’s HDNet is joining forces with sports and entertainment presenter AEG, Ryan Seacrest Media and Hollywood talent firm Creative Artists Agency to rebrand the network, the Associated Press reports.

The relaunched network will be called AXS TV (pronounced “access”) and will debut this summer with a slate of live entertainment and lifestyle programming, the companies announced Wednesday. The new network will benefit from the reach of AEG and will provide exclusive behind-the-scenes access to concerts, award shows and other pop-culture events, they said.

Claiming an inside track to programming that connects the audience with the complete live experience, AXS TV plans to display touring acts from the creation and development of the show, to rehearsals, soundcheck and performance, as well as the after-party.

“This is a major step on our way to offering more live programming than any other entertainment and lifestyle network,” said Mr. Cuban, a billionaire who owns the NBA champion Dallas Mavericks. “AXS TV will unquestionably be able to leverage our unique assets to do things no other network will be able to replicate.”

Some existing programs on HDNet, including “HDNet Fights” and the newsmagazine “Dan Rather Reports,” will continue.

‘Deadliest Catch’ captain sentenced in fatal crash

An Alaska fishing captain who led a crew on the program that spawned the cable TV show “Deadliest Catch” will serve five years in prison for a fatal crash.

According to the Associated Press, the Peninsula Clarion reported 60-year-old Clarence “Ole” Helgevold Jr. of Soldotna was sentenced Wednesday.

He originally was charged with manslaughter in January 2011 when his car crashed with a snowmobile driven by George Larion, who was thrown from the snowmobile and died.

Under terms of an agreement, Helgevold pleaded guilty to reduced charges in May. He will serve 4 1/2 years for criminally negligent homicide and six months for driving under the influence.

Helgevold was captain of the Arctic Dawn, the vessel featured in a 2004 three-part miniseries “America’s Deadliest Season,” which effectively was a pilot for “Deadliest Catch.”

Compiled from Web and wire service reports.

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