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  • Wed, Oct. 26, 3:20 PM
    • With AT&T beginning a long journey to acquire Time Warner, is T-Mobile (TMUS +0.7%) the next big acquisition target in the media/telecom space? Analysts are talking up the carrier's prospects after it logged another successful quarter.
    • For its part, T-Mobile has been and still is "very interested" in strategic options, COO Mike Sievert says.
    • "The takeout target over the next 12 months has got to be T-Mobile," says New Street Research's Spencer Kurn, noting potential suitors in Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) -- which is exercising a clause with Verizon to launch MVNO service -- as well as Dish Network (NASDAQ:DISH) and America Movil (NYSE:AMX).
    • Dish has a lot of spectrum but no wireless business -- and it's lost a potential buyer in AT&T, which now has its hands full with Time Warner, notes BTIG's Walt Piecyk.
    • Rival Sprint (S -1.8%) could be a takeover target as well, as CEO Marcelo Claure noted "we've had a lot of bankers placing more calls than usual over the weekend" in yesterday's earnings call.
    | Wed, Oct. 26, 3:20 PM | 175 Comments
  • Tue, Oct. 25, 5:03 PM
    • AT&T (T -0.4%) has revealed its "aggressive" price plan for new streaming service DirecTV Now: $35/month.
    • Since AT&T is zero-rating data for its customers, that's the total price for the company's subscribers. Other customers will need to consider data needs if they're video-hungry.
    • That gets users 100-plus premium channels for less than the typical cable bundle, and less than PlayStation Vue (SNE -0.9%), but in the ballpark of Sling TV (DISH +0.3%).
    • CEO Randall Stephenson says the company aims to keep the price down through new advertising models.
    • AT&T/Time Warner deal coverage
    | Tue, Oct. 25, 5:03 PM | 23 Comments
  • Fri, Oct. 21, 10:38 AM
    • Dish Network (DISH -0.8%) has become the only national pay TV provider to offer up YouTube via a set-top box, as it adds an app on its Hopper 3 DVR.
    • It follows other apps that customers can use without switching inputs or boxes, including Netflix, Pandora, Vevo and The Weather Channel.
    • Customers will be able to log on to their YouTube accounts (as well as their paid YouTube Red accounts) through the app.
    • “By aggregating apps like YouTube and Netflix with live linear television, Hopper 3 is capable of serving as a household’s comprehensive entertainment hub," says Dish's Niraj Desai.
    | Fri, Oct. 21, 10:38 AM | 2 Comments
  • Wed, Oct. 19, 2:51 PM
    • A new TV service from Google (GOOG +0.8%, GOOGL +0.6%) is likely to come in early 2017 after the company reached a carriage deal with CBS (CBS +0.7%) and is near distribution deals with Disney (DIS +0.6%) and Fox (FOX +0.8%, FOXA +0.4%) as well, The Wall Street Journal reports.
    • Reportedly called "Unplugged," the service would target cost-conscious viewers with a "skinny" bundle of live channels at $25-$40 per month, sources told the paper.
    • While it would be housed on Google's YouTube infrastructure, it would be separate from the existing ad-free YouTube Red subscription offering, though a curated part of Red would be part of the Unplugged bundle.
    • The bold move (with deals coming more rapidly than Apple's progress into TV) comes ahead of a planned live service from Hulu (CMCSA +0.2%, DIS, FOX, FOXA, TWX -0.1%) as well as AT&T's (T +0.2%) DirecTV Now offering arriving later this year (likely at $50/month or more), and enters a skinny space that already holds Sling TV (DISH +1.4%).
    • Updated 3:48 p.m.: Viacom (VIA +0.3%, VIAB +0.8%), home of MTV, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central and BET, is also in advanced talks to join the service.
    • Wall Street Journal report
    | Wed, Oct. 19, 2:51 PM | 35 Comments
  • Mon, Oct. 3, 12:45 PM
    • Ahead of the launch of a live TV service, Hulu has cut the price of its ad-supported programming tier to $5.99/month from $7.99/month.
    • That's a new-subscriber promotion that's good for one year, which could help Hulu (CMCSA, DIS, FOX, FOXA, TWX) fight for new subscribers with and Netflix, which still have their entry-level tiers at $7.99.
    • Hulu's ad-free tier remains at $11.99/month, and while its live TV offering doesn't have a price or launch date yet, it's expected to come around $35/month, slightly more than core offerings from Sling TV (NASDAQ:DISH) or PlayStation Vue (NYSE:SNE).
    • AT&T (NYSE:T) says its DirecTV Now streaming service will be "aggressively" priced and that the company would zero-rate data for its wireless subscribers.
    | Mon, Oct. 3, 12:45 PM | 8 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
  • Wed, Sep. 21, 11:20 AM
    | Wed, Sep. 21, 11:20 AM | 45 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, Sep. 8, 1:00 PM
    • Sling TV (DISH +1.1%) has rolled out an add-on pack for Starz (STRZA -0.5%), featuring content from the Starz and Starz Encore networks.
    • The move includes more than 2,900 on-demand titles and comes in time for a Sept. 10 broadcast of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, that film's first airing on TV since last December's release.
    • After a free preview, the package costs $9/month on top of the regular Sling subscription price.
    • Sling is also the first over-the-top service to distribute Pac-12 Networks, offering all six of the regional college sports feeds to its customers nationwide. Those are available to Sling Orange and Sling Blue customers who subscribe to its "Sports Extra" add-on.
    • The company has added a Windows 10 app as well.
    | Thu, Sep. 8, 1:00 PM
  • Tue, Sep. 6, 6:16 PM
    • Over the holiday weekend, and with the NFL season bearing down on TV viewers, Dish Network (DISH -2.6%) and Tribune Media (TRCO -1.8%) ended a summer-long blackout with a new long-term carriage deal.
    • Terms were undisclosed but the companies rushed to return programming to Dish's system.
    • Tribune's 42 local broadcast stations and WGN America hadn't appeared on Dish Network since June 12 as the companies engaged in a contentious dispute and urged viewers to swamp the other party with mails and calls.
    | Tue, Sep. 6, 6:16 PM
  • Wed, Aug. 24, 7:50 PM
    • The first benchmark has been hit for closing the FCC's broadcast incentive spectrum auction, but the second benchmark will be a harder task.
    • Bids have reached $16.3B after 15 rounds in the forward auction, which began last week as a second phase following an earlier reverse auction.
    • That's exceeded the $15.9B total the FCC set as the first benchmark for closing -- but the other benchmark is $88.38B, which the FCC needs to pay broadcasters who set that price in the reverse auction as well as cover costs.
    • There's still time, particularly with the price on the blocks rising by 5% a day, John Eggerton notes. But falling short of the $88.38B could mean reopening reverse auction rounds and a completion delayed into next year.
    • Spectrum players: VZ, T, TMUS, S, DISH, SBGI, EVC, CMCSA, CHTR, NXST, CBS, MEG
    | Wed, Aug. 24, 7:50 PM | 66 Comments
  • Thu, Aug. 18, 1:36 PM
    • With football season rapidly approaching, words are still flying between Tribune Media (TRCO -0.3%) and Dish Network (DISH +0.6%), locked in a retransmission fight that has blacked out Tribune's stations since June 12.
    • In a separate press release about its endorsement of a free-antenna offer from the NAB, Dish took a shot at Tribune in praising Sinclair Broadcasting: “Sinclair is on the right track for consumers and we’d encourage Tribune to follow its example,” said Dish's Warren Schlichting.
    • “Tribune is back at the table and we are making headway that I am hopeful will get these channels back to our customers soon," he said in a statement. “Regrettably, Tribune had stopped negotiating for five weeks, delaying a resolution."
    • Tribune says that's not true: “Tribune Media has been in continuous negotiations with Dish since being forced off its distribution system on June 12. To say otherwise is patently false, and further evidence of Dish’s willingness to mislead its customers and our viewers."
    • The broadcaster has begun running ads in NFL markets and some key college football markets, urging viewers to press Dish into a deal so as not to miss games.
    | Thu, Aug. 18, 1:36 PM
  • Tue, Aug. 16, 10:26 AM
    • A major FCC auction of wireless airwaves just entered its second phase.
    • The forward auction in the FCC's broadcast incentive spectrum sale has begun, with Comcast (CMCSA -0.1%) and Dish Network (DISH -0.8%) among those joining the usual spectrum suspects: AT&T (T -0.9%), Verizon (VZ -0.6%), and T-Mobile (TMUS +0.1%), but not Sprint (S +0.4%), which is sitting this out. Of about 100 parties eligible to bid, 62 have been certified by the FCC.
    • That follows the reverse auction, where broadcasters set up blocks of spectrum they'll be selling to be reallocated for wireless carrier use.
    • This phase represents a challenge, now that the reverse auction's price has been set at $86.4B. With costs, the FCC needs to raise $88B; if the forward auction doesn't reach that height, the reverse auction will need to be reopened to lower its price, which would also cut spectrum sold -- and likely drag the entire process into 2017.
    • Broadcast players: SBGI, EVC, NXST, CBS, MEG
    • Previously: Next phase of FCC spectrum auction likely to start mid-July (Jul. 01 2016)
    | Tue, Aug. 16, 10:26 AM | 18 Comments