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Jul. 20, 2015, 12:11 PM
- Ant-Man may have been small for a Marvel (DIS +0.5%) project, but it loomed large at the box office with a weekend-leading $58M to mark Marvel's 12th straight first-place debut.
- The film had been projected for $60M-$65M and came in just short of that; the catch may be its relatively high $130M production budget.
- Amy Schumer comedy Trainwreck pulled a strong $30.2M, vs. an expected $20M, to take the No. 3 spot for Universal (CMCSA +0.1%), and assured that Disney and Comcast would have the weekend's top five films: Minions (NASDAQ:CMCSA) had a (relatively) good falloff to $50.2M to finish No. 2, Inside Out (NYSE:DIS) took fourth with $11.7M, bringing its five-week take to $306.4M, and fifth-place Jurassic World (CMCSA) took $11.4M to become only the fourth film to top $600M domestically.
- Trainwreck marks the second-biggest opening for its director, Judd Apatow, behind the $30.7M of Knocked Up. In contrast with Marvel's film, it cost just $35M to make.
Jul. 17, 2015, 8:27 PM
- Miramax, the studio home for prestige films founded by Harvey and Bob Weinstein, is looking for a buyer in a sale it hopes will draw $1B, Bloomberg reports.
- Investment is coming back to the film sector in a rebound year for movies, and studio owners Colony Capital and Qatar Holding are betting that content-hungry distributors will take an interest in an award-heavy film library, including Oscar winners like Shakespeare in Love, Pulp Fiction and Good Will Hunting.
- Colony Capital and the Qatar sovereign wealth fund were among the group that bought Miramax from Disney for $660M five years ago.
- Potential buyers? That could include content-acquisitive streaming services like Hulu (CMCSA, DIS, FOXA), Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) or Amazon.com's Instant Video (NASDAQ:AMZN), or studios like MGM or oft-rumored buyer Lions Gate (NYSE:LGF), says Variety's James Rainey. A price of $1B is too steep for some of them, but with low information, it's tough to put a solid value on Miramax.
Jul. 17, 2015, 2:11 AM
- Hulu is exploring plans to add an advertising-free option to its service, sources told the WSJ, as the streaming video provider tries to become a stronger rival to Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX).
- The new service could launch as early as this fall and be priced at around $12-$14 a month.
- Although Hulu - co-owned by NBCUniversal (NASDAQ:CMCSA), Disney (NYSE:DIS) and Fox (NASDAQ:FOXA) - remains small compared to Netflix, its paying subscriber base is now around 9M, up from 6M last year. Netflix on Wednesday reported that it had 65M global subscribers.
Jul. 16, 2015, 4:40 PM
- A surprising district court ruling goes against big broadcast networks, and could produce an unexpected outcome after a similar case shut down TV streamer Aereo a year ago.
- Judge George Wu ruled in favor of small streaming company FilmOn, saying it may be entitled to a compulsory license of programming made by big broadcasters including CBS, ABC (NYSE:DIS), NBC (NASDAQ:CMCSA) and Fox (FOX, FOXA). That could mean a major disruption of broadcast revenues as well as the broadcasters' steps into over-the-top streaming.
- The case turns on Section 111 of the Copyright Act. Similar arguments had been rejected in the previous case of TV streamer Ivi, as well as Aereo. Judge Wu acknowledged the prior case but said he disagreed with it.
- Wu is allowing for an immediate Circuit Court appeal, and is maintaining an injunction against FilmOn in the meantime. If it stands, however, it paves the way to tech-neutral treatment of an OTT distributor the same way a cable company is treated in terms of retransmitting copyrighted works.
- Previously: Aereo parted out for peanuts in $2M bankruptcy auction (Feb. 26 2015)
- Previously: Media disrupter Aereo files for bankruptcy (Nov. 21 2014)
Jul. 14, 2015, 7:06 PM
- More choosing up sides between media and online fantasy gaming contenders, as FanDuel closes a $275M financing round that adds weight to previously speculated valuations of $1B.
- Funds connected to Turner Sports and Time Warner (NYSE:TWX) are part of the round, along with Google Capital. Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) with its NBC Sports operation was already a funder, along with KKR and Shamrock Ventures.
- FanDuel says its paid active users have quadrupled year-over-year and that it now has more than 1M paying users.
- The news follows Yahoo's plunge into the daily fantasy sports market, and key competitor DraftKings making its own way with an ESPN partnership that integrates it into digital sites and TV.
- Previously: Yahoo launches daily fantasy sports business (Jul. 08 2015)
- Previously: ESPN makes DraftKings official daily fantasy sports provider (Jun. 24 2015)
- Previously: Blistering pace of growth at FanDuel (Jan. 13 2015)
Jul. 14, 2015, 5:33 PM
- Fresh off an announcement of its own streaming video service, Comcast (CMCSA -0.8%) is beginning a beta test for Xfinity Games, a streaming videogame service it's developing with Electronic Arts (EA -1.8%).
- Considering the payload of streaming a game, the service is focused on older and mobile-oriented versions of games, like FIFA 13, NBA Jam or Plants vs. Zombies -- which makes it more of a competitor with other streaming game offerings rather than with major consoles.
- The simpler nature of the games means it's not set for a specialized controller, so players control the games with mobile phones or tablets.
Jul. 13, 2015, 7:51 PM
- Standard & Poor's has a report out comparing winners and losers in a new era of television -- largely dependent on attributes that will let them weather Internet-driven changes to things like traditional business models and bundling.
- Naveen Sarma points to four traits for long-term success in media: "strong, well-defined brands that translate across both traditional TV and online alternatives; limited exposure to second- and third-tier cable networks; less dependence on full-sized video bundles; and willingness to let vulnerable networks fail."
- Based on that, winners who have more of those qualities: CBS (NYSE:CBS), Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA), Time Warner (NYSE:TWX), Twenty-First Century Fox (FOX, FOXA) and Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS).
- Losers who might struggle: AMC Networks (NASDAQ:AMCX) and Viacom (VIA, VIAB).
Jul. 13, 2015, 3:14 PM
- Universal (CMCSA +1%) kept its 2015 winning streak going as Minions logged the second-best animated film opening ever, drawing $115.2M at home to top the box office (and even more overseas).
- The only animated film that opened better was 2007's Shrek the Third. It helped that Minions was literally everywhere (4,301 theaters).
- Two other openers were swept up in the chaos. The Gallows (TWX +1.2%) drew $10M to take fifth place, and Self/less got $5.38M to take eighth.
- The rest of the top five: Jurassic World (NASDAQ:CMCSA), $18.1M ($590.6M cumulative in five weeks); Inside Out (DIS +1.4%), $17.1M ($283.6M cumulative in four weeks); Terminator: Genisys (VIA +1%, VIAB +1.2%), $13.7M ($68.7M cumulative, two weeks).
- Combined with $124.3M outside the U.S. this week (and a bit more from an early global rollout), Minions has made just short of $400M worldwide. It would need momentum, but a $1B global mark isn't out of the question. The film hits 11 more territories in the next two months.
Jul. 13, 2015, 10:02 AM
- After last night's reveal of its cord-cutter focused streaming video service, Comcast (CMCSA +1.2%) is now offering pricing details on its 2-Gbps "Gigabit Pro" high-speed Internet option, and aggressively promoting it.
- The cableco will carry a promo price of $159/month for the fiber-to-the-premises option, a little over half the regular price of $300/month.
- That's less than the $400/month that it's been charging for existing 505-Mbps service, and those subscribers will be moved to Gigabit Pro. Customers need to be within a third of a mile of Comcast's fiber network, and agree to a two-year contract with fees like $500 for service activation and $500 for professional installation.
- The service is coming available in the areas that Comcast has been pressing (and where it is responding to competition from AT&T and Google): in Atlanta and Chicago, and areas of Florida, California, Indiana, Michigan and Tennessee. Comcast plans to make it available to 18M customers by the end of the year.
- Previously: Comcast launches Stream video service for its cord-cutter customers (Jul. 13 2015)
- Previously: A hint for Comcast's 2-Gig pricing? (May. 11 2015)
Jul. 13, 2015, 1:39 AM
- Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) is launching its response to the flood of streaming video alternatives with a service it calls Stream -- a $15/month offering that it's pitching as an add-on to customers of its high-speed Internet.
- The service will feature about a dozen major networks (including the Big Four broadcasters as well as PBS, CW, and Spanish-language channels), as well as HBO and a cloud DVR feature, that can be viewed on Web browsers, tablets and mobiles, without any contracts. Some "TV Everywhere" apps will work as well.
- It's Comcast's "Sling-killer," but with catches: Unlike Sling TV, HBO is the only cable net it offers; it lacks ESPN as well as other basic-cable fare like AMC. And subscribers won't be able to stream the service to their televisions; that's left for Comcast's standard cable packages.
- It'll be available in Boston, Chicago and Seattle later this year, and head for a nationwide rollout (in its service area) in 2016.
- Previously: Sling TV: Core channel bundle likely to stay skinny (May. 11 2015)
Jul. 9, 2015, 8:54 PM
- San Diego Comic-Con has increasingly been an annual launch pad for astronomically-budgeted films, particularly as superheroes have dominated U.S. entertainment, but so far it belongs to TV as many film franchises (particularly Marvel) sit this one out.
- That's mainly a matter of film timing, but TV is taking advantage. Shows like Supergirl (NYSE:CBS) and Blindspot and Heroes Reborn (NASDAQ:CMCSA) are taking advantage of the fan base to tease their fall efforts, as are Minority Report and Gotham (FOX, FOXA) and Agent Carter (NYSE:DIS). (TV clips)
- With Marvel headed into "Phase Three" of its cinematic universe in 2016, it's taking the year off. Sony Pictures (NYSE:SNE) and Paramount (VIA, VIAB) are sitting it out too, leaving a lot of room for DC Comics and its work with Warner Bros. (NYSE:TWX), including Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad, Wonder Woman and Aquaman. But there's still the last installment of The Hunger Games (NYSE:LGF) as well as Star Wars events to come, though Disney may hold key nuggets back until it hosts D23.
- Comic-Con runs through Sunday.
- Previously: With no Marvel, TWX and DC could grab Comic-Con focus (Jun. 18 2015)
Jul. 9, 2015, 7:07 PM
- In a largely sports-free week, USA Network (NASDAQ:CMCSA) was the most watched primetime cable net during the period including the Independence Day holiday, Nielsen says, with the help of WWE Monday Night Raw.
- The network averaged 1.6M primetime viewers from June 29-July 5, just ahead of a three-way tie at 1.5M logged by Discovery Channel (NASDAQ:DISCA), TNT (NYSE:TWX) and Fox News (FOX, FOXA). Discovery Channel was most-watched in the adults 18-49 demographic in primetime.
- On a 24-hour basis, Cartoon Network was tops among overall viewers with 1.3M average, while Adult Swim took the 24-hour lead in the demographic.
- TNT dramas Major Crimes and Rizzoli & Isles took the top two slots among individual shows, with 4.3M and 4.2M viewers respectively.
Jul. 9, 2015, 11:11 AM
- Comcast (CMCSA +1.4%) is adding five key countries to its unlimited phone calling plan, meaning it claims no-cost calling for its phone customers to almost half the world's population.
- The carrier is adding calls to Mexico, India, China, Hong Kong, Singapore and South Korea to its Xfinity Voice Unlimited plan.
- Using its app, subscribers can call from smartphones and devices connected to Wi-Fi as well as their home phones.
- The plan has rolled out in the company's Central Division, and will roll out to Northeast customers next week and others by the end of August.
- Comcast has more than 11M phone customers, with nearly all residential customers signed up for the Xfinity Voice Unlimited plan.
Jul. 8, 2015, 9:00 PM
- With its failed bid for Time Warner Cable fading into memory, Comcast's (NASDAQ:CMCSA) earnings call this month is likely to focus on its performance refocus, growth and other metrics -- including its buyback plans, notes Reinhardt Krause.
- TWC's sizable cash flows would likely have meant a step-up in stock repurchases by the merged company, while Comcast alone is likely to have mostly used up its existing $10B authorization by the end of the year.
- In an environment when companies are taking on low-interest debt to fuel buybacks, "With capital intensity decreasing longer term, Comcast could buy back 20% of its market cap in 2015-19 while actually deleveraging," says Barclays' Kannan Venkateshwar.
- Meanwhile, in M&A, few are expecting Comcast to rebound from the failed TWC deal with more deals. A wireless firm likely isn't in its plans, though an Internet content deal (a la Verizon/AOL) isn't out of the question.
- New CFO Michael Cavanagh will debut in the July 23 earnings call in a year where the company's TV businesses face pressure even as the stock has hit record highs, with no small help from Universal Studios.
Jul. 7, 2015, 9:34 PM
- Next week, the FCC is looking to keep a landmark broadcast incentive wireless spectrum auction on track for early next year despite contentious debates from stakeholders -- and if it does, it's a boon for T-Mobile (NYSE:TMUS), says Guggenheim's Paul Gallant.
- That's because though T-Mobile and Sprint (NYSE:S) have pushed for a bigger reserve of spectrum for "smaller carriers" (i.e.: them), a delay might mean that the current 30 MHz set-aside was at risk.
- Meanwhile, the airwaves will be coming from TV broadcasters who must go along with any plan -- meaning they expect to see prices they like. A group representing smaller broadcasters say if the framework isn't revised, opening prices for broadcasters could be reduced by $8M.
- Major broadcasters (ABC (NYSE:DIS), CBS, NBC (NASDAQ:CMCSA), FOX) aren't expected to be key airwaves sellers, while smaller groups like Sinclair (NASDAQ:SBGI) and Entravision (NYSE:EVC) are expected to sell.
- Related firms: T, VZ
- Previously: FCC chairman: Cap bid credits, keep smaller spectrum set-aside (Jun. 25 2015)
Jul. 7, 2015, 6:45 PM
- A big fiber buildout from AT&T (T +0.5%) is likely to hurt big cable, including Comcast (CMCSA +0.6%), Charter (CHTR +0.5%), Time Warner Cable (TWC +0.7%) and Cablevision (CVC +1%), analyst Craig Moffett says, and it's reminiscent of the mid-2000s.
- Documents from AT&T show that after wrapping its DirecTV merger, it plans to run fiber past the equivalent of 11.7M homes, he notes. The catch is exactly where that fiber runs, and how much that overlaps the cablecos' footprints.
- Cable analysts, he says, will have to "adjust their models to reduce both growth and pricing power assumptions.”
- Moffett estimates that Comcast may have the biggest change in overlap, to 22% from 18%. For Charter, it would go to 12% from 7%. And a Charter-Time Warner Cable combination would go from a 17% overlap to 21%.
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