• Fri, Jan. 20, 4:17 PM
    • Newly inaugurated President Trump will choose Ajit Pai to lead the Federal Communications Commission, Bloomberg reports.
    • Pai has been a vocal part of the two-commissioner Republican minority on the FCC under outgoing Chairman Tom Wheeler. Among his notable dissents has been one on the 2015 Open Internet order ("net neutrality") -- pointing to a possible reversal of the regulations that were opposed by major telecom players including AT&T (NYSE:T) and Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA).
    • If selected, Pai would lead the agency with a 2-1 GOP majority (for now; Trump can nominate commissioners to fill two open seats).
    • Along with opposing net neutrality regulations, Pai objected to a vote to set subscriber data privacy rules affecting broadband providers, and he is more supportive of industry mergers than agency Democrats.
    • FCC-related players: VZ, T, TMUS, S, DISH, SBGI, EVC, CMCSA, CHTR, NXST, CBS, MEG, CTL, FTR, BT, CVC/OTCPK:OTCPK:ATCEY, ARRS
    Fri, Jan. 20, 4:17 PM | 76 Comments
  • Thu, Jan. 19, 7:26 PM
    • Following a late extension to their agreement on New Year's Day, Charter Communications (NASDAQ:CHTR) and NBCUniversal (NASDAQ:CMCSA) have come to a channel carriage deal.
    • Few details were available about the length of the deal or which networks it covers.
    • NBCU has its 28 owned and operated NBC/Telemundo stations as well as cable networks including MSNBC, USA Network, Bravo and CNBC.
    Thu, Jan. 19, 7:26 PM | 1 Comment
  • Thu, Jan. 19, 3:12 PM
    • Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) is still bucking a down market, up 0.4% after a launch at Buy from HSBC.
    • Verizon (VZ -0.1%) isn't doing as well, despite being boosted to Buy at the firm from a previous Hold rating from analyst Sunil Rajgopal. Shares are trading today at $52.22; HSBC's boosted price target of $61 implies 17% upside.
    • Also in cablecos, HSBC launched Charter Communications (CHTR +0.7%) coverage at Hold, with a price target of $270 (implying 12% downside).
    • The firm's price target on Comcast is set at $83, implying 14% upside.
    Thu, Jan. 19, 3:12 PM
  • Wed, Jan. 18, 7:25 PM
    • After some doubt that bidding interest would be sufficient to bring the FCC's broadcast incentive spectrum auction to a close, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has confirmed the threshold was hit today.
    • That means with requirements satisfied ($17.65B in net proceeds as of round 2), the forward auction will conclude in the current stage (Stage 4).
    • Bidding will go on (resuming at 10 a.m. tomorrow) until there's no excess demand in any of the markets, and it will be followed by an assignment phases where winning wireless bidders can bid for specific blocks of spectrum.
    • The benefits of running an incentive auction are "indisputable," Wheeler says: "We will repurpose 70 MHz of high-value, completely clear low-band spectrum for mobile broadband on a nationwide basis.
    • "On top of that, 14 MHz of new unlicensed spectrum -– the test bed for wireless innovation -– will be available for consumer devices and new services. The auction will provide $10.05 billion to broadcast television licensees who participated and billions towards deficit reduction."
    • Spectrum players: VZ, T, TMUS, S, DISH, SBGI, EVC, CMCSA, CHTR, NXST, CBS, MEG
    • Previously: FCC airwaves auction goes tepid as bids fail to match broadcaster supply (Jan. 18 2017)
    Wed, Jan. 18, 7:25 PM | 62 Comments
  • Wed, Jan. 18, 5:04 PM
    • Esquire Network is pulling the plug on its TV ambitions, and will head into a digital-only world in the coming months.
    • The network (a joint venture between NBCUniversal (NASDAQ:CMCSA) and Hearst) had targeted upscale males, but the network now feels that audience watches TV in nonlinear ways.
    • A direct-to-consumer product will let Esquire fans watch programming through Esquire.com, NBCU said.
    Wed, Jan. 18, 5:04 PM | 3 Comments
  • Wed, Jan. 18, 11:20 AM
    • The FCC's broadcast incentive wireless spectrum auction is winding to a close -- and it's a less ambitious close than expected, as the agency has been lowering the price and size of the sale with bidders in short supply.
    • The agency will now pay no more than $10B for some local broadcast licenses. That's vs. a reverse auction price set at $86.4B by the FCC last summer. So the auction may be successful in repacking spectrum for better use, but broadcasters hoping for a windfall might end up sorely disappointed.
    • “It’s simple: The broadcasters showed up, and the carriers didn’t,” says TV station rep Preston Padden.
    • Today brings a fourth round of bidding, but if demand doesn't match license supply (as it hasn't recently), the round could last just a few hours. Conversely, bidders who have been hiding their cards may act, with the prospect that the forward auction could close in this round.
    • The last round of bidding ended with $19.7B in bids, about half of what the FCC needs to close the sale.
    • Spectrum players: VZ, T, TMUS, S, DISH, SBGI, EVC, CMCSA, CHTR, NXST, CBS, MEG
    Wed, Jan. 18, 11:20 AM | 43 Comments
  • Tue, Jan. 17, 7:45 PM
    • Hidden Figures (FOX, FOXA -0.3%) built on a strong opening last week to claim the box office crown over the Martin Luther King Day holiday weekend.
    • The film, about black female mathematicians and their contributions to NASA space missions, had edged Rogue One last week and built a solid lead over competition this week (including a few new releases) by grossing $27.5M over the four days.
    • Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (DIS -0.1%) slipped to fourth place with $16.8M, but it rolled over the $500M mark at the domestic box office and inched within dollars of $983M worldwide.
    • Meanwhile, in a musical battle, animated Sing (CMCSA -0.3%) used Monday's attendance to edge past La La Land (LGF.A +0.5%) for second place, $19M to $17.7M. (La La Land was in second place for the three-day weekend, $14.5M to Sing's $14.2M).
    Tue, Jan. 17, 7:45 PM | 2 Comments
  • Tue, Jan. 17, 7:16 PM
    • When it comes to suitors for T-Mobile (TMUS -0.2%) -- linked by analysts to some increasing deal talk to come with the end of the FCC's spectrum auction -- nobody may be a match for a SoftBank-backed Sprint (S +0.5%), New Street Research says.
    • That deal would still be challenging, though, as debt-heavy SoftBank (OTCPK:SFTBY -1.7%) would need a lot of cash, and T-Mobile's value has only gotten higher -- about $48B after shares ran up nearly 50% in 2016.
    • But that cash could provide a "knockout" bid of $69B (including $22B in equity) outside of synergies, according to analyst Jonathan Chaplin.
    • That's a bid that a cableco like Comcast (CMCSA -0.3%) or Charter (CHTR +2.6%) or even Dish Network (DISH -0.2%) would have trouble matching, though T-Mobile owner Deutsche Telekom (OTCQX:DTEGY +0.4%) might prefer that kind of buyer to Sprint. "In this scenario, we assume an offer price of $80 per share," said Chaplin; that's a 40% premium to T-Mobile's closing price today.
    Tue, Jan. 17, 7:16 PM | 15 Comments
  • Tue, Jan. 17, 11:03 AM
    • More sources are stirring up talk about a big Verizon (VZ +0.4%) move into cable, with a big purchase reportedly on CEO Lowell McAdam's mind.
    • The New York Post hears that McAdam was telling friends at the Consumer Electronics Show that he's angling toward a cable deal to answer moves from AT&T (T +0.2%) -- and that the targets would be one of cable's top two, Comcast (CMCSA -0.2%) or Charter (CHTR +1%). "Altice (OTCPK:ATCEY) is too small," a source told the Post.
    • "They need it for 5G," says another, looking to wireless firms' ambitions to provide a phone/TV/data alternative to major MSOs.
    • McAdam is said to be obsessed with distribution, and cable may provide a better route than the FiOS network it largely sold off to Frontier Communications.
    Tue, Jan. 17, 11:03 AM | 38 Comments
  • Fri, Jan. 13, 9:07 AM
    • The market isn't yet fully pricing in tax reform, says analyst Brian Kraft, boosting Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) to Buy from Neutral and setting a price target of $88 (nearly 24% upside).
    • He's assuming a 25% effective tax rate beginning in 2018, as well as hopes for eased regulation.
    • Shares +0.8% premarket to $72.
    Fri, Jan. 13, 9:07 AM | 1 Comment
  • Thu, Jan. 12, 7:24 PM
    • Arris (ARRS -3%) -- known for making boxes plugged into wires and your TV set -- could make a move into the increasingly crowded wireless market, according to its CFO.
    • “As we continue to grow, we believe that it’s possible that we could get into adjacent markets,” said Arris' David Potts, according to FierceCable. “As an example, wireless ... what happens in wireless, should we be more involved in that?"
    • The comments come as networking box makers address cable's move to DOCSIS 3.1, and as major cable firms (including Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) and Charter (NASDAQ:CHTR)) consider entering the wireless space either through partnership or through purchase.
    • Potts also expressed optimism about the company's profitable network and cloud business: “We’re in the midst of an upgrade cycle that is really quite big as our clients re-architect their networks."
    Thu, Jan. 12, 7:24 PM
  • Wed, Jan. 11, 7:31 PM
    • After more than a year of testing solutions, Canada's Shaw Communications (SJR +1.2%) has introduced its voice-controlled TV product based on X1 technology from Comcast (CMCSA +1.1%).
    • The company's BlueSky TV has launched in Calgary before a wider rollout.
    • Shaw decided in summer 2015 to scrap its IPTV plans and give Comcast's tech a whirl. In-country rival Rogers Communications (RCI -0.5%) also decided in December to substitute Comcast's X1 for its own work, and Cox made a similar decision just over a year ago.
    • BlueSky will come as low as C$99.90/month (about $75.85) when bundled on a two-year plan.
    Wed, Jan. 11, 7:31 PM | 3 Comments
  • Tue, Jan. 10, 7:41 PM
    • DreamWorks Animation has selected a successor to its founder, naming Chris deFaria its new president.
    • Now within the corporate umbrella at Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA), DreamWorks Animation chose Warner Bros. veteran to replace Jeffrey Katzenberg, who exited for a new media post in the deal, and to oversee "all aspects of the studio’s feature animation business, including slate strategy, development, production, innovation and technology, and business affairs."
    • DeFaria had been at Warner Bros. for 20 years, recently as president of animation and technical innovation.
    Tue, Jan. 10, 7:41 PM | 1 Comment
  • Tue, Jan. 10, 4:21 PM
    • Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) is threatening to sue the city of Philadelphia if it goes through with a ban on asking job applicants about their salary history.
    • The company wants Mayor Jim Kenney to veto a bill executing such a ban, and points to support from the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce's CEO Bob Wonderling over the ban's "hassle factor."
    • Comcast's David Cohen says while the company has a pay scale for technical and call center workers, it can't fairly craft a pay package for executives without knowing salary history.
    Tue, Jan. 10, 4:21 PM | 8 Comments
  • Mon, Jan. 9, 7:37 PM
    • Final numbers later Monday pushed historical drama Hidden Figures (FOX, FOXA) to the top of the weekend box office chart, denying Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (NYSE:DIS) a fourth week at No. 1.
    • Critically praised Hidden Figures, which expanded nationwide, drew $22.8M to edge Rogue One's $22.1M with the help of Sunday attendance. The Star Wars spin-off had been estimated to have a narrow lead on Sunday.
    • The two were closely followed by Sing (NASDAQ:CMCSA), at $20.7M, just ahead of the week's biggest debut -- Underworld: Blood Wars (NYSE:SNE), which grossed $13.7M.
    • Golden Globes darling La La Land (NYSE:LGF.A) doubled its theater count to show in 1,515 locations, and grossed $10.1M to settle into the fifth spot.
    • Rogue One has earned a cumulative domestic gross of $477.4M in four weeks, and a total of $914.5M worldwide.
    Mon, Jan. 9, 7:37 PM | 2 Comments
  • Fri, Jan. 6, 5:46 PM
    • Markit Dividend Forecasting is expecting big things from a handful of companies this quarter: namely double-digit increases in their dividends.
    • The firms aren't necessarily in the dividend-yield vanguard, but they are expected to make big increases, led by Vulcan Materials (VMC -2.9%) -- for which Markit is forecasting a 25% hike.
    • A 15% increase of the dividend at Cisco Systems (CSCO +0.2%), meanwhile, would give it the highest yield of the companies Markit discusses, at 3.9%. "We expect Cisco Systems to increase its quarterly dividend by 15% to $0.30 in its next announcement," Markit says. "The company has grown the dividend by an average of 15% resulting in an average payout ratio of 37% in the last three years."
    • Other double-digit increases are expected at TJX (TJX -0.2%), which it expects will go up by 16% to $0.30; Home Depot (HD -0.3%), for which Markit's forecasting a near-14% increase to $0.79; and Comcast (CMCSA +0.2%), which it expects will raise to $0.31.
    Fri, Jan. 6, 5:46 PM | 13 Comments