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The Walt Disney Company (DIS)

  • Fri, Apr. 17, 9:13 PM
    • A spokesperson for ESPN (NYSE:DIS) has weighed in on reports that Verizon (NYSE:VZ) will offer unbundled or "skinny" packages to give customers choice about what they receive -- and ESPN says that's not allowed.
    • “Media reports about Verizon’s new contemplated bundles describe packages that would not be authorized by our existing agreements," says the company's statement. "Among other issues, our contracts clearly provide that neither ESPN nor ESPN2 may be distributed in a separate sports package.”
    • The move's unsurprising coming from ESPN, which charges the highest prices per subscriber by far among national cable peers, reportedly now more than $6/month. That compares with TNT at around $1.48/subscriber month.
    • ESPN has made defending bundles a policy priority in Washington, and companies with powerful bundles of channels like Disney (with the various flavors of ESPN as well as the Disney Channel and Soapnet) can force channels with low or no consumer interest into bundles with the desired flagship stations to build their audience.
    • The statement suggests Verizon didn't get a sign-off from Disney before talking about unbundling, though Peter Kafka reports that Verizon's Alberto Canal said the company had gotten authorization from all programmers in its new bundle.
  • 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
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  • Thu, Apr. 16, 3:23 PM
    • Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS) is building some momentum this afternoon, up 1.2%, as fans start to refuel high expectations with the first day of the "Star Wars Celebration" in Anaheim, Calif.
    • The first day of a four-day meetup featured new looks at images and media from the upcoming winter's Star Wars: The Force Awakens sequel, including a new trailer.
    • Earlier the stock got some pre-earnings positives from JPMorgan via Alexia Quadrani, and from JBL Advisors, which initiated coverage at Buy with a $124 price target. Disney closed yesterday at $106.96.
    • Disney's "best positioned ... to reported yet another quarterly beat vs. consensus expectations from ongoing strength at the Parks and Consumer Products in particular," says JPMorgan. The report (JPMorgan's expecting EPS of $1.15) could be a positive catalyst and the firm is expecting color on the money train that is Avengers: Age of Ultron, which will have opened May 1.
    • JBL thinks Disney's well positioned for "double digit earnings gains in F2015E-F2017E ... which we believe should lead to above-average returns for investors this next year."
    • Disney reports earnings May 5.
  • Thu, Apr. 16, 1:31 PM
    • Verizon (NYSE:VZ) is turning to college sports for its mobile-first streaming video service, inking deals with a number of partners to fill out an offering that should have 20-30 channels later this year.
    • The company has deals with ACC Digital Network, Campus Insiders, CBS Sports, ESPN and 120 Sports to join its deal for 200 hours with Awesomeness TV (NASDAQ:DWA).
    • What does Verizon get? "Dozens of live major college games" from CBS and "select live college football and college games" as well as original-entertainment shows like 30 for 30 from ESPN (NYSE:DIS).
    • Pricing and packaging for the service are still unresolved, but Verizon does plan to offer it only via its mobile data plans at first.
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  • Wed, Apr. 15, 10:07 AM
    • Disney (NYSE:DIS) will use its upcoming releases Tomorrowland and Inside Out to premiere Dolby Vision, Dolby's (NYSE:DLB) latest video standard offering a greater range of colors.
    • Dolby's offering promises a wider color gamut regardless of how many pixels of resolution a display screen has. The film will show at Dolby Cinema locations featuring the new video technology and Dolby Atmos sound.
    • Disney has hopes that Tomorrowland -- directed by Brad Bird, veteran of the company's The Incredibles and Ratatouille -- can provide a new franchise to go along with its roster of film franchises including Marvel and Star Wars.
    • A previous film in the Disney stable, Pixar's Brave, served as the 2012 debut of Dolby's Atmos sound system.
  • Wed, Apr. 15, 9:56 AM
    • Disney (NYSE:DIS) will use its upcoming releases Tomorrowland and Inside Out to premiere Dolby Vision, Dolby's (NYSE:DLB) latest video standard offering a greater range of colors.
    • Dolby's offering promises a wider color gamut regardless of how many pixels of resolution a display screen has. The film will show at Dolby Cinema locations featuring the new video technology and Dolby Atmos sound.
    • Disney has hopes that Tomorrowland -- directed by Brad Bird, veteran of the company's The Incredibles and Ratatouille -- can provide a new franchise to go along with its roster of film franchises including Marvel and Star Wars.
    • A previous film in the Disney stable, Pixar's Brave, served as the 2012 debut of Dolby's Atmos sound system.
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  • Tue, Apr. 14, 4:57 PM
    • In a major refocus, cable network ABC Family (NYSE:DIS) is pressing to double original programming and target women ages 14-29.
    • The network is already No. 1 in prime time among ad-supported networks with women 18-34, 18-49 and 12-34, so the new slate is a big investment in its position.
    • The new target is what ABC Family calls "becomers," girls and women within a decade of graduating school, who consume about four hours of TV each day plus three on mobile devices -- that's 69M people, 70% of whom are millennials.
    • The network is adding more than a dozen scripted shows to its development schedule along with renewing hits Pretty Little Liars, Switched at Birth and The Fosters, and it will launch a revamped app to increase its social media focus with its new target audience.
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  • 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).
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  • 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, 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, 5:41 PM
    • Disney (NYSE:DIS) is adding Pinocchio to its growing slate of live-action remakes of animated classics.
    • Peter Hedges is writing a feature for the company, loosely based on the 1883 story.
    • Deadline Hollywood notes there could be a Pinocchio fight: Director Guillermo Del Toro is also developing a darker Pinocchio-inspired story, planned for stop-motion animated 3D.
    • Disney's new Pinocchio joins a lengthy development list of live-action remakes at the Mouse House, including Beauty and the Beast, Dumbo, Mulan and Jungle Book.
    • What could be: Mass profits, based on the takes of Maleficent ($758M worldwide) and the currently-in-theaters Cinderella ($400M worldwide and counting).
  • 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, 11:47 PM
    • All six Star Wars films will be available for download via major online retailers on Friday, after a deal from Disney (NYSE:DIS) and Fox (NASDAQ:FOXA), which jointly control the rights.
    • The films will be available for purchase (but not rental) for $20 each or $100 for the set (depending on discounts) via sites like iTunes, and Vudu, as well as Google Play. It's the first time downloadable purchases have been enabled for the films, which in this iteration will include new bonus content to attract disc owners.
    • There will be no device limitations on viewing purchased films. The versions, though, are the same as the Blu-ray (not the theatrical releases).
    • Previously: Disney meeting: 'Frozen 2' coming; next three 'Star Wars' films scheduled (Mar. 12 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)
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  • 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)
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Company Description
Walt Disney Co, together with its subsidiaries, is a diversified entertainment company with operations in five business segments: Media Networks, Parks and Resorts, Studio Entertainment, Consumer Products and Interactive.