Larry King, broadcasting giant for half-century, dies at 87

Larry King, broadcasting giant for half-century, dies at 87
In 1995 he presided over a Middle East peace summit with PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, King Hussein of Jordan and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.(File/Reuters)
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Updated 23 January 2021

Larry King, broadcasting giant for half-century, dies at 87

Larry King, broadcasting giant for half-century, dies at 87
  • King died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, Ora Media, the studio and network he co-founded, tweeted
  • In 1995 he presided over a Middle East peace summit with PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, King Hussein of Jordan and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin

LOS ANGELES: Larry King, the suspenders-sporting everyman whose broadcast interviews with world leaders, movie stars and ordinary Joes helped define American conversation for a half-century, died Saturday. He was 87.
King died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, Ora Media, the studio and network he co-founded, tweeted. No cause of death was given, but CNN had earlier reported he was hospitalized with COVID-19.
A longtime nationally syndicated radio host, from 1985 through 2010 he was a nightly fixture on CNN, where he won many honors, including two Peabody awards.
With his celebrity interviews, political debates and topical discussions, King wasn’t just an enduring on-air personality. He also set himself apart with the curiosity be brought to every interview, whether questioning the assault victim known as the “Central Park Jogger” or billionaire industrialist Ross Perot, who in 1992 rocked the presidential contest by announcing his candidacy on King’s show.
In its early years, “Larry King Live” was based in Washington, D.C., which gave the show an air of gravitas. Likewise King. He was the plainspoken go-between through whom Beltway bigwigs could reach their public, and they did, earning the show prestige as a place where things happened, where news was made.
King conducted an estimated 50,000 on-air interviews. In 1995 he presided over a Middle East peace summit with PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, King Hussein of Jordan and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. He welcomed everyone from the Dalai Lama to Elizabeth Taylor, from Mikhail Gorbachev to Barack Obama, Bill Gates to Lady Gaga.
Especially after he relocated to Los Angeles, his shows were frequently in the thick of breaking celebrity news, including Paris Hilton talking about her stint in jail in 2007 and Michael Jackson’s friends and family members talking about his death in 2009.
King boasted of never over-preparing for an interview. His nonconfrontational style relaxed his guests and made him readily relatable to his audience.
“I don’t pretend to know it all,” he said in a 1995 Associated Press interview. “Not, `What about Geneva or Cuba?′ I ask, `Mr. President, what don’t you like about this job?′ Or `What’s the biggest mistake you made?′ That’s fascinating.”
At a time when CNN, as the lone player in cable news, was deemed politically neutral, and King was the essence of its middle-of-the-road stance, political figures and people at the center of controversies would seek out his show.
And he was known for getting guests who were notoriously elusive. Frank Sinatra, who rarely gave interviews and often lashed out at reporters, spoke to King in 1988 in what would be the singer’s last major TV appearance. Sinatra was an old friend of King’s and acted accordingly.
“Why are you here?” King asks. Sinatra responds, “Because you asked me to come and I hadn’t seen you in a long time to begin with, I thought we ought to get together and chat, just talk about a lot of things.”
King had never met Marlon Brando, who was even tougher to get and tougher to interview, when the acting giant asked to appear on King’s show in 1994. The two hit it off so famously they ended their 90-minute talk with a song and an on-the-mouth kiss, an image that was all over media in subsequent weeks.
After a gala week marking his 25th anniversary in June 2010, King abruptly announced he was retiring from his show, telling viewers, “It’s time to hang up my nightly suspenders.” Named as his successor in the time slot: British journalist and TV personality Piers Morgan.
By King’s departure that December, suspicion had grown that he had waited a little too long to hang up those suspenders. Once the leader in cable TV news, he ranked third in his time slot with less than half the nightly audience his peak year, 1998, when “Larry King Live” drew 1.64 million viewers.
His wide-eyed, regular-guy approach to interviewing by then felt dated in an era of edgy, pushy or loaded questioning by other hosts.
Meanwhile, occasional flubs had made him seem out of touch, or worse. A prime example from 2007 found King asking Jerry Seinfeld if he had voluntarily left his sitcom or been canceled by his network, NBC.
“I was the No. 1 show in television, Larry,” replied Seinfeld with a flabbergasted look. “Do you know who I am?”
Always a workaholic, King would be back doing specials for CNN within a few months of performing his nightly duties.
He found a new sort of celebrity as a plain-spoken natural on Twitter when the platform emerged, winning over more than 2 million followers who simultaneously mocked and loved him for his esoteric style.
“I’ve never been in a canoe. #Itsmy2cents,” he said in a typical tweet in 2015.
His Twitter account was essentially a revival of a USA Today column he wrote for two decades full of one-off, disjointed thoughts. Norm Macdonald delivered a parody version of the column when he played King on “Saturday Night Live,” with deadpan lines like, “The more I think about it, the more I appreciate the equator.”
King was constantly parodied, often through old-age jokes on late-night talk shows from hosts including David Letterman and Conan O’Brien, often appearing with the latter to get in on the roasting himself.
King came by his voracious but no-frills manner honestly.
He was born Lawrence Harvey Zeiger in 1933, a son of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe who ran a bar and grill in Brooklyn. But after his father’s death when Larry was a boy, he faced a troubled, sometimes destitute youth.
A fan of such radio stars as Arthur Godfrey and comedians Bob & Ray, King on reaching adulthood set his sights on a broadcasting career. With word that Miami was a good place to break in, he headed south in 1957 and landed a job sweeping floors at a tiny AM station. When a deejay abruptly quit, King was put on the air — and was handed his new surname by the station manager, who thought Zeiger “too Jewish.”
A year later he moved to a larger station, where his duties were expanded from the usual patter to serving as host of a daily interview show that aired from a local restaurant. He quickly proved equally adept at talking to the waitresses, and the celebrities who began dropping by.
By the early 1960s King had gone to yet a larger Miami station, scored a newspaper column and become a local celebrity himself.
At the same time, he fell victim to living large.
“It was important to me to come across as a ‘big man,”’ he wrote in his autobiography, which meant “I made a lot of money and spread it around lavishly.”
He accumulated debts and his first broken marriages (he was married eight times to seven women). He gambled, borrowed wildly and failed to pay his taxes. He also became involved with a shady financier in a scheme to bankroll an investigation of President Kennedy’s assassination. But when King skimmed some of the cash to pay his overdue taxes, his partner sued him for grand larceny in 1971. The charges were dropped, but King’s reputation appeared ruined.
King lost his radio show and, for several years, struggled to find work. But by 1975 the scandal had largely blown over and a Miami station gave him another chance. Regaining his local popularity, King was signed in 1978 to host radio’s first nationwide call-in show.
Originating from Washington on the Mutual network, “The Larry King Show” was eventually heard on more than 300 stations and made King a national phenomenon.
A few years later, CNN founder Ted Turner offered King a slot on his young network. “Larry King Live” debuted on June 1, 1985, and became CNN’s highest-rated program. King’s beginning salary of $100,000 a year eventually grew to more than $7 million.
A three-packs-a-day cigarette habit led to a heart attack in 1987, but King’s quintuple-bypass surgery didn’t slow him down.
Meanwhile, he continued to prove that, in his words, “I’m not good at marriage, but I’m a great boyfriend.”
He was just 18 when he married high school girlfriend Freda Miller, in 1952. The marriage lasted less than a year. In subsequent decades he would marry Annette Kay, Alene Akins (twice), Mickey Sutfin, Sharon Lepore and Julie Alexander.
In 1997, he wed Shawn Southwick, a country singer and actress 26 years his junior. They would file for divorce in 2010, rescind the filing, then file for divorce again in 2019.
The couple had two sons, King’s fourth and fifth kids, Chance Armstrong, born in 1999, and Cannon Edward, born in 2000. In 2020, King lost his two eldest children, Andy King and Chaia King, who died of unrelated health problems within weeks of each other.
He had many other medical issues in recent decades, including more heart attacks and diagnoses of type 2 diabetes and lung cancer.
Early in 2021, CNN reported that King was hospitalized for more than a week with COVID-19.
Through his setbacks he continued to work into his late 80s, taking on online talk shows and infomercials as his appearances on CNN grew fewer.
“Work,” King once said. “It’s the easiest thing I do.”


Discovery+ comes to STC’s Jawwy TV 

The agreement will provide Discovery+ content to Jawwy TV subscribers in a branded area on the platform. (Supplied)
The agreement will provide Discovery+ content to Jawwy TV subscribers in a branded area on the platform. (Supplied)
Updated 24 February 2021

Discovery+ comes to STC’s Jawwy TV 

The agreement will provide Discovery+ content to Jawwy TV subscribers in a branded area on the platform. (Supplied)
  • The agreement will provide Discovery+ content to Jawwy TV subscribers in a branded area on the platform

DUBAI: Discovery+ has signed a long-term partnership with the Saudi Telecom Company (STC) through its media arm, Intigral.

The agreement will provide Discovery+ content to Jawwy TV subscribers in a branded area on the platform. Users can sign up for the add-on subscription, which will be valid for 12 months.

“We are delighted to enter this new partnership with the leading telco operator in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and combine our strengths to provide customers access to our much-loved brands and content on discovery+,” said Kasia Kieli, president and MD of Discovery EMEA. “This agreement with Intigral reaffirms our digital strategy as we continue to grow our global footprint.”

Discovery+’s offering will include 4,000 hours of on-demand content featuring original and global shows such as “Shark Week,” “MythBusters” and “Amy Schumer Learns to Cook (Uncensored)” as well as other Discovery channels such as Fatafeat, TLC, Discovery Family, Animal Planet, Discovery Science and Investigation Discovery, with more to follow.

Discovery+ and STC also plan to make the Discovery+ app available to STC’s mobile customers in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain as an added value to the existing service.

“As the entertainment arm of STC, we are thrilled to have partnered with Discovery to offer its extensive content portfolio to our subscribers,” said Markus Golder, CEO of Intigral.


New YouTube research highlights viewing trends in Saudi Arabia

New YouTube research highlights viewing trends in Saudi Arabia
Updated 24 February 2021

New YouTube research highlights viewing trends in Saudi Arabia

New YouTube research highlights viewing trends in Saudi Arabia
  • Most-trending categories in the Kingdom were gaming, learning and sports

DUBAI: YouTube held its first online festival for advertisers in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), where it unveiled new research on audience viewership in Saudi Arabia.

The most-trending categories in the Kingdom were gaming, learning and sports, and the most-watched content was locally produced.

The last 12 months saw steady growth in gaming content streaming in Arabic. Puzzles and adventures were the most popular genres, followed by combat sports such as wrestling and boxing, and e-sports such as FIFA.

Viewership of educational videos on YouTube also witnessed an increase. Watch time of science and maths videos increased by 200 percent, while 95 percent of users watched DIY content.

In August of last year, YouTube reached over 20 million people in Saudi Arabia, who watched videos on the platform for an average of 55 minutes per day. Seven out of 10 most-watched videos in the Kingdom were locally produced.

“People in Saudi Arabia come to YouTube to catch more personalized content and high-quality entertainment produced by local creators. They are looking for relevant and relatable video content that may not always be available in more traditional media,” said Souheil Soueid, head of advertising products and solutions at Google and YouTube in MENA.

“This is evident in the continuous growth in watch time on the platform across all devices, including TV, and the popularity of new content genres like gaming and learning amongst others.”

FAST FACTS: SAUDI YOUTUBE CONSUMPTION HABITS

• Watch time of science, maths videos up 200 percent.

• 95 percent of users watched DIY content.

• Average watch time 55 minutes per day.

• YouTube reached over 20m people in KSA last year.


TikTok ‘live show’ series to educate users

TikTok ‘live show’ series to educate users
Updated 24 February 2021

TikTok ‘live show’ series to educate users

TikTok ‘live show’ series to educate users
  • Experts and influencers to offer insights on marketing, health, motivation

DUBAI: Short-form mobile video app TikTok has launched a new live series, #LearnonTikTok, to support the recent surge in educational content on the platform.

With the onset of the pandemic last year, TikTok witnessed a shift in the way audiences create and consume content on the platform, with knowledge-sharing and education-related content seeing a 300 percent growth.

“As people spent more time indoors during the pandemic, an upward trend emerged in the demand for educational content on TikTok,” said Rami Zeidan, head of video and creative at TikTok.

TikTok announced the initiative in the US in January last year, which included a partnership with the online study platform Quizlet. It also formed a $50 million creative learning fund, as part of its $250 million pledge to support its community during the pandemic.

As part of the #LearnonTikTok program, the platform partnered with prominent personalities including Bill Nye, Lilly Singh, Neil deGrasse Tyson and Tyra Banks to feature educational content on TikTok.

Building on the popularity of educational content on the platform in the region, TikTok will now be hosting live sessions every week, for a month from Feb. 25.

Topics include show business and social media; digital and influencer marketing; health and fitness; and motivation.

The sessions will be hosted by Al Arabiya TV presenter Mahira Abdel Aziz. Each session will be led by a regional celebrity or influencer such as TV presenter Azza Zarour; digital content creator Nael Abu Alteen; Egyptian activist and athlete Manal Rostom; and travel blogger and YouTuber Haifa Beseisso.

“The #LearnOnTikTok Live Show has been designed to enable users to discover new interests and passions while learning from regional experts in popular fields,” added Zeidan.


Spotify announces Ramadan podcast in partnership with Obamas

Spotify announces Ramadan podcast in partnership with Obamas
Updated 24 February 2021

Spotify announces Ramadan podcast in partnership with Obamas

Spotify announces Ramadan podcast in partnership with Obamas
  • ‘Tell Them, I Am’ podcast features a collection of narratives from Muslim voices including activists, artists, actors and athletes

Audio company Spotify’s partnership with Barack and Michelle Obama will bring to light diverse Muslim voices in its upcoming podcast “Higher Ground: Tell Them, I Am.”

In 2019, Spotify partnered with the Obamas’ production company Higher Productions to produce podcasts exclusive to the platform.

The “Tell Them, I Am” podcast features a collection of narratives from Muslim voices including activists, artists, actors and athletes.

It is hosted by Misha Euceph, a first-generation Pakistani-American writer, podcast host and producer.

The announcement was made at the company’s Stream On event, which included a performance by Justin Bieber and was attended by the former US president, the duke and duchess of Sussex, and Bruce Springsteen, among other notable personalities.

The first season aired during Ramadan in 2019, featuring personalities such as Egyptian stand-up comedian, actor, writer and director Ramy Youssef, comedian Ahamed Weinberg, and actress Alia Shawkat from TV show “Arrested Development.” The second season will air on the first day of Ramadan this year.

“The stories are universal and the guests are all Muslim,” Euceph said during the Stream On event. “The ultimate goal is for people to feel something, for them to fall in love with the people they’re listening to without ever thinking about who they are and what they look like.”

Spotify announced a second podcast with Higher Productions titled “Renegades: Born in the USA.”

The eight-episode series features conversations between Springsteen and Barack Obama as they explore topics of race, fatherhood, marriage and the future of America.

The company also announced its expansion to 80 new markets across Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, Europe and Latin America during the event.

Insert infographic

In the majority of these markets, Spotify will launch with its full podcast catalog. For the others, it will work with local partners to introduce more podcasts from its catalog, as well as Spotify’s proprietary creator platform Anchor.

FAST FACTS

Over $5bn paid out to rights holders in 2020.

Monthly consumption of podcasts on Spotify up 1,500 percent in 3 years.

57,000 artists represent 90 percent of monthly streams on platform.

On Spotify, artists receive over 80 percent of streams from outside home country.

Over last 4 years, number of recording artists whose catalogs generated over $1m a year up over 82 percent.

Over last 4 years, number of recording artists whose catalogs generated over $100,000 a year up 79 percent.


Australian lawmakers expected to pass amendments to Facebook, Google law

Australian lawmakers expected to pass amendments to Facebook, Google law
Updated 24 February 2021

Australian lawmakers expected to pass amendments to Facebook, Google law

Australian lawmakers expected to pass amendments to Facebook, Google law
  • Amendments introduced to the so-called Media Bargaining Code after Facebook last week escalated a dispute
  • The code was designed to address a power imbalance between the social media giants and publishers

CANBERRA: Australian lawmakers are expected to approve amendments to landmark legislation to force Facebook and Alphabet’s Google to pay media companies for news content, despite opposition from some minor political parties.
The government introduced amendments to the so-called Media Bargaining Code after Facebook last week escalated a dispute over the new laws by blocking Australian users from sharing and viewing news content on its popular social media platform.
Australia’s Senate began debating the amendments on Wednesday. The ruling conservative Liberal Party does not have a majority in the upper house, but support from the opposition Labour Party is expected to be enough to pass the bill.
“What we’ve sworn to do is create a level playing field,” Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told Sky News on Wednesday.
“We’ve sought to sustain public interest journalism in this country, and we’ve also sought to enhance and encourage those commercial deals between the parties.”
Facebook on Tuesday said it would restore Australian users’ access to news in light of the compromise it had reached with the government.
In one major change, Frydenberg will be given the discretion to decide that either Facebook or Google need not be subject to the code, if they make a “significant contribution to the sustainability of the Australian news industry.”
The original legislation had required the tech giants to submit to forced arbitration if they could not reach a commercial deal with Australian news companies for their content, effectively allowing the government to set a price.
Some politicians and media companies are concerned the change allows Frydenberg to exempt Facebook or Google from the new laws even if they do not strike deals with all media companies, to the detriment of smaller publishers.
“This changes the bill significantly,” independent senator Rex Patrick, who plans to vote against the amended bill, told Reuters.
“The big players could successfully negotiate with Facebook or Google. The minister then doesn’t designate them, and all the little players miss out.”
Lee O’Connor, owner and editor of regional newspaper The Coonamble Times, said the amendments appeared to favor big media groups.
“It’s the vagueness of the language that’s the main concern, and the minister’s discretion is part of that,” O’Connor said.
Frydenberg has said he will give Facebook and Google time to strike deals with Australian media companies before deciding whether to enforce his new powers.
The code was designed by the government and competition regulator to address a power imbalance between the social media giants and publishers when negotiating payment for news content displayed on the tech firms’ sites.
After first threatening to withdraw its search engine from Australia, Google has instead struck a series of deals with several publishers, including a global news deal with News Corp.
Major television broadcaster and newspaper publisher Seven West Media on Tuesday said it had signed a letter of intent to reach a content supply deal with Facebook within 60 days.
Rival Nine Entertainment Co. also revealed on Wednesday it was in negotiations with Facebook.
“At this stage, we’re still obviously proceeding with negotiations,” Nine chief executive Hugh Marks told analysts at a company briefing on Wednesday. “It is really positive for our business and positive particularly for the publishing business.”