Mon, Feb. 23, 11:35 AM
- Disney (DIS +0.4%) passes a psychological barrier, raising ticket prices to the Magic Kingdom to $105/day, from $99. Among other increases in Florida and California, single-day tickets to Disneyland for ages 10 and up jumped to $99 from $96.
- Tickets to the Magic Kingdom (Disney's flagship attraction) had just gone to $99 from $95 a year ago.
- As long as attendance rises, the price hikes are likely to continue: Parks & Resorts revenue jumped 9% in Q1, driven by U.S. properties that saw more visitors and higher average spending (on merchandise and food/beverages as well as the increased ticket prices).
- The increase in one-day prices might spur more families into bigger ticket packages, which would funnel still more revenue to more profitable streams (hotel and restaurant).
- The move also fits into Orlando's growing reputation as an upscale destination: The average household income of overnight leisure visitors in 2013 was $95,720, up from $88,349 the prior year.
- If Disney's raising prices, that means other Orlando increases are likely not far behind, for SeaWorld (NYSE:SEAS) and Universal Studios (NASDAQ:CMCSA).
Fri, Feb. 20, 5:03 PM
- Delays may be in store for two very high profile mergers -- Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) with Time Warner Cable (NYSE:TWC), and AT&T (NYSE:T) with DirecTV (NASDAQ:DTV) -- as a federal court weighs a dispute over an FCC decision to provide deal opponents access to sensitive documents.
- Content companies are arguing that letting merger opponents like Dish Network (NASDAQ:DISH) see hundreds of thousands of pages on their programming-negotiation pricing and strategies "would be highly damaging."
- Content lawyer Robert Long says the FCC is "totally unprecedented" in providing the docs; the FCC responds that strong protections are in place and the details about buying power in programming are important in getting informed third-party input to consider approving the deals.
- Judges reacted with skepticism toward the FCC's argument, but with no inkling of when they might rule, the timetable for the mergers may have to move later.
- More coverage of Comcast-TWC merger
- More on an AT&T/DirecTV deal
Tue, Feb. 17, 11:11 AM
- Telecom analyst Craig Moffett sees not enough bad news priced in (and too much good), and has downgraded key cable stocks (CMCSA, CHTR, TWC) to Neutral from Buy.
- He's still got a Sell rating on Cablevision (CVC -5%).
- “With the stocks having largely achieved our target prices, with cord cutting risks mounting and with regulation clouding the path forward in broadband, it seems to us to be time to reduce exposure," Moffett says.
- He lowers his estimate of a successful Comcast-TWC merger to 60% given increasing public attention and sentiment against the combination.
- And he doesn't mince words about Title II treatment: "At its core, Title II is about price regulation ... It would be naive to believe" that the rules changes won't introduce risk to pricing power.
- Current action: (CMCSA -1.5%), (CHTR -1.6%), (TWC -1.5%)
- Previously: Telecom stocks soar as FCC's Wheeler advocates utility stance on regulation (Feb. 04 2015)
- Previously: AT&T's Stephenson: Litigating FCC rules 'quite certain' (Feb. 13 2015)
Tue, Feb. 17, 9:01 AM
- Fifty Shades of Grey took advantage of a Valentine's Day/holiday weekend combo to draw $94.4M at the box office, a February record and one of the biggest R-rated openings ever.
- The Universal film also added to Comcast's (NASDAQ:CMCSA) coffers with $160M of international business. With a relatively low $40M production budget, it's likely headed for healthy margins.
- Kingsman: The Secret Service, from Fox (NASDAQ:FOXA), drew second-place receipts of $42M -- better than expectations, and against a production budget closer to $80M.
- Previously: Comcast looking for fifty shades of green (Feb. 13 2015)
- Previously: U.S box office ahead of last year's pace (Feb. 09 2015)
- Previously: Valentine's Day box to be painted in grey (Jan. 22 2015)
Fri, Feb. 13, 8:28 PM
- After a promising early take, Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) is anticipating nothing but green this weekend for Fifty Shades of Grey, released through its Universal Pictures.
- The film based on the controversial book drew $8.6M in 2,830 theaters as it began Thursday night rollouts. Today, it moves to 3,646 screens, the widest release for an R-rated film to date -- and (recently rising) expectations are that it could set a Presidents Day holiday record, tracking as high as $75M-90M over the four days, depending on estimate.
- Half of U.S. pre-sales are coming from under-30 fans, and two-thirds are women.
- The previous record for this weekend was 2010's Valentine's Day, which drew $63M over that long weekend. And Fifty Shades could surpass the February opening-day champ, The Passion of the Christ.
- The film's success will help Universal and Comcast bounce back from recent costly flops Blackhat and Seventh Son.
Thu, Feb. 12, 7:06 PM
- Following earnings, Time Warner's (TWX +2.8%) got another challenge ahead in negotiations for programming renewals with Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA), Dish Network (NASDAQ:DISH) and Time Warner Cable (NYSE:TWC).
- With distributors slimming down packages (and programming costs), economies of scale are likely to play in Time Warner's favor vs. smaller programmers.
- The same dynamic is driving chatter around a CBS merger with Viacom (VIA, VIAB) or even TWX -- the need for size to get more mojo in negotiations with stingier distribution channels.
- An increasing factor is the gradual unbundling of programming from traditional distributors through services like Sling TV, or subscription services from CBS and HBO.
- TWX's outlook looks increasingly dependent on accelerating revenue growth -- "which is likely to require successful renegotiation of the last two major domestic (pay-TV) deals and highly successful box office performance," says Pacific Crest's Andy Hargreaves.
- Previously: Dish opens Sling TV signups for all U.S. viewers (Feb. 09 2015)
Tue, Feb. 10, 8:12 PM
- NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams has been suspended without pay for six months, NBC says in a blunt statement from NBCUniversal chief executive Steve Burke that calls Williams' actions "inexcusable."
- The move is almost certain to put a dent in the broadcast's ratings, which lead network newscasts (though not by much, as ABC's World News Tonight is close).
- "While on Nightly News on Friday, Jan. 30, 2015, Brian misrepresented events which occurred while he was covering the Iraq War in 2003," writes NBC News chief Deborah Turness. "It then became clear that on other occasions Brian had done the same while telling that story in other venues."
- The profitability of NBC's news division was a highlight in the network's purchase by Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) as it focused on turning around prime-time ratings.
Mon, Feb. 9, 7:36 PM
- While content is said to be king, don't overlook distributors in the television landscape, says Kiplinger's Miriam Cross in a look at which TV stocks have appeal in a landscape buffeted by consolidation and structural change in the likely face of new regulations.
- While it's tempting to stick to content providers in cable -- “Quality content will always find an outlet,” says Morningstar's Neil Macker -- Cross says cablecos have maintained high leverage including on-demand viewing and a strong grip on broadband subscriptions.
- She notes Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) is valuable even if a planned merger with Time Warner Cable fails, due in part to its move into content via its NBC purchase, as well as an increasing dividend and buybacks.
- Time Warner (NYSE:TWX) she likes as a pure content play that, like Comcast, boasts heavy repurchasing. And CBS boasts some diverse revenue streams as well as strong broadcast ratings and key sports rights.
- Previously: Comcast-Time Warner Cable deal up in the air? (Feb. 09 2015)
- Previously: Moonves dampens enthusiasm for CBS-Time Warner merger (Feb. 06 2015)
Mon, Feb. 9, 4:00 AM
- Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) and Time Warner Cable's (NYSE:TWC) $45B merger still remains in limbo, with the DOJ and FCC scrutinizing the deal and Tom Wheeler's new net neutrality proposal.
- Investors began betting against the combination late last month, with shares of both companies falling sharply before recovering last week.
- If regulators allow the deal as is, the merged company would control about 35% of the country’s broadband Internet service coverage and just under 30% of pay television subscribers.
- Previously: Concerns grow over Comcast/Time Warner Cable combo (Feb. 02 2015)
- Previously: FCC pauses review of Comcast-Time Warner merger (Dec. 23 2014)
Fri, Feb. 6, 11:40 AM
- "There's a lot of noise out there," says CBS CEO Les Moonves about the chatter around a CBS merger with Viacom (NASDAQ:VIA) or Time Warner (NYSE:TWX), but "Right now, we are very happy being alone." Sounds like a line from a Hollywood rom-com -- particularly considering CBS split off from Viacom in 2006, which would technically make that a reunion.
- Moonves did acknowledge on CNBC that CBS is closer to TWX than any other company -- the two co-own the CW network and Warner Bros. supplies plenty of shows to CBS TV.
- With regard to its non-broadcast assets, particularly including CBS Television Studios and Showtime, Moonves notes content will be as important to the company's future as advertising.
- And he plugged the network's 2016 coverage of Super Bowl 50 by praising NBC's production this year: "It's the one day of the year we root for them. ... We have Super Bowl 50 and our ad rates, which are going to begin north of $5M for a 30-second television spot, are based on their great ratings."
- Moonves recently re-upped with CBS until June 2019.
- Today: (CBS +2.2%); (CMCSA +0.6%); (VIA +1.2%)
- More CBS on CNBC
Wed, Feb. 4, 11:42 AM
- Breakdown of FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler's op-ed on net neutrality: "Enforceable, bright-line rules" that ban paid prioritization ("fast lanes") and blocking/throttling of services, including for mobile broadband.
- The investment key for related stocks: "All of this can be accomplished while encouraging investment in broadband networks. ... My proposal will modernize Title II, tailoring it for the 21st century, in order to provide returns necessary to construct competitive networks. For example, there will be no rate regulation, no tariffs, no last-mile unbundling."
- FCC voting is scheduled for Feb. 26.
- Related stocks: (CMCSA +2.8%); (CVC +2%); (TWC +3.1%); (T +0.6%); (VZ +0.7%); (CHTR +4.3%); (DISH +2.6%); (DTV +1%); (CCOI +3.9%)
Wed, Feb. 4, 11:31 AM
- FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has released an op-ed hinting at the commission's new stance on net neutrality rule -- and it suggests utility-like regulation for fixed and wireless broadband.
- "This week, I will circulate ... proposed new rules to preserve the Internet as an open platform for innovation and free expression. This proposal is rooted in long-standing regulatory principles, marketplace experience, and public input received over the last several months."
- Wheeler calls directly for Title II authority in "the strongest open Internet protections ever proposed by the FCC."
- Stocks on the move: (CMCSA +3.3%); (CVC +2.9%); (TWC +4%); (T +0.8%); (VZ +0.7%); (CHTR +4.3%); (DISH +3.3%); (DTV +1.2%); (CCOI +4.3%)
Tue, Feb. 3, 12:06 PM
- Charter Communications (NASDAQ:CHTR) is up 2.3% after Canaccord Genuity reaffirmed its Buy rating on the stock ahead of Charter's Thursday earnings report.
- Canaccord thinks Comcast's (NASDAQ:CMCSA) Time Warner Cable (NYSE:TWC) purchase will get done, sending 1.4M customers Charter's way as the combined Comcast-TWC divests them.
- Canaccord's $182 price target is a 15.5% premium to Charter's current trading price of $157.59.
Mon, Feb. 2, 4:46 PM
- The big game ratings news was in this morning, but now NBC (NASDAQ:CMCSA) can say it showed the most-watched television program in U.S. history: 114.4M people tuned in to the 49th Super Bowl.
- That's up 2.2M viewers from the previous high: last year's game between Seattle and Denver.
- The Blacklist's postgame 8.7 rating was good for 26.5M viewers and NBC's most-watched scripted show in more than 10 years.
- Viewership actually swelled to a peak at 120.8 million viewers from 9:45-10 p.m. ET during the fourth quarter.
Mon, Feb. 2, 4:19 PM
- Speculation about how hard the FCC would come with new regulations on "net neutrality" tilts toward "more aggressive" as sources tell the WSJ the agency is seeking a significant expansion of its authority.
- In summary, the changes would take mobile and fixed broadband firms (like T, TWC, VZ, CMCSA, CHTR, CVC, LBRDA) from being lightly regulated entities into a regulatory structure more like the traditional phone companies/telecoms, treating them more like public utilities.
- The upshot: A ban on "paid prioritization," where service providers block or slow access to some websites/destinations depending on payments.
- The rules would put interconnection (deals such as Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) arranges for content delivery) under Title II standards and the deals would be put to an "unjust/unreasonable" standard for evaluation.
Mon, Feb. 2, 3:48 PM
- Investors are getting nervier about Comcast's (NASDAQ:CMCSA) $45B deal for Time Warner Cable (NYSE:TWC), Maureen Farrell notes.
- TWC isn't just down nearly 10% YTD -- it's 10% below Comcast's offer value.
- The FCC's recent broadband redefinition changes anticompetitive concerns as well: Using the old definition, the two cablecos controlled some 35-40% of the market, but the new definition means controlling 57% of the market. Comcast could step away if regulators get too demanding.
- Both companies are showing optimism and extended the deal's "end date" to Aug. 12.
- Previously: TWC misses expectations as video subs continue exodus (Jan. 29 2015)
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