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  • Wed, Nov. 16, 3:31 PM
    • With Donald Trump set to take over the White House, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler's plan to reform the pay TV set-top box market is "95% dead," according to one analyst.
    • Wheeler's proposal to kill off the boxes met with opposition from the industry even after it was modified to be much closer to pay TV providers' app-focused approach. The FCC said the market for the boxes sat at $20B a year and that the cost of renting them had gone up 185% since 1994, while other consumer electronics dropped 90% in price over that period.
    • "I would say it's 95 percent dead," said Bloomberg Intelligence's Matthew Schettenhelm. "It's a very long road to get this done.”
    • House Republicans have asked Wheeler to focus on the ongoing broadcast incentive spectrum auction, and not to move forward with “complex and controversial items that the new Congress and Administration will have an interest in reviewing."
    • That includes an open item on Business Data Services as well, not to mention lengthy reviews ahead for AT&T/Time Warner and Level 3/CenturyLink deals.
    • Public Knowledge's Chris Lewis says it's too early to hold a funeral: "We don't know what Trump thinks about set-top boxes."
    • Previously: FCC pulls set-top box vote from today's meeting agenda (Sep. 29 2016)
    | Wed, Nov. 16, 3:31 PM | 33 Comments
  • Thu, Sep. 29, 10:37 AM
    • FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler's proposal for new rules governing pay TV set-top boxes -- set for a vote today, but facing opposition from the industry and even a swing-vote Democrat on the panel -- has been pulled from today's meeting (now getting under way), but will stay in circulation.
    • Wheeler had changed a previous proposal and appeared to move closer to pay-TV industry wishes for an app-based approach, but still faced pushback from service providers and resistance from Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, who along with Republican Commissioners Ajit Pai and Michael O'Rielly could form the three votes to sink the proposal.
    | Thu, Sep. 29, 10:37 AM | 11 Comments
  • Mon, Sep. 19, 7:50 PM
    • The Department for Professional Employees -- a coalition of technical-worker unions affiliated with AFL-CIO -- has joined other unions in sounding off against the FCC's revised set-top box rules proposal.
    • The group criticized the "de facto" compulsory licensing scheme set up by the agency's chairman, Tom Wheeler, in order to prevent anticompetitive agreements among pay-TV providers.
    • That regime is "unacceptable and unworkable," the DPE says.
    • "The FCC does not have this authority," says Paul Almeida, the DPE's president, in a statement. "The one-sided proposal undermines the value of creative works, shrinks revenue streams that middle-class creators depend on to make a living and threatens the hard-fought wages and benefits of creative industry workers."
    • Previously: FCC Chairman: Open to changes to get set-top box rules passed (Sep. 15 2016)
    | Mon, Sep. 19, 7:50 PM | 24 Comments
  • Thu, Sep. 15, 2:20 PM
    • Speaking to the Senate, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler says he may yet change his proposal of rules to open the market for pay TV set-top boxes, set for a final vote by the commission on Sept. 29.
    • Wheeler's proposal, which focuses heavily on requiring apps from providers so that consumers can watch without costly rental boxes, had been modified already from a plan offered in January.
    • The FCC has said the set-top box market is at $20B a year, and consumers pay an average annual cost of $231 (aside from programming and service costs) for the boxes -- up 185% since 1994 while other consumer electronics have dropped 90% in price over that period.
    • Any new revisions may be targeted at the swing vote on the five-member FCC, Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, who has expressed concerns about the licensing body created by the new rules to prevent anticompetitive agreements between providers.
    | Thu, Sep. 15, 2:20 PM | 12 Comments
  • Thu, Sep. 8, 8:42 PM
    • A new FCC draft order circulating to regulate pay TV's approach to set-top devices has left questions over just how comprehensive the changes would be.
    • Chairman Tom Wheeler's fact sheet about the rules laid out how providers would need to create apps enabling consumers to see all the content they paid for on their own devices, without paying expensive rental fees for a box. (The FCC estimates Americans spend $20B on box leasing fees that have jumped 185% since 1994, a period during which other consumer electronics have fallen 90% in price.)
    • Top pay TV providers (those serving about 95% of the subscriber population) will need to comply with the new rules within two years if they're adopted in a Sept. 29 vote.
    • As for platforms, Wheeler's fact sheet singled out Roku, iOS/Android and Windows, but any operating system with U.S. shipments of at least 5M devices qualifies to have an app written for it by providers.
    • Devices would also meet the requirement if they're already built on a qualifying platform (such as on Android).
    • Alternately, smaller device providers could strike their own deals with providers (such as with Comcast's Xfinity TV Partner Program) to get access to the apps.
    | Thu, Sep. 8, 8:42 PM | 17 Comments
  • Thu, Sep. 8, 4:22 PM
    • FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has circulated a final-rules version of his "ditch the box" proposal to open the market for pay television set-top boxes, and it's moved considerably toward an app-based approach cable providers favor.
    • "Today, I am sharing with FCC colleagues a plan to end the set-top box stranglehold and monthly rental fees," Wheeler says in presenting the new order, which he says simplifies the original proposal while still fulfilling Congress' mandate to the agency to ensure consumers can use preferred devices to access programming they've paid for.
    • Keys to the new order: Providers will have to offer a free app for subscribers to access all the programming they pay for on a variety of devices, "including tablets, smartphones, gaming systems, streaming devices or smart TVs." And consumers won't be forced to pay monthly rental fees for a box. Providers will also have to make their apps available to popular platforms including Roku, iOS/Android and Windows.
    • Also, the rules force providers to allow consumers to search content in one place whether it comes from the provider, over-the-top services or a programmer's stand-alone app, with no discrimination allowed.
    • Copyright and licensing are protected as providers will oversee end-to-end content delivery with control over their apps, Wheeler says.
    • The FCC will vote on the new order Sept. 29; if it's adopted, the biggest pay-TV providers (covering 95% of subscribers) will have two years to comply.
    • Pay TV players: CMCSA -0.3%, CHTR -3.2%, CVC/OTCPK:OTCPK:ATCEY, T -0.2%, DISH +1.6%, VZ -0.2%, FTR +0.9%, CTL -0.2%
    | Thu, Sep. 8, 4:22 PM | 34 Comments
  • Thu, Aug. 4, 11:43 AM
    • Altice (OTCPK:ATCEY) has named Paul Haddad its global chief data officer, effective immediately.
    • He'll continue to serve ad clients by leading the company's U.S. advanced data analytics business.
    • In his new role, Haddad will "lead the creation and monetization of a world-class data analytics practice across all of Altice Telecom and Media subsidiaries," Altice says.
    | Thu, Aug. 4, 11:43 AM
  • Thu, Jul. 14, 1:40 PM
    • FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler says in a blog post that he won't offer up new rules regarding retransmission-rights negotiations between TV programmers and providers.
    • The stance comes alongside an increasing environment for disputes and lengthy blackouts of TV service as pay-TV companies and content creators tussle over the increasing costs of programming.
    • Based on staff review, "it is clear that more rules in this area are not what we need at this point ... So, today I announce that we will not proceed at this time to adopt additional rules governing good faith negotiations for retransmission consent."
    • Wheeler says Congress could yet expand the FCC's scope of authority which could provide for more action. But "What we need is not more rules, but for both sides in retransmission consent negotiations to take seriously their responsibility to consumers."
    • Dish Network (NASDAQ:DISH) and Tribune Media (NYSE:TRCO) are in the middle of an ongoing fight, including a blackout.
    | Thu, Jul. 14, 1:40 PM | 3 Comments
  • Wed, Jul. 13, 7:31 PM
    • House testimony today indicates that an FCC proposal to open the market for TV set-top boxes may be losing its majority.
    • FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel -- considered a swing vote here -- acknowledged under questioning that the proposal (voted to move forward on party lines in February) was flawed.
    • Asked by Rep. Marsha Blackburn to answer only yes/no, Rosenworcel and GOP commissioners Ajit Pai and Michael O'Rielly said "yes" to the question "Do you agree that the initial FCC set-top proposal is flawed?" Rosenworcel also said "yes" to "Do you agree that if the FCC is to move forward, it should follow a different approach than outlined in the NPRM?"
    • FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler admitted that a "Ditch the Box" counter-proposal from the TV industry, focused on using apps, showed "promise," but said "One page is not a proposal; it is a press release."
    | Wed, Jul. 13, 7:31 PM | 13 Comments
  • Thu, Jul. 7, 11:32 AM
    • The Dolan family -- in control of Madison Square Garden, New York's Knicks and Rangers and AMC Networks -- is reclaiming control over Long Island newspaper Newsday.
    • The paper went to Altice (OTCPK:ATCEY) in its $17.7B takeover of Dolan-founded Cablevision Systems (NYSE:CVC).
    • Now Patrick Dolan (son of Cablevision founder Charles Dolan and brother to former Cablevision CEO James) is buying 75% of Newsday Media Group and will serve as its president.
    • Altice will retain 25% ownership.
    | Thu, Jul. 7, 11:32 AM | 1 Comment
  • Tue, Jun. 28, 6:44 PM
    • As was widely predicted, with Altice's (OTCPK:ATCEY) deal for Cablevision Systems (NYSE:CVC) complete, the watchword now will be savings.
    • The European telecom is known for deeply slashing costs at acquisitions and it has said that Cablevision spends some of the most in the industry per customer (about $49/month in opex, vs. Altice's $14/month per customer at Numericable-SFR). It's said it wanted to cut $900M in costs at Cablevision.
    • Included in that is the closing of Freewheel, Cablevision's Wi-Fi mobile service. Altice is looking for cuts outside of customer-facing jobs, which it had to promise to lay off of for four years to win regulatory approvals.
    • It's part of Altice's ambition to end up a top-two cableco in the U.S. “It’s easier to go from No. 4 to No. 1 than it is from number zero to No. 4,” said billionaire Altice founder Patrick Drahi. The company's USA chief didn't rule out pursuing a megadeal for the recently combined Charter/Time Warner Cable (eventually).
    | Tue, Jun. 28, 6:44 PM | 3 Comments
  • Tue, Jun. 21, 6:05 PM
    • Fortune Brands Home & Security (NYSE:FBHS) will join the S&P 500, effective at the close of trading June 23, replacing Cablevision (NYSE:CVC), which Altice acquired in a deal completed today.
    • Churchill Downs (NASDAQ:CHDN) will replace FBHS in the S&P MidCap 400.
    • FBHS +0.4% AH.
    | Tue, Jun. 21, 6:05 PM
  • Tue, Jun. 21, 9:29 AM
    • Altice (OTCPK:ATCEY) has completed its roughly $10B acquisition of Cablevision (NYSE:CVC), creating the fourth-largest broadband provider in the country.
    • Specific conditions will require Altice not to lay off any of its consumer-facing staff for the next five years.
    • The company has also agreed to pass 25% of its estimated $450M savings in operational costs onto customers and pledged to improve Cablevision’s network.
    | Tue, Jun. 21, 9:29 AM | 1 Comment
  • Tue, Jun. 14, 10:46 AM
    • 16 months after the FCC voted 3-2 to impose tough net neutrality rules through its Open Internet order, a federal appeals court has upheld the ruling.The lawsuit challenged the FCC's ability to classify Internet providers as common carriers under Title II regulations, as well as to govern wired and wireless services via the same rules.
    • The FCC's rules prohibit the blocking of legal content, the throttling of legal traffic based on content type, and the creation of "fast lanes" for certain types of content. The rules exclude services such as T-Mobile's BingeOn and Verizon's Go90, which don't count against a user's mobile data cap.
    • Shares of major U.S. ISPs haven't moved much (if at all) in response to the ruling.
    • The full ruling (.pdf)
    • U.S. ISPs/carriers: VZ, T, CMCSA, CVC, S, TMUS, WIN, CTL, FTR
    | Tue, Jun. 14, 10:46 AM | 21 Comments
  • Tue, May 24, 6:53 PM
    • With Charter's deal for TWC and Bright House done, Altice (OTCPK:ATCEY) may be headed for closure on its $17.7B deal for Cablevision (NYSE:CVC) after its own long road.
    • New York's Public Service Commission says in a statement that assuming conditions are met, the deal will be in the public interest.
    • That means Altice could close after a June 16 PSC vote. The deal got a blessing from the FCC early this month.
    • Conditions include many of those reported earlier: customer service and job protections (Altice reportedly wants to garner $900M in synergies, and it has a history of heavy cuts in acquisitions), along with low-cost broadband for low-income families.
    | Tue, May 24, 6:53 PM
  • Thu, May 5, 2:40 PM
    • Cablevision (NYSE:CVC) is getting a belated lift on word that New York City is recommending approving its acquisition by Altice (OTCPK:ATCEY) with conditions tied to customer-facing employees.
    • Shares are up 0.4% to $34.57, just shy of the $34.90/share deal price.
    • The city's Franchise and Concession Review Committee will vote on the recommended approval next Wednesday.
    • New York City was considered a possible opponent to the deal after voicing some loud worries over job cuts and underinvestment in customer service and broadband.
    • The two companies have disputed whether the city even has a say in approving the deal, with a May 20 date before New York State's Public Services Commission looming.
    • Previously: Cablevision beats on profits, adds net customers (May. 05 2016)
    • Now read Seeking Alpha's Market Challenge: Cable Deals »
    | Thu, May 5, 2:40 PM | 1 Comment