Sat, Apr. 18, 10:55 PM
- Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) and Time Warner Cable (NYSE:TWC) will meet Wednesday with the Justice Department in hopes of negotiating concessions to assuage the department's reported opposition to their $45B merger, The Wall Street Journal is reporting.
- It's the first time the companies would meet with any regulators -- and the deal is nearing its endgame with both Justice and the FCC.
- Bloomberg reported Friday that staff attorneys at Justice were leaning toward blocking the deal, though any final word would come from senior officials there.
- The Justice Department's concern is antitrust issues in the combination of two giant service providers; the FCC is evaluating the deal to see whether it is in the public interest.
Fri, Apr. 17, 7:06 PM
- As reports spread that Justice Dept. attorneys were likely to recommend blocking Comcast's (CMCSA -2.1%) $45B buyout of Time Warner Cable (TWC -5.4%), the cable companies both argued there was no basis to block the deal.
- It'll mean "faster broadband speeds, access to a superior video experience, and more competition in business services resulting in billions of dollars of cost savings," according to a Comcast statement. "These benefits have been essentially unchallenged in the record."
- Meanwhile, over at the FCC, 37 groups opposed to the deal wrote Tom Wheeler, the agency's chairman, saying that even conditional application of net neutrality regulation wouldn't soften their opposition. Signatories included Dish, Consumers Union, the Writers Guild of America, West, and Free Press; "they don't make any new arguments," Comcast responds.
- Some volume came into competitive stocks and gave them a (relative) lift after the news: Charter Communications (NASDAQ:CHTR) came off lows to finish down 1.9%; Cablevision Systems (NYSE:CVC) rebounded to finish just -0.3%.
- In February, BTIG analyst Rich Greenfield laid out why he thought the deal would ultimately get rejected.
- Then shortly after the Justice Dept. news broke, Comcast noted it was bringing its top-speed 2-Gbps Gigabit Pro service to the California Bay Area. The company previously said it would launch the service in Atlanta (where Google Fiber and AT&T plan 1-Gbps service); it's setting June for the California launch, but still no word on possible pricing.
Fri, Apr. 17, 4:22 PM
- Just in time for critical upfronts, advertising spending on TV rose in the first quarter, Standard Media Index reports, offering some optimism for networks in a challenging season.
- Excluding last year's Winter Olympics impact, spending was up 7% for broadcast networks, and up 4% for cable networks.
- For broadcast, January and February showed nominal declines because of comparison with the year-ago Olympics, and revenues were flat in March. Meanwhile, TV ratings were down 11% in Q1.
- The news is good but tempered by the expectation that this year's upfronts (all-at-once negotiations over the upcoming TV season) will show ad commitments falling 10% for broadcast and 5% for cable.
- Key network owners: AMCX, DIS, CBS, FOX, CMCSA
Fri, Apr. 17, 2:09 PM
- The Justice Department's staff attorneys looking into Comcast's (NASDAQ:CMCSA) $45B bid to purchase Time Warner Cable (NYSE:TWC) are close to urging the deal be blocked, Bloomberg reports -- and they're also not working with Comcast to secure changes that would satisfy them.
- Already lower with the market today, TWC took a cliff dive, now -7%. Comcast shares are still down 2.8%.
- The lawyers could submit their review as soon as next week to deputy assistant AG Renata Hesse. Officials will then decide on whether to sue to stop the deal.
- Hesse is running the review since antitrust chief Bill Baer recused himself, as a previous representative of NBCUniversal in its takeover by Comcast.
Tue, Apr. 14, 11:22 PM
- Comcast Business (NASDAQ:CMCSA) has amped up its relationship with the NBA's Atlanta Hawks, signing an agreement to consolidate upgrades for data, voice and video at Philips Arena from a variety of competing vendors.
- The upgrades include PRI trunks over fiber and TV service as well as a dedicated 100-Mbps ethernet connection -- much of which will go to supporting arena visitors.
- “In the business of professional sports, it is absolutely a given now that fans attending games, and the media covering them, expect fast, reliable service," says Comcast's Cleve Lewis.
- Comcast's busines unit has a number of pro sports deals and recently signed with the Atlanta Braves for technology at the team's new 60-acre complex.
- Previously: Comcast in another sports-venue deal, wiring up new Atlanta ballpark (Mar. 17 2015)
Tue, Apr. 14, 7:17 PM
- With the FCC's new net neutrality rules published in the Federal Register, AT&T (NYSE:T) and three industry trade groups representing cablecos and wireless carriers have filed separate lawsuits challenging the rules, which subject firms to heavier "telecom services" regulations.
- AT&T is the first large individual challenger, joined by the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, wireless group CTIA and the smaller American Cable Association. The NCTA has hired former solicitor General Ted Olson, who argued Bush v. Gore before the Supreme Court.
- Publication in the Federal Register means the rules take effect 60 days from yesterday -- which is why affected companies had their briefs warmed up.
- Represented/related companies: VZ, TMUS, S, CMCSA, CHTR, TWC, CVC, CTL, FTR, CCOI, DISH, DTV
Tue, Apr. 14, 2:11 PM
- Early over-the-top streaming options may have been just complements to standard pay-TV, but the latest ones are real cord-cutting threats, says John Hodulik of UBS. Nevertheless, pay TV should hold its premium on sheer amount of programming and quality of experience, he says.
- Costs of "cobbling together" channels without pay-TV bundling discounts add up, he notes in rating Comcast (CMCSA +0.7%) and Charter (CHTR +1.1%) at Buy.
- He believes the OTT threat will stay "contained" over the next 3-5 years.
Mon, Apr. 13, 4:28 PM
- Furious 7 topped domestic box office for the second straight weekend and kept on a straight course toward becoming the first in its seven-film series to gross $1B worldwide.
- The record-seeing Universal (NASDAQ:CMCSA) film took $60.6M to bring its two-week U.S. total to $252.5M. It's one of only a dozen movies to reach $60M in its second weekend.
- The film cruised past $800M globally, playing in 66 territories, and pushed the Fast & Furious series over $3B in grand total grosses.
- Home (NASDAQ:DWA) continued to hold up in its third week, finishing second with $19M ($129.6M overall), just ahead of romantic new entrant The Longest Ride, with $13M.
- Cinderella (NYSE:DIS) and Insurgent (NYSE:LGF) slipped to Nos. 5 and 6 respectively. Cinderella took $7.1M to bring its five-week haul to $180.7M ($436.8M worldwide), and Insurgent drew 6.7% to bring a four-week total to $114.7M ($250M worldwide).
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.
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