Why I'm Shorting Charter And Buying Comcast
Ranjit Thomas, CFA
Ranjit Thomas, CFA
You Probably Hate Comcast
Chris DeMuth Jr. • 28 Comments
Chris DeMuth Jr. • 28 Comments
Why I'm Shorting Charter And Buying Comcast
Ranjit Thomas, CFA
Ranjit Thomas, CFA
Mon, Mar. 28, 1:41 PM
- While Disney sells out its first day in Shanghai, Universal Studios (NASDAQ:CMCSA) is getting ready for their (closer) opening of a high-profile Harry Potter attraction.
- The Wizarding World of Harry Potter opens April 7 at Universal Studios Hollywood, topping off what has been a five-year project to upgrade the park. The company has brought in new rides based on Transformers, Despicable Me and Fast & Furious as well as expanding its Simpsons attraction.
- Universal said revenues got a boost in Orlando, Fla., from Harry Potter attractions there. Revenues rose 27% to $3.3B in 2015 at the Orlando and Hollywood locations.
Tue, Mar. 22, 7:42 PM
- Hoops added life to the usual strong lineup of dramas from CBS, lifting the network back to the top in broadcast ratings.
- Buoyed by the NCAA basketball tournament -- it's broadcasting 21 games -- CBS averaged 7.7M prime-time viewers, ahead of NBC (NASDAQ:CMCSA) with 6.2M. ABC (NYSE:DIS) slotted in at No. 3 with 5.6M on average, and Fox (FOX, FOXA) fourth with 3.9M.
- Among cable nets, Fox News Channel was again on top, with 2.57M prime-time viewers on average, followed by also-balling TBS and TNT (NYSE:TWX) with 2.13M and 1.97M respectively; HGTV (NASDAQ:SNI) with 1.74M and AMC (NASDAQ:AMCX) with 1.68M.
- The week's top 10 programs again had a heavy CBS emphasis with five programs, led by NCIS at the very top with 15.1M viewers. NBC marked a Sunday hit with Steve Harvey's children-focused Little Big Shots (13.3M), settling in at No. 2 just ahead of AMC flagship The Walking Dead (12.69M).
Tue, Mar. 22, 3:45 PM
- With the opening of Harry Potter attractions just two weeks out, Universal Studios Hollywood (NASDAQ:CMCSA) is taking advantage with a 21% increase in day pass pricing.
- The Los Angeles park operator raised its one-day use-anytime pass to $115, an unusual move in an era of $5 annual increases. The change comes in conjunction with a drift toward on-demand ticket pricing -- encouraging visitors to plan ahead (and make revenue planning easier) if they want to save money.
- Comcast acknowledged in an employee memo that it had previously underestimated the potential of the Universal theme park business; opening The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (with a giant castle and broomstick ride) is a sign it's stepping up competition with Disney.
- The new attraction is part of a $1.6B investment in Comcast's Hollywood facilities, including upgrading TV and film studios.
Mon, Mar. 21, 7:25 PM
- In its biggest online retail partnership yet, Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) has begun selling its triple-play of Xfinity services through a new Amazon.com "Cable Store."
- The deal also includes dedicated customer service for Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) customers -- which could prove a notable draw for a cableco that has faced down a rough reputation for service.
- Charter (NASDAQ:CHTR) said it was also in talks with Amazon about a retail tie-up, which means there could be company in the Cable Store.
- The Comcast-Amazon partnership came about after about a year of talks, and as with other third-party sales Amazon will take a fee each time it logs a sign-up.
- Amazon helped Comcast reduce the number of interactions it took to finish a transaction, says Comcast cable division chief Neil Smit: “We’re partnering with a company that’s so good at the customer experience -— I think that’s really what excites me."
- Comcast is setting aside some 90 customer representatives trained to receive inquiries about the Amazon sales and provide an answered call inside of a minute.
Tue, Mar. 15, 3:18 PM
- Dish Network (DISH -1.3%) -- citing public statements by NBC (CMCSA -0.2%) over the past 24 hours -- has filed a breach of contract suit against the broadcaster, and says it expects to file for arbitration in their carriage dispute.
- That would mean that NBC is forbidden from blacking out its networks on Dish -- a condition, Dish says, placed by the FCC and Justice Dept. on the Comcast/NBCUniversal merger.
- The two companies have been negotiating for weeks for retransmission ahead of a Sunday deadline that could bring blackouts to NBC cable nets (including USA Network, Bravo, MSNBC and CNBC) and NBC's 26 owned broadcast stations in major markets. NBC launched a "Make Dish Deliver" multimedia blitz urging customers to take its side.
- “Under the conditions imposed by the FCC and Department of Justice in approving the Comcast-NBCUniversal merger, NBC is forbidden from blacking out its networks if a pay-TV provider chooses, in its sole discretion, to exercise its right for binding arbitration," Dish says in a statement.
- Previously: NBC, Dish Network nearing blackout deadline in talks (Mar. 14 2016)
Tue, Mar. 15, 12:21 PM
- The FCC's new Internet privacy plan, calling for broad consumer consent for data collection, is "credit negative" for broadband providers.
- Those companies could be "severely handicapped" in competition with advertising giants like Facebook and Google, which are notably left out of agency Chairman Tom Wheeler's proposal.
- The FCC plan calls for consumer consent on data collection and more disclosure of what's collected, along with more work to protect information and report data breaches when they happen. Meanwhile, Google, Facebook, Twitter and other sites would continue collecting data from visitors without consent.
- "We believe this to be a long-term risk to the current TV advertising business model, as well as all broadband providers whom also have ad sales exposure," Moody's said.
- Related tickers: T, VZ, CMCSA, CHTR, TWC, CVC
Tue, Mar. 15, 10:34 AM
- Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) is beginning its gigabit Internet launch in Atlanta, with an "advanced consumer trial" for early adopters in some neighborhoods.
- The company is using DOCSIS 3.1 cable technology to deliver gigabit speeds widely, with Atlanta serving as a vanguard for a rollout to other markets later in the year.
- The offering differs from Comcast's "Gigabit Pro" offering, which uses a symmetrical fiber connection to offer 2-gigabit speeds (but at significantly higher prices, regularly priced at $300/month). Gigabit customers in Atlanta will start off with a promotional 36-month contract price of $70/month, or an everyday price of $139.95/month.
Mon, Mar. 14, 6:45 PM
- The latest TV channel carriage dispute is coming to Dish Network (DISH -1%) and NBC (CMCSA +0.1%), perhaps as soon as Sunday.
- Without a deal by then, Dish can't retransmit NBC cable networks (including USA Network, Bravo, MSNBC and CNBC) nor NBC's 26 owned broadcast stations in major markets including New York City, Dallas, Chicago and Miami.
- Weeks of negotiations haven't borne fruit and NBC has launched a full-court press urging viewers to learn about the dispute and demand Dish concede. A blackout would affect millions of viewers.
- The broadcast networks can be received alternately using an over-the-air antenna, but not so with the cable nets.
Thu, Mar. 10, 5:06 PM
- Boston TV station WHDH has filed suit against Comcast (CMCSA -0.7%) after being dropped as an NBC affiliate, saying the telecom giant has violated terms associated with its purchase of NBCUniversal.
- Comcast, which took control of NBC in 2011 under heavy conditions, elected to drop WHDH as an affiliate in 2017 to favor its own properties, which would mean taking the lion's share of carriage-deal revenues rather than splitting with an affiliate.
- WHDH's suit says Comcast has violated not only the NBCUniversal terms, but also the FCC's public-interest obligations.
- The move follows a few years of talks where it became clear Comcast intended to create a local channel using facilities at its New England Cable Network -- a primarily cable-only station.
- “They are putting a dark hole in their network coverage,” says Ed Ansin, CEO of WHDH owner Sunbeam Television.
Thu, Mar. 10, 3:23 PM
- The FCC has launched a proposal on data privacy that doesn't ban data collection practices, but does require a broad opt-in from consumers.
- The agency's plan, in the works since it reclassified many providers under net neutrality regulation last year, calls for consumer consent -- many broadband providers collect data without consent -- and for them to disclose their data collection, work to protect personal information and report data breaches.
- The move stops largely at Internet providers and doesn't extend to sites with broad consumer data collections, including Twitter, Google or Facebook.
- The move comes a few days after Verizon (NYSE:VZ) settled an FCC privacy probe by agreeing to get consumer consent and pay $1.35M, an amount that suggests the FCC is more concerned about the opt-in than about data collection in general.
- The proposal goes to an initial March 31 open meeting vote.
- FCC fact sheet
- Related tickers: T, VZ, TMUS, S, CMCSA, CHTR, TWC, CVC, CTL, FTR, CCOI, DISH
- Previously: Verizon paying $1.35M, allowing data opt-outs in privacy probe (Mar. 07 2016)
Tue, Mar. 8, 3:54 PM
- CBS (CBS -1.3%), lately a dominator of prime-time TV ratings, made a little room in the top 10 for NBC this week.
- For the week ended Sunday, Fox News (FOX -1%, FOXA -1.5%) prevailed with its coverage of the last Republican presidential debate -- but not by much. The debate drew 16.8M viewers, just ahead of CBS juggernaut NCIS with 15.45M.
- Meanwhile, two nights of singing show The Voice on NBC (CMCSA -1%) made their mark, with Monday and Tuesday broadcasts finishing at No. 3 and No. 5 with 13.3M and 12.3M viewers respectively, and sandwiching The Walking Dead (AMCX -2.2%), at No. 4 with 12.8M.
- From there, the top 10 was all CBS again. NCIS: New Orleans, 60 Minutes, Madam Secretary, The Big Bang Theory and Criminal Minds rounded out the list.
Mon, Mar. 7, 1:06 PM
- The first March weekend is coming in like a lion (and fox, bunny, sloth) for Zootopia, which ousted Deadpool (FOX +1.3%, FOXA +1.4%) from a three-week stay atop domestic box-office charts.
- The critically popular Zootopia set a record for Disney Animation Studios (DIS +1.2%) as its biggest opening with $73.7M -- yes, bigger than Frozen ($67.4M) -- and March's fourth-biggest opening ever. The film holds a 98% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a CinemaScore (audience's exit ratings) of "A-." With an early global release, its worldwide total is up to $232.5M.
- Deadpool fell to the No. 3 spot with $16.4M, behind another debut, London Has Fallen (CMCSA -0.6%) with $21.7M. But Deadpool built its strong domestic cumulative total to $311.1M, and $673.2M overall worldwide (No. 2 all time among R-rated films).
- The week's other high-profile opening -- Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (VIA +5.3%, VIAB +3.5%) with Tina Fey -- drew just $7.6M to end up No. 4, in line or a little behind projections.
Thu, Mar. 3, 3:41 PM
- Speaking at Morgan Stanley's Technology, Media and Telecom conference, Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO) CFO Ken Goldman says aside from a spinoff of its core Internet business, the company's looking at selling "non-core assets" for $1B-$3B.
- Those assets include patents and property, and a committee formed to explore alternatives to the spinoff is considering some quick sales of the non-core assets. The company's sold or licensed more than $600M in patents over the past three years.
- Yahoo has launched a relatively formal auction process for its search business, with telecoms including Verizon (NYSE:VZ), AT&T (NYSE:T) and Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) emerging as likely favorites alongside other companies (like longshot Time Inc.) and private equity.
- Previously: Bloomberg: Yahoo approaching potential buyers as soon as today (Feb. 22 2016)
- Previously: Bain and TPG reportedly eyeing Yahoo; shares close down 4.7% post-earnings (Feb. 03 2016)
Wed, Mar. 2, 5:59 PM
- Nonprofit Public Knowledge has set a new data point in the debate over zero rating and net neutrality, filing a complaint with the FCC over Comcast's (NASDAQ:CMCSA) Stream TV (and its exclusion from customer data limits).
- In setting net neutrality rules last year, the FCC said it would pursue a case-by-case examination of conduct that it didn't openly prohibit. Zero rating -- or excluding certain kinds of data from a paid limit -- was a gray area that may be getting its first real test.
- Critics charge that zero rating is simply another form of paid prioritization. They also point to T-Mobile's Binge On offering, which offers free video streaming to its subscribers. Verizon also rolled out a sponsored data plan, FreeBee, earlier this year.
- In addition to saying that Comcast is violating Open Internet rules, and thus disadvantaging unaffiliated video services, Public Knowledge alleges Comcast's treatment of Stream TV also violates conditions it agreed to in acquiring NBCUniversal.
- Previously: Comcast increasingly levying charges for heavy data users (Jan. 29 2016)
- Previously: Wheeler: FCC's look at data exemptions is still lower level (Jan. 28 2016)
Tue, Mar. 1, 3:26 PM
- Seeso, the streaming comedy service from NBCUniversal (CMCSA +2.5%), has expanded to two new platforms.
- It's now available to Roku and Amazon Fire TV users. Previously, it had launched in January to Web platforms, iOS and Android.
- The company still isn't talking subscriber levels for the $3.99/month service. It's leveraging NBCUniversal content including historical material from The Tonight Show and Saturday Night Live, as well as The Office and original series and stand-up comedy.
- NBCUniversal says more platforms are on the way in "coming months."
Thu, Feb. 25, 8:36 PM
- Broadcast players in a critical FCC spectrum auction will get their chance to declare themselves in for the sale -- during just a 32-hour window in which to get in, or stay out.
- The FCC has set 10 a.m. March 28 for the start of a commitment window for its broadcast incentive auction set to begin the next day. Broadcasters can start locking in commitment elections from then until 6 p.m. the following day.
- Stations will be able to preview the "commitment module" starting March 24, but will need to act fast the next week in order to lock themselves in to selling airwaves. Late stations will be barred from the auction.
- Spectrum players: VZ, T, TMUS, S, DISH, SBGI, EVC, CMCSA, CHTR, NXST
- Previously: FBR: Airwaves auction could bolster Dish Network (Feb. 19 2016)
Comcast Corp. is a media, entertainment and communications company. The company provides video, high-speed Internet and phone services to residential and business customers in the United States. The company operates its business through five reportable segments: Cable Communications, Cable... More
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