ABC Studios Boss on the Pace of 'Scandal,' Advice for Anne Sweeney and Why He Sent Paul Feig a Tie (Q&A)

A campaign poster catches your eye as you enter Patrick Moran's corner office on the Disney lot in Burbank. The ABC Studios chief is not stumping for a real-life politician but rather for Tony Goldwyn's fictional President Fitzgerald Grant of scandal cast, the crown jewel of both his studio and the sister broadcast network on which it airs.

The Beltway soap from Shonda Rhimes is precisely the kind of character-driven buzz generator with which Moran, 42, is looking to populate his portfolio as he rounds out his fourth year at the Disney-owned studio. His other goal since making the leap from 20th Century Fox Television, where he spent seven years working on such shows as Glee, Bones and Prison Break: to broaden ABC Studios' reach by selling series to networks outside of ABC, something the previous regime didn't prioritize. Though series orders won't come until May, the Richmond, Va., native has projects in development at each of the Big Four networks.

The affable University of Virginia grad, who spent a year at a New York art gallery before getting his big break at New Line Television in the mid-1990s, was elevated to executive vp in July, reporting to ABC Entertainment Group president Paul Lee. In that capacity, he oversees more than 70 employees and shows ranging from 10th-season hospital drama Grey's Anatomy to freshman breakout Resurrection. (Other recent attempts, including Lucky 7 and Killer Women, haven't fared as well.) He's been making a push into cable, too, with a lower-budget boutique division, ABC Signature, that soon will roll out the courtroom comedy Benched on USA.

Moran, who with his partner, Mistresses writer Jordan Budde, spends his spare time collecting art and renovating homes, sat down in mid-March to field questions about a challenging season at ABC, the surprise imminent departure of Disney/ABC TV Group president Anne Sweeney and the showrunner who got away.

PHOTOS: Disney's Anne Sweeney Exit, Her Greatest Hits How has the explosion of TV outlets impacted the way you make deals?

It's fiercely competitive and yet we have to manage our productions because the ratings don't support a show at a particular [price point]. You have to be very thoughtful about what goes where, and our business affairs people are very vocal reminders of that. ( Laughs.) The other thing is, not every deal needs to be the old-fashioned overall, not every deal needs to [incorporate] your series services and your development. We've made more development‑only deals if that's what a writer wants to pursue. We try to customize a lot more, which allows for more flexibility.

What's the biggest difference between the 20th TV culture and the Disney one?

The perception when I came in was that we were completely landlocked to the network. That had been part of the culture in years past, but it felt obvious to me that that wasn't the best way to recruit talent. It also made the studio voice in the conversation slightly diminished. 20th was already doing it so successfully. I'll say you are aware being at ABC that you're part of the Disney Co. and how big it is, too. We do these management retreats every year, and it's a great reminder that the breadth of this company is remarkable. You didn't really feel that way at News Corp.

What's been the best and worst day on this job?

I remember reading the Scandal pilot and calling Shonda and saying, "You've written this so confidently, it feels like it's already on the air." And that's always the most exciting thing when you read a great script or you see a great cut. The worst? This was a challenging year because we launched so many shows, and I had some favorites in there that I thought would have gotten more traction than they did. Looking at the overnights the morning after can sometimes be a tough thing: "Oh really? That's what we have to show for it?"

What's the best pitch you've sat through?

One of my favorite pitches this year that's still in development at ABC was DINKS, with June Diane Raphael and Casey Wilson. It's based on their experiences as double-income [couples] with no kids, and so they had this really funny personal anecdotal stuff like the sort of things that people who have no kids spend their money on. And they actually asked a few questions of me. My partner and I, who don't have kids, had inexplicably had our dogs' portraits done, which is so embarrassing to think about now. It actually worked its way into the pitch.

STORY: ABC Sets Summer Schedule, Will Bow Five Scripted Dramas What's the biggest mistake people make when they're pitching you?

Too much detail. There's no hard and fast rule to how someone pitches, but less is more.

What's the wildest thing you've done to land an actor or showrunner?

We're not afraid to send gifts to writers who we're pursuing. This might have been the corniest thing we did: We sent Paul Feig a tie. We sent a poor assistant back to the store three times to buy a tie that was worthy of sending to Paul Feig. He hasn't made a deal yet.

What genres have you not tapped in to that you'd really like to going forward?

I still have an appetite for genre, though we've tried a couple things in the past that haven't stuck. I was very proud of [2011 horror drama] The River. We only made eight episodes, and it was so clearly not on the right network. It may have worked on Fox, and we had a conversation with Netflix about it. It was on after the Dancing With the Stars results show, too, which was not a match. We're doing a pilot called The Whispers [formerly The Visitors] that has a touch of genre to it; maybe that'll ... connect with an ABC audience. It's been tricky for us.

How will you approach overall deals going forward?

They're a critical piece of our business and we definitely want to continue to make deals, and make them aggressively and be very targeted. We have a great drama roster here, and we've spent a lot of energy building a comedy roster. A lot of energy. But it's fiercely competitive because everybody's looking for the next comedy hit.

The broadcast comedy genre has failed to produce new hits. What's happening?

It's funny. We went into this year with so many big splashy shows, Michael J. Fox Show and Sean Hayes' [ Sean Saves the World on NBC]. That alchemy between a great script, cast and director is just really tricky. And then the other thing is the programming of it, and flow is tough. How many shows has ABC tried to launch off the back of Modern Family?

With Anne Sweeney departing, what do you hope your new boss' boss is willing to commit to you?

I work in a company that's very driven by the ABC network and a number of cable networks, so we're a little bit of an anomaly. So long as my new boss' boss has an eye to the studio business, I'll be [happy]. There are more and more places to make shows, and if we can figure out a way to make deals at all of these networks, there's enormous potential to grow.

THR COVER: Top Exec Anne Sweeney to Exit to Become TV Director What's the best advice you can give Anne about being a TV director?

Shadow the best person that you can find. It's such a specific pursuit that I feel like the more on‑the‑job training that you can have, the better your chances are of success.

What's the note you give most often?

"Don't be so tame." Writers come in and there's an expectation because it's on a particular network, it should conform to a certain set of expectations. So I frequently say, "Don't be afraid to push the envelope, and let us pull you back." It happened with our Shondaland pilot, where the writer Pete Nowalk came in with a character and we kept pushing him, "Don't be afraid to make your character bolder, louder and unlikeable." For so long the note you'd get from the networks was, "Your character's not likeable enough," but we're not saying that.

What kind of notes do you give to Shonda Rhimes?

I do not give notes to Shonda. ( Laughs.)

Scandal, your breakout success, blows through a tremendous amount of story in every episode. Do you ever have concerns about the pace of the storylines?

But that is sort of the hallmark of the show, right? It does accelerate through a lot of story, but it's also what people like about the show.

STORY: 'Scandal's' Dan Bucatinsky Boards NBC's Casey Wilson Comedy 'Marry Me' What's the project or talent that got away?

We had a long history with Damon Lindelof. [Seeing him] go to Warner Brothers stung.

What was your biggest series disappointment this past season?

I really had hoped that Once Upon a Time in Wonderland would work. It was designed to be what they call "gap programming," to go in between the regular season, and it probably would have fared better as that.

Marvel's Agents of SHIELD was your most ambitious push this season. How does it compare to internal expectations?

I think they've taken a creative turn in the show. We started out doing kind of this very mission-oriented show and it's become way more character‑driven, and I think that is better for it.

If you weren't in the entertainment industry, what would you be doing?

Working on my houses. We move every two years, and [we start looking for the next place] as soon as we move in. Every home is very different. We're renovating a Tudor in Hancock Park now. For me, it's just a nice break. No one's asking me about notes on a script or a budget or a director assignment or anything.

Why online collectibles company ShelfLife put its Dragons' Den deal on hold

Each week, Financial Post contributor Mary Teresa Bitti revisits CBC's previous week's episode of Dragons' Den. She captures what the cameras didn't and in the process provides a case study for readers, zeroing in on what pitchers and dragons were thinking and what the challenges for the deal are going forward.

The pitch Co-workers, friends and now business partners, James Chillcott and Nick Hoffman entered the Den to pitch their brainchild: ShelfLife, a subscription-based website they describe as the future of collecting. ShelfLife draws from eBay, Facebook and Wikipedia and is a one-stop hub where collectors can research, shop, sell and manage their collections, as well as interact with their peers.
In many ways, creating ShelfLife was a natural progression in their careers. "We've both been in the web design/development industry more than 10 years and have a wealth of experience. And we are both power collectors. Nick collects Magic: the Gathering a trading card game by Hasbro and I collect vintage action figures, designer toys and skateboards," Mr. Chillcott says.
"With the success of social commerce sites based on people creating yarn puppets in their basements we felt it could certainly be done for the biggest brands on the planet, which also happen to be brands beloved by collectors, the Transformers, Nikes, and Maple Leafs of the world."
The pair designed ShelfLife from the ground up to fill what they saw as a gap in the market for social commerce, starting in the spring of 2012. That summer they were part of the inaugural cohort of the JOLT accelerator program at the MaRS innovation centre in Toronto and in the fall launched a beta version of the site.
"As with many Google products, it will likely remain in open beta until we believe we have fulfilled our vision," Mr. Chillcott says. "That will likely take another year because the site is so massive and has so much functionality and we are constantly adding new features to enhance the user experience."
Besides managing and researching their collections on the site, collectors can add wants and haves into permanent catalogs of every collectible ever made, and then match buyers and sellers.
"This is a huge advantage over a site like eBay that relies on a shifting pool of incomplete data, which means users are constantly searching for the same thing over and over," Mr. Chillcott says.
ShelfLife also provides a suite of social commerce tools that let collectors build the site out similar to Wikipedia editors. These tools are largely about connecting the collectors and keeping them engaged.
The revenue streams are straightforward and include a 6% commission on vendor and user sales and an affiliate commission of 15% on average to drive business to other ecommerce sites such as Deal Now. Based on the platform's predictability capability, it is also able to sell select, in-demand products direct.
When the co-founders faced the dragons, it was still early days. They were still building out their catalog, which featured about 140,000 items being perused by about 5,000 users, and had earned about $10,000 in commissions.
The deal Mr. Chillcott and Mr. Hoffman asked for $100,000 in exchange for a 25% equity stake, valuing the company at $400,000. The money would be used to ramp up the more complex programming tasks such as creating international shipping calculators to predict shipping costs for any product in the database and for community development - locating, attracting and bringing new collectors on board.
On air, they accepted a deal from Bruce Croxon and Arlene Dickinson that gave them what they asked for. "During due diligence, we decided to table the deal because we realized we hadn't hit the plateau we wanted to hit in terms of user numbers," Mr. Chillcott says. "We elected to use viral marketing techniques to help get us there without further funds. That's when we'll revisit the deal."
Mr. Chillcott estimates they will need hundreds of thousands of users to achieve that. Meantime, they have increased the number of users by a factor of eight and revenue by a factor of 1,000. They've kept in touch with the dragons and are hoping to close the deal this spring.
They are also working on apps to bridge the gap between online and offline collecting that will allow collectors to scan the barcode on a product and add it to their collection.
"We are also working on an app that will allow collectors and vendors to connect on conference floors of huge conventions such as Comic-Con. So a user could be walking down an aisle and the app will tell them the GI Joe figure they were looking for is 20 steps away and on the left for a $1 less than they said they wanted to pay," Mr. Chillcott adds.
A dragon's point of view The idea fits nicely with Mr. Croxon's focus on digital. "They presented well and have a unique niche but it is just another version of doing what eBay and other sites do. The debate is how different is what ShelfLife does to what others do and how big is the market for people who will appreciate that difference? That's what is going to be the deciding factor in making a business or not. So far the traction has not been there. I'm not saying that won't change, but it is not an investable proposition for me today.
"Their challenge now is to market the heck out of it and show investors like me that they are able to attract and retain customers at an acceptable cost per acquisition."
A expert opinion At this point in its evolution, John Cho of KPMG Enterprise sees more downside than upside. "There are a lot of items of low value, which means you have to push through high volumes to get a decent return in absolute dollars," he says, adding that he shares Mr. Croxon's concern about relevance and scalability.
"Will they get enough of a profile in the collector community to drive traffic, particularly since they are competing with eBay and other big players for that traffic? As well, have they modelled out logistics and shipping costs?" he asks.

Design & Trend

An intriguing new video claiming to show off the casing of the upcoming iPhone 6 is the hot rumor making rounds on tech sites today. The video, from ConceptsPhone, is the second iPhone 6 leak, following a video posted earlier this month by C Technology.

The most recent alleged leak shows off the future iPhone's front, while the previous video gave an early look at the chassis' back. As with all leaks at this stage, it's sketchy and very difficult to tell whether or not it holds any actual value. The anonymous leaker claims that the video was shot at "the Apple Factory," but unfortunately there are no other objects in the video to gauge the size of the parts, making it impossible to know if this is for one the larger-display iPhone 6 models that The Wall Street Journal reports will become available later this year.

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Considering the nature of the leak, it comes as no surprise, especially considering the uploader's channel name is "ConceptsPhone," that some believe this just a trick to get eyeballs for a new iPhone 6 concept.

UPDATE: MacRumors' Eric Slivka recently tweeted that he believes the alleged iPhone 6 chassis is actually an iPhone 4S part:

"Video of "iPhone 6 chassis" starting to make the rounds. It's an iPhone 4s part,"- Eric Slivka @WildCowboy.

Check it out for yourself below:

A new investors note from Cowen and Company managing director Timothy Arcuri claims that supply chain sources said that the upcoming iPhone 6 is 'locked in' at 4.8 inches and the 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard.

The upcoming next-gen iPhone will feature "hardware and design tweaks" along with some exciting software changes that will integrate iBeacon, Touch ID and Passbook "as part of a push into new services with mobile payments," Arcuri claims. He believes that the iPhone 5S was a "set-up" for the iPhone 6, along with the new iOS version it will launch.

As for the smartphone's 'locked-in' 4.8-inch screen, the question remains whether Apple will step up the phone's pixel per inch resolution or opt for for the same 1136-by-640 proportion featured in its predecessors, giving it a slightly smaller ppi. It certainly seems more likely that Apple would increase the ppi density, rather than take a step back with their new model, Forbes reports.

The iPhone 6's upgraded Wi-Fi capabilities would match it up to the upgraded 2013 Mac desktop. The 5S only supports the 802.11n standard.

Arcuri also claimed that Apple will release a 13-inch iPad in 2014, rumored to be dubbed the "Pro," that will "blur the lines between tablets and PCs."

Apple may be readying two 6 models for 2014, but according to a new report, consumers expect the smartphones to debut together.

reports that Apple will launch the 6 this summer, with the model releasing sometime during the fall. chinese free new year cards designs analyst Sun claims that trial production of the variant could start as soon as next month. Should everything go as planned, mass production would then kick off in May, suggesting an announcement at the conference in June.

also states that the 6 will feature the same pixel screen resolution as its predecessor, 1136×640 , while the higher resolution displays will be reserved for the model.

Could users finally get NFC this May?

A recent Apple patent filing suggests the upcoming 6 could finally include the feature, which has debuted on many Android, Blackberry and Windows Phone devices in the past year. The smartphone payment integration patent is one of two that Apple filed for, according to Geek.

The new patent focuses on mobile payments, where NFC would be used through Passbook, which already allows users to store cards and tickets digitally.

The inclusion of NFC would appear more likely if the next is indeed dubbed the 6, as it would feature an updated hardware design that could support the NFC chip, Geek reports.

The next-generation Apple flagship has been largely rumored to be first bout with the '' competition, but by offering two models, it would appear the Cupertino-based tech giant is still offering a bit of variety for consumers who may not want a phone with a large display size.

According to DisplaySearch's research, the model will come with resolution, and LCD display technology, while the model will launch with resolution at 401 and the same display technology.

Apple will release the 6, in May and a large tablet, the Max, in October, according to a new report by .

The report cites "sources from the upstream supply chain," which told the website that China Mobile deal has made it apparent that the Cupertino-based company needs to unveil a -sized smartphone to compete with in the Asian market. The release of the 6 would also help make the more "affordable and attractive" to the Chinese market, where it has been a disappointment for its higher-than-expected price, Forbes reports.

adds that the Max will release in the fall "targeting North educational market [and]... manufactured by Quanta Computer." The tablet would arrive as a competitor to 's rumored 12 to tablet and feature new cases with integrated keyboards and batteries, according to the report. The Max will be best-suited for high school and college students that require a tablet that can 'do work,' Forbes reports.

© 2014 Design & Trend All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

Ariel Dunes Seascape Resorts 2014 Promo Codes

Destin, FL (PRWEB) January 22, 2014 is announcing their latest Deal Now for Ariel Dunes Resort in Destin, FL. Ariel Dunes is a beautiful condo that overlooks the emerald green waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The resort features an 18-hole golf course, on-site restaurants, two swimming pools and a short walk to the beach. These promo codes below are only valid when a condo is purchased through

AR597 - $100 OFF any stay over $1500 at Ariel Dunes
SS992 - $50 OFF any stay over $500 at Ariel Dunes
SCAPE5 - 5% OFF any order at Seascape Resorts or Majestic Sun

The codes are only valid when booking with All orders include free dolphin cruise tickets and beach service (2 chairs and 1 umbrella). Book online today using or call 800-450-7139.

30% Off JCPenney Coupons 2014 - JCP Coupon Codes & Free Shipping

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30% off Kohl's Coupons 2014 - Online Promo Code and Free Shipping

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Slideshow: New Airbus price changes comparison with Boeing

Fresh off a record year, Airbus this week announced new prices on its line of passenger jets, raising them by an average of 2.6 percent based on its standard escalation formula.

Airbus' prices were already higher than rival Boeing's on most comparable aircraft, a gap that now widens from where it was when Boeing raised its prices in August 2013.

Airbus COO of Customers John Leahy said in a press release that the new pricing "reaffirms the unbeatable value of Airbus' modern, fuel-efficient aircraft family."

Fuel is an airline's biggest expenditure, so the operating cost over time has to be factored into what they are willing to pay for an aircraft.

We'll leave fuel-efficiency claims for another day and for now focus on just the listed Review of comparable aircraft.

Boeing, it should be noted, also had a record year in 2013 in terms of both deliveries and total backlog.

It bested Airbus on deliveries - 648 to 626 - while Airbus held the edge in backlog with 5,559 unfilled orders to Boeing's 5,080.

Airbus also came out ahead in terms of net orders, 1,503 to 1,355.

Those numbers all show increasing demand for both company's passenger jets, many of which carry Wichita-built or designed components.

So, click through the adjoining slideshow to see how some of Boeing's average prices compare to the new prices from Airbus. Seating capacity can vary depending on the layout of the aircraft. Where available, this comparison lists capacity in a typical two-class layout.

Both companies list their average prices on their websites, though customers typically buy aircraft from both at discounted prices.

You can also take a look back here to see what those Airbus prices were before.

Daniel McCoy covers aviation, manufacturing and automotive.

Ailene Voisin: For Harbaugh and Carroll, today's game is a big deal

Dynamic quarterbacks, punishing defenses, crowd noise that shakes buildings. The two best teams in the NFC in another grudge match. So, no, coffee won't be needed for this one.

Today's NFC Championship Game between the 49ers and Seahawks would be compelling even if Jim Harbaugh and Pete Carroll were friends. Lucky us, they're not.

The coaching adversaries – who conveniently work in the same division – face each other for a third time this season in a game that will determine which team advances to the Super Bowl and which team will seek cover, somewhere, anywhere, preferably under the nearest pile of rocks.

That's not just compelling, that's irresistible. Pro sports hasn't witnessed a clashing-egos, big-stage collision like this since Pat Riley and Phil Jackson. Or Phil Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy. Or, for that matter, Phil Jackson and anyone.

While Harbaugh continues to downplay the rift in the walkup to the game, insisting Wednesday that the two coaches share "football, competition, winning," he hasn't been so inclined to turn the other cheek in the past.

Where do you start with these two? In the womb?

Tension either erupted (or became apparent) while Harbaugh and Carroll were transforming their respective programs at Stanford and USC. Harbaugh, who in 2007 predicted Carroll would soon abandon the Trojans for the NFL, furthered the rivalry when the teams played on Nov. 14, 2009.

What happened that day in the Los Angeles Coliseum probably should have taken place in Rome. With Stanford leading 48-21 and on the verge of ending USC's 35-home game win streak, the Cardinal went for a two-point conversion.

"What's your Promo Codes?" Carroll asked Harbaugh in their famous postgame exchange.

"What's your deal?" Harbaugh retorted.

Left unsaid was this: Stanford was clean, USC was not, and everyone knew it. A four-year NCAA investigation concluded that running back Reggie Bush had received improper payments and benefits, and the Trojans were stripped of their 2005 national championship and banned from the postseason for two years.

By then, Carroll had left for the NFL, only to be reunited with Harbaugh one year later – and Harbaugh's sharp memory and hard feelings. The Seahawks' recurring issues with performance-enhancing drugs prompted another famous dig from the 49ers coach last summer: "Play by the rules. And you always want to be above reproach. Especially when you're good, because you don't want people to come back and say, 'They're winning because they're cheating.' We want to be above reproach in everything and do everything by the rules."

So, no, these coaches don't want to be in the same room, never mind the same stadium. Again, lucky us. Harbaugh vs. Carroll wasn't nearly as much fun when Harbaugh was tutoring Andrew Luck in Palo Alto and Carroll was struggling to turn around the Seahawks.

Rivalries generally require three elements: willing participants, contrasting personalities and winning records. Harbaugh vs. Carroll meets all three, and Harbaugh holds the overall edge.

He wins, everywhere. There he was at quaint University of San Diego (2004-06), in baseball cap, sweatshirts and khakis, winning 22 of his last 24 games and guiding the Toreros to a 29-6 record. There he was at Stanford (2007-10), his shocking success including victories over Carroll's Trojans (who had been favored by 41 points) and a 12-1 record and an Orange Bowl win to close out his college coaching career.

Now here he is back in the pros, a high-wire act on the sideline, sharp-tongued at times, evasive and entertaining at other times, his career a continuing blur; this is all happening so fast.

Harbaugh, 50, is the first coach in the modern era to lead a team to the conference finals in his first three years. A victory today would put his 49ers in the Super Bowl in two consecutive seasons, another first for an NFL coach in his first three years, and more importantly, provide a reason to forget all about last year's loss to his brother and the Baltimore Ravens.

"I was thinking of the things I would trade to be able to compete as a player in these games," Harbaugh reflected Wednesday.

His college degree, for sure. His house, absolutely.

"I was thinking like a body part," he added. "Could I do without an arm?"

We think he was kidding. We think.

Harbaugh is a terrible loser. Losing to Carroll would be worse than losing to his brother.

Call The Bee's Ailene Voisin, (916) 321-1208.

Beyond Compare: Online Retailer Assessed Multi-Million Civil Penalty In California For Allegedly Deceptive Price Comparisons - Media, Telecoms, IT, Entertainment - United

A recent California state court held that, Inc. ("Overstock") must pay the Deal Of The Day for its allegedly deceptive pricing practices. Seven district attorneys throughout California brought a complaint against Overstock in 2010, alleging five separate violations of state law. The focus of these claims was that Overstock allegedly made false and misleading statements in reference to the "advertised reference price" ("ARP") that appeared on its website. Specifically, the attorneys general stated that Overstock was deceiving consumers about the savings the company promises by routinely fabricating or inflating the prices its competitors reportedly charge, and that where Overstock did examine the competing prices for a certain product, it deliberately lists the highest retail price rather than the price most often encountered. Last week, the trial court issued an injunction against the online seller, and assessed an approximately $6.8 million civil penalty.

In examining the claims, the court paid special attention to Overstock's terminology on its website, as well as its pricing policies. First, it distinguished between Overstock's use of the term "list price" from its later use of the phrases "compare" and "compare at." It also noted that until September 2008, Overstock had no processes or procedures in place to confirm that for any given list price there was in fact at least one instance of a sale at this price. However, at that point Overstock created a "Pricing Validation Team" to document the sources of ARPs. Still, Overstock would seek and use as the ARP, the highest street price it could find.

The court explained that the analysis differs depending on whether the ARP was described as "list price" or "compare" price. When called a "list price," the court found that Overstock was making a false representation because this price was not always the actual list price of the product being sold. Rather, it sometimes was a price based on a formula or the price of a similar but non-identical product.

For the "compare" and "compare at" eras, while not literally false, the court found Overstock's practices were misleading in certain circumstances. The court held it was misleading to use formulas or similar products to set ARPs, and that it is misleading to set ARPs based on the highest price found without disclosing that practice. The court went on to provide examples of what acceptable disclosures should entail:

  • If using MRSP as the ARP, the disclosure should say "compare MSRP." (It is interesting to note that the NAD has suggested that use of MSRP as a reference price if it is not a prevailing price paid by consumers in the market is deceptive. See here and here.)
  • If an online retailer uses non-sale department store prices as ARP, the disclosure should say "compare regular department store."
  • If making an unqualified use of "compare," you must either use a range of prices of what is commonly found on the Internet ("compare at $X to $Y") or make an effort to identify and use the prices it finds at one or more of the major online retail sites.

The court then issued an injunction that would:

  • Prohibit the use of ARPs based on a formula or a similar but non-identical product;
  • Prohibit the use of the highest price found anywhere unless the basis of the comparison is adequately disclosed (as described earlier);
  • Allow the unqualified use of "compare" language only if there is a good faith effort to determine the prevailing market price of the product;
  • Require a hyperlink defining any term used associated with an ARP (e.g. "MSRP"); and
  • Set a 90-day limit as the maximum period the ARP may remain posted before it must be validated as a posted price.

The court denied the restitution request for consumers who were misled by Overstock's pricing practices, but did hit Overstock with a stiff civil penalty. The court assessed a daily civil penalty of $3,500 from March 24, 2006 September 24, 2008 (the approximate date of the pricing validation team implementation), and a daily penalty of $2,000 thereafter. The total civil penalty assessed was therefore $6,819,000.

Overstock has already said it plans to appeal both the injunction and the amount of the penalty. And we are glad. This is one of the few litigated cases involving allegations around sales pricing claims. And while we are all opposed to fraudulent pricing claims, as we have written before, these laws and enforcement of them really seems to deter good faith discounting, as well. Marketers discount their prices only if it will promise more traffic in their stores. And more traffic can only be generated if the price savings is advertised. The investigatory hurdles set up by this decision may make offering legally compliant sales an impossibility for all but the most sophisticated retailers. And even for the big guys, the cost of such a compliance program would surely mean consumers are paying more. But in the meantime, discounting retailers would do well to pay attention to these California developments.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

More Popular Related Articles on Media, Telecoms, IT, Entertainment from USA

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10 Cheap Stocks to Buy Under $10

Jeff Reeves, Editor of

Finding cheap stocks to buy is no easy task in any market. But after a 30% run-up for stocks in 2013, many of the Deal News cheap stocks have climbed so much that they are no longer so affordable.

But if you know where to look, you can still uncover cheap stocks to buy under $10 per share that hold significant upside in the new year. Sure, some of these cheap stocks are underperformers waiting for their turnaround. But there are a number of stocks out there that started 2013 at $5 but still trade easily under $10 a share - and have serious momentum on their side.

Buying the best cheap stocks involves much more than simply looking for a low stock price, however.

Here are 10 cheap stocks under $10 I have my eye on because they have specific strengths that look to capitalize on the current market rally in 2014:

Article printed from InvestorPlace Media,

©2014 InvestorPlace Media, LLC

Which Tobacco Company Offers the Best Dividend?

A primary reason that retail investors still flock to tobacco companies is that they pay large dividends. Altria Group ( ) , Philip Morris International ( ) , Lorillard ( ) , and Reynolds American ( ) have paid above-average dividends for years.

However, too many individual investors focus only on the dividend history instead of each company's ability to raise its dividend in the future. By taking a deeper look at the factors that affect dividend payouts, investors can find the most promising dividend stock.

High yields
Since tobacco companies tend to have liberal dividend policies and limited growth prospects, they usually offer above-average dividend yields. The average S&P 500 index company yields approximately 1.9%. Altria, Philip Morris International, Lorillard, and Reynolds American each exceed the average by a factor of two.

If you only look at the dividend yield, they all look pretty similar. But once you dig deeper, you will find that there is a bigger difference between the Deal Today dividend and worst dividend than their yields suggest.

Which stock has the best ability to raise its dividend?
For dividend investors, the most important aspect of a stock is its ability to increase the dividend in the future. One way to determine how much management can increase the dividend is to look at the payout ratio -- calculated as dividends paid divided by earnings. The lower the payout ratio, the greater the company's ability to increase the dividend.

An even better metric to examine than the payout ratio is to look at three-year average cash flow from operations divided by the dividend payment. This metric is better than the payout ratio for two reasons. First, it uses cash instead of earnings to calculate dividend coverage. Companies pay dividends in cash, not earnings, so knowing how much cash is coming in relative to the dividend is an important consideration. Second, it uses average cash flow, which gives a much better picture of normal cash flow than any one year.

Over the last three years, Altria averaged $3.4 billion in cash from operations. It paid $3.5 billion in dividends over the last four quarters. Altria is pushing its dividend to the limit by aggressively paying out its cash flow. On the other hand, Philip Morris International and Lorillard generate significantly more cash than they pay in dividends, meaning that they have room to raise their dividends in the near future. Reynolds American is in a position similar to Altria and will need to continue growing cash from operations in order to increase its dividend.

One of the reasons Altria can pay such an aggressive dividend is that it has a lot of cash on its balance sheet. As of its most recent quarterly filing, Altria has $4.2 billion in cash and equivalents on its balance sheet -- close to 1.2 times its last four quarters of dividend payments. Cash on hand gives it the ability to keep paying its dividend even if cash from operations comes in below expectations.

However, investors should prefer cash coverage like that of Lorillard and Reynolds American, which could close down for two years and still maintain their dividends. Philip Morris International does not have much cash on hand relative to its dividend, but its cash from operations is so high that there is little doubt about its ability to increase its dividend in the future.

Competitive position and market opportunity
Intense regulation of the tobacco industry has solidified the big tobacco companies' respective market share. Altria is the largest player in the U.S. market. Its Marlboro brand captures a 42.6% market share, bringing the company's total market share to slightly less than 50%. Philip Morris International, the international distributor of Marlboro, has a 29% global market share excluding China and the U.S. Lorillard's Newport brand dominates the U.S. menthol market; Newport has a 37% share of the U.S. menthol-cigarette market and Lorillard has a 40.4% of the U.S. menthol market overall.

Finally, Reynolds American is the No. 2 U.S. cigarette manufacturer, behind only Altria, and owns five of the top 10 U.S. brands. The majority of its sales come from the more profitable premium category. Since severe advertising restrictions make it difficult for any company to steal significant market share, none of these companies is at significant risk of losing ground.

Moreover, all four companies have an opportunity in e-cigarettes. E-cigarettes are purported to be much safer than traditional cigarettes and could soon become an important part of the cigarette market. All of the big tobacco companies could easily dominate the e-cigarette market by adding line extensions to their traditional cigarette brands. This will enable them to boost free cash flow and pay higher dividends.

Bottom line
Of the four companies discussed, Philip Morris International and Lorillard have the most attractive dividends. They both yield more than 4% and have significant cash coverage. Altria and Reynolds American are the most generous dividend payers, but their ability to raise their dividends in the coming years will be hampered by low cash coverage.