Thu, May 21, 6:04 PM
- Giving some key hope to suitors for Time Warner Cable not named Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA), FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler placed individual calls to various cable execs -- including TWC's Rob Marcus and Charter's Tom Rutledge -- to say the agency's not against any and all deals just because it kiboshed Comcast's, The Wall Street Journal is reporting.
- Wheeler reportedly wanted to clarify the FCC stance amid industry confusion about just how much consolidation it would support, and said that each potential deal would be judged on its merits.
- Wheeler did express that he's like to see more competition from companies that traditionally haven't battled in the same geographies, and encouraged the prospect of cablecos "overbuilding" into each other's service areas, according to the WSJ.
- With TWC looking like the key catch, its stock has risen 8.9% over the past month.
- Consolidation prospects: TWC, CHTR, OTC:ATCEY, CVC, CTL, FTR, WIN, FRP, CBB
Thu, May 21, 2:03 PM
Thu, May 21, 9:30 AM
- Alongside Goldman's list of 50 stocks appearing most as top holdings at hedge funds is its list of the 50 top shorts.
- New additions this quarter: Baxter Intl (NYSE:BAX), UPS, Marriott (NASDAQ:MAR), NextEra (NYSE:NEE), Ford (NYSE:F), National Oilwell Varco (NYSE:NOV), McDonald's (NYSE:MCD), M&T Bank (NYSE:MTB), CenturyLink (NYSE:CTL), Amgen (NASDAQ:AMGN), Pioneer Natural (NYSE:PXD), Duke Energy (NYSE:DUK), Seagate (NASDAQ:STX), AbbVie (NYSE:ABBV), Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO).
- The full list (in order of $ value of short interest): AT&T (NYSE:T), Disney (NYSE:DIS), IBM, Verizon (NYSE:VZ), Intel (NASDAQ:INTC), Kinder Morgan (NYSE:KMI), Exxon (NYSE:XOM), Pfizer (NYSE:PFE), J&J (NYSE:JNJ), Deere (NYSE:DE), Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT), Exelon (NYSE:EXC), GE, Boeing (NYSE:BA), Halliburton (NYSE:HAL), Fox (NASDAQ:FOXA), Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA), UTX, Regeneron (NASDAQ:REGN), Merck (NYSE:MRK), salesforce.com (NYSE:CRM), AbbVie (ABBV), Conoco (NYSE:COP), Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT), Eli Lilly (NYSE:LLY), Celgene (NASDAQ:CELG), Schlumberger (NYSE:SLB), AutoZone (NYSE:AZO), Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC), Emerson (NYSE:EMR), McDonald's (MCD), Reynolds (NYSE:RAI), Target (NYSE:TGT), Accenture (NYSE:ACN), Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO).
Thu, May 21, 9:14 AM
- Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) and Level 3 Communications (NYSE:LVLT) say they've reached a long-term data interconnection pact that expands on their existing agreements.
- The deal will see the two expanding capacity to cover needed traffic between their networks, and not only as they exist today but allowing for any expansion during the term of the new deal.
- The move may be a vote of confidence for the FCC's new net neutrality rules, as recent skirmishing over such interconnections may be giving way to more friendly negotiations. Level 3 also reached a new interconnection arrangement with AT&T recently, as did Verizon and Cogent.
- Comcast is down 0.2% premarket; Level 3 up 0.3%.
Tue, May 19, 9:10 PM
- France's Altice (OTC:ATCEY) isn't only looking at a multibillion-dollar buy of U.S. cableco Suddenlink -- it's also checking out Time Warner Cable (NYSE:TWC) and has had initial talks with them about a deal.
- It's an uptick in high-stakes negotiations for the future cable/broadband industry, and those negotiations could pit billionaire Altice founder Patrick Drahi against another titan, John Malone, who would back Charter (NASDAQ:CHTR) in its own deal for TWC.
- Similar to Charter's approach -- where a deal for Bright House Networks would precede a TWC purchase -- Altice's deal for Suddenlink would be a precursor to its own bid.
- Time Warner Cable had moved up 1.3% in after-hours action, putting it just above $160/share -- above the $132.50/share that Charter bid for the company in early 2014, and the roughly $158.82 that Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) was offering in its failed bid.
- Previously: WSJ: Altice in talks for $8B-$10B buy of Suddenlink (May. 19 2015)
- Previously: Reuters: Charter's $10.4B Bright House buy on track (May. 18 2015)
- Previously: WSJ: Charter seeking up to $30B in debt for a TWC deal (May. 09 2015)
Tue, May 19, 6:36 PM
- With the help of Taylor Swift and some big finales, ABC (NYSE:DIS) is rallying to a strong close to the season in its key demographic of 18-49-year-olds.
- While NBC (NASDAQ:CMCSA) won the season with that demo, ABC has finished first with them for four straight weeks. (CBS is yet again the overall leader, winning in all-viewers ratings for the seventh year in a row.)
- ABC benefited from Swift's showcase at the Billboard Music Awards, which drew 11.2M viewers to see her take eight awards and introduce a new video. CBS eked out an overall prime-time win, with an average 7.33M viewers to ABC's 7.27M, NBC's 5.5M and Fox's (NASDAQ:FOXA) 3.5M.
- Over in cable, TNT's ruling, thanks to the NBA playoffs. The network averaged 2.78M prime-time viewers to ESPN's 2.16M.
- Meanwhile, a dark cloud is threatening ABC's news division as the story of anchor George Stephanopoulos and his donations to the Clinton Foundation continues developing. While NBC News wrestles with a crisis over its anchor Brian Williams (under contract for $50M), Stephanopoulos renewed his pact for $105M, Emily Smith points out -- meaning his stumbles and the network's may be even more closely tied together.
- ABC's evening news retook the top spot from NBC this week, 7.76M average viewers to 7.67M.
- Previously: 'Mad Men' viewers bump 74% for series finale (May. 19 2015)
Mon, May 18, 12:12 PM
- In the battle between apocalyptic and a cappella, it was the singing movie that prevailed post-Avengers, as Pitch Perfect 2 (CMCSA +0.7%) outdrew Mad Max: Fury Road (NYSE:TWX) to lead weekend box office with a $70.3M gross.
- The latest Pitch Perfect drew more domestically in its opening weekend than the first film did in its entire run, and its heavily female-skewing audience outspent the male-skewed one for Mad Max, which drew $44.4M. It's also quicker to profit, as it cost just $29M to make vs. Mad Max's $150M price tag.
- Avengers: Age of Ultron (NYSE:DIS) settled back into third place with a very healthy $38.8M, bringing its domestic gross to $372M. It opened in China with that country's second-highest debut ever ($156.3M), which was enough to push the film to $1.1B globally (No. 8 on the all-time list).
- Furious 7 -- also Universal's -- drew just $3.6M domestically this week, but its global total is close to $1.5B.
- As for how Universal might capitalize on its success, domestic distribution chief Nick Carpou answered whether there would be a Pitch Perfect 3 with "Yes, how’s that for being subtle?"
Fri, May 15, 7:48 PM
- Looking back with a week of TV upfronts in the books, the Big Five networks pulled back on orders from 54 to 45 this year and dialed up more superheroes and shows from existing intellectual property.
- With the pullback, only 16 new comedies are coming out between them. ABC (NYSE:DIS) and CBS renewed the most shows -- 17 each -- while NBC (NASDAQ:CMCSA) dumped a disastrous slate of new shows from the past year and returns only 8 overall (and that's if American Odyssey and A.D. The Bible Continues make it, which isn't certain).
- NBC's also the only network who won't have a comic-book program on, while the other networks share eight. Fox (NASDAQ:FOXA), for its part, is skewing more male in the coming year with more genre dramas and a couple of male-skewing family shows with Rob Lowe and John Stamos.
- Also indicative of a conservative streak: The number of adaptations/remakes. As Sony's Zack Van Amburg noted for The Hollywood Reporter, "With Coach, Minority Report, Rush Hour, Limitless, Heroes, X-Files ... How do you not look at all of that and go, 'Yep, we brought out brands that used to be brands, we dusted them off and here they are. That’s going to save everything!' "
Fri, May 15, 7:07 PM
- Broadband subscribership grew by nearly 1.2M in Q1, according to a Leichtman Research Group report examining the top 17 ISPs.
- Cable made up 86% of that growth; Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA), the nation's largest MVPD, added 407K users by itself. It's the first quarter since Q1 2008 where cable logged more than 1M net broadband adds, says Bruce Leichtman.
- Overall, leading ISPs now boast 88.5M subscribers, cable with 53M of those.
- Not coincidentally, cable's recently had momentum on the network-investment front, with firms like Comcast and CenturyLink (NYSE:CTL) investing in their gigabit broadband installations.
- Related companies: VZ, T, CMCSA, CHTR, TWC, CVC, CTL, FTR, WIN, FRP, CBB
- Previously: A hint for Comcast's 2-Gig pricing? (May. 11 2015)
- Previously: Comcast call: Now more broadband company than cableco (May. 04 2015)
Thu, May 14, 8:32 PM
- At the upfront for NBCUniversal Cable (NASDAQ:CMCSA) -- separate from the one for NBC's broadcast network -- data was the watchword ("No other technology company has the data we do") and the key item was that NBCUniversal will finally begin using the data from parent Comcast's millions of set-top boxes to feed its audience targeting platform.
- Comcast had been shy about sending that data over while it was hoping for regulatory approval of its Time Warner Cable deal; no longer.
- A little rivalry action, as ad sales chief Linda Yaccarino said she wasn't concerned about the dollars the might flow to NewFronts participants YouTube and Facebook: “Facebook and YouTube are neither substitutes nor surrogates" for television, she said, echoing a theme that has come up at many of the TV upfronts this week.
- The E network had a teaser for its upcoming series documenting Bruce Jenner's gender transition, and bragged on The Royals, which with time-shifting has become the No. 5 scripted show on cable (behind stalwarts like Game of Thrones and Mad Men) and returns for a second season in November.
Wed, May 13, 12:31 PM
- AT&T (T +1.1%) announces it's made a deal to offer Hulu subscription video streaming to its customers via websites and mobile devices, and that the two are also exploring a Hulu app for TV.
- The offering will come later this year and let AT&T customers browse and choose Hulu selections on demand. The deal builds on a current contract that AT&T has with Hulu -- co-owned by NBCUniversal, Disney and Fox (CMCSA, DIS, FOXA) -- for its free content.
- Last month, Cablevision became the first pay-TV provider to distribute Hulu's service to its set-top customers.
Tue, May 12, 9:13 PM
- At its upfront presentation, NBC (NASDAQ:CMCSA) revealed a schedule with few survivors from its new programming of the past season and with only two new half-hour comedies, set for Fridays.
- Subjects of high hopes for the coming year: Heroes Reborn, a 13-episode follow-up to the network's 2006-2010 success Heroes; The Wiz, the latest of NBC's live musical events; the live variety show Best Time Ever, with Neil Patrick Harris; the return of The Blacklist and the Olympics.
- The advertiser audience reaction seemed strongest, though, for dramas Blindspot and Game of Silence -- the latter of which was compared more to a cable show than a broadcast drama.
- Among those not returning: Marry Me, Constantine, About a Boy, and Allegiance -- and American Odyssey and A.D. The Bible Continues will be "determined later," usually not a good sign.
- With data as the key buzzword at this year's upfronts, ad sales chief Linda Yaccarino took the opportunity to pitch the network's combo of quality data and quality programming to sell advertisers on NBC ad space. She pushed the network's plans for addressable and targeted advertising, as well as its programming pact with AOL.
Tue, May 12, 7:11 PM
- CenturyLink (NYSE:CTL) is testing another battleground with Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) as it evaluates its fiber-broadband Prism TV service in Seattle.
- The city confirmed it's working on a franchise agreement with CenturyLink, which would allow the provider to pursue customers from the dug-in Comcast. That follows city votes to eliminate its district franchise system, to increase competition.
- Flyers that CenturyLink has already distributed have offered some apartment residents a free six-month trial of the service.
- Prism TV has currently launched in Las Vegas, Phoenix and Denver, and is pursuing a five-year franchise in Minneapolis (another Comcast stronghold) as well as looking to offer it in Portland (where it could run into Google Fiber).
Tue, May 12, 6:04 PM
- Charter Communications (NASDAQ:CHTR) is still in active talks to buy No. 6 cableco Bright House Networks, Bloomberg reports, despite the unwinding of the Comcast-Time Warner Cable (CMCSA, TWC) deal that the original Charter-Bright House agreement was contingent on.
- The two companies have an exclusivity agreement that lasts through much of this month and may continue talking after that, sources said.
- A Bright House purchase might set up Charter for its own (re-)pursuit of Time Warner Cable, though such an arrangement would bring together a complicated set of interests, including TWC shareholders as well as Charter's John Malone and Bright House mogul Si Newhouse.
- Despite Charter's exclusivity period, Time Warner Cable (which has a tight operating relationship with Bright House) can match any offer for Bright House due to first-look provisions.
- Previously: Reuters: Bright House out of Charter merger deal (May. 07 2015)
- Previously: 'As the Cable Turns': Industry deal talk turns to Bright House (Apr. 30 2015)
Mon, May 11, 9:27 PM
- Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) has been mum about the price it will offer for the 2-Gbps fiber-to-the-home residential broadband service that it's launching in some areas, but a hastily removed microsite may have pointed toward a $299/month cost.
- The marketing site was taken down this evening but reportedly posted the price and a phone number for more information, according to screenshots taken by DSL Reports' Karl Bode.
- Comcast has publicized offering the 2-gig service in Atlanta first, followed by the San Francisco Bay area, Chicago area, and parts of Tennessee and Florida. It'll be available to those customers who are within a third of a mile of Comcast's existing fiber lines.
- Previously: Comcast to launch multi-gigabit speeds for Chicago homes (May. 06 2015)
- Previously: Comcast defends TWC deal, announces 2-Gbps California plan (Apr. 17 2015)
Mon, May 11, 12:28 PM
- Avengers: Age of Ultron (NYSE:DIS) had a second weekend almost to itself at the box office, drawing $77.2M to lead yet again and bring its domestic haul to $312.9M -- the second-fastest film to the $300M mark, behind only the original Avengers film.
- With an international take of $68M for a worldwide total of $875.3M and openings yet to come in China and Japan, it should join Furious 7 (NASDAQ:CMCSA) in the global billion-dollar club before long.
- Comedy Hot Pursuit (TWX; Reese Witherspoon, Sofia Vergara) finished at No. 2 with a very light opening of $13.3M (on more than 3,000 screens) and negative critical reaction.
- Other notable receipts: Furious 7 was fourth with $5.3M to bring its domestic take to $338.4M, and Home (NASDAQ:DWA) was seventh with $3M to bring its total gross to $162.1M.
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