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Tue, Jan. 12, 7:28 PM
- Playoff football continued to rule the broadcast ratings roost, with the top three programs this week tied to weekend NFL games.
- The Pittsburgh-Cincinnati clash in the AFC wildcard playoff topped the charts for CBS with 31.23M average viewers, followed by an NFC postgame on Fox (FOX, FOXA) with 23.04M. In third was the AFC wildcard pre-kick show on CBS, with 22.16M.
- CBS drama NCIS continued to be a non-sports draw, coming in at No. 4 with 18.98M, even ahead of the Golden Globe Awards on NBC (NASDAQ:CMCSA), which drew 18.51M viewers.
- Overall, between football, NCIS (and NCIS: New Orleans and NCIS: Los Angeles), The Big Bang Theory, Scorpion and Blue Bloods, CBS logged eight of the top 11 shows.
Tue, Jan. 12, 4:14 PM
- The NFL's offer sheet to networks interested in carrying Thursday Night Football has floated the idea of splitting the games between up to three different networks.
- This season, CBS (CBS +0.5%) and the NFL Network shared the package. CBS aired eight of the 16 games, and produced the games it didn't air that showed on NFL Network.
- Now, splitting those CBS games between two or even three networks could drive the total package price somewhere beyond the reported $300M CBS spent. NBC (CMCSA +0.3%) and Fox (FOX +1.8%, FOXA +2.1%) are considering the plan, while CBS would rather retain the current deal.
- A decision is due in the coming weeks, likely before the Super Bowl. CBS has submitted bids for the existing deal as well as for a shared plan.
- Pacific Crest's Andy Hargreaves -- bullish on a set of network stocks including Fox -- had said a negative catalyst for the sector could come if Thursday Night Football's bidding process followed suit with other sports rights, with costs going through the roof.
Thu, Jan. 7, 3:52 PM
- NBC (CMCSA -0.7%) is dropping its affiliation with Boston's WHDH when its contract ends, in favor of launching a network-owned station there by next January.
- A network memo says it will build a local news team in Boston, and already has a head start with operations of New England Cable News and Telemundo there.
- WHDH owner Ed Ansin has gone to his senator, Edward Markey, with concerns about the public interest and promises a legal fight over the decision. “I have a feeling a year from now we will still be the NBC affiliate," Ansin says. "That’s how serious we think the violations are.”
- Ansin -- who has sparred with NBC over the years -- said the network told him it might move programming to New Hampshire station WNEU-TV. He's concerned whether it violates the public interest to move NBC programming to a station that reaches half the viewers as WHDH.
Wed, Jan. 6, 3:49 PM
- Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) is off 0.7% but outpacing a broader market down 1.4%, after Credit Suisse reinstated coverage of the firm at Outperform.
- CS has a $63 price target; with today's decline, Comcast is sitting at $55.25, implying 14% upside.
- Despite risks in cord-cutting and possible regulator intervention, Credit Suisse's Omar Sheikh has a few reasons for the stance: The company is well positioned to take advantage not only of structural changes to video consumption, but also to benefit from broadband growth; it's got an "exceptionally strong" balance sheet; and Universal Pictures, coming off a banner 2015, has an industry-leading film slate.
Mon, Jan. 4, 3:51 PM
- With Star Wars: The Force Awakens (DIS -2.2%) trucking toward Avatar's domestic box office record following a $90M weekend, there were still slimmer pickings for competitors who nonetheless pursued more holiday moviegoers.
- Paramount's Daddy's Home (VIA -2.1%, VIAB -1.2%) held down the No. 2 spot for the second weekend and actually held a lot of its audience, dropping from a first-weekend $38.7M to $29.2M and adding up to $93.9M in its cumulative take.
- Tina Fey/Amy Poehler comedy Sisters (CMCSA -1.1%) showed some strength in its third week as well, holding up with $12.8M for the No. 4 spot ($62.9M total), and Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip (FOX -2.4%, FOXA -2.2%) drew $11.8M for the No. 5 position ($67.4M total). Meanwhile, Quentin Tarantino's The Hateful Eight (Weinstein Co.) went wide at the No. 3 spot with $15.7M total.
- Elsewhere, while U.S. theaters booked a record year of $11.01B, global box office hit a record $38B in 2015, Rentrak says, with China up nearly 50% Y/Y to $6.77B -- another data point setting up tough comps for 2016.
- Previously: Exhibitor stocks whacked after 2016 U.S. box forecasts taken lower (Jan. 04 2016)
Sun, Jan. 3, 8:45 AM
- Despite a record-setting year for M&A, 2015 has also been full of plenty of no's from U.S. antitrust officials:
- Staples (NASDAQ:SPLS) agreed to buy its rival Office Depot (NASDAQ:ODP) in February for more than $6B, but regulators worried the tie-up would eliminate competition and sought to block the merger in December.
- Although General Electric (NYSE:GE) decided to sell its appliances business to Electrolux (OTCPK:ELUXY) for $3.3B in 2014, the Justice Department filed suit this summer, alleging the deal would result in higher kitchen appliance prices. GE walked away from the deal last month.
- Sysco (NYSE:SYY) reached its $3.5B deal for U.S. Foods in December 2013, hoping the combination would help it cut costs, however, the tie-up got shot down by the FTC in June.
- The nation's two biggest cable operators, Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) and Time Warner Cable (NYSE:TWC), reached a $45.2B deal to combine in February 2014, although the DOJ said the merger would make Comcast "an unavoidable gatekeeper for Internet-based services." The latter canceled the deal in April.
- Thai Union (OTC:TUFRF), owner of the Chicken of the Sea brand, struck a $1.5B deal for U.S. rival Bumble Bee Seafoods in December 2014, but the companies walked away from the agreement a year later amid antitrust objections.
Dec. 31, 2015, 6:00 PM
- The FCC's year-end "Measuring Broadband America" report says DSL providers like Verizon, CenturyLink and Frontier have a challenge ahead if sticking with copper, since speeds aren't keeping up with promises -- and cable providers have taken advantage (and share) this year.
- DOCSIS 3.0 technologies are letting cablecos boost speeds to the three digits (100 Mbps), and DOCSIS 3.1 will allow for competition with fiber, and 1 Gbps speeds over coaxial networks.
- "All ISPs using cable, fiber or satellite technologies advertise speeds for services that on average are close to or below the actual speeds experienced by their subscribers," the FCC says. "However, some DSL providers continue to advertise speeds that on average exceed actual speeds."
- Cablecos like Comcast (CMCSA -0.5%), Charter (CHTR -0.6%), Time Warner Cable (TWC -0.2%), Cox and Cablevision (CVC +0.1%) raised maximum advertised speeds from 12-20 Mbps in March 2011 to 50-105 Mbps by September 2014.
- Meanwhile, Verizon (VZ -1.2%) is in harvest mode on its copper lines, and its lack of FiOS plans in many areas means customers may seek fiber or cable alternatives. But in areas where Verizon and Frontier offer fiber-to-the-home, most popular speeds are 25 and 35 Mpbs.
- CenturyLink (CTL -0.9%) and Frontier (FTR +0.2%) have made some moves to upgrade their copper networks, pushing into 100 Mbps trials in some cities.
- For 2015: CMCSA -3.4%; CHTR +8.9%; TWC +21.4%; CVC +54%; VZ -3.4%; CTL -37.8%; FTR -31.6%.
Dec. 31, 2015, 4:05 PM
- Hollywood has capped off a record year of just over $11B at the box office -- with a little help at the end from some Star Warriors -- and the spoils aren't evenly divided between studios, as Universal has pulled off a historic hit year.
- A boost from Star Wars: The Force Awakens and its record-smashing performance pushed receipts past the $10.9B previous record, from 2013, by 1.5%. The $11B-plus was up 7.3% Y/Y.
- With final numbers still coming in, admissions look flat, but higher ticket prices are providing a revenue boost.
- Universal (CMCSA -0.4%) and Walt Disney (DIS -1.1%) drove the year with dominating performances, while Paramount (VIA +1.7%, VIAB +0.9%), Fox (FOX -0.4%, FOXA -0.4%), Sony (SNE -0.4%) and Lions Gate (LGF +0.1%) all declined Y/Y.
- Universal's performance came from several of the year's biggest hits, notably Jurassic World, Furious 7, Minions, Pitch Perfect 2 and Fifty Shades of Grey. For its part, aside from an in-progress record push by Star Wars (about to surpass Jurassic World's domestic gross), Disney also put Avengers: Age of Ultron and Inside Out into the year's top five. Both of those drew more than $350M at home.
- Moviegoers who crave more original screenplays may end up disappointed, if studios learn any lesson from this record year: Seven of the top 10 films were sequels and remakes, and the top two (Jurassic World and Star Wars) are from franchises dating to 1993 and 1977 respectively.
Dec. 30, 2015, 5:25 PM
- Nielsen has awarded its TV series ratings crown for 2015, and football is still the king.
- Sunday Night Football on NBC (CMCSA -1.5%) drew 23.3M viewers to top the charts among regularly scheduled series ahead of a pair of CBS (CBS -1.1%) shows. The Big Bang Theory and NCIS drew 21.1M viewers and 20.9M viewers respectively to take the next two spots for the Tiffany network.
- A cable monster was fourth: The Walking Dead (AMCX -1.8%) pulled 19.7M viewers.
- Unsurprisingly, football dominated the individual-show performances, marking nine of the top 10 programs (the uninvited guest was ABC's (DIS -0.7%) broadcast of the Oscars).
- The rest of the top 10 series: No. 5, Empire on Fox (FOX -0.9%, FOXA -1%); No. 6, Thursday Night Football (CBS, NFL Network); No. 7, NCIS: New Orleans on CBS; No. 8, Sunday Night Fooball Pre-Kick on NBC; No. 9, Blue Bloods on CBS; and No. 10, Dancing with the Stars on ABC.
Dec. 22, 2015, 9:47 AM
- Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) is up 1% as Morgan Stanley names it a top large-cap pick for 2016, noting things have been flat with its stock price in the nearly two years since it launched an unsuccessful pursuit for Time Warner Cable.
- That's in spite of EBITDA growth of 7-8%/year. Analyst Benjamin Swinburne has Comcast rated Overweight, with a $70 price target -- 23% implied upside from its current price.
- Swinburne says Comcast's cable subscriber losses can be directly tied to its efforts to serve "cord shavers" and that it can take advantage of a strong broadband pipe and skinny bundles to take share from the competition. He writes that Comcast has a good chance to add net video customers in 2016 for the first time in 10 years.
- The company is denying British media reports that it's considering a $16B bid for the UK's ITV (OTCPK:ITVPY), in which John Malone has a near-10% interest.
- The Mail said that the two companies had been in talks, a report that Comcast tried to tamp down as speculation. Comcast does have a big balance sheet for deals after its pursuit of TWC fizzled out.
Dec. 21, 2015, 2:40 PM
- While other films were a little harder to locate amid a record-breaking weekend at home and abroad for Star Wars, there were still box-office scraps to be fought over, and Chipmunks got most of them.
- The makers of Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip (FOX -0.7%, FOXA -0.4%) deliberately aimed for a set of moviegoers who might be younger than Star Wars' PG-13 rating, and took in $14.4M for the No. 2 spot.
- Meanwhile, Universal's (CMCSA -0.2%) inexpensive comedy Sisters (a film reuniting Tina Fey and Amy Poehler) drew $13.4M for the No. 3 position.
- The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 (LGF +0.1%) was No. 4 with $5.6M and Creed (TWX -0.5%) No. 5 with $5.1M. Mockingjay has a five-week domestic total of $254.4M, while Creed has grossed $87.9M in four weeks. Pixar's The Good Dinosaur (DIS -1.5%) drew $4.2M to total $96.6M in its fourth week.
- While many films dodged Star Wars' juggernaut release, next Christmas weekend is more crowded, with a number of new releases elbowing in for some holiday dollars alongside some expansions of award contenders from limited coastal releases.
- Previously: Mixed reaction from exhibitor stocks to Star Wars opening (Dec. 21 2015)
- Previously: 'Star Wars' has $238M opening for the ages (Dec. 20 2015)
Dec. 18, 2015, 4:18 PM
- U.S. studios will head to Europe for a January hearing over antitrust concerns that were initially raised with formal charges in July, Reuters reports.
- A charge sheet from the European Commission named Disney (DIS -3.8%), NBCUniversal (CMCSA -1.8%), Paramount (VIA -0.6%, VIAB -1.9%), Sony (SNE -2.8%), Twentieth Century Fox (FOX -1.4%, FOXA -1.4%), Warner Bros. (TWX -2.1%) -- and Sky (OTCQX:SKYAY -2.2%).
- The EC accused the firms of creating improper movie licensing deals blocking users outside the UK and Ireland (thus, most of Europe) from getting to paid Sky programming. Related clauses in the deals block other broadcasters from making pay TV available in the UK and Ireland. Meanwhile, the EC is pursuing a market less fragmented by border restrictions.
- Heavy fines could await all involved; the EU could fine companies up to 10% of global annual revenue. Disney pledged in the summer to fight vigorously.
- A closed-door hearing is set for Jan. 18-19.
- Previously: EU antitrust charges against Hollywood: What's at stake (Jul. 23 2015)
Dec. 17, 2015, 3:34 PM
- Confirming a move that seemed likely since the summer, Universal Pictures (NASDAQ:CMCSA) will distribute Steven Spielberg's movies again.
- Spielberg is reorganizing his DreamWorks studios with partners in Participant Media, Reliance Entertainment and Entertainment One into Amblin Partners.
- It's a bit of a homecoming for Spielberg, whose offices are still on the Universal lot, though Disney took over distribution in 2009.
- Universal and its Focus Features label will distribute 4-7 films a year in the deal, beginning next October.
- Previously: Reports: Spielberg's DreamWorks leaving Disney deal, may land at Universal (Sep. 02 2015)
- Previously: Warner plans Spielberg sci-fi film for holidays 2017 (Aug. 06 2015)
Dec. 17, 2015, 1:02 PM
- With new net neutrality rules in place since early this year, the FCC says it's calling on Internet service providers to discuss their innovative data policies -- with what seems like a focus on growing use of traffic exemptions from data caps.
- The agency sent letters to Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA), AT&T (NYSE:T) and T-Mobile (NASDAQ:TMUS) asking them to come in and "have a discussion with us" about their approaches to data service.
- FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler surprisingly weighed in on T-Mobile's "Binge On" free video streaming as "highly innovative and highly competitive." And Comcast's Stream TV service wouldn't count use of Comcast services against that company's data caps, while AT&T has a similar approach via content partnerships.
- So-called "zero rating" involves companies exempting certain kinds of traffic from data limits, but has drawn some criticism from observers arguing that it amounts to another form of paid traffic prioritization.
- Previously: FCC chairman: T-Mobile video initiative 'highly competitive' (Nov. 19 2015)
Dec. 16, 2015, 1:27 PM
- The NFL is taking TV bids for its Thursday night game package, and reportedly again is limiting its plans to a two-year deal.
- The shortness of the deal leaves room for a changing coverage landscape, and indeed this time the league is expecting a heavy digital component, sending formal streaming RFPs to companies including Google/Alphabet, Yahoo, Apple and Amazon.com.
- The usual TV suspects -- ESPN (NYSE:DIS), NBC (NASDAQ:CMCSA), CBS, Fox (FOX, FOXA), and Turner (NYSE:TWX) -- have gotten RFPs for a one-year deal with a league option for the second year. The NFL expects bidding to start in the low $300M range for TV (CBS is paying about $300M for the Thursday package now).
- Digital Thursday streams would be non-exclusive and the NFL plans for that to be a simulcast of the TV production, including ads. It's unclear what digital bidding might bring; Yahoo paid about $15M for streaming rights to one game this year, though it was exclusive.
Dec. 15, 2015, 3:10 PM
- Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) files that it's requested the delisting of its Class A special common stock -- CMCSK -- which has now been combined into its existing Class A shares.
- The company had planned the move in late October, and a shareholder vote ensured the go-ahead of combining the shares.
- Comcast has said the move would end some confusion as well as increase trading liquidity in its stock.
- Trading in CMCSK ceased Friday at $58 as it was converted one-for-one into CMCSA shares.
- After dipping yesterday, Comcast stock is up 1.3% today.
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