Mon, Jul. 25, 12:14 PM
- Star Trek Beyond topped the box office, providing a nice score for Paramount (VIA +0.5%, VIAB) in a week where five films shared a weekend take that was up 29% Y/Y.
- The latest Star Trek film showed a decline from the last entry (Star Trek Into Darkness) but logged $59.6M for a easy first place, outgrossing the $29.3M The Secret Life of Pets (CMCSA, in its third week) and the $21.6M scared up by Ghostbusters (SNE -2%).
- Two other debuts hit the $20M mark: Horror-thriller Lights Out (TWX +0.3%) drew $21.6M, and Ice Age: Collision Course (FOX -0.4%, FOXA -0.3%) a worse-than-expected $21M.
- The Secret Life of Pets fell off 42% but brought its cumulative take to over $260M. Meanwhile, Finding Dory (DIS -0.2%) was sixth with $7.2M over the weekend, but brought its six-week take to $460.2M.
Tue, Jul. 19, 2:19 AM
- Looking to protect their severance pay, Viacom (VIA, VIAB) CEO Philippe Dauman and COO Thomas Dooley have reserved their legal right to resign "with good reason," if a judge finalizes Sumner Redstone's recent management actions.
- Under their employment agreements, Dauman could receive more than $90M in compensation and Dooley could receive more than $30M if they depart with that status, but not if they are removed.
Mon, Jul. 18, 12:41 PM
- Like it or not the huge success of Pokémon Go is likely to unleash a huge pop in mobile games designed around augmented reality.
- There is already an online petition asking for a similar Harry Potter Go game to be designed and many more mainstream characters are sure to start showing up in games linked to the cameras on smartphones and tablets.
- Companies stocked with an arsenal of appealing characters that could be brought into augmented reality games include Disney (NYSE:DIS), Time Warner (NYSE:TWX), Mattel (NASDAQ:MAT), and Hasbro (NASDAQ:HAS). Movie studios (LGF, SNE, VIA, VIAB) could also benefit as AR games tied around plot lines from old movies are developed (The Godfather, Star Wars, Blade Runner, Hunger Games, etc.) and used to promote new features.
- Many retailers and restaurant chains have already been active in trying to latch on to the Pokémon Go buzz (see What's McDonald's doing inside the Pokémon code?), while GameStop (NYSE:GME) thinks it has an angle on the collectibles and accessories side. As the retail sector works out the science of in-game marketing opportunities, even more opportunities could arise.
- Technology firms with a stake in augmented reality include Google (GOOGL, GOOG) , Himax (NASDAQ:HIMX), Nvidia (NASDAQ:NVDA), and Intel (NASDAQ:INTC).
- Nintendo ADRs (OTCPK:NTDOY) are up 8.6% today and have doubled in value during the week following Pokémon Go's introduction.
Fri, Jul. 15, 11:41 AM
- Unsurprisingly, National Amusements -- Sumner Redstone's holding company, which owns 80% control of Viacom (VIA -2%, VIAB -1.8%) -- is reaffirming its opposition to any deal to sell a stake in Paramount Pictures.
- That comes after fresh news that Viacom has held talks with China's Dalian Wanda Group over selling 49% of the studio. This spring, amid a battle for control of Viacom, Redstone reportedly expressed opposition and displeasure with the reports that Viacom would consider a sale of his "baby."
- Selling a Paramount stake is bad for shareholders and even limits other strategic options, National Amusements says in a statement: “Any short-term benefits that might result from a Paramount transaction would be outweighed by the severe negative impact on Viacom’s future strategic flexibility to best capitalize on this important asset.”
- That means NA could go for a deal in the future, as it said the studio's fate shouldn't be decided by people “who may be leaving the board shortly" -- directors ousted by NA but allowed to stay on while multiple court cases go forward.
- Updated: Viacom responds. "It is beyond understanding that 'National Amusements' would continue in its attempts to interfere with a potential transaction that would create a unique opportunity to drive long-term value for both Paramount and Viacom, without even waiting for the facts. We will continue to pursue the best outcome for all of Viacom’s shareholders."
Thu, Jul. 14, 11:10 AM
- TV network Epix has named Jonathan Dakss its chief digital officer.
- Dakss was vice president of Media Labs at NBCUniversal, where he led a cross-functional team that focused on such programs as virtual reality and 360 video, as well as social TV and "second screen" among other initiatives.
- Epix, a joint venture between Viacom (VIA +0.7%, VIAB +0.8%) and its Paramount Pictures studio along with Lions Gate (LGF +2.2%) and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, has been pushing digital development with a number of firsts in online distribution and authenticated "TV Everywhere."
Wed, Jul. 13, 4:57 PM
- Dalian Wanda Group, an unsurprising suitor when it comes to U.S. movie assets, has held talks with Viacom (VIA -1.2%, VIAB -1.4%) about obtaining a minority stake in Paramount Pictures, Reuters reports.
- That's if the stake still ends up for sale. In February, CEO/Chairman Philippe Dauman confirmed that he decided to pursue talks with investors over selling the piece of the venerable studio, but that was before a burgeoning feud with chief voteholder Sumner Redstone revealed reports that Redstone didn't want Viacom to let go of any of Paramount.
- Redstone's National Amusements amended Viacom's bylaws to require unanimous approval for such a sale.
- Chinese conglomerate Wanda, meanwhile, bought Legendary Entertainment in January, already owns cinema chain AMC, and has notably had eyes on expanding its movie business in the U.S.
Tue, Jul. 12, 7:14 PM
- Fox News (FOX, FOXA) kept up its streak by topping cable prime-time ratings for the fifth straight week.
- The network averaged 2.4M viewers for the week, ahead of HGTV (NASDAQ:SNI) with 1.6M viewers and USA Network (NASDAQ:CMCSA) with 1.3M.
- Fox News prevailed on a 24-hour basis as well, ahead of children's-programming stalwarts Nickelodeon (VIA, VIAB), Disney Channel (NYSE:DIS), and Cartoon Network/Adult Swim (NYSE:TWX).
- The O'Reilly Factor and The Kelly File gave Fox its boost again this week, with broadcasts of those two programs taking up six of the top 10 individual program ratings slots.
Tue, Jul. 12, 3:55 AM
- An ex-girlfriend of media mogul Sumner Redstone (VIA, VIAB) will not be granted a new trial over her lawsuit that challenged the 93 year old's mental competence, a California judge said in a tentative ruling.
- The same judge in May dismissed Manuela Herzer's case after one day of trial, finding that Redstone's videotaped deposition made it clear he didn't want her in his life any longer.
Mon, Jul. 11, 11:05 AM
- Viacom (VIA -2.7%, VIAB -2.2%) is lower today as Wells Fargo downgrades it to Underperform after a fresh look at earnings models in its Media and Telecom sector.
- Domestic advertising is healthy, Marci Ryvicker and team write, but Viacom's networks aren't joining in the gains. CBS (CBS +0.4%) and Time Warner (TWX +0.5%) are "fine," with estimates left as is, but "when it comes to VIAB, we can't put this lightly -- we significantly cut numbers," saying estimates for domestic affiliate fee growth went to negative $30M from the previous $39M in gains.
- "We know this is currently trading on corporate governance 'events,' but we don't see how anyone can come in and successfully turn this company around over the next 12 months," Wells says. "It has fallen too far too fast, in our opinion, esp. in cable nets (which have LT contracts)."
- On average, the analysts expect 5% affiliate fee revenue growth; ESPN (DIS +0.3%) could be mid-single digits ("due to easy comps") and high single digits for everyone else except Viacom, for which it expects a bit decline.
Thu, Jul. 7, 2:17 PM
- CEO Philippe Dauman can't win his battle with the Redstone family over his job, top investor Mario Gabelli says to Reuters, and so it's inevitable that Dauman will exit Viacom (VIA +3.6%, VIAB +3.4%).
- Gabelli is No. 2 in voting power at Viacom, behind Sumner Redstone and his National Amusements firm, and he believes the ultimate outcome of the fight is set.
- "He has to leave," Gabelli said. "It's a matter of when, not if."
- In May, Gabelli had suggested that for him, Dauman had six months to try to turn things around. At the time, he characterized Dauman's skirmishes with Shari Redstone (Sumner's daughter) as "creative tension."
- An anticipated showdown between Dauman and Shari was averted as Dauman is skipping the media moguls' gathering going on at Sun Valley.
Thu, Jul. 7, 12:09 PM
- In a Sun Valley media conference tradition, cable mogul John Malone weighed in on one of his most frequent questions: evaluating the current environment for mergers and acquisitions.
- "There's always M&A opportunities," he said. "I have nine different public companies I'm involved in, and they're always looking for opportunities."
- As for cheaper European assets post-Brexit: "Cheap is a relative term; I think it depends on your longer-term view. I think Britain's gonna be fine; I think the EU is gonna be fine. I think there are gonna be some banking, capitalization issues that have to be dealt with."
- He's coming off a $4.4B deal to combine his Starz network (STRZA +1.8%) with Lions Gate (LGF +3.1%), and "they're both subscale ... this gives them the opportunity to be bigger, be a little more aggressive in investing in content, trying new things."
- Malone's more interested in the TV business, but Lions Gate will get a new outlet for its films after tough times at the box office: "Theatrical is a tough business and you can run hot and cold ... The question is can you tame the movie business to reduce the volatility?”
- Asked about Viacom (VIA +3.1%, VIAB +3%) -- currently embroiled in a succession drama and (logically) speculation about combining it with other firms: “I’m hoping that all settles down and everybody is treated fairly,” said Malone. “Sumner [Redstone's] been a long-term friend and sometimes partner and sometimes 'frenemy.' You hate to see the stress of a family situation. I certainly hope it all works out to everybody’s benefit."
- On Viacom's sale of a Paramount stake: "Would I? The theatrical side? No, that would not be where I would go." But Viacom has "got some great assets and right now because of the turmoil they're substantially undervalued."
Wed, Jun. 29, 3:51 PM
- Sean Moran, a two-decade company veteran, is taking over ad sales at Viacom (VIA +0.7%, VIAB +0.7%).
- He's replacing Jeff Lucas, who Variety confirms (after longtime speculation) is joining Snapchat (Private:CHAT) as its VP of sales.
- Moran faces a challenge amid declining ratings at Viacom's networks, and with the company pursuing new initiatives to partner with advertisers, such as Viacom Vantage (never mind the battle for control of the company raging at the top). He'll supervise ad sales for everything except BET, which runs its own ad outreach.
Tue, Jun. 28, 6:08 PM
- National Amusements (Sumner Redstone's holding company) is keeping up its full-court legal press against the board of Viacom (VIA +2.8%, VIAB +3%) with a new letter to directors expressing concern over actions "antagonistic to the interests of Viacom and its shareholders."
- "Highly personal and vicious attacks" by ousted Viacom directors including Fred Salerno, George Abrams and Philippe Dauman are not only offensive and unacceptable, the letter says: "More importantly, however, those allegations, even if they could somehow be proven, would have no impact on the legitimacy of National's actions with respect to Viacom."
- The letter goes on to construct a scenario where even if Redstone is incapacitated, he and Phyllis Redstone are replaced by Shari Redstone and Tyler Korff, and the vote would be the same, even if Dauman and Abrams "could somehow force themselves" back onto the National board. "There is no world in which Mr. Dauman and Mr. Abrams could have vetoed that decision."
- "The voting shareholders have spoken, and the reaction of the market strongly suggests that the other shareholders agree," the letter concludes. "We urge you to listen."
- Updated: Viacom responds. "It matters a great deal to Viacom’s shareholders and Viacom’s board if Sumner Redstone lacked capacity or was unduly influenced in the making of recent and dramatic governance changes. Under the law, the implications would be grave if a court were to rule that recent changes were infected by Shari Redstone’s undue influence and any improper acts allegedly in Sumner Redstone’s name. Any ‘vote’ made under these circumstances would be meaningless. Individuals who have taken part in such a scheme could and should be ruled unfit to serve as trustees or board members.”
Mon, Jun. 27, 6:02 PM
- The team of media mogul Sumner Redstone is responding to reports that Viacom (VIA -5.3%, VIAB -5.1%) chief Philippe Dauman and fellow boardmembers are being prevented from meeting with Redstone -- by saying that the Viacom board is actually blocking such a meeting.
- In a statement, Redstone spokesman Mike Lawrence says the "fiction has been shattered" as Redstone has agreed to make his wishes clear in a meeting with independent director Charles Phillips, but that the board prevented that face-to-face meeting.
- Redstone's National Amusements acted earlier this month to remove five directors, including Dauman, from the Viacom board, though that move has been challenged in court.
- "Philippe and his allies long ago stopped caring about what Sumner wants, or even the shareholders generally," the statement says. "It’s all about self-preservation."
- Updated: A Viacom spokesman responds. “The statement from Mr. Redstone’s ‘strategy team’ is both inaccurate and incomplete. The only fiction that has been shattered is that a meeting would be permitted that could actually assess Mr. Redstone's capacity and undue influence. The one fact not in question is that an examination to assess Mr. Redstone’s capacity and undue influence needs to happen. We will have no further comment until we hear from the courts."
Mon, Jun. 27, 3:40 PM
- In a new setback for computer users, Google (GOOG -0.9%, GOOGL -0.5%) and Viacom (VIA -5.5%, VIAB -5.3%) prevailed in a lawsuit over children's Web privacy, though Viacom will still face one charge tied to the case.
- The two companies won on appeal of a class action suit that had charged them with illegally tracking children under 13 who visited Nickelodeon's website.
- That largely upholds a January 2015 ruling, but resurrects one state-law claim against Viacom saying the company promised not to collect children's info on Nick.com but did so anyway. That claim is remanded to a New Jersey District Court Judge.
Fri, Jun. 24, 8:03 PM
- Britain's exit from the EU is having far-reaching impacts on a wide number of industries and investments -- and while not vital, the film industry is no exception.
- Hollywood's generally had a strong relationship with Great Britain, Scott Roxborough and Alex Ritman note, but ripples of the move (particularly in currency and financing) are reaching far and wide.
- The pound -- down more than 8% to a 30-year low against the dollar -- has a bit of a mixed effect. While shooting in London gets cheaper, British box-office revenues will shrink as well (assuming the proceeds are repatriated).
- A bigger impact could come from threatened British production tax credits (of 25%), part of what has Disney (NYSE:DIS) shooting Star Wars and Marvel movies there. And legal complications tied to a tricky continental divorce present a headwind for any independent production.
- Meanwhile, HBO (NYSE:TWX) says the vote result won't hurt its crown jewel Game of Thrones, partly filmed in Northern Ireland. That show got support from the EU's European Regional Development Fund earlier on, but not in the past few seasons.
- It does continue to get funding from the UK. Game of Thrones costs about $10M per episode to produce.
- Major studio stocks: DIS, CMCSA, VIA, VIAB, TWX, FOX, FOXA, LGF, SNE
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