News & Insights

The Deadline: “X” Marks the Spot: Twitter’s Rebrand, AI vs. Hollywood & Tensions Rising Around Fox News

By Rebecca Epps

The Deadline - Media Intelligence Newsletter.

Key Highlights

  • Political Pigeonhole – As the 2024 presidential election heats up, so-called network alliances seem to be shifting.
  • What’s in a Name? – A memo from the CEO of “X” sheds light on Twitter’s surprising rebrand.
  • AI Tensions – New job postings raise eyebrows amid the Hollywood strike, while the AP announces a major new partnership.

Industry News

CNBC Shares Internal Memo from Twitter CEO Over ‘X’ Rebranding

Twitter’s major rebrand has been under the spotlight. Newly minted CEO Linda Yaccarino addressed the change to “X” in a memo, which was obtained by CNBC. In the memo, Yaccarino discussed how the company has an “investor mindset” and “enjoys moving at the speed of light.” Yaccarino also noted that the company formerly known as Twitter will continue to gain momentum in video, audio, messaging, banking and payments that will “delight” users, as she put it. Elon Musk noted that his decision to rebrand Twitter as “X” was more than just a name change; it represents another step in his plan to create an “everything app.” However, many business analysts called the move risky or misguided, as it undoes almost two decades of brand building behind Twitter’s name and iconic “blue bird” logo.

Smartmatic Lawsuit Against Fox News and Newsmax

Michael Flynn and Steve Bannon have been subpoenaed as part of a massive defamation lawsuit by voting technology company Smartmatic against Fox News and Newsmax. The lawsuits are part of a constellation of pending defamation cases stemming from 2020, after former President Donald Trump falsely claimed Smartmatic and other voting platforms rigged the election against him. The lawsuit states Fox and Newsmax disseminated a “continuous stream of falsehoods that harmed Smartmatic and negatively impacted their business.” The company is seeking $2.7 billion from Fox and an unspecified amount from Newsmax.

Studios Offer AI Specialist Roles Amid Hollywood Strike

Some entertainment studios are reportedly seeking out AI specialists, a move that is raising some eyebrows as the high-profile Hollywood strike continues among writers and actors. Netflix posted several jobs relating to AI and machine learning, one such job listing a pay range of $300,000 to $900,000 annually. Sony is also posting roles in AI, one seeking someone who specializes in AI ethics, specifically as it relates to fairness, transparency and accountability. During the Hollywood strike, actors have called out AI’s use to replicate an actor’s image and likeness without the actor’s consent. Meanwhile, writers are pushing for limits on the use of AI to write or rewrite scripts. The overarching message of the Hollywood strike, however, addresses a broader set of concerns beyond the impact of AI on the entertainment industry.

Fox’s Former Friendliness to DeSantis Cools

The New York Times discusses the shifting tone of Fox News’ coverage of Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis, particularly as the Florida Governor’s campaign has failed to catch the fire it was expected to against former President Donald Trump. In July, DeSantis faced noticeably tougher questions in interviews with network hosts Will Cain and Maria Bartiromo, both of whom pressed him on his lower poll numbers and early campaign struggles. Other outlets under Rupert Murdoch’s empire such as The Wall Street Journal and The New York Post have also been less favorable toward DeSantis as of late.

Tucker Carlson’s Twitter Show Makes Controversial Ad Deal

Ousted former prime-time Fox News host Tucker Carlson has landed one of his first advertisers for his newly debuted show on “X,” the platform formerly known as Twitter. But the move is raising some eyebrows. According to CNBC, Carlson nabbed a seven-figure advertising deal with Public Square, a shopping app that promotes itself as being the “starting point” for conservatives to battle environmental, social and governance (ESG) policies. CNBC notes that the move indicates Carlson is trying to use his new program to lure conservative-friendly advertisers eager for a bigger platform. Carlson’s show, which he launched after he was ousted by Fox in April, draws millions of views. Meanwhile, Carlson sheds light on his ousting by Fox in his new book, saying his firing was part of the $787.5 million dollar settlement to resolve the defamation case by Dominion Voting Systems. The Guardian details the story further.

CNBC Discusses the Turmoil Hitting the Media Industry

The media and entertainment industry are undergoing profound changes, as discussed in an article by CNBC, with traditional TV facing declining ad revenue and viewership, streaming services gaining traction, and Hollywood grappling with a major work stoppage due to strikes by actors and writers’ unions. Still, even amid these challenges, the introduction of less-expensive, ad-supported options for platforms like Netflix and Disney+ nonetheless points to potential avenues for growth. As things evolve, media titans are considering selling or restructuring their network portfolios as streaming platforms see advertising as a crucial revenue source to boost profitability. Despite uncertainties, media companies see a path to survival through more mergers and acquisitions as companies seek to solidify their market positions.

Geraldo Rivera Says “Toxic Relationship” Led to Departure from Fox News

Former Fox News host and TV personality Geraldo Rivera opens up about his recent departure from Fox News, attributing his exit to a “toxic relationship” with a fellow host on The Five. Rivera refrained from naming the colleague responsible for the toxic environment but expressed frustration at being treated unfairly, with repeated suspensions and last-minute appearance cancellations. Rivera’s ousting was announced as a departure from the show, but Rivera later disclosed on Twitter that he was actually fired.

Lawsuit Claims Twitter Withheld $500M in Severance from Laid Off Employees

Twitter Inc. is facing a proposed class action lawsuit in San Francisco federal court, filed by a former employee who alleges the company refused to pay at least $500 million in promised severance to thousands of workers laid off after Elon Musk’s acquisition of the company. The lawsuit alleges that under Twitter’s severance plan, employees were promised two months of base pay plus one week for each year of service. It’s the latest in a slew of Twitter’s legal challenges, which also include accusations of failing to pay bonuses to remaining employees and claims of discrimination targeting women and workers with disabilities. Twitter has denied wrongdoing in these cases and previously stated that it had paid ex-employees in full.

Prince Harry’s Lawsuit Against Rupert Murdoch Heads to Trial

A High Court judge has ruled that Prince Harry’s lawsuit against the publisher of The Sun Tabloid can proceed to trial, except for phone hacking claims. The Duke of Sussex alleges that the publisher unlawfully snooped on him, using investigators and deception to gather information dating back two decades. The Sun, which is part of News Group Newspapers (NGN) and owned by Rupert Murdoch, says the suit should be thrown out because the claims were brought after the six-year limitation to do so expired. Prince Harry’s lawyer argued that a “secret agreement” prevented him from bringing the case, but the judge said there was no evidence to support this claim. The lawsuit is one of three phone hacking lawsuits the Duke of Sussex has brought against British tabloid publishers.

Associated Press and OpenAI Form Groundbreaking AI News-Sharing Partnership

The Associated Press (AP) has reached a groundbreaking two-year deal with OpenAI, parent company to ChatGPT, to share select news content and technology. This marks one of the first official news-sharing agreements between a major U.S. news company and an artificial intelligence firm. Under the partnership, OpenAI will utilize portions of AP’s text archive dating back to 1985 to enhance its AI algorithms, while the AP gains access to OpenAI’s cutting-edge technology and expertise. As AP seeks to be an industry leader in responsible AI use, this collaboration paves the way for developing standards and best practices for integrating generative AI in news products and services while protecting intellectual property and ensuring fair compensation for content creators.

Axios Launches Newsletter in San Diego, Its 30th Local Newsletter Market

Amid the continued popularity of its local newsletters centered around specific key metro areas, Axios announced it has launched into its latest market: San Diego, California. The new newsletter’s debut took place last month. Axios San Diego will feature original reporting and carefully curated local coverage, staying true to the signature Axios style. With this expansion, Axios now reaches 30 local markets and has connected with an audience of over 1.5 million subscribers.

Cheddar News Could Be Up for Potential Sale

Altice USA is reportedly considering a sale of Cheddar News, the streaming network known as “CNBC for millennials,” less than five years after its $200 million acquisition. Goldman Sachs has been hired to explore strategic alternatives, although a decision has not been finalized yet. Cheddar News, founded by Jon Steinberg, took a different approach by distributing content across various platforms, but its reliance on advertising revenue instead of traditional cable distribution deals has posed challenges in the competitive digital ad market.

Career Moves

  • Edith Chapin has been named as Senior Vice President of News and Editor in Chief at NPR. Chapin has been with NPR since 2012 and has been interim head of news since 2022.
  • POLITICO names John Harris as its top U.S. editor after the publication announced that Matt Kaminski will conclude his tenure as editor in chief at the end of August. Harris is one of the publication’s co-founders.
  • Kayla Tausche will join CNN as a Senior White House Correspondent, focusing primarily on the 2024 presidential elections. Tausche comes to CNN after spending over a decade at CNBC.
  • The Washington Post names Philip Rucker as National Editor. Rucker will oversee a department of more than 150 journalists. Rucker has been with The Post for 18 years.
  • POLITICO announces two key moves to strengthen its California coverage. Julia Marsh will take on the role of Editorial Director for California and Debra Kahn will take on the role of California policy editor with a focus on the California Climate newsletter.
  • NBC News announces Liz Kreutz as the newest member to the on-air team. Kreutz will serve as a Los Angeles-based correspondent. She comes from ABC’s San Francisco affiliate.


Variety’s Feature on CNN Creates a Firestorm

Variety is standing by its feature about CNN after accusations swirled that it was ridden with inaccuracies and prompted outcry from several of its top subjects, including former network chief Jeff Zucker, who called the piece patently aggressive and false. In the feature, Zucker is portrayed as being desperate and bitter on his “quest to recapture the CNN throne.” The story also describes a “climate of betrayal” left in Zucker’s wake and his so-called attempts to undermine both Chris Licht, his successor after he was ousted, and David Zaslav, the CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery. The piece also calls out aspects of the notorious The Atlantic story on Chris Licht and reporting by Puck – a digital media company – on Licht’s leadership at CNN. Leaders at both publications went to social media to refute various aspects of the story. Other top media brass are calling for Variety to correct the record. A spokesperson for the publication says they are standing behind their investigative reporting about CNN, saying it was written by one of the best journalists in the business.

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