Fri, Apr. 24, 7:30 PM
- Comcast has ended its pursuit of Time Warner Cable, but what about that lawsuit from content companies that threatened to slow the whole thing down?
- Companies including CBS, Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS) and Viacom (VIA, VIAB) argued that the FCC's sharing hundreds of thousands of pages of negotiating strategies with third-party merger opponents like Dish Network (NASDAQ:DISH) would be "highly damaging." The fight was likely to add several weeks to any related merger consideration.
- The suit, still at the U.S. Court of Appeals, is still in progress because it also involved the ongoing AT&T (NYSE:T) deal to acquire DirecTV (NASDAQ:DTV). Attorneys close to the case are figuring that the Comcast-TWC documents will now be off the table as a moot point.
- Still, the decision likely still has an impact on the timeline for AT&T/DirecTV. The FCC will file an updated notification with the court.
- Previously: AT&T sells third-biggest debt offering to fund DirecTV purchase (Apr. 23 2015)
- Previously: Comcast, TWC move higher premarket on merger's end (Apr. 24 2015)
- Previously: It's over: Comcast officially ends $45B pursuit of TWC (Apr. 24 2015)
Thu, Apr. 23, 6:24 PM
- AT&T (T +4.2%) peddled $17.5B in bonds in the third-biggest debt offering on record, as it draws funds to help pay for its acquisition of DirecTV (NASDAQ:DTV) -- a media deal that looks to be a survivor as other mergers fall apart.
- The sale's part of a record year in debt sales; it's the third-biggest ever but only the second-largest this year, as Actavis sold $21B in March.
- Yield-hungry investors put in $68B in orders, nearly four times the offer. A 10-year bond was priced to yield 3.435%; a 31-year bond at 4.772%.
- The company may be getting ahead of the rush. More debt deals are likely to come ahead of any move by the Fed to raise rates, and they're likely to find investors so long as there are negative yields still in the market.
- AT&T will redeem some bonds at a premium if the DTV deal's not done by Nov. 30, though it still exepcts a Q2 closing.
- Previously: AT&T call: On reducing churn, and post-acquisition deleveraging (Apr. 22 2015)
Tue, Apr. 21, 7:17 PM
- FCC officials tomorrow will brief staff about the proposed $45B merger of Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) and Time Warner Cable (NYSE:TWC), Reuters is reporting -- though with no news about which way officials are thinking.
- The briefing may be light on specifics but might offer some clues to how the FCC will deal with recent public opposition to the buyout. The FCC's ruling on the deal will focus on public interest, while the Department of Justice focuses on antitrust concerns.
- The staff will also be briefed tomorrow on AT&T's (NYSE:T) $48B deal to buy DirecTV (NASDAQ:DTV), according to Reuters.
- Previously: WSJ: Comcast, Time Warner Cable to meet with Justice Dept. (Apr. 18 2015)
- Previously: Comcast defends TWC deal, announces 2-Gbps California plan (Apr. 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
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).
Tue, Apr. 7, 6:41 PM
- An ad trade group has told DirecTV (NASDAQ:DTV) to discontinue its well-known "Rob Lowe alter-ego" ads after Comcast complained about the accuracy of claims the characters were making about DirecTV service in comparison with cable
- The ads -- which portray the actor as a successful DirecTV subscriber and his less attractive/creepy alter egos that are cable subscribers -- include claims of better signal reliability, better picture and sound quality and shorter customer service wait times.
- The Council of Better Business Bureau’s National Advertising Division couldn't substantiate many of the claims and instructed DirecTV to drop them. DirecTV will appeal the decision, but in the end the claim could be referred to government regulators.
Tue, Apr. 7, 11:49 AM
- As expected, AT&T's (NYSE:T) $49B purchase of DirecTV (NASDAQ:DTV) is headed for an easier approval than Comcast's takeover of Time Warner Cable -- and the AT&T deal may wrap before April is through, with a few "action packed" weeks ahead, says Morgan Stanley's Simon Flannery.
- Flannery sees limited opposition to the deal, though he does warn about risks including AT&T's leverage in the deal and its recent $18B purchase of wireless spectrum.
- But the purchase may have taken too long -- way too long in coming, says analyst Craig Moffett, since the deal is "oh so 2005."
- "There was a certain logic to it at the time," Moffett says, pointing out that buying a satellite distribution arm would have been better 10 years ago, when Verizon was building a future-proof fiber network and AT&T's network limitations were clear even then.
- "Don't get us wrong. DirecTV is a well-run asset," Moffett writes, "with a sterling brand and strong management, and the company's free cash flow will clearly help sustain AT&T's dividend. But it is hard to make the case for genuine strategic fit between the two companies."
- Previously: With regulator eyes on Comcast-TWC, is AT&T's DirecTV purchase skating? (Mar. 17 2015)
Mon, Apr. 6, 5:34 PM
- Another rite of spring arrives with baseball's Opening Day, and the L.A. Dodgers (who've made the playoffs each of the past two years and are favored again this year) are still off the air for most Southern California residents amid a Time Warner Cable (NYSE:TWC) dispute.
- TWC paid the dodgers $8B to launch SportsNet LA, but hasn't reached agreement with any other provider to carry the channel, meaning 70% of locals are shut out of coverage unless they watch at the park in person.
- In particular, DirecTV (NASDAQ:DTV) is refusing to pay $4 per subscriber-month to air the games and there may be little progress toward a carriage deal until merger plans for TWC (with Comcast) and DirecTV (with AT&T) get resolved.
- Sources tell the Los Angeles Times that TWC is losing $100M on its channel in the standoff.
Tue, Mar. 24, 3:54 PM
- Buyback-happy U.S. firms are prohibited from repurchasing shares from about five weeks prior to releasing quarterly earnings to about 48 hours after those reports. These blackout periods, says Goldman, may offer an especially tasty time for investors to pick up shares of their favorites.
- "High valuations in the absence of corporate demand may weigh on stock prices," says Goldman's Amanda Sneider, and particular areas of focus are tech, consumer discretionary, and financials - they've accounted for more than 50% of buyback activity.
- Goldman's buyback blackout theme buys: SanDisk (NASDAQ:SNDK), Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO), Travelers (NYSE:TRV), Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), Juniper Networks (NYSE:JNPR), Xerox (NYSE:XRX), Torchmark (NYSE:TMK), F5 Networks (NASDAQ:FFIV), Citrix Systems (NASDAQ:CTXS), Aon (NYSE:AON), Moody's (NYSE:MCO), VeriSign (NASDAQ:VRSN), Hartford Financial (NYSE:HIG), Ameriprise (NYSE:AMP), Corning (NYSE:GLW), Time Warner (NYSE:TWX), Seagate Technology (NASDAQ:STX), Viacom (NASDAQ:VIAB), Legg Mason (NYSE:LM), XL Group (NYSE:XL), DirecTV (NASDAQ:DTV), Allstate (NYSE:ALL), Nvidia (NASDAQ:NVDA), CBS (NYSE:CBS), Macy's (NYSE:M), Kohl's (NYSE:KSS).
Tue, Mar. 24, 4:31 AM
- Opening up a new door for the sports-media industry, the NFL has announced it would test placing one football game this season on a national digital platform and not on national television, as a trial effort to understand the market for digital rights.
- In another sweeping change, the league has decided to scrap its controversial blackout rule, which prohibits local broadcasts of games if they aren't sold out 72 hours before kickoff, for the 2015 season.
- Related tickers: CBS, FOXA, CMCSA, DIS, DTV
Mon, Mar. 23, 10:58 AM
- A California case over DirecTV's (NASDAQ:DTV) enforcement of arbitration clauses is headed for the Supreme Court.
- A state appeals court had ruled that customers of the satellite provider weren't bound by a provision in the service agreement requiring private arbitration of disputes rather than class actions.
- The case goes back to class-action suits filed in 2008 over cancellation fees. DirecTV says the appeals court ruling conflicts with one it won on the matter in U.S. Circuit Court.
Tue, Mar. 17, 2:03 PM
- With the proposed merger of Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) and Time Warner Cable (NYSE:TWC) getting all the oxygen from the post-net-neutrality FCC, the $48.5B deal that AT&T (NYSE:T) has to acquire DirecTV (NASDAQ:DTV) appears to be getting a relatively free pass.
- Both deals will create a company controlling more than a quarter of pay TV -- so it may be Internet access that's drawing extra scrutiny. The combined Comcast-TWC company would serve high-speed Internet to almost 40% of Americans.
- Even FCC petitions opposing the deals are telling: 20 against Comcast-TWC, five against AT&T-DirecTV. And 88,000 brief comments opposing Comcast-TWC, 14,000 opposing AT&T-DirecTV.
- One critic of the T-DTV deal told Reuters that Justice Department reviewers responded in a meeting with "few questions" and "blank stares."
- Today: CMCSA -0.7%; TWC -1%; T +0.1%; DTV +0.2%.
- Previously: FCC pauses review of Comcast-TWC, AT&T-DTV; likely weeks away (Mar. 13 2015)
- Previously: Brean downgrades DirecTV to Hold; AT&T offer priced in (Feb. 23 2015)
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.
Wed, Mar. 11, 12:21 PM
- The FTC has charged DirecTV (NASDAQ:DTV) with deception in its advertising for satellite TV costs.
- The agency says that DirecTV is advertising a discounted 12-month programming package that hides the fact that it requires a two-year contract -- and that costs go up by as much as $45/month in the second year. Customers trying to cancel before the two-year point face early termination fees of up to $480.
- The FTC also calls an offer for three months of free premium channels a "negative option continuity plan" hiding the requirement for customers to proactively cancel to avoid expensive automatic charges.
- "It’s a bedrock principle that the key terms of an offer to a consumer must be clear and conspicuous, not hidden in fine print," says FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez.
- Along with a court order barring the conduct, the FTC seeks a monetary judgment that could provide refunds to DTV customers.
Mon, Mar. 2, 8:23 PM
- Les Moonves said on CNBC last month that CBS was "very happy being alone," and the CEO doubled down on that talk at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media and Telecom conference.
- Moonves says his COO tells him that CBS will be a $100 stock in four years, so buyers or merger partners like Time Warner (NYSE:TWX) or Viacom (VIA, VIAB) would have to pay "a very high price." CBS shares gained 4.5% Monday to close at $61.75.
- He also expressed little concern about smaller cable bundles or any lack of negotiating power by eschewing a merger, saying CBS will be in every bundle. "People can't live without CBS ... We like the hand we're playing."
- The company faces new negotiations with DirecTV (NASDAQ:DTV) and Cablevision (NYSE:CVC) at the end of the year.
- Previously: AMC Networks finally looking for a deal? (Feb. 25 2015)
- Previously: Cumulus higher in late trade as CBS M&A chatter flies (Feb. 24 2015)
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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