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  • CNBC: Disney still focused on full sale of regional sports nets

    • Walt Disney (DIS +0.3%) is focused on a full sale of the 22 regional sports networks that it must divest in order to complete its $71B deal for assets of Fox (FOX +0.3%, FOXA +0.3%), CNBC's David Faber says.
    • That follows a report in the New York Post that the Justice Dept. might allow Disney to spin off the RSNs in order to finish the deal, a move that would show loss of operational control of the nets (and save Disney's bacon from what is increasingly looking like a potential fire sale).
    • Faber says a straight spin-off is unlikely as there's been no ground given by DOJ on the matter, though he says there's a prospect that Disney could sell 51% with the minority remainder being spun off.
    • Sinclair Broadcast Group (SBGI +0.2%) is thought to be the only entity that's bid for all the nets as a whole.
    • With Fox itself dropping out of the bidding, the sales price has likely come down.
  • NBCU streaming details: Ad-supported service coming early '20

    • In its own release about plans for a streaming service, NBCUniversal (CMCSA +0.3%) says it plans an ad-supported service for launch in "early 2020."
    • The service will be available at no cost to NBCU pay TV subscribers in the U.S. and major international markets, the company says. But others will be able to subscribe at a cost.
    • Comcast Cable and Sky (OTCPK:SKYAY) will provide the service to their 52M subscribers, NBCU says. And similar to Hulu's multiple tiers, an ad-free version will be available for a fee.
    • As for NBCU properties on other streamers: "Consistent with the company’s long-standing strategy to distribute its content broadly, NBCUniversal will continue to license content to other studios and platforms, while retaining rights to certain titles for its new service."
    • The move presages what could be Disney buying Comcast/NBCU out of Hulu, after Disney (DIS -0.3%) takes 60% control of that service by way of its deal for Fox (FOX, FOXA) media assets. Buying out Comcast would give Disney 90% of Hulu, with WarnerMedia (T -0.7%) holding the other 10%.
  • Variety: NBCU shuffles execs as it plans for streaming launch

    • NBCUniversal (CMCSA +0.7%) is shaking up executives as the company starts clearing decks for the launch of a streaming video service in 2020, Variety reports.
    • NBCU CEO Steve Burke will end up with fewer direct reports in the new arrangement.
    • Mark Lazarus is getting an expanded role, going from supervisor of NBC Sports and stations to become chairman of NBCUniversal Broadcast, Cable, Sports and News. NBC Chairman Andy Lack and CNBC CEO Mark Hoffman will report to him.
    • In the move, he'll take over cable operations previously managed by Bonnie Hammer, who will become chairman of Direct-to-Consumer and Digital Enterprises, and also oversee NBCU stakes in digital media outlets, including Vox, Snap and BuzzFeed.
    • Jeff Shell also gets more oversight, going from chairman of Universal Filmed Entertainment to become chairman of NBCUniversal Film and Entertainment, including oversight of NBC Entertainment, Telemundo, and international operations. Donna Langley will replace him as chairman of the Filmed Entertainment Group.
    • The major roles held by Lazarus and Shell make them potential successors to Burke, whose contract expires in 2020.
    • NBCU's plan for a streamed service next year will trail a pair of major competitive launches this year, coming from Disney (DIS -0.1%) and WarnerMedia (T -0.4%).
  • Disney chief Iger saw 81% pay bump in 2018

    • Along with a new nominee to the board, Disney (NYSE:DIS) says in proxy materials for its March 7 board meeting that CEO Bob Iger saw an 81% pay increase in 2018.
    • Iger's total compensation rose to $65.65M from the previous year's $36.3M.
    • Base salary increased to $2.875M from $2.5M, but the key bump was in stock awards, which rose to $35.35M from 2017's $8.98M. Iger's option awards dipped to $8.27M from $8.3M, and non-equity incentive plan comp rose to $18M from $15.2M.
    • Chief Financial Officer Christine McCarthy also saw a healthy pay bump -- up 32%, to $11.84M in total comp, with the gains mostly in stock awards and non-equity incentives.
    • Among other named execs: General Counsel Alan Braverman's total comp rose to $10.4M from $8.45M; Chief Human Resource Officer M. Jayne Parker's pay rose to $6.8M from $5.09M; Chief Communication Officer Zenia Mucha's pay was $5.1M; and Kevin Mayer (chairman of Direct to Consumer/International) saws total pay rise to $11.6M from $8.4M.
    • Disney shares were almost flat for calendar 2018 (on an adjusted basis), ending up at $109.65 after starting the year at an adjusted $110.05.
  • Disney nominates CVS Caremark's Rice to its board

    • Derica Rice -- executive VP of CVS and president of CVS Caremark -- has been nominated to the Disney (NYSE:DIS) board of directors.
    • He'll stand for election at the annual meeting on March 7. He joins eight current board members also standing for election.
    • Three others will be departing due to Disney policies limiting tenure to 15 years and setting retirement age at 74: BlackBerry chief John Chen, Potbelly's Aylwin Lewis and Estee Lauder's Fred Langhammer.
  • Fox says it won't bid on regional sports nets

    • In an SEC filing, New Fox (FOX, FOXA) says that it doesn't intend to bid for any of the regional sports networks that Disney (NYSE:DIS) is putting up for sale, putting a wrinkle into that sales process.
    • Disney is acquiring the 22 RSNs from Twenty-First Century Fox as part of a $71B asset deal, but must divest them as part of a consent decree with the Justice Dept.
    • It's been long thought that Fox was the most likely candidate to buy back the networks as a unit -- perhaps at a discount due to the forced nature of the sale.
    • Other bidders have included Major League Baseball, Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN), Apollo (NYSE:APO), KKR, Blackstone (NYSE:BX), Sinclair Broadcast Group (NASDAQ:SBGI), Tegna (NYSE:TGNA), Charter (NASDAQ:CHTR), Nexstar (NASDAQ:NXST) and others.
    • But Sinclair was reportedly the only party making a serious single bid. And with Fox out of the running, the likely outcome is a more haphazard piecemeal sell-off.
    • The New York Yankees are now far more likely to repurchase the YES Network in a multibillion-dollar deal, perhaps with Amazon as a partner.
  • Hulu to boost live TV with two-week program guide

    • Hulu is shoring up its live TV offering with plans to launch a more traditional programming guide with a two-week view.
    • At launch last year, the live TV service avoided a guide entirely, choosing to present live TV mixed in with on-demand and recorded content. It later added a simple guide showing what's on and what's next.
    • The newer guide allows for further browsing ahead, more similar to traditional pay TV offerings.
    • The company will still focus on presenting live and on-demand content in the same interface overall.
    • Hulu is still currently owned by Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA), Disney (NYSE:DIS), Fox (FOX, FOXA) and WarnerMedia (NYSE:T).
  • ESPN enters pact to bring X Games to China

    • Disney's (NYSE:DIS) ESPN reaches a multi-year pact with REnextop Entertainment, an action sports platform in China, to collaborate on X Games China summer and winter events starting this year.
    • For the first time, both summer and winter events will be staged within the same country in the same year under the X Games banner.
    • The summer event is slated for late May in Shanghai.
    • The inaugural X Games China winter event is scheduled for late November to early December and has started looking for a host city and venue partners in China.
    • DIS -0.4% in premarket trading.
  • Report: Ice Cube gathering financing to push for Fox regional sports nets

    • Entertainer Ice Cube is working to gather financing to push for a purchase of the Fox regional sports networks, Fox Business' Charlie Gasparino reports.
    • The actor and ex-NWA rapper (real name O'Shea Jackson) approached Viacom (VIA, VIAB) and its chief Bob Bakish to combine on a deal, according to Gasparino.
    • A number of suitors have been reported for the 22 RSNs that Disney (NYSE:DIS) must divest in order to complete its $71.3B deal to buy Fox's (FOX, FOXA) media assets in a transformative transaction.
  • Can Hulu catch up to Netflix?

    • Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) may have double the number of U.S. subscribers as Hulu (DIS, CMCSA, T), but CEO Randy Freer thinks it's "absolutely possible" to catch up to the streaming giant.
    • Hulu added more subscribers in the U.S. than Netflix in 2018, with 8M new users bringing the service's total sub count to 25M.
    • "We expect to grow more this year than we did last year," added Freer.
  • Disney extends exchange offers on Fox America notes

    • Walt Disney (DIS +1.3%) has extended expiration on exchange offers and consent solicitations for all notes issued by Twenty-First Century Fox America (FOX +0.5%, FOXA +0.7%), as part of the two companies' major asset deal.
    • "New Disney" is extending the expiration to Jan. 28 from a previous Jan. 15.
    • As of the close of business yesterday, a healthy majority of the principal of most series of notes had been validly tendered, Disney notes -- including 83% of the $700M in 6.9% senior notes due 2019; 93% of the $400M in 5.65% senior notes due 2020; and 82% of the $1B in $4.5B senior notes due 2021.
  • Disney and Verizon to explore 5G media opportunities

    • Disney (NYSE:DIS) announces at CES that it's partnering with Verizon (NYSE:VZ) to explore 5G opportunities for media and entertainment consumption.
    • The company is testing 5G applications through its new StudioLab facility, according to Variety.
    • "We see 5G changing everything about how media is produced and consumed," Disney Studios chief technology officer Jamie Voris tells the publication.
    • #CES19
  • Disney hikes prices at California parks

    • Disney (NYSE:DIS) announces a double-digit price increase at its theme parks in California ahead of the opening of Star Wars attractions this summer that includes a Millennium Falcon ride.
    • The cost for a one-day Disneyland ticket during peak times rose 10.4% to $149. Disneyland annual passes now range from $399 to the highest level of access costing $1,949.
    • Higher ticket prices from Disney has sometimes provided cover for Cedar Fair (NYSE:FUN), Six Flags Entertainment (NYSE:SIX) and SeaWorld Entertainment (NYSE:SEAS) to lift prices at some of their parks.
  • Bloomberg: Brazil expected to OK Fox-Disney deal without divestment

    • Antitrust regulators in Brazil are expected to approve the media-asset deal between Twenty-First Century Fox (FOX, FOXA) and Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS) without pressing for any property sales, Bloomberg reports.
    • The regulator, CADE, is expecting to see a proposal from the two companies that includes behavioral changes after some back-and-forth meetings in December.
    • Concerns centered on the sports impact from the combination of ESPN and Fox Sports, according to the report, though CADE is aware that other services compete in sports broadcasting.
    • A ruling could come as soon as Jan. 30, when regulators come back from year-end recess.
  • Strong New Year's Day pushes 'Aquaman' past $200M at home

    • As it did over the regular weekend, Aquaman (T +2%) ruled the New Year's Day box office with a $16.8M take as major U.S. holidays wrapped up the year.
    • That puts Aquaman over the $200M mark in domestic grosses, and nears $800M for a cumulative global take.
    • For its part, Mary Poppins Returns (DIS -1.4%) topped $115M in cumulative domestic gross, and Bumblebee (VIA +3.9%, VIAB +3.4%) drew about $7M on New Year's Day to reach a domestic total to date of $78.5M.