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)
Mon, Feb. 2, 10:28 AM
- A close Super Bowl decided in the final 30 seconds made for TV ratings of 49.7, the game's highest ever overnight rating -- a boon to NBC (NASDAQ:CMCSA).
- Last year's game (a blowout) drew a 47.6 rating, and 2013's pulled a 48.1, the record beaten by last night's game.
- As for the premium postgame program slot, The Blacklist pulled a 13.4 rating and also benefited from its return from winter hiatus. That's a 9% improvement over Fox's (NASDAQ:FOX) showing of New Girl in that slot last year.
- Jimmy Fallon's Tonight Show rated 6.2, the best late-night postgame rating since 1998 and double the rating drawn by 2013's after-game Late Show With Craig Ferguson.
Sun, Feb. 1, 1:18 PM
- As with every network that embraces the ratings spike that the NFL's championship game brings, NBC (NASDAQ:CMCSA) is hoping the Super Bowl will allow it to promote and boost key programming. This year's coveted earner of the postgame slot: James Spader-starring tentpole The Blacklist, followed by the postgame's Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon featuring game stars.
- Aside from the day's saturation programming (the six-hour pregame show is under way), expect heavy use of in-game commercial time to promote not only The Blacklist, but also singing-show success The Voice and the duo of Chicago Fire and Chicago PD.
- Last year, more than 112M people tuned in to the highest-rated TV program of all time. What about this year? NBC is expecting 115M: "There would be huge disappointment if we weren't the most watched show in the history of television after Super Bowl Sunday," says coordinating producer Fred Gaudelli.
- There's reason for good expectations; Super Bowl viewership has grown every year since 2005 except one: 2013. Ratings were down a bit for the two conference title games in January.
- NBC's newly record-priced ads took until the last minute to sell out, but sell out they did, and the network thinks a lot of casual fans will tune in to the game after heavy news coverage of the New England Patriots' deflated-balls controversy.
Fri, Jan. 30, 5:46 PM
- In non-auction FCC news, the agency will add rules that let it review terms for the Internet service interconnects that govern deals between providers and heavy bandwidth eaters -- particularly including Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX).
- The move is a first blush of net-neutrality regulations to come.
- Producers like Netflix, Amazon.com and YouTube would prefer a ban on interconnect fees, while service providers (CMCSA, T, VZ) are arguing for no limit on negotiated fees.
- The rules are set for a Feb. 26 vote.
Thu, Jan. 29, 2:29 PM
- Regulators changed their definition of "broadband" Internet by setting it at download speeds of 25 Mbps or faster, in the face of opposition by Internet service providers.
- The move was a sharp increase from the previous definition of 4 Mbps and will likely affect how mergers and competition are viewed, and give steam to municipal broadband partnerships that states (and providers) often try to block.
- Using the new definition, nearly a fifth of Americans (and more than half in rural areas) lack access to broadband, compared to about 6% before.
- For one, Time Warner Cable (NYSE:TWC) CEO Rob Marcus said in today's earnings call: "I think that the notion of defining broadband at 25 Mbps is somewhat arbitrary and I'm not really sure what that is intended to mean. And really I don't anticipate that that has any practical implications for life going forward, or for the DOJ's analysis of the [Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA)] deal."
Thu, Jan. 29, 9:20 AM
- On Time Warner Cable's (NYSE:TWC) earnings conference call, the company waved off persistent attempts to get a hint of 2015 guidance due to the Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) deal. Capex of $4.1B in 2014 (up 28%) comprised "accelerated investment in TWC Maxx, improved customer experience and network expansion."
- Revenue growth was offset in part by increasing operating expenses of 2.8%, including increases in programming costs (up 4.7%), sales and marketing (business) costs, and technical operations (residential) costs.
- Q4 Free cash flow of $891M, up 15% Y/Y; full-year free cash flow of $2.35B is down about 10%.
- Previously: TWC misses expectations as video subs continue exodus (Jan. 29 2015)
- Previously: Time Warner Cable misses by $0.06, misses on revenue (Jan. 29 2015)
Thu, Jan. 29, 8:52 AM
- Time Warner Cable's (NYSE:TWC) earnings miss today comes as it continued to bleed off residential video customers, while business services revenues and ad revenues made up highlights of its revenue growth. Operating income up 4.5%.
- Subscriber breakdowns: Residential video customers net loss of 38K; Residential high-speed data net adds of 168K; residential voice net adds of 295K; residential triple play net adds of 273K. Total customer relationship net adds of 67K.
- Residential services revenue up on increased high-speed data revenue, offset by declines in video and voice.
- Business services revenue up mainly on high-speed data and voice customers as well as cell tower backhaul.
- No full-year guidance offered, given where TWC is with the ongoing Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) buyout.
- Q4 results
- Press release
Wed, Jan. 28, 7:43 PM
- With just days to spare before Sunday's Super Bowl, NBCUniversal (CMCSA -3.1%) says it's sold out of ad inventory for the big game, and will feature more than 70 national commercials.
- That's a little closer than they might have liked -- much later than last year's sellout, which Fox (NASDAQ:FOX) achieved almost two months beforehand -- but this year at a higher price, a record $4.5M average per 30-second spot, and record total dollar volume.
- Auto advertisers in particular had been objecting to the premium pricing over the past year. Fifteen "rookie" advertisers join the ranks in 2015.
- Pre-show and post-show ads (cheaper than during the game, but still dear) are sold out as well.
- The last time it broadcast the Super Bowl, in 2012, NBC sold out ads on Jan. 3 (for $3.5M/30-second spot), but had slightly more inventory this time around.
- Previously: Madison Avenue cautious with Super Bowl XLIX (Jan. 07 2015)
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