Twentieth TV-distributed syndie strip Dish Nation has been renewed for Season 3 on the Fox Television Stations. The announcement was made today by Paul Franklin, EVP & General Manager of Broadcast Sales, Twentieth TV. The half-hour entertainment news program features drive-time radio personalities from various markets riffing on what’s hot and happening that day in pop culture. According to Twentieth TV, Dish Nation ranks No. 1 with Adults 18-34 and Adults 18-49 among all freshmen and sophomore first-run syndicated programs. Additionally Dish Nation, the youngest skewing first-run program in all of syndication, has grown to 1.3 million viewers daily this season – an +8% increase over a year ago. Dish Nation is produced by Studio City and distributed by Twentieth Television. Matt Blanock and Michael Bachmann serve as Co-Executive Producers.
When it lost a summary injunction back in September, the network said it wasn’t done trying to get Dish Network’s Hopper service shut down and today ABC took another swing at it. In a brief dated November 12 and filed today (read it here) with the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, ABC and Disney Enterprises went after the satellite provider’s ad-jumping DVR service again. The thrust of the network’s new appeal is that U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain not only misunderstood the market harm the service poses but misinterpreted copyright law in her ruling earlier this fall that it was not Dish but the consumers, by choosing what to record, who were actually engaged in the process of making copies of programming that they then could watch ad-free later. In its heavily redacted brief, ABC says that “by exercising exclusive control over the copying process and by operating the service to record” with the Hopper’s Primetime Anywhere and AutoHop services, it is Dish who is really in control of the process not the consumer.
The CBS chief is taking Dish Network Chairman Charlie Ergen at his word after he said this week that there’s a way for broadcasters to benefit from his Hopper DVR, which automatically zaps ads on recorded shows. “We’re very flexible. We’re willing to negotiate,” Les Moonves told investors today at the Guggenheim Securities TMT Symposium. Calling Ergen “a very smart man” he says “if there’s a way to do this that benefits everybody, we’re very open to it.” But the bottom line has to be that “we need to get paid for our content…. We spend $4M an episode for NCIS. I have to pay for it.” Broadcasters have sued Dish alleging that the Hopper infringes on their copyrights; Dish counters that it simply automates the ad skipping that DVR viewers already do. The fate of the device is an issue in Dish’s current program carriage negotiations with Disney. Ergen says the Hopper “has built-in technology that can target commercials to customers in a better [way]” and “give the broadcaster more revenue” — although he added that “it’s not a proven concept yet.”
Don’t include Charlie Ergen among the small but growing group of industry watchers who believe cable and satellite companies could soon face competition from a company that offers a similar bundle of channels via the web. “It’s going to happen at some point in time,” the Dish Network chairman told analysts today. “But most programmers have been hesitant to embrace that kind of dramatic change. In the short term, it’s unclear that that’s going to happen.” Intel is one of the companies that wanted to become an online power — but now hopes to sell its venture, called On Cue. Verizon and Liberty Media are said to be interested. Dish isn’t. “We’re not in any discussions with Intel about their over-the-top product,” Ergen says. Still, he evangelized about the value of keeping one’s options open. Although “we’re not trying to drive over-the-top,” he says that “if things are going to change, then we want to be involved with it.”
Everyone expected the numbers to be up from last year which included a $730M charge to settle a legal dispute with AMC Networks. But Dish Network did even better than investors anticipated. It generated $314.9M in net income, up from a $158.5M loss, on revenues of $3.6B, +2.2%. The Street thought revenues would be a tad lower at $3.58B. Diluted earnings at 68 cents a share were well ahead of the consensus forecast of 44 cents. The results were helped by the addition of 35,000 pay TV subscribers since the end of June, bringing Dish’s total to 14.05M. The sub increase was well ahead of the 15,000 forecast by Brean Capital’s Todd Mitchell. The company says that its churn rate dropped from last year although it “continues to be adversely affected” by the need for aggressive marketing and discounts, as well as “sustained economic weakness and uncertainty.” Average revenue per subscriber was up 5.3% to $81.05 due to a price hike, and added revenues from hardware and pay-per-view purchases. But subscriber-related expenses rose 9.4% from last year to nearly $2B which Dish says was largely due to rising programming costs. Blockbuster, which the company said last week it plans to scrap, continued to weigh on the financials. Dish says it expects to incur future losses of as much as $30M from the home video chain. Blockbuster generated a $24M operating loss in Q3, double what it was last …
The Marvel characters to be featured on Netflix in the four-series deal the companies announced today are “not among the most popular,” Disney CEO Bob Iger just told analysts. Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, and Luke Cage ”were never going to become feature films.” But that could change if the shows planned for the streaming service catch on. That makes the agreement “great for Netflix” — and opens “a great opportunity for Marvel to create more brand value…There are more opportunities beyond our platform to produce product for.”
The Disney chief also urged investors not to fret about the long time it’s taking for the entertainment giant to work out a new program carriage deal with Dish Network. The companies agreed to keep talking — without any programming black out — at the end of September when their previous agreement expired. “Progress is being made,” Iger says. Still, a deal “could take some time.” That’s because the negotiations are less about the price for carrying traditional TV channels than they are about the fees and conditions for Dish to stream
Wall Street says it is shortly after the social media company went public this morning. Twitter’s valued at $24.6B with its stock price hovering around $46 a share. That makes it less valuable than Discovery Communications ($30.2B) — but more valuable than Dish Network ($22.3B), SiriusXM ($22.2B), and Netflix ($19.5B). It’s also way ahead of big names in traditional media including Liberty ($18.5B), Sony ($17.2B), and News Corp ($10.0B). Investors still put a higher value on new media companies including Yahoo ($34.6B) and Facebook ($117.3B). Twitter’s valuation is already too rich for Pivotal Research Group’s Brian Wieser — who appears to have been the first analyst to downgrade the company to “sell” from “buy” today based on the 75%+ jump in its price following the IPO at $26 a share. “Twitter is simply too expensive” after it passed the high 30s, he says.
EXCLUSIVE: ABC has put in development a crime thriller from writer Charles Randolph (Love and Other Drugs), Peter Traugott’s TBD Entertainment and Sweden-based Yellow Bird Entertainment. The project, from Universal TV where TBD is based, is an adaptation of the best-selling novels by Liza Marklund that also were the basis for the hit Swedish drama series Annika Bengtzon: Crime Reporter, also produced by Yellow Bird (watch the trailer below). Written by Randolph, the drama centers on a dogged, no-nonsense tabloid reporter searching for the truth while also juggling her bosses and her family. Randolph is executive producing with TBD’s Traugott and Rachel Kaplan and Yellow Bird’s Jenny Gilbertsson and Berna Levin. This marks the latest sale for TBD this season for a total of three dramas and six comedies at NBC, Fox and USA. Yellow Bird recently teamed with Chernin Entertainment to develop a series based on another Swedish crime novel, The Swede by Robert Karjel. Yellow Bird, which produced the Millennium Swedish trilogy starring Noomi Rapace, and TBD are repped by UTA; Randolph, who recently did HBO pilot The Missionary, is with CAA and Brillstein Entertainment; Marklund, whose crime novels have sold over 13 million copies worldwide, is with Niclas Salomonsson.
EXCLUSIVE: Another hot Swedish novel is headed for an U.S. screen adaptation. 20th Century Fox TV has acquired rights to the upcoming thriller De Redan Döda by author Robert Karjel, for studio-based Chernin Entertainment to develop as a drama series with Sweden-based Yellow Bird Entertainment. Titled The Swede, the project centers on a Swedish secret service agent summoned to a remote U.S. military base to interrogate a prisoner thought to be a fellow Swede. He is drawn into the complex investigation led by a female CIA agent, where the evidence takes them from the 2004 Thailand tsunami to a terrorist attack in Topeka, Kansas, and where no one is who they seem to be. De Redan Döda follows in the footsteps of the Millennium trilogy by Swedish author Stieg Larsson, which became the Girl With The Dragon Tattoo movie franchise and Leif G.W. Persson’s Backstrom books, which have been in series development at 20th TV for the past two seasons, most recently going to pilot at CBS starring Rainn Wilson last spring.
The companies said today that they have reached a short-term extension of their carriage contract to keep Disney‘s channels on Dish Network‘s systems. The sides say talks will continue on a contract first inked in 2005 and set to expire at the end of the month. At stake is the continued carriage of Disney networks including ESPN, Disney Channel and ABC Family and ABC-owned stations in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Houston, Raleigh-Durham and Fresno. No other details were announced. The deal comes less than a month after Time Warner Cable and CBS settled their retrans dispute that cost TWC customers 32 days of CBS programming. That impasse was widely believed to be broken by the start of the lucrative NFL season, so it’s notable that ESPN has Monday Night Football in its corner. But Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen has been grumbling for months about the cost of sports rights and said in February that the loss of revenue from Dish’s 14.1M subscribers “would be a long-term problem for Disney”. Last year, Disney CEO Bob Iger defended ESPN’s price increases, attributing the growing complaints about sports costs to “a rough economy over the last few years”. Another wrinkle in the ABC-Dish standoff: The network is suing the satcaster over its ad-skipping Hopper DVR.
Dish Network, its chairman Charlie Ergen and several Board members were slapped this week with a potential multi-million dollar complaint by shareholders. And they want him and the individual Board members to pay up personally. In a verified shareholder derivative filing (read it here) on behalf of all Dish shareholders, the pension fund of Daytona Beach Police Officers’ and Firefighters Retirement System allege that since April 2013, Ergen has quietly been buying up more than $1 billion worth of debt from bankrupt wireless network company LightSquared, who Dish has a bid in for. Besides this big potential personal windfall for the Dish founder and controlling shareholder, the four-count complaint filed in federal court in Colorado on September 26, says Ergen also used a front company to put in a $2 billion bid for LightSquared in May 2013 to push up the auction price. “Thus, with this substantial debt purchase not only did Ergen take for himself (in stealth-like fashion) a strategic opportunity that was otherwise available to Dish, he did so knowing that his personal risk was minimized because the Company’s strategic plans already included purchasing more spectrum,” says the dense and detailed complaint. On July 23 of this year, Dish put in a $2.2 billion bid for LightSquared’s assets after a committee the company formed to look into a conflict of interest by Ergen was suddenly disbanded by the Board two days before.
Judging by the tone of Michael White‘s comments to investors today, he’s souring on the thought of trying to merge the No. 1 satellite company with its chief rival Dish Network. At the beginning of August the DirecTV chief said that while it might take a lot of work to do a deal he’d “never say never.” But he just told the Goldman Sachs Communacopia Conference that “there’s no question it’s very challenging for any deal to get done” following the Justice Department’s decision last month to fight American Airlines’ plan to merge with US Airways. Some analysts thought that the companies might overcome government antitrust concerns by offering to use the airwave spectrum rights that Dish has amassed to build a national wireless broadband service. White says that conceptually “that would be a powerful argument,” but adds that “powerful doesn’t necessarily make the other [antitrust] issues go away.”
The conclusion in a report late today from Craig Moffett is a big change for the MoffettNathanson Research founder – and could weigh on both satellite distributors tomorrow. Moffett has been Wall Street’s leading evangelist for a DirecTV-Dish Network merger: In June he upgraded both companies, urging investors to buy their shares, in the belief that Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen would pursue a “spectacularly lucrative” deal with DirecTV after he failed to gain control of Sprint or an influential stake in wireless broadband company Clearwire. The idea swept through Wall Street, especially after the company chiefs said they wouldn’t rule it out.
But Moffett just conceded defeat. He downgraded both companies to “neutral” and lowered his price targets (by 7.4% to $63 for DirecTV and 8.5% to $43 for Dish). The reason: Ergen’s passion to create a wireless service “shows no sign of cooling.” He continues to amass rights to wireless airwave spectrum, and the more he buys “the less feasible it becomes for Dish to sell its trove.” Federal officials
For the second time in less than a week, Dish Network is claiming legal victory against one of the big broadcasters. On September 18th, it was ABC, today it’s Fox. A federal judge Monday spared the satellite provider the preliminary injunction requested by Fox against its ad-jumping Hopper DVR services. As has become the norm in the various Hopper cases, the ruling by Judge Dolly M. Gee was filed under seal for the time being so confidential and proprietary info could be stripped out. While Gee denied the injunction she did indicate to the parties’ lawyers that she believed Fox’s case had merit and could be compensated with damages rather than agreeing to the broadcaster’s motion. “We disagree that the harms caused by Dish’s infringing services are completely compensable by damages, and as a result we are looking at all options. We will file a response in due course,” a Fox spokesperson told me. Dish took a much less nuanced approach in responding to Monday’s decision. “Today’s decision is the fourth in a string of victories for consumers related to our Hopper® Whole-Home DVR platform. DISH is pleased that the Court has sided again with consumer choice and control by rejecting Fox’s efforts to deny our customers’ access to the DISH Anywhere and Hopper Transfers features. We will continue to vigorously defend consumers’ right to choice and control over their viewing experience,” said Dish’s EVP and general counsel R. Stanton Dodge in a statement Monday. Today’s ruling comes from a hearing on the matter held back on April 19th.