Fri, Mar. 13, 4:28 PM
- As signaled before, the FCC has paused the 180-day "shot clock" on reviewing two megamergers -- Comcast's (NASDAQ:CMCSA) deal for Time Warner Cable (NYSE:TWC), and AT&T's (NYSE:T) deal to buy DirecTV (NASDAQ:DTV) -- as it's tied up with another case over programming contracts.
- The review of the deals was set to expire by the end of March, but now may take somewhat longer, likely several more weeks.
- The cause is the ongoing dispute with programming firms -- Disney (NYSE:DIS), CBS, Twenty-First Century Fox (NASDAQ:FOXA), Viacom (VIA, VIAB) and others -- over whether third parties commenting on the mergers will get access to private documents containing sensitive pricing and strategy information.
- The FCC has argued it has sufficient protections to keep those details from getting out. But the merger reviews now appear to be dependent entirely on that case's timetable.
- "In reaching this conclusion, the commission reserves the right to restart the clock as it believes will best serve the public interest," the FCC said.
Thu, Mar. 12, 11:57 PM
- The MPAA's report on global box office notes that 2014 sales were up 1% to $36.4B, lifted by China's industry -- the first time that Asian revenues passed those of other regions.
- China's $4.8B made it the first foreign market to exceed $4B a year. Domestic sales of $10.4B were down 5%.
- In 2013 the three major regions (North America, Europe/Middle East/Africa, Asia Pacific) essentially tied, but 2014 was the year of Asian box office share: 34.1% vs. 29.1% in EMEA and 28.6% in North America.
- Among worries for the industry, The Hollywood Reporter notes 32% of North America's audience didn't go to a movie at all, and that steep dropoffs in ages 2-11 and 25-39 means the industry needs to look at long-term audience growth. (Frequent moviegoers make up just 11% of the population but buy 51% of the tix.)
- The U.S. industry might be frontloaded for a rebound with a franchise- and sequel-heavy 2015 ahead, though.
- Filmmakers: CMCSA, FOXA, TWX, VIA, DIS, DWA, SNE
- Previously: DreamWorks touts Chinese venture, global projects (Mar. 04 2015)
Wed, Mar. 11, 10:29 PM
- About two in five households now subscribe to some kind of video streaming, according to Nielsen, shedding some light on an area that the streaming companies haven't really been illuminating.
- Aside from subscriber numbers that the companies report, the new research is focused on penetration. Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) was top-ranked, with 36% of households subscribing in November.
- Amazon Prime (NASDAQ:AMZN) was next (13% of households), followed by Hulu Plus (CMCSA, FOXA, DIS) with 6.5%.
- Streaming-subscriber households are spending more screen time than nonsubscribers: 2 hours, 45 minutes a day, vs. 1:57.
- Reactions are mixed as to what that means for cord-cutting: "People who like TV, love TV," says Pivotal Research's Brian Wieser, arguing that Netflix subscribers aren't necessarily abandoning pay TV.
- While a third of households have just one service, only 10% have two and just 2.6% subscribe to three; those numbers correlate heavily with income.
- Time-shifting, however, is way up, especially among younger audiences. Live watching is down among adults to 4 hours, 51 minutes a day, down 13 minutes from the prior year.
Wed, Mar. 11, 8:34 PM
- Digitalsmiths -- the data research company owned by TiVo (NASDAQ:TIVO) -- has a white paper out suggesting that 1.5M Americans plan to cut the cord and ditch their pay television service, while another 38.1M are dissatisfied -- two-thirds of those because of the cost.
- The report -- based on its sample of more than 3,000 subscribers -- says 8.9% switched pay-TV providers in the prior three months, up 2.1% Y/Y.
- Another interesting number: 78.7% of respondents watch 10 channels or fewer -- which has to make future cord-cutters wonder what they're really paying for.
- While the report is largely bad news for pay TV, parent company TiVo is marketing devices both for cord-cutters and for its pay-TV partners. And 20.4% of survey takers recently upped the level of their pay service. (hat tip: FierceCable)
- Pay TV stocks today: CMCSA -1.1%; TWC -0.5%; CVC -1%; CHTR +0.7%; T -0.5%; VZ +0.4%.
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
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