Fri, Apr. 10, 9:07 PM
- While an administrative judge has recommended approval by California's Public Utilities Commission of Comcast's (NASDAQ:CMCSA) $45B acquisition of Time Warner Cable (NYSE:TWC), the agency's commissioner Mike Florio has posted an "alternative proposed decision" signaling he'd deny the deal.
- Florio says emphatically that "no conditions could mitigate all of the negative impacts of the proposed transaction," including "reduced competition for wholesale inputs ... constraining consumer options for those competitive services."
- Previously: Wolff: Get ready for 'M&A mania' with media consolidation (Apr. 09 2015)
- Previously: Sling TV CEO: We oppose Comcast-TWC merger (Apr. 06 2015)
Fri, Apr. 10, 8:59 PM
- Paramount Pictures' Interstellar (VIA, VIAB) debuted strong on top of the home-entertainment charts, surpassing some solid competition.
- The film topped The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (NYSE:TWX) on Nielsen's VideoScan sales chart (DVD and Blu-ray).
- The top five was rounded out by Big Hero 6 and Into the Woods (NYSE:DIS), and Penguins of Madagascar (DWA, FOXA).
- The Hobbit sold 57% of Interstellar's units but only 39% of the Blu-rays of the visual-and-sound-heavy space adventure. Blu-rays accounted for 70% of total Interstellar sales.
- The rampaging success of Furious 7 (NASDAQ:CMCSA) pushed the two previous series films, Fast Five and Fast & Furious 6, back into the top 20.
Fri, Apr. 10, 7:47 PM
- Executive pay reports keep rolling out, and while 2014 was anything but stellar for media companies, most Hollywood CEOs made more (a lot more in some cases) -- with Sumner Redstone a notable exception.
- Viacom (VIA, VIAB) founder Redstone -- who skipped Viacom's earnings call and is reportedly ailing -- earned $13.2M in total comp, down from $36.2M the prior year. CEO Philippe Dauman took in $44.3M in 2014. For CBS, Redstone's comp fell 81% to $10.8M.
- The eye-opening number among eye-openers came for Discovery Communications (NASDAQ:DISCA) chief David Zaslav, who drew a staggering $156M in total comp (up 368%) -- mostly from $94M in new stocks and options. His base was $3M. Tying his salary to the company's results is very much intentional.
- Lions Gate's (NYSE:LGF) Jon Feltheimer led gainers with a 400% increase to $63.6M, paced again by stock options.
- Other notables: Rupert Murdoch (NWS, FOX) drew $37.9M in total comp, up 31%, while Fox president Chase Carey got $28M (up 4%); Bob Iger (NYSE:DIS) pulled $46.5M, up 35.6%; Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) CEO Brian Roberts drew $33M (up 5.1%) and NBCUniversal President Steve Burke got $33.9M (up 9%).
Thu, Apr. 9, 10:00 PM
- In a new report on fiber, DSL and cable broadband subscribers, Infonetics Research projects that consumers are driving global fixed broadband adoption toward a 5% compound annual growth rate through 2019, from a current base of 733M (up 8% last year).
- Global growth will lead the way, the firm says, especially in China (Asia Pacific has 50% of the world's fixed broadband subscribers, and China Telecom (NYSE:CHA) is the worldwide share leader) -- as well as Russia, Brazil, Mexico, Arrgentina, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam.
- Other insights: DSL's still the biggest technology, but growth is coming via fiber-to-the-home and DOCSIS 3.0 cable; and FTTH subscribers grew 22% last year to cross the 100M-subscriber line.
- U.S.-traded players in the firm's report: T, BT, CHA, CHU, CHT, CMCSA, OTCQX:DTEGY, OTCPK:KDDIY, KT, NTT, ORAN, OTCQX:ROSYY, TI, TEF, OTCPK:TELNY, OTCPK:TLSNY, OTC:TMXLF, OTCPK:TLSYY, TWC, OTC:TRKNY, VZ, VIP, VOD
Thu, Apr. 9, 9:08 PM
- Don't let recent merger challenges and failures fool you, Michael Wolff argues: "M&A mania" is coming to a media conglomerate near you amid pressure for a new wave of consolidation.
- "Perhaps never before has consolidation been so much the flavor of the month, nor has it seemed so difficult to get a taste," he writes. "The table is set, but nobody's sitting down to eat."
- If Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) fails in its bid for Time Warner Cable (NYSE:TWC), he notes, it just means other cablers will step up to match Comcast's ambition, and Comcast will still look for a way to stay dominant.
- He points to a number of mergers he thinks are easily imaginable: Viacom (NASDAQ:VIA) and FOX? Disney (NYSE:DIS) and Time Warner (NYSE:TWX)? TWC and Charter (NASDAQ:CHTR)? Discovery (NASDAQ:DISCA) and, well, most anyone (Disney, Fox, CBS)?
- Factors encouraging the wave: Media's all about video now, and the pure-play aspect makes merger logic cleaner; distribution and content are separate and now even antagonistic businesses; the growth of over-the-top means not unbundling but re-bundling; and everyone needs scale for negotiation strength in content and ad deals.
- Other key players: John Malone (LMCA, LBTYA, STRZA); Verizon (NYSE:VZ); Lions Gate (NYSE:LGF); Scripps Networks (NYSE:SNI); Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX); DirecTV (NASDAQ:DTV) and AT&T (NYSE:T); Dish Network (NASDAQ:DISH).
Wed, Apr. 8, 8:12 PM
- Universal Pictures (CMCSA +1.5%) has raked in $1B at the global box office at its fastest rate ever -- thanks largely to early hits in Fifty Shades of Grey and the still-surprising runaway success of racing tentpole Furious 7.
- The earliest the studio had previously reached the $1B mark was May 31, in 2013.
- Fifty Shades has provided $401.2M worldwide, while Furious 7 has $316M even before opening in China or Russia.
- Filmed Entertainment revenue declined 8.2% in 2014 for NBCUniversal, but the early success this year may have it primed for a rebound, with summer sequels Jurassic World, Pitch Perfect 2 and Ted 2 yet to come, not to mention a spinoff of Despicable Me, which earned more than half a billion dollars worldwide.
- Previously: 'Furious 7' smashes April records, earns big global take (Apr. 06 2015)
- Previously: Warner's 'Focus' tops box office; 'Fifty Shades' sets Universal mark (Mar. 02 2015)
Tue, Apr. 7, 2:52 PM
- Andrew Lack began his first day back at the helm of a crisis-wracked NBC News division yesterday, and today he's greeted by a major Vanity Fair piece highlighting multiple debacles at NBC News, from Today to Meet the Press to NBC Nightly News following its suspension of anchor Brian Williams.
- Most of what the piece offers are damning quotes from NBC insiders. "Maybe I had a brain tumor, or something in my head?" Williams reportedly wondered in trying to explain his problem recalling events in Iraq that he embellished.
- NBC News -- which had been a ratings leader -- was described as Comcast's (NASDAQ:CMCSA) "crown jewel" by CEO Brian Roberts. "But this is fundamentally not a Deborah Turness problem," one insider says of the former NBC news chief. "She’s just a symptom of the problem ... This is a Comcast problem.”
- Problems may be metastasizing: Williams replacement anchor Lester Holt was able to hold NBC Nightly News' ratings lead for the past couple of months, but ABC's World News Tonight (NYSE:DIS) has taken the lead, snapping a 288-week streak at the top for NBC.
- Previously: Lack officially returning to reassume control of NBC news (Mar. 06 2015)
Mon, Apr. 6, 8:01 PM
- NBC (NASDAQ:CMCSA) marked its best shot at a solid drama debut this season as A.D. The Bible Continues logged Easter Sunday's top broadcast ratings, with a 2.3 in the 18-49 demographic, and 9.5 total viewers from 9-10 p.m.
- The follow-up to The Bible didn't match the 2013 original, which pulled a 3.3 rating in the demographic and 13.1M viewers on the smaller History network, but it marked a success for NBC on what has become a tough night for the Peacock. High-profile American Odyssey failed to hold the A.D. viewers, pulling a 1.2 in demo and 5.4M viewers.
- CBS also slumped with original programs as 60 Minutes and Madam Secretary declined sharply from the prior week -- but the Eye has tonight's NCAA basketball championship to look forward to. Turner Broadcasting (NYSE:TWX) drew 22.6M viewers (up 39% Y/Y) to the Kentucky-Wisconsin semifinal on Saturday, and 15.3M (up 31% Y/Y) in the earlier Duke-Michigan State matchup.
- NCAA Tournament ratings overall are showing up as the best in 23 years.
Mon, Apr. 6, 3:23 PM
- "We actually do oppose that merger -- we don't think it's good for consumers; we don't think it's good for the industry," says Roger Lynch, CEO of Sling TV (NASDAQ:DISH), about the proposed merger between Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) and Time Warner Cable (NYSE:TWC).
- Asked on Bloomberg TV whether Comcast ambitions amount to merely "scale" or monopoly, Lynch said "I think it's too much scale, it's unprecedented ... if that merger were completed, they would have over half of the truly high-speed broadband connections in the country, and past something 65% of the homes ... it's too much scale for one company."
- Sling TV -- whose strategy centers on a "skinny bundle" of mainly live programming served over the Internet -- had some troubles Saturday in a critical area, live sports, experiencing streaming problems serving up the NCAA Final Four for its viewers. The company apologized for problems it blamed on "extreme sign-ups and streaming."
- Comcast and Time Warner are awaiting progress at the FCC after the merger's "deal clock" was reset by the federal regulators.
- Previously: FCC pauses review of Comcast-TWC, AT&T-DTV; likely weeks away (Mar. 13 2015)
Mon, Apr. 6, 10:59 AM
- Furious 7 exceeded all expectations and smashed an April box-office record with a $143.6M weekend -- and big international receipts of $204.4M (from 10,500 screens in 63 territories) point to a massive winner for Universal (CMCSA +0.5%).
- Notably for a sequel -- where follow-ups usually do a fraction of the first film's business -- the newest entry got the biggest opening weekend of the seven-film series. And it has a relatively clear path to hundreds of millions more before May 1 brings the competition of a new Avengers.
- Home, the sole 2015 release from DreamWorks Animation (DWA +1.7%), held up well in its second weekend with $27.4M, for a two-week total of $95.6M.
- Will Ferrell-Kevin Hart comedy Get Hard (NYSE:TWX) took third place with $12.9M ($57M total gross), while Cinderella (DIS; $10.3M; $167.3M total) and Insurgent (LGF; $10M; $103.4M total) were fourth and fifth.
- Previously: Box office sales and in-theater spending trending strong (Apr. 05 2015)
- Previously: Holiday movie weekend: Universal to get 'Furious' opening (Apr. 03 2015)
Fri, Apr. 3, 3:51 PM
- Fantasy sports is a big-money industry, and now Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS) is buying a piece with a $250M investment in DraftKings, The Wall Street Journal reports.
- The investment values DraftKings -- where fantasy sports fanatics play each other with real money stakes -- at about $900M, and it comes with a nice benefit: DraftKings has committed to spend more than $500M on ESPN-platform ads in the coming years.
- A rival company, FanDuel, has backing from Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) -- and while FanDuel can keep advertising on ESPN, it won't get the premium slots that DraftKings will.
- Compared with popular fantasy games already on ESPN, CBS and Yahoo, real-money businesses may tap into lucrative streams of revenue (rakes?) that aren't possible only on ad-supported platforms.
- Previously: Report: ESPN considers jump into daily fantasy business (Jan. 05 2015)
Fri, Apr. 3, 10:00 AM
- With a few small dramas and documentaries in competition, the way is clear for Universal's (NASDAQ:CMCSA) Furious 7 to dominate the box office, and early receipts suggest the film is well on track toward an April-record $115M weekend.
- The seventh entry in the Fast and the Furious racing franchise pulled a strong $16.9M in a limited 34-market run on Wednesday, including 12 international markets. It opened in 33 more markets Thursday and will run in 63 markets over the weekend.
- Other eyes will be on Home -- the high-stakes sole 2015 release for DreamWorks Animation (NASDAQ:DWA) -- to see if it can get legs from last week's strong $54M debut, and on whether Insurgent (NYSE:LGF) and Cinderella (NYSE:DIS) can stretch out gains from their female-heavy audience.
Thu, Apr. 2, 8:19 PM
- Madison Square Garden's (NASDAQ:MSG) plans to divide into two companies -- one holding the live sports and entertainment business, the other the media business -- might provide an instant $4B acquisition target for media-industry buyers like Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) or Twenty-First Century Fox (NASDAQ:FOXA).
- Aside from the Garden itself and the company's sports franchises (including New York's Knicks, Rangers and Liberty), the company features two regional sports networks (MSG Network and MSG+) that occupy the country's top media market, and would be a complement to RSNs at Comcast or Fox.
- The MSG networks command a bit of a premium per subscriber over other RSNs ($3.49 for MSG and $2.98 for MSG+, vs. average $2.66). Fox already has a stake in the YES Network (Yankees); Comcast has a stake in SNY (Mets) and should be a bidder if its Time Warner Cable acquisition goes through.
- Previously: MSG spinning off sports/entertainment businesses (Mar. 27 2015)
Thu, Apr. 2, 4:26 PM
- Over-the-top video services seems to have accelerating momentum as more unbundling happens every week, but high-yield pay-TV companies have little to worry about just yet, Moody's says in a new report.
- Customer inertia along with the limited competition they now face should buy providers time to adjust.
- "Evolutionary, not revolutionary" is how the firm describes the pay-TV shift, saying that OTT providers, including Sony and Apple, will take a small number of subscribers for now -- even though consumer perception seems to favor OTT options.
- The firm notes rising bills could force defections, but "the average customer may not realize how much content traditional pay TV service provides, from video on demand and across multiple devices."
- Pay TV stocks today: (CMCSA +1.5%), (TWC +1.9%), (CVC +0.9%), (CHTR -0.6%), (T +0.7%), (VZ +1.1%)
Thu, Apr. 2, 11:29 AM
- Comcast (CMCSA +1.3%) isn't sitting (entirely) idle in the broadband speed race -- at least not in Atlanta.
- After Google amped up pressure on broadband speeds by launching its Fiber gigabit service project, and AT&T (NYSE:T) started followed up with more gigabit investment, Comcast is planning 2 Gbps symmetrical service in Atlanta, which would be the fastest residential service in the U.S.
- Still unknown, though, are the cost of the "Gigabit Pro" service -- the company charges $400/month for existing 505-Mbps service -- and any expansion plans outside Atlanta. Google Fiber is available in Kansas City; Austin, Texas; and Provo, Utah, at broadband cost of about $70/month.
- Both Google and AT&T have plans to expand their gigabit service to Atlanta.
- Comcast's service would be twice as fast as Google's and AT&T's, and four times as fast as Verizon FiOS Quantum, which comes in an $85 Internet/TV package.
Tue, Mar. 31, 3:17 PM
- Charter Communications (NASDAQ:CHTR) is up 6.2% and has touched a record-high $199 in the wake of its deal to acquire Bright House Networks, which would make it the country's No. 2 cable operator (Charter is now No. 4; Bright House is No. 6).
- The deal's dependent on Comcast's (NASDAQ:CMCSA) successful pursuit of Time Warner Cable (NYSE:TWC) -- Charter's own bid for TWC fell apart, and Charter could step back in if Comcast's plan falters -- and if Comcast takes such a clear lead, Charter may not stop at Bright House in trying to catch up.
- Mediacom, CableOne and Suddenlink could be the next targets. "I think it is inevitable most of the rest of the cable industry not owned by Comcast is sold to Charter," Pivotal Research Group analyst Jeff Wlodarczak tells Reuters.
- As for John Malone, his Liberty Broadband (NASDAQ:LBRDA) -- Charter's biggest shareholder -- has agreed to purchase $700M of shares in the Charter/Bright House combo, in transactions that would leave it with voting power of about 25%.
- Charter bonds picked up on the news as well.
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