Tue, Mar. 10, 8:31 PM
- Aereo pushes back after a disappointing bankruptcy auction, filing a suit against major broadcasters (DIS, CBS, FOXA, CMCSA) accusing them of chilling the bidding with baseless litigation.
- While Aereo says it has no intention of reviving the business that broadcasters said was retransmitting their programming without royalties, the broadcasters have pursued a "bury 'em deep" legal strategy that fights Aereo's every move through bankruptcy.
- Why it matters: Aereo's biggest debt is in damages owed to the broadcasters that could run into tens of millions of dollars, and Aereo would like that claim bumped below others: “The equities demand that the costs of the New York Broadcasters’ improper litigation tactics should not be borne by innocent creditors."
- Aereo drew less than $2M in its February bankruptcy auction, well below expectations.
Tue, Mar. 10, 2:49 PM
- The push to legalize sports betting has a "tidal wave" of momentum behind it, according to some legal and gaming experts.
- NBA commissioner Adam Silver publicly supports bringing sports betting off the black market, and other high-level sports execs say they are open to having discussions on the topic.
- If legalized sports betting were to take off, companies with an edge on the technology front could carve up market share.
- U.K. firm William Hill (OTC:WIMHF, OTCPK:WIMHY) now brings in 40% of its handle via mobile apps.
- Though major casino operators such as Wynn Resorts (NASDAQ:WYNN), Caesars Entertainment (NASDAQ:CZR), and MGM Resorts (NYSE:MGM) face some risk of reduced Las Vegas traffic, they also have a branding advantage with potential bettors which can be leveraged.
- Scientific Games (NASDAQ:SGMS) and Zynga (NASDAQ:ZNGA) appear poised to jump on the sports gambling scene as soon as legalities clear.
- Even Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) is on the periphery of sports betting through Comcast Ventures' property FanDuel.com.
Tue, Mar. 10, 9:04 AM
- The Weather Channel went dark on Verizon (NYSE:VZ) FiOS stations today as carriage agreements expired without renewal. Verizon has placed AccuWeather Network content on the stations where TWC lived.
- It's not the first showdown for the Weather Channel, owned in part by NBCUniversal (NASDAQ:CMCSA) along with Bain Capital and Blackstone (NYSE:BX). A year ago the channel took a few months' hiatus from DirecTV over a carriage fee dispute and returned thanks to Hilton Hotels' insistence.
- The channel has a bit of weight to throw around -- it's tops on the Nielsen list of national networks, with 97.1M subscribers.
- Verizon shares are down 0.7% premarket.
Mon, Mar. 9, 11:55 PM
- Recent underperformance at the American box office is catching, as a lackluster weekend came with what some analysts are calling R-rated fatigue (too many films with the restricted rating that means lower box office overall).
- Sci-fi robot film Chappie (NYSE:SNE) led the take in the U.S. with $13.3M -- not strong, but enough for No. 1 in a week where ticket sales were down 35% Y/Y.
- Among other debuts, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (NASDAQ:FOXA) drew $8.5M, good enough for third behind the $10M of Will Smith feature Focus (NYSE:TWX).
- The other key opening was Unfinished Business (FOXA), a new bomb for Vince Vaughn at 10th place with $4.8M.
- Some of the veteran films still playing pushed their takes -- Kingsman: The Secret Service (FOXA) drew $8.3M to reach $98M; The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water (VIA, VIAB) sold $6.7M to reach $148.7M; and Fifty Shades of Grey (NASDAQ:CMCSA) took in $5.5M to hit $156M domestically.
Mon, Mar. 9, 6:41 PM
- Making the rounds after Apple's Watch event, HBO (TWX +1.3%) CEO Richard Plepler says he talked to Apple's (AAPL +0.4%) senior VP Eddy Cue last spring about a "shared vision" for the TV service -- though HBO's programming partners are scrambling a bit to sort out a response this month.
- On the thorny issue of HBO's cable/satellite partners who may object: "We are talking to all of our partners," Plepler says, adding HBO thought "it would be a great vehicle for them."
- While Apple has a three-month exclusive for its devices, program providers could get into that window via their existing relationship with HBO. Cablevision (NYSE:CVC) and Cox Communications were known to be in discussions with HBO already about providing the service. Cox is mum so far on how/if it will make HBO Now available to broadband-only customers.
- Apple makes a pretty good partner for a content company that has no experience with direct customer service; meanwhile, Apple has a massive payments infrastructure and 400M credit cards already set up. NPD analyst John Buffone tells Tom's Guide that Apple TV is No. 1 in their last streaming device report, ahead of Roku, Chromecast and Fire TV. It's used by 25M.
- No exclusive window comes without money changing hands; while financial terms are undisclosed, it's possible there's a middle ground between the 30% cut that Apple takes in apps and the 50-50 split HBO has with some existing program partners. HBO thinks the addressable market is 10M broadband-only subscribers, meaning a landscape of $150M/month to split more or less evenly.
- Related programmers: CMCSA, TWC, T
Mon, Mar. 9, 10:26 AM
- Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) does some executive reshuffling, naming Lawrence Salva its chief accounting officer and controller and an executive vice president; Arthur Block general counsel and executive VP; and Chief Communications Officer D'Arcy Rudnay an executive VP.
- Salva has led accounting and reporting functions at Comcast for 15 years after joining the compoany from a partnership at PricewaterhouseCoopers.
- Rudnay becomes the company's first female EVP.
Fri, Mar. 6, 2:37 PM
- As many industry sources expected, particularly after he recently left his government job, Andy Lack is coming back to NBC News (NASDAQ:CMCSA) to settle the waters.
- Lack -- who ran NBC news from 1993-2001 -- will take over as chairman of NBC News and MSNBC. Patricia Fili-Krushel will take an undetermined role on NBCUniversal chief Steve Burke's team; NBC News president Deborah Turness will report to Lack.
- CNBC will report straight to Burke, though.
- Lack was rumored to be returning as NBC News faced ratings challenges at some programs as well as staffing issues and journalistic firestorms, particularly around suspended anchor Brian Williams and his Iraq reporting.
- Previously: Variety: Lack may return to lead NBC news division in shakeup (Mar. 03 2015)
- Previously: NBC suspends Williams from top-rated 'Nightly News' for six months (Feb. 10 2015)
Wed, Mar. 4, 1:37 PM
- Unsurprisingly, India has decided not to allow Fifty Shades of Grey to exhibit in the country (but: for dialogue?).
- Universal Studios (CMCSA +0.4%) has already appealed the decision but may not expect much traction -- the company is also not pursuing distribution in China, where sexually explicit films tend to be banned.
- Considering the country's huge moviegoing base, the India decision could have a material effect on the film's global take (which was expected to crest $500M this week): At the beginning of the week, only India and Egypt remained on the film's international rollout.
Tue, Mar. 3, 3:22 PM
- The stream of cord-cutter targeted moves rolls on: NBCUniversal (NASDAQ:CMCSA) is planning a subscription Web video service featuring comedy for later this year, The Wall Street Journal reports.
- The service likely would have original content along with full episodes of programs like The Tonight Show and Saturday Night Live -- both of which have seen heavy online clip viewing. NBCUniversal chief Steve Burke says 70% of Tonight Show views come online instead of via broadcast.
- Prices could vary with one range being $2.50-$3.50/month.
- It's another step in TV growing toward a "windowing" approach: Just as movies go from theatrical exhibition to exclusives with pay TV/airlines and DVD windows, programs could go from broadcast to subscription Web to YouTube in a progression.
- Previously: NBC chief joins call for new kind of ratings (Feb. 24 2015)
- Previously: Nickelodeon plans preschool subscription videos, greenlights new shows (Feb. 25 2015)
- Previously: HBO reportedly aiming for April launch for Web-only service (Dec. 09 2014)
- Previously: CBS announces online subscription service (Oct. 16 2014)
Tue, Mar. 3, 10:45 AM
- A shakeup in NBCUniversal's (NASDAQ:CMCSA) news management means former NBC News President Andrew Lack may return to the top spot, supervising NBC News, MSNBC and CNBC, Variety reports.
- The move -- coming as the division is in controversy around Iraq war reporting from now-suspended NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams -- would mean that NBCUniversal News Group Chairman Pat Fili-Krushel and NBC News President Deborah Turness might change roles. They're likely to remain with the company, however.
- Aside from the Williams controversy, ratings have been in decline at CNBC and MSNBC. CNBC decided recently to forgo making ad deals based on Nielsen ratings, switching to data from a new provider.
- After leaving NBC, Lack led Sony Music Entertainment, and spent six years at Bloomberg Media before departing last fall to lead the government's Broadcasting Board of Governors.
Mon, Mar. 2, 8:42 PM
- Will Smith's Focus (NYSE:TWX) took over the box-office crown against some lackluster competition, drawing $19.1M against Kingsman: The Secret Service's $11.7M (NASDAQ:FOXA).
- Third place went to hit The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water (VIA, VIAB), still benefiting from kid-friendly counterprogramming with $11.2M.
- Fifty Shades of Grey (NASDAQ:CMCSA) slipped from first to fourth place for the week with $10.9M, another steep dropoff from the prior week, though it became Universal's highest-grossing R-rated international release at $338.4M, and should hit $500M globally in the coming week, against a $40M budget.
- Overall, after a few quarters of declining Y/Y numbers, Q1 box office is running about 8% ahead of 2014, largely thanks to bigger draws like American Sniper and Fifty Shades of Grey.
Fri, Feb. 27, 6:37 PM
- Fresh off their vote for re-regulation of Internet transmissions, the five FCC commissioners will be spending mid-March on Capitol Hill answering to the GOP Congress.
- The House Energy and Commerce Committee is holding its hearing March 19, a day after the members are scheduled with the Senate Commerce Committee.
- The chairmen of the two committees, Greg Walden and John Thune, are backing a bill that would reverse the FCC's Title II reclassification (treating Internet providers more like utilities) and substantively narrow its approach to ensuring net neutrality.
- Following the 3-2 vote, major carriers indicated their strategy would be twofold: Lawsuits (CMCSA, T, VZ, CHTR worried about "years" of litigation); and legislative action to undo the move, with a cooperative congress apparently ready to act.
- Other related stocks: CVC, TWC, CTL, FTR, ELNK, DISH, DTV, CCOI
Fri, Feb. 27, 5:23 PM
- Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) is in talks to buy ad-tech firm Visible World, The Wall Street Journal is reporting -- a move that could give the omnivorous cable giant a foothold in the growing data-driven targeted ad market.
- The talks aren't advanced, though, and could end up in more of a partnership. Even so, the discussions are a sign of the times in a TV industry that has been slower to adopt ad technology more common in the digital world.
- One strength the ad-tech firm boasts is in its ability to quickly customize TV commercials based on very small demographic or geographic divisions.
- Other cablecos are clients of Visible World, so it's not clear whether they would continue supplying space to a Comcast-owned firm.
- Any price under discussion is unknown. Comcast wrapped a $320M purchase of FreeWheel last year, picking up ESPN, Fox, Amazon and its own NBCUniversal as clients.
- Visible World has raised $33M from investors so far.
Thu, Feb. 26, 9:09 PM
- Reactions to the FCC's landmark net neutrality vote from the telecom industry were unsurprisingly negative -- though perhaps surprisingly vintage in a few cases.
- Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) says the move is "certain to lead to years of litigation" and that it doesn't believe provisions "adopted when Franklin D. Roosevelt was president should be stretched to govern the 21st century Internet."
- AT&T (NYSE:T) -- who had already threatened certain litigation -- is no stranger to weighing in on its policy blog, where today it feared "revisiting the decision, over and over and over": "Instead of a clear set of rules moving forward, with a broad set of agreement behind them, we once again face the uncertainty of litigation, and the very real potential of having to start over – again – in the future."
- Verizon (NYSE:VZ) -- which hastily issued a manually "typewritten" release dated 1934 -- doubled down on their blog with a statement in Morse code.
- Charter (NASDAQ:CHTR) expects the action will "add fees to customer bills, create regulatory uncertainty and lead to years of litigation."
- Several parties are noting the same key issue: We haven't read the order yet. The details of the document, when they come, are likely only to set off a new round of pointed reactions.
- More reactions, including the positive side
- Previously: Facing new broadband era after FCC vote, related stocks stable for now (Feb. 26 2015)
Thu, Feb. 26, 7:14 PM
- Aereo -- the streaming-TV service that cratered after it lost to broadcasters before the Supreme Court last summer -- hoped to get $4M-$31M at its bankruptcy auction, but were picked clean for less than $2M total by 10 bidders.
- TiVo (NASDAQ:TIVO) picked up Aereo's customer list and trademark, and patent risk-management company RPX (NASDAQ:RPXC) got the patents. "We are very disappointed," said Aereo lawyer William Baldiga.
- Meanwhile in the key litigation, a lower court is determining how much in damages Aereo owes angry broadcasters (DIS, CBS, FOXA, CMCSA), and it's likely to be in the tens of millions of dollars.
Thu, Feb. 26, 1:39 PM
- In the wake of the FCC's new regulations, key telecom and Internet stocks are tracking mostly where they were prior to the vote -- in part due to the fact that the vote's likely outcome was baked in, but also because details (including any late changes) are yet to be published.
- The FCC majority must review and respond to the dissenters before publishing the result, which they will provide on the Web when it's ready.
- Key stocks largely unchanged from the morning: Comcast (CMCSA -1.2%), Time Warner Cable (TWC -1.9%), Cablevision (CVC +1.3%), Charter (CHTR -1%), Centurylink (CTL +0.4%), Frontier (FTR +0.9%), Cogent (CCOI -1%).
- AT&T (T +0.9%); Verizon (VZ +0.4%); Dish Network (DISH -0.6%); DirecTV (DTV +0.1%).
- Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) -- whose traffic is such that the regulatory difference in its delivery costs may mean as much as $100M/year -- is up 1.6%. Interconnection fees may yet need some clarification.
- For its part, Verizon (NYSE:VZ) uses its old-fashioned typewriter to put out a press release for "Feb. 26, 1934" warning that rules "written in the era of the steam locomotive and the telegraph" won't work today.
- Speaking of Verizon: Next up will be lawsuits. Courts invalidated the FCC's last two attempts at net neutrality, most recently in January 2014.
- Wheeler statement on vote
- Previously: Report: AT&T, Verizon will sue FCC immediately after reclassification (Feb. 04 2015)
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