Entries in Ratings (8)


Breaking Down the Business of the Oscars: Who Has the Most Stake?

Jamie McCarthy/WireImage(LOS ANGELES) -- When the stars hit the red carpet on Sunday night for the 2012 Academy Awards show, most of the focus will be on the glitz and glamour of Hollywood at its best. Gowns will be discussed before the show and acceptance speeches will be analyzed later. But as much as the Oscars are about artistic achievement, they are also about business.

An Oscar win can mean big bucks for the winning film. IBIS World says that Best Picture nominees see an average 17.7 percent boost at the box office and the winner can get as much as an additional 15 percent boost after that.

But there's often more at stake than just box office. An Oscar win can do a lot for a studio or actor's reputation and a loss can sometimes hurt. Here are five things to be looking for at Sunday's awards ceremony that could affect the business in the coming year.

1. George Clooney Win or Lose

Clooney used to have a film-making motto: One for them, one for me. That meant that he would do big-budget films like Ocean's Thirteen to help pay for his smaller movies like The Good German. But lately, Clooney has been focusing solely on the smaller films. He had two movies this year, The Ides of March, which he directed and co-starred in, and The Descendants. The Descendants was the more successful film. It earned $144 million at the global box office and a Best Actor nomination for Clooney. If Clooney wins on Sunday (as he's widely expected to do) that could embolden the star to keep going with the lower-budget movies.

2. The Weinstein Machine

It's hard to remember that as little as two years ago Harvey Weinstein had almost been written off for dead. A string of poorly performing films, non film investments and debt were crushing his company. Now he's once again the king of awards, thanks to 2011’s The King's Speech which won four Oscars including Best Picture, and The Artist which is now nominated for ten awards.

3. The Help

The Academy had the opportunity to nominate up to 10 films this year for Best Picture but only nominated nine. The idea was to get more widely popular films onto the list but the only film that was a box office hit on the list of nominees is The Help which earned $206 million at the global box office. If The Help does walk away with a bunch of statues, it will be a victory for mass-market crowd-pleasing films over artsy fare.

4. Twitter

The social networking site is playing a bigger role than ever in predicting the 2012 Oscars and it's not going with the films that most pundits think will win. Analysis from USC's Innovation Lab shows that Twitter is predicting a Best Picture win for Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris. Banyan Branch, a social media agency out of Seattle, is finding that The Help is getting the most love on Twitter and Facebook. If it turns out that social media is a better predictor of Oscar winners than the pundits, some folks might find themselves out of jobs.

5. Billy Crystal’s Ratings

The 2012 Oscars were supposed to be edgier with Eddie Murphy hosting and action director Brett Ratner producing. But after the duo's film Tower Heist bombed at the box office (and Ratner said, "Rehearsals are for fags") they both dropped out. Hollywood established players, Brian Grazer and Billy Crystal stepped in to put together what will likely be a much more proper show. This is the ninth time Crystal has hosted the event. Ratings for the show peaked in 1998 with 55.25 million viewers when Crystal was the host, according to Horizon Media. Can he bring back some of that ratings magic in 2012?

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Free App for Checking Video Game Ratings

ABC News/Activision(NEW YORK) -- Wanna check the rating on a video game without looking at the package?  There’s an app for that.  Patricia Vance, president of the Entertainment Software Ratings Board, says it is now offering a free mobile app that features voice recognition technology so users can simply say the name of the game to obtain a ratings summary.  The app works for over 20-thousand video game titles.

Vance says, “There's really no excuse for parents to be surprised when they bring these gifts home for the holidays and then the kid starts to play the game and they discover that's there's some sort of content that they weren't aware of.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Japanese Cars Top 'Consumer Reports' 2011 Rankings

STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Japanese brands again dominated Consumer Reports' reliability survey, while Ford Motor Co. sank in the magazine's 2011 ratings, thanks to three new models that had problems.

The most reliable cars came from Scion, Lexus, Acura, Mazda, Honda, and Toyota, the non-profit group said in a statement today.  Of the 91 Japanese models Consumer Reports ranked, 87 were rated average or better in predicted reliability; 24 Japanese models earned the highest rating.

Ford’s fall from the 10th to the 20th spot this year stemmed from its new Ford Explorer, Fiesta, and Focus, of which had below-average reliability in their first year. That was the biggest slip for any carmaker this year.

“Ford’s drop can also be attributed to problems with new technologies: the new MyFord Touch infotainment system and the new automated-manual transmission used in the Fiesta and Focus. On the bright side, the Ford Fusion Hybrid sedan remained outstanding, and other Fusion versions were above average,” Consumers said in a statement.

The ranking is based on responses on 1.3 million vehicles owned or leased by subscribers to Consumer Reports or users of

Full reliability history charts and predicted-reliability ratings on hundreds of 2012 models can be found online at’s reliability section and in the December issue of the magazine.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


S&P Rates Subprime Mortgages Higher Than U.S. Debt

Scott Eells/Bloomberg via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Standard & Poor’s, which downgraded the U.S. debt earlier this month, is rating a set of subprime mortgage securities as AAA, a notch above the U.S. credit rating of AA+.

Bloomberg is reporting that S&P awarded the top rating to a group of bonds tied to $497 million lent to homeowners with below-average credit scores and “almost no equity in their properties.” Most of the mortgages of Springleaf Finance Corp., which created the securities, are categorized as subprime or nonprime loans, according to Hoover’s. Springleaf is based in Evansville, Indiana.

S&P downgraded U.S. sovereign debt to AA+ on Aug. 5, resulting in criticism and scrutiny of the ratings agency and a swoon and in world stock prices.

S&P said the downgrade reflected its opinion that Congress’ U.S. deficit consolidation deal “falls short” of what is needed to “stabilize the government’s medium-term debt dynamics.”

The ratings firm defended its grade on the subprime mortgages -- loans the likes of which many experts say led to bursting of the housing bubble that started the economy on its tailspin -- in a statement to Bloomberg.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Moody's Ex-Staffer Says Ratings Rife with Conflicts

Scott Eells/Bloomberg via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The former Moody's analyst who filed blistering comments with U.S. regulators about conflicts of interest at his former employer says analysts must be shielded from retaliation if the bond ratings system is to be fixed.

William Harrington, a Moody's senior vice president in the Derivatives Group who was an employee from June 1999 until his resignation in July 2010, filed a 78-page letter with the Securities and Exchange Commission about proposed rules for the ratings agencies.

Harrington described systematic problems within the ratings agencies that can lead to conflicts of interest and flawed ratings reports. Harrington seems to confirm the familiar concern that Moody's is being paid by the companies whose securities it rates and therefore has their best interests at heart.

The major ratings agencies Moody's and Standard & Poor's have come under fire for their role in assigning top ratings to bundles of mortgage securities that went delinquent, leading to the financial meltdown that began in 2008.

Harrington said analysts were intimidated or harassed, and dissenting analysis was not properly weighed in final decisions. "Putting up a spirited effort before caving-in made analysts look good in the eyes of management. Opposing a banker or issuer brought only trouble from Moody's senior management," Harrington wrote.

He wrote that "bankers and issuers were willing to have as many calls a day as were necessary to wear a rating team down."

Formal feedback in annual reviews for an analyst, or "contributor," centered on "the recurring themes that the contributor should make life easier for bankers and issuers and that he should be more alert to the bottom line."

Over 55 comments have been submitted after the SEC announced the beginning of the public comment period in May.

An agency spokesman said the commission is beginning to sort through the comments and may not begin further steps until January to June next year.

In response to the Harrington's letter, Moody's issued a statement:

"We cannot emphasize strongly enough the importance Moody's places on the quality of our ratings and the integrity of our ratings process. For that very reason, we have robust protections in place to separate the commercial and analytical aspects of our business."

The goal of management, Harrington wrote, "is to mold analysts into pliable corporate citizens who cast their committee votes in line with the unchanging corporate credo of maximizing earnings of the largely captive franchise."

He wrote that the management and the board "are squarely responsible for the poor quality of previous Moody's opinions that ushered in the financial crisis and should not be given first shot at debasing future opinions as well. Seriously, dudes, not for nothing, but something is way wrong with this picture. The phrase 'bass ackwards' recurs. Please re-calibrate."

Harrington asks why analysts would want to work at Moody's given the possibly troubled internal reporting process within the company.

He answers that "analysts once came to Moody's solely to do work of which they would be proud, not to kowtow to their superiors and certainly not to prostrate themselves in front of whichever external entity happened to be footing the bill on a given day."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


DOJ Investigating Standard & Poor's Ratings of Mortgage Securities

Scott Eells/Bloomberg via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Credit rating agency Standard & Poor's is in possible trouble with the Justice Department about whether its ratings of dozens of mortgage securities were deliberately inaccurate, in turn contributing to the near meltdown of the financial industry in September 2008.

The action comes on the heels of S&P's decision earlier this month to lower the AAA rating of the U.S., which sent Wall Street into a tailspin.  However, the Obama administration's decision to conduct an investigation into S&P's rating of mortgage securities began before the downgrade.

Specifically, the government is looking into reports that S&P business managers overruled the findings of company analysts who wanted to downgrade the ratings of mortgage bonds.

In the years leading up to the collapse of the housing market, S&P and other agencies made huge profits on their high ratings of bundled mortgages, which valued them far more highly than their actual worth.

S&P could be in hot water if the Justice Department determines that its analysts put their company's business concerns ahead of their supposed independent evaluations.  However, criminal charges are unlikely, although a civil suit is possible.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Rank Your Co-Workers, See How They Rank You

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Chances are you've already sized up your co-workers in private, so why not have some fun with it online? At least that's what the new website Cubeduel wants you to do.

The new site, which launched this week, ranks your current and former co-workers by placing them in head-to-head match-ups and then letting you vote for your favorites. If you vote on enough duels, the site also reveals how others have rated you.

To access Cubeduel, you sign into the site with your LinkedIn information. The site then uses your work history to create the duels between current and former colleagues.

As you click on your favorites, the site combines your votes with those from other users to assign rankings to everyone on the site. Once you've voted on 20 pairs, Cubeduel reveals how many duels you've won and shows you the top scorers from each of the companies or organizations listed on your LinkedIn profile.

And if you're worried about getting in trouble with the boss, don't be. The founders say all voting is absolutely anonymous.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Consumer Watchdog Accused of Running 'Pay for Play' Scheme

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(ARLINGTON, Va.) -- The Better Business Bureau, one of the country's best known consumer watchdog groups, is being accused by business owners of running a "pay for play" scheme in which A-plus ratings are awarded to those who pay membership fees, and F ratings used to punish those who don't.

To prove the point, a group of Los Angeles business owners paid $425 to the Better Business Bureau and were able to obtain an A-minus grade for a non-existent company called Hamas, named after the Middle Eastern terror group.

"Right now, this rating system is really unworthy of consumer trust or confidence," said Connecticut attorney general Richard Blumenthal in an interview to be broadcast as part of an ABC News investigation airing Friday night on 20/20.

In an official demand letter sent to the national headquarters of the Better Business Bureau Thursday, Blumenthal called on the BBB to stop using its grading system, which he said was "potentially harmful and misleading" to consumers.

"The BBB accreditation and the BBB ratings systems is not about generating money," said BBB national president and CEO Steve Cox. He said the A minus grade for Hamas was given in error. "Plain and simple, we made a mistake," Cox told ABC News.

Errors seem to abound at the Better Business Bureau. As reported by an anonymous blogger the BBB also awarded an A minus rating to a non-existent sushi restaurant in Santa Ana, California and an A plus to a skinhead, neo-Nazi web site called Stormfront.  Each listing cost $425.

"They ran the credit card and within 12 hours they were an approved, accredited member," said the anonymous blogger, who runs a site called

"They're more interested in the money than their credibility," he said.

The BBB's Cox said the three listings were all mistakes made by sales people.

"That's an inaccurate statement that business people are able to buy As," Cox said. "We have more than 500,000 non-accredited businesses who have A ratings," he added.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio