The companies aren’t disclosing financial terms, but DirecTV appears to have won some major concessions, including an apology. The Weather Channel (to appear on channel 362) will cut its reality programming by half on weekdays. It also will return instant local weather and authorize DirecTV subscribers to stream its video programming to multiple devices inside and outside the home. And, in a really unusual twist, TWC chief David Kenny apologized to “DirecTV and their customers for the disruption of our service and for initiating a public campaign. Our viewers deserve better than a public dispute, and we pledge to reward their loyalty with exceptional programming and more weather focused news.” DirecTV Chief Content Officer Dan York crowed that while the dispute was “frustrating for many of our customers … their patience was ultimately rewarded with a better deal and a better product.”
Related: TWC Pushing Public Safety Image After DirecTV Blackout
DirecTV dropped TWC on January 14. The channel wanted a penny increase in the price DirecTV pays for it. (It averages 13 cents per subscriber per month across pay TV systems, according to SNL Kagan data.) But DirecTV said it wanted to cut its outlays, noting that TWC too often offers reality programs such as Deadliest Space Weather and Coast Guard Alaska instead of the latest local weather. Last week DirecTV strengthened its bargaining position by reaching a multi-year agreement to offer WeatherNation (on channel 361).
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UPDATE, 10:06 AM: Comcast EVP David Cohen just fleshed out in a press call some of his company’s arguments for the Time Warner Cable deal. To those who say the combined company would be too big he says that “in this particular case we think big is good” — it would be better able to offer new and improved services. And if Comcast is wrong “it doesn’t make any difference really because, as a customer, you’ll have the exact number of choices as you had before the transaction.” The only change: With Comcast instead of TWC as a broadband or video provider consumers’ “choice will be better.” He adds that Comcast is focused “like a laser” on improving the customer experience. (Sound familiar?)
PREVIOUS, 8:09 AM: This is the kind of thing you’d expect the cable giant to assert in a regulatory filing — and that will be roundly contested, including tomorrow at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the $45.2B deal. Content companies that might oppose the deal “have strong relationships” with the committee, which oversees copyright matters, Guggenheim Securities’ Paul Gallant says. What’s more, the committee includes two strong critics of media consolidation: Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.).
Comcast detailed its public interest arguments in a 175-page document delivered to the FCC this morning. It “lays out in considerable detail how Comcast and TWC are better together for millions of customers and businesses, describing the exciting enhanced services and other concrete consumer benefits that will be available because of the transaction,” Comcast EVP David Cohen says in a blog post. In addition to cable and Internet services, Comcast owns NBCUniversal.
The company indirectly takes issue with Netflix CEO Reed Hastings’ claim that Comcast imposed an “indirect tax” on the streaming video company in a recent deal: Netflix agreed to pay Comcast directly to access its broadband lines in a way that will deliver the best possible transmissions to its customers. Comcast says it has “no economic incentive” to hit up so-called edge providers because its customers “place a high premium on being able to access any Internet content they want.” Comcast would have about 30M broadband customers after acquiring TWC. Read More »
The stock is up 4.4% in pre-market trading, indicating that investors like the large screen theater company’s $80M transaction with Chinese investment fund CMC Capital Partners and private equity firm FountainVest Partners. The deal should expand IMAX‘s opportunities in one of the film world’s fastest growing markets. The company says it expects the transaction with CMC and FountainVest to lead to an IPO of IMAX China so it can raise funds to continue its growth there. And in a country where personal connections are critical, IMAX touts the opportunity to take advantage of CMC chief Ruigang Li’s “knowledge of the Chinese media and entertainment industry.” IMAX CEO Richard Gelfond says that it “makes sense to bring in Chinese investors to help us better address local market dynamics and further optimize our business in China, including both our core theatre business as well as new business initiatives such as the home theatre joint venture we announced last year with TCL.” IMAX China will pay IMAX a licensing/marketing fee to use the brand, potentially enabling IMAX to cut its capital spending outlays by $15M a year, Stifel analyst Benjamin Mogil estimates. He believes that could enable the company to return cash to shareholders, either through a dividend or by repurchasing shares, and “likely ensures that the company continues to receive favorable treatment regarding film quotas in the region.”
Here’s the release: Read More »
We should have seen this coming. AwesomenessTV’s comedy videos make it a big deal for teens and kids in the YouTube world, and it has a series on Nickelodeon. That makes it a natural to get into the licensed merchandise business. … Read More »
National Association of Broadcasters CEO Gordon Smith offered a healthy plate of red meat to his constituents today as he urged officials to ensure that TV and radio have the same kinds of regulatory protections often provided for broadband and other media. “On one hand, government can treat us as if we are dinosaurs and does what it can to encourage TV stations to go out of business,” he told broadcasters at the kickoff of the annual NAB Show in Las Vegas. “On the other hand, the FCC says we are so important and powerful that two TV stations can’t share advertising in the same market, while it’s OK for multiple cable, satellite and telecommunications operators to do so. Which is it? Too powerful or irrelevant? It can’t be both.” He says it’s only fair to develop coordinated policies to give the industry as much support as the government offers for cable and wireless providers. ”Why doesn’t the FCC have a National Broadcast Plan?” he says.“Why is there no focus to foster innovation and investment in broadcasting to ensure our business continues to be a world leader alongside our broadband industries? Where is the FCC’s gusto and determination to embrace broadcasting’s values and public service responsibilities?” Read More »
Steve Burke doesn’t want people, or advertisers, to pay attention to total viewer ratings because “we’re in the 18-to-49 business,” he told a press gathering today in the run-up to the upfront sales season. Indeed, if presented with a program that would attract a big total audience, but not would be weak in the target demo, “we wouldn’t pick that show up,” he says. That’s required a change in thinking at the NBC, where shows such as Today and Nightly News With Brian Williams often are promoted on the basis of the 25-54 demo. “They should at least know both” the younger and older demo numbers, Burke says. He acknowledges that older viewers can be attractive for advertisers; for example, NBC has tried to capitalize on The Blacklist‘s popularity with 55-to-64 year olds, a group it calls the Alpha Boomers. Still, Burke says, “it’s very hard to get the industry to change” and “as long as people keep score that way [by focusing on young adults], that’s how we’re going to broadcast.”
The NBCUniversal exec renewed a familiar call for the industry to look at 52 weeks of programming instead of the 35 weeks from September to May. “We’re living in a completely different time now,” he says. “We’re competing straight through the summer.” He and research chief Alan Wurtzel also want Nielsen to step up its efforts to measure viewing on mobile devices, and advertisers to buy spots based on the number of people watching over seven days, not just three. “Those are things the industry can do today,” Wurtzel says. Burke adds that for some shows such as Saturday Night Live and The Tonight Show as much as 40% of the views “we’re not monetizing and we need to change that. Read More »
The stock price is down more than 20% in early trading after the company said that its new online video channel has 667,287 subs — not including “potential failures to comply with subscription terms.” Still, WWE … Read More »
Wall Street usually shows little love for the movie business with its typically low, and unpredictable, profit margins. But in a combined look at the studio and exhibition businesses this morning, MoffettNathanson Research’s Michael Nathanson and Robert Fishman tell investors that it’s time to take a fresh look — as long as they proceed with caution. They lowered profit estimates for major exhibition chains Regal and Cinemark, citing expectations for weaker domestic summer box office results vs 2013. They project a full-year decline of 1.6% to $10.7B followed by a 5% jump in 2015 to $11.3B and then a drop of 2.6% in 2016 to $11.0B. The analysts appeared more upbeat about the studios. “After several terrible years post the popping of the DVD bubble, we believe the film industry is showing signs of health,” they say. “The combination of fewer releases, greater international focus and lower overhead expenses are all driving studio margins ahead of pre-recession levels. These results show that a good crisis wasn’t wasted in Hollywood.” Revenues fell over the last few years at the big four film studios (Warner Bros, Disney, Fox, and Paramount) as they reduced their output. Yet cash flow margins improved to a little under 12% which is “a tribute to their ability to curb bloated studio expenses.” Read More »
In this week’s podcast, Deadline’s executive editor David Lieberman and host David Bloom wrap up the latest in the big Aereo case before the U.S. Supreme Court later this month, including briefs from an unexpected collection of supporters and financial backer Barry Diller’s comments on the TV service’s future if it loses. The two Davids also weigh Amazon’s rather tardy arrival as a purveyor of video-streaming devices with this week’s launch of the Amazon Fire TV; the Tribune Co.’s evolution as its digital wing buys one TV-oriented data company and relaunches another; and Discovery’s latest in a flurry of deals, as it launches a digital studio in partnership with two big-name Hollywood veterans, Ron Howard and Brian Grazer.
Listen to the podcast in your choice of audio formats here:
Deadline Big Media podcast 79 (.MP3 version)
Deadline Big Media podcast 79 (.M4A version)
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The tech-heavy NASDAQ fell 2.6% today, apparently reflecting fears that many companies — after soaring in 2013 — will report disappointing info on Q1 sales. The concern has been building: Netflix, for example, is down 25.7% over … Read More »
Founders Rob Barnett and Warren Chao use corporate gobbledygook to explain the more traditionally corporate name, saying that it’s a “relaunch” for the digital video producer that reflects the entity’s evolution into “a multi-platform, 360° entertainment company.” … Read More »
SiTV Media agreed to pay $226M — and give MSG a 15% stake — the entities disclosed this morning. The total value of the cash plus equity comes to about $275M, Stifel analyst Benjamin Mogil estimates. In any event, the company where Jennifer Lopez is a shareholder and Chief Creative Officer outbid an offer from Sean Combs said to be around $200M. Fuse reaches 73M pay TV subscribers, and should boost SiTV and NuvoTV — a Latin American entertainment network that reaches about 34M homes. With Fuse “we’ll have the ability to deliver a broad array of terrific content both from a Latino perspective and across multiple genres, including music, to a broader audience,” Lopez says. “The acquisition of Fuse means we now own two wonderful assets. It’s a phenomenal time for our company and we look forward to growing both networks in the years ahead.” SiTV CEO Michael Schwimmer adds that the deal “enhances our distribution relationships, dramatically expands our aggregate subscriber base, provides substantial economies of scale, affords unique opportunities for programming and cross-promotion and should be extremely appealing to the advertising community as we roll out our plans for both NuvoTV and Fuse.” Read More »
This was a subtle contrast to last year when the company also highlighted scripted fare and trotted out a parade of celebrities including Mariel Hemingway, Morgan Freeman, William Hurt, LaToya Jackson, and NASCAR’s Jeff Gordon. Filmmaker Ron Howard was perhaps the biggest new name showing up this year: He told Discovery advertisers that New Form — the online content production venture he and Brian Grazer are launching with the pay TV company — expects to “generate great scripted programming for today’s digital viewers.” They’re already weighing “several series” as they delve into “shortform content and all its possibilities.” Howard also intends to encourage other creative types to “bring their talent to New Form.” Oprah Winfrey returned, of course, to promote OWN. With its recent ratings success, “no one is happier than we are right now about what is happening to OWN.” She says the network is heading toward its “next evolution” with its first original scripted movie with Toni Braxton playing legendary studio singer Darlene Love, the focus of the Oscar-winning documentary 20 Feet From Stardom. She also brought out Tyler Perry for a second year; he talked up his soap opera The Haves And The Have Nots.
Related: Discovery Channel Unveils New Slate
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This continues Tribune‘s campaign to become a TV and data power, as it spins off its newspaper publishing operation. The company says today that its tech arm, Tribune Digital Ventures, will buy TV By The Numbers, a source of ratings analysis and programming news. No word on financial terms, but the company will feed some of the info to its entertainment website Zap2it — which Tribune says will have “a renewed focus on helping TV fans discover programs to watch across linear TV and streaming services and providing integrated advertising opportunities designed to reach that valuable audience.” It also will make licensing deals with third-party apps and services. “Our goal is to make TV By The Numbers a must-have analytics and data resource for passionate viewers and Hollywood insiders alike,” says Tribune Digital Ventures President Shashi Seth. “Viewership numbers, audience reviews and social data are increasingly becoming reliable indicators of TV show popularity, making TV By The Numbers analysis data essential to the evolving ecosystem.” Zap2it will enable programmers to advertise to TV fans. Both camps “need an integrated TV discovery and editorial source, so we’re excited to unveil the all-new Zap2it to meet those needs,” the site’s executive director of sales, Brian Campbell, says. Read More »
The stock is down about 12% in early trading after Barnes & Noble disclosed in an SEC filing that John Malone’s media company has agreements to sell 90% of its investment to “qualified institutional buyers.” Three years ago Malone offered about $1B to buy the book retailer. When talks stalled, he agreed to pay $200M for a 17% stake. With the sale, Liberty’s ownership in the company drops to about 2%. It also gives up its right to pick two members of the B&N board and to block asset sales. Liberty CEO Greg Maffei will leave when its stock sale closes on April 8. Another Liberty exec, Mark Carleton, was also going to leave but the book retailer’s directors re-elected him.
Liberty says that this isn’t a no-confidence vote: “By reducing our preferred position and eliminating some of our related rights, Barnes & Noble will gain greater flexibility to accomplish their strategic objectives,” Maffei says. B&N Chairman Leonard Riggio echoed that message and added “Liberty’s decision to retain a portion of its investment and have active involvement on our board underscores Liberty’s ongoing commitment to Barnes & Noble.” Read More »
Apollo 13 meets Here Comes Honey Boo Boo? Hard to say yet what might come from the venture, called New Form, that unites the Hollywood creative team — plus lawyer Craig Jacobson, TV exec Ed Wilson, agent Jim Wiatt, film exec Michael … Read More »
With less than three weeks before Aereo argues its case in front of the Supreme Court, amicus briefs today supporting the subscription streaming service in its battle against the broadcasters were being filed fast and furiously. Supporters of the Barry Diller-backed company have until 11:59 PM ET to add their voices to the cause. On the plaintiff’s side, SAG-AFTRA, Viacom, Time Warner and Warner Bros Entertainment, the NFL and MLB are among those who have come out against Aereo. Add to that, the Obama administration filed a brief of its own supporting the broadcasters and a motion to argue during the 1-hour April 22 hearing before the High Court. Today’s briefs from Dish Network, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the American Cable Association and more come less than a week after Aereo firmly responded to the broadcaster’s February 24 brief and the same day Diller said that Aereo could be “finished” if it loses before the SCOTUS. More briefs are expected throughout the evening — we’ll update as more come in. Here are a few highlights from ones submitted so far today:
Chairman Charlie Ergen has good reason to support Aereo. He, too, butted heads with broadcasters who objected to his Hopper DVR’s ability to automatically jump over their ads in recorded shows. He also owns Sling, a device that streams users’ live and recorded TV programs. “Aereo is in some ways novel, but it is also among a host of technologies that uses the Internet to offer consumers the ability to do what they always have more cheaply and conveniently,” Dish says in its brief. The technology, and others including Dish’s, “are like dumbwaiters, incapable of delivering a pail of water without the thirsty person tugging on ropes and pulleys. If an individual uses that dumbwaiter to fetch himself a video he recorded of Breaking Bad, the dumbwaiter manufacturer does not infringe a copyright in the show.” Read More »
The Weather Channel doesn’t think so, even though the No. 1 satellite service dropped it on January 14.“We have resumed discussions with DirecTV and hope to resolve our differences,” says Weather Channel rep Shirley Powell. But DirecTV strengthened its bargaining position today by reaching a multi-year agreement to offer WeatherNation. The deal “ensures our customers will have a service that is fully committed to providing all weather related information all the time,” DirecTV Chief Content Officer Dan York says. “The overwhelmingly positive comments we’ve been receiving from customers made the decision to extend our agreement easy and expedient.”
Related: TWC Pushing Public Safety Image After DirecTV Blackout
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Movie theater owners who want to fill seats every night might grumble at the new campaign by the No. 2 exhibition ad sales company. But the terminology makes sense since Screenvision, at its upfront presentation tonight in NYC, wants … Read More »