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  • Today, 2:40 AM
    • Media mogul Sumner Redstone is suing two ex-girlfriends for civil claims including elder abuse, marking the latest litigation surrounding the 93-year-old billionaire.
    • Redstone alleges he was forced to borrow $100M from National Amusements, the private company that holds his voting shares of CBS and Viacom (VIA, VIAB), to cover the tax obligations on gifts he gave the women.
    | Today, 2:40 AM
  • Yesterday, 7:38 PM
    • On a week where AMC's (AMCX +4.1%) The Walking Dead returned to action and nearly bested NFL football, CBS (CBS -0.6%) did what it does, and led prime-time ratings again.
    • The network came in first for the week with an average of 9.9M viewers, ahead of NBC (CMCSA -0.7%) with 7.7M. ABC (DIS -0.7%) averaged 5.4M viewers and Fox (FOX, FOXA) 3.1M. NBC led the coveted 18-49 demographic.
    • In cable, Fox News was the leader again, with 3.21M viewers, ahead of AMC's zombie-boosted 2.172M and CNN's (TWX +0.5%) 2.169M. ESPN fell in fourth place with 2.14M viewers, ahead of MSNBC's 1.78M.
    • Among individual programs, The Walking Dead's 17M was only topped by NBC's broadcast of the Seattle Seahawks-Arizona Cardinals game (17.7M). Rounding out the next five programs, it was all CBS: 60 Minutes, with 15.99M; NCIS, with 14.77M; Chicago at Green Bay football, 14.2M; The Big Bang Theory, 14.2M; Bull, 12.3M.
    | Yesterday, 7:38 PM
  • Mon, Oct. 24, 6:59 PM
    • After some long prep, Nielsen (NLSN +0.6%) is finally ready to measure out-of-home viewing, tapping some previously invisible ratings from viewership in public places, including restaurants, bars, airports and waiting rooms.
    • The company will use its Portable People Meter to measure viewing from panelists wherever they go, and combine that with its National TV ratings panel for in-home viewing. It's a stand-along service for the moment, with plans to integrated it directly into national TV ratings in the future.
    • Nielsen will offer both program and commercial ratings for live through Live+7 days. Based on more than 75,000 Portable People Meter panelists, the company will be able to project out-of-home viewing for more than half the U.S. population.
    • The service should launch in April with data back to January, while data back to September 2016 should be added shortly after launch.
    • News like this could be a boon for key providers of major-event sports broadcasting, which often gets significant viewership at bars and restaurants: ESPN (NYSE:DIS), Fox (FOX, FOXA), and Turner (NYSE:TWX) among others like CBS (NYSE:CBS) and NBC (NASDAQ:CMCSA).
    | Mon, Oct. 24, 6:59 PM | 13 Comments
  • Sun, Oct. 23, 10:24 AM
    • Discovery Communications (NASDAQ:DISCA), Scripps Networks (NYSE:SNI), AMC Networks (NASDAQ:AMCX), Lions Gate (NYSE:LGF), Viacom (VIA, VIAB), and CBS already had their tails in the air on Friday afternoon as merger talk between  AT&T and Time Warner heated up.
    • Previously: AT&T seals $85.4B deal for Time Warner (Oct. 23)
    | Sun, Oct. 23, 10:24 AM | 13 Comments
  • Fri, Oct. 21, 5:23 PM
    • AT&T's (T -3%) interest in Time Warner (TWX +7.8%) progressed quickly from "had talks" to "advanced talks" and now a deal could be set by Monday -- which Bloomberg says is due to a sped-up timetable caused by Bloomberg's initial report.
    • That's because AT&T is said to be concerned that the publicity could allow other interested suitors like Apple (AAPL -0.4%) or Alphabet (GOOG +0.3%, GOOGL +0.3%) to jump in -- and indeed Apple is said to be monitoring the deal talks, after it made its own approach to Time Warner a few months ago, The Wall Street Journal reports.
    • Those talks involved execs under Apple chief Tim Cook and didn't get beyond a preliminary stage. A source tells the WSJ that Google doesn't look interested in an offer for Time Warner.
    • But the story of the deal points out just how much behind-the-scenes strategic talk is going on in the media/telecom spaces, as companies vie to be among the new leaders in an upended, converged digital media climate.
    • Sumner Redstone was said to be considering not only the merger of CBS (CBS +2.1%) and Viacom (VIA +2.7%, VIAB +2.8%) that he's already pushing for, but also to combine that entity with Time Warner.
    • Meanwhile, Comcast (CMCSA -0.5%) could join another company to get involved, the WSJ says, though that makes more sense if Time Warner's open to being parted out.
    • Unlikely to join in this time: Twenty-First Century Fox (FOX +2.2%, FOXA +2.2%), whose own pursuit of Time Warner failed in 2014 at $85/share, and Walt Disney (DIS +1.1%).
    • Previously: Time Warner at 15-year highs on merger talk; media companies rise (Oct. 21 2016)
    | Fri, Oct. 21, 5:23 PM | 64 Comments
  • Fri, Oct. 21, 12:02 PM
    • Time Warner (TWX +12.4%) is still climbing and cruising to 15-year highs after the WSJ report that it's in advanced talks to be taken over by AT&T (T -3.9%), which is now at its lowest point since February.
    • The deal -- which would create a media/telecom giant that would reshape the industry -- would be likely cash and stock, though talks are fluid and might not end in a deal.
    • The mix of the deal is likely crucial to its outcome, with Time Warner (not to be confused with Time Warner Cable, now part of Charter Communications) now worth more than $75B -- and a year after AT&T ponied up nearly $49B to take over DirecTV.
    • Other potential acquisition targets in media (is anything off the table in a rapidly consolidating sector?) are on the move: DISCA +6.4%, SNI +5.6%, AMCX +4.3%. Lions Gate (NYSE:LGF) made its own move up, +2.4%.
    • Engaged in talks about their own re-merger, Viacom (VIA +2.8%, VIAB +4.1%) is up, as is erstwhile and possibly future partner CBS (CBS +2.7%).
    | Fri, Oct. 21, 12:02 PM | 10 Comments
  • Thu, Oct. 20, 3:17 PM
    • TV ratings for the third (and, to the relief of many, final) presidential debate came in on par with the second showdown, though still short of the first-debate record.
    • Across 11 networks measured by Nielsen, 68.76M viewers watched -- close to the 69M that viewed the second debate, but without PBS factored in yet, which could push past debate 2. This was the first presidential debate that didn't run against pro football competition.
    • Among broadcast networks (where the big four totaled 38.1M viewers), ABC (NYSE:DIS) led with 11M, followed by NBC (CMCSA -0.9%) with 10.4M, CBS (CBS +0.8%) with 10.1M, and Fox (FOX -0.7%, FOXA -0.1%) with 6.6M. Univision (Pending:UVN) and Telemundo added 2.4M and 1.5M respectively.
    • In cable, Fox News was the one on top, with 11.3M, best among all networks. CNN (TWX +0.4%) drew 8.7M, and MSNBC 5.5M.
    • Updated: Final numbers came in at 71.5M viewers, surpassing the second debate's 69M, but well short of the record 84.4M who viewed the first debate.
    | Thu, Oct. 20, 3:17 PM | 19 Comments
  • Thu, Oct. 20, 2:44 PM
    • NBCUniversal (CMCSA -0.9%) is in talks with YouTube about joining the latter's burgeoning live TV streaming service set to debut next year, says The Hollywood Reporter.
    • Competitors among the big four broadcast networks were already reportedly in discussion to be part of Unplugged, as the service will be called. CBS (CBS +0.7%) has a definitive deal to be part; Disney/ABC (DIS -0.1%) and Fox (FOX -0.7%, FOXA -0.1%) are close to distribution deals as well.
    • NBCU would bring broadcast NBC and likely its cable channels, including USA Network, Bravo and Syfy among others.
    • CBS -- which runs its own streaming live service (CBS All Access, at $5.99/month or $9.99/month) -- reportedly sought a rate between the $2/subscriber it gets from cablecos and the $5.99 for All Access.
    | Thu, Oct. 20, 2:44 PM
  • Thu, Oct. 20, 9:34 AM
    • A re-merger of CBS and Viacom (VIA -0.5%, VIAB -0.3%) could be set by Thanksgiving -- or so Viacom shareholders believe, the New York Post reports.
    • Some of those shareholders are holding out hope for something extra beyond an at-the-market all-stock deal, the paper says -- perhaps Dalian Wanda Group with a check for Paramount Pictures (even if that's just financing help on its slate).
    • “Perhaps there is a contingent consideration — maybe Viacom shareholders are given an opportunity to get a future payout if targets are met,” a source told the Post.
    • With interim CEO Tom Dooley leaving next month, a leading candidate to take over Viacom is Bob Bakish, the president of Viacom International, though depending on the source, there are a number of "leading candidates."
    • Previously: Bloomberg: CBS nears hiring of Goldman, JPMorgan on possible Viacom deal (Oct. 14 2016)
    • Previously: Viacom confirms MS, Allen, LionTree advising on potential CBS deal (Oct. 14 2016)
    | Thu, Oct. 20, 9:34 AM | 5 Comments
  • Wed, Oct. 19, 2:51 PM
    • A new TV service from Google (GOOG +0.8%, GOOGL +0.6%) is likely to come in early 2017 after the company reached a carriage deal with CBS (CBS +0.7%) and is near distribution deals with Disney (DIS +0.6%) and Fox (FOX +0.8%, FOXA +0.4%) as well, The Wall Street Journal reports.
    • Reportedly called "Unplugged," the service would target cost-conscious viewers with a "skinny" bundle of live channels at $25-$40 per month, sources told the paper.
    • While it would be housed on Google's YouTube infrastructure, it would be separate from the existing ad-free YouTube Red subscription offering, though a curated part of Red would be part of the Unplugged bundle.
    • The bold move (with deals coming more rapidly than Apple's progress into TV) comes ahead of a planned live service from Hulu (CMCSA +0.2%, DIS, FOX, FOXA, TWX -0.1%) as well as AT&T's (T +0.2%) DirecTV Now offering arriving later this year (likely at $50/month or more), and enters a skinny space that already holds Sling TV (DISH +1.4%).
    • Updated 3:48 p.m.: Viacom (VIA +0.3%, VIAB +0.8%), home of MTV, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central and BET, is also in advanced talks to join the service.
    • Wall Street Journal report
    | Wed, Oct. 19, 2:51 PM | 35 Comments
  • Wed, Oct. 19, 2:38 PM
    • Google (GOOG, GOOGL) has reached a deal with CBS (NYSE:CBS) on a planned Web TV service -- and the search giant is also in advanced talks with Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS) and Twenty-First Century Fox (FOX, FOXA) to join, according to Dow Jones Newswires.
    • The service would be housed on Google's YouTube, which has made inroads this year on live-streaming as well as subscription offerings, including ad-free product YouTube Red.
    • The move comes slightly ahead of an expected late-2016 launch from AT&T (NYSE:T) of its DirecTV Now streaming service. AT&T chief Randall Stephenson has said that service would be "very, very" aggressively priced; most analysts expect an offering around $50 a month or as much as $60/month.
    • AT&T (T) makes a dip down, now up just 0.3% on the day.
    | Wed, Oct. 19, 2:38 PM | 30 Comments
  • Tue, Oct. 18, 7:15 PM
    • There was no presidential debate in the way this time. Sunday Night Football on NBC (CMCSA -0.2%), usually a reliable ratings horse, posted its smallest audience in five years.
    • NBC drew 13.6M viewers (to a not-quite-prime matchup of Indianapolis and Houston), good enough for just the fifth-highest-rated program of the week vs. a usual near-top spot. The new numbers are piling in to a debate about what's happening to football, with an across-the-board ratings decline worrying the wide number of companies and advertisers that count on heavy viewership.
    • A week ago, with 66.5M viewers watching Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump go at it, Sunday Night Football drew 14.84M viewers (a 26% drop).
    • The Thursday Night Football game on CBS (CBS -0.5%) slotted in a bit higher as the third-most-watched program, with 14.49M. No. 1: The O.T. on Fox (FOX +1.1%, FOXA +1.1%) with 15.38M, followed by NCIS on CBS with $14.77M, and The Big Bang Theory on CBS at No. 4 with 14.41M.
    • For the week in prime-time, CBS was No. 1 with 9.1M viewers on average; NBC had 7.2M; ABC (DIS +0.4%) had 5.8M, ahead of Fox's 5.1M. In cable prime-time: Fox News led with 2.44M on average, followed by TBS (TWX +0.9%) at 2.23M and ESPN with 1.99M.
    • After hours: CMCSA -1.3%.
    | Tue, Oct. 18, 7:15 PM | 82 Comments
  • Tue, Oct. 18, 9:58 AM
    • CBS, Lions Gate (NYSE:LGF) and King Digital (NASDAQ:ATVI) are coming together in some good old candy-crushing synergy. The three have committed to an order for a TV series based on the hit mobile game Candy Crush Saga.
    • The show -- an hourlong live-game format that will pit teams of two against giant game boards -- will also feature a play-along option for home viewers. It doesn't have a set debut date.
    • Candy Crush Saga and its companion game Candy Crush Soda Saga generated an average of 18B game rounds last month, CBS says.
    • In early action: CBS +0.4%; LGF +0.6%; ATVI +1.7%.
    | Tue, Oct. 18, 9:58 AM | 4 Comments
  • Fri, Oct. 14, 6:49 PM
    • More firms are set to climb on the CBS-Viacom deal examination train, as the management team at CBS (CBS -0.2%) is close to hiring Goldman Sachs (GS +1.9%) and JPMorgan Chase (JPM -0.3%) to advise it on a possible re-merger, Bloomberg reports.
    • While those banks will advise CEO Les Moonves and the leadership, that's separate from the board's special committee hiring Lazard as it announced last week. CBS could add in other banks as well.
    • Earlier today, the special committee at Viacom (VIA -0.3%, VIAB +0.5%) confirmed it was working with Morgan Stanley as well as Allen & Co. and LionTree to look at the deal.
    • Meanwhile, while Moonves has said he'd want autonomy in running such a combination, Sumner and Shari Redstone (who control the two companies, and have said they don't intend to give up control) reportedly aren't willing to offer Moonves a stake or voting control in National Amusements, the family holding company.
    | Fri, Oct. 14, 6:49 PM | 2 Comments
  • Fri, Oct. 14, 10:28 AM
    • Viacom (VIA +0.5%, VIAB +0.7%) has confirmed reports that it hired Morgan Stanley as a financial adviser as it examines potential for a merger with CBS (CBS +0.7%).
    • Viacom also engaged Allen & Co. and LionTree to assist in examining the deal. Viacom had also previously hired Debevoise & Plimpton for legal advice, and CBS retained Lazard as a financial adviser.
    • The two companies have formed special committees and hired advisers after a request from Sumner Redstone's National Amusements (which controls 80% of each) to examine the prospect of merging back together.
    | Fri, Oct. 14, 10:28 AM | 4 Comments
  • Thu, Oct. 13, 2:25 PM
    • Viacom (VIA +1.9%, VIAB +1.8%) is moving up today as analysts raise their takes with discussion centered on the prospect of the company's potential reunion with CBS (CBS +0.4%).
    • Bank of America Merrill Lynch boosted the stock two notches to Buy, noting its low valuation and the possible remarriage, but analyst Jessica Reif Cohen says it may take some time for her enthusiasm to pan out. Even without a re-merger, new management (and some restructuring, possibly including asset sales) bodes well for the company's prospects.
    • She boosted her price target on VIAB to $44 from $37, implying 23% upside.
    • Wells Fargo also upgraded, to Market Perform from a previous Underperform. Analyst Marci Ryvicker sees less downside to Viacom these days, though she too doesn't necessarily think a merger is close.
    • "A CBS-VIAB combo does not appear imminent," she writes. "But if/when it does happen, we don’t see CBS paying less than $32-33 in a take-under, which doesn’t present much downside risk (we downgraded VIAB to Underperform on 7/10).
    • "The one piece we believe people are missing is incremental programming cost in a VIAB turnaround--we forecast AT LEAST $250MM, which offsets a lot of our initial $400MM synergy est. We cut VIAB ests & reduced the val. range to $33-35. BUT, we upgrade to Market Perform as we believe we’re close to the pot’l floor."
    | Thu, Oct. 13, 2:25 PM | 5 Comments