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 »
Here’s Amazon‘s long-awaited answer to Apple TV — and other streaming devices including Google’s Chromecast and Roku TV. It’s a lot more expensive than the $35 Chromecast, but Amazon says that its Amazon Fire TV … Read More »
The IAC chief, one of Aereo‘s top backers, told Bloomberg Television’s Market Makers that it’s “very possible that there’s some salvage. But Aereo would probably, as I say probably just because I can’t — I can’t see any path forward. It probably would not be able to continue in business.” … Read More »
The agreement gives the studio opportunities to develop scripted or unscripted “multiplatform projects” from work on any of Gannett‘s TV stations, digital assets, and newspapers including USA Today. The companies will hire a development exec to lead the effort. … Read More »
Avon Pension Fund and others who owned News Corp stock from mid-February to mid-July 2011 charged in the class action suit … Read More »
In this week’s podcast, Deadline’s Executive Editor David Lieberman and host David Bloom wrap up all the business news out of CinemaCon, the big theater-owner convention that David Lieberman covered last week. Now that he’s back in Deadline’s Manhattan offices, David L. talks with David B. about the hot topics affecting the movie theater business, including a look at the state of the industry, whether movies and alcohol can mix, why it might be time for a discount ticket night, and why you can’t buy a movie ticket on Amazon.
The two Davids also discuss Charter Communications’ “astonishing” filing objecting to the Comcast-Time Warner Cable deal and why Reed Hastings might have some buyer’s remorse over his company’s interconnection pact with Comcast. They also look at whether now is finally the time for a DirecTV/Dish Network merger. Read More »
This would be an interesting move for Yahoo if what The Wall Street Journal refers to as “preliminary talks” to buy NDN bear fruit. NDN syndicates videos from TV stations and other producers to online … Read More »
The markets closed the books today on Q1 trading, and it began with a shrug for media stocks. The Dow Jones U.S. Media Index fell 2.4% over the three-month period, behind the benchmark Standard & Poor’s 500, which was +1.3%. Sony was the top-performing Big Media company, with shares +10.6%. It was trailed by Disney (+4.8%), Viacom (-2.7%), CBS (-3.0%), Comcast (-3.7%), News Corp (-4.4%), Time Warner (-6.3%) and Fox (-9.1%). There’s a much wider gap between the best and worst performers among other media companies we track most closely. World Wrestling Entertainment led the pack, helped by its launch of WWE Network, a $9.99 a month live streaming video service. Its shares appreciated 74.2% — followed by Barnes & Noble (+39.8%), RealD (+30.8%), and Cinedigm (+26.7%). At the bottom we find DreamWorks Animation (-25.2%), National CineMedia (-24.9%), and Sinclair Broadcasting (-24.2%).
Here’s how individual companies fared: Read More »
The National Association of Broadcasters is upset, but consumer groups are gleeful, after the FCC followed Chairman Tom Wheeler’s lead and approved orders that limit TV stations’ ability to jointly negotiate ad sales and retransmission consent deals. In a 3-2 vote on party lines, commissioners said that a station that sells at least 15% of the ads for a would-be rival will be considered to own the station — which could run afoul of ownership caps. Broadcasters can get a waiver if they demonstrate that the arrangement serves the public, or doesn’t affect the smaller station’s programming. Companies have two years to either secure a waiver or unwind sidecar deals. In a separate, 5-0 vote the FCC barred joint retransmission consent negotiations involving two of the four highest-rated stations in a market. Wheeler says that the changes will promote competition and diversity. TV station collaborations represent “a growing end run” around the FCC’s ownership limits.
Former Commissioner Michael Copps, now with Common Cause, says that he hopes the vote “marks the long overdue start of a new era of public interest leadership.” Another FCC vet, former Chairman Michael Powell — now CEO of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association — also praised the retransmission consent rules saying that “such coordinated behavior harms consumers by artificially inflating the cost of watching over-the-air broadcast stations on cable systems.” But NAB’s Dennis Wharton says that the vote threatens the ability of “free and local TV stations to survive in a hyper-competitive world dominated by pay TV giants.” He adds that “the public interest will not be served by this arbitrary and capricious decision.” Read More »
Returned today from the CinemaCon confab, so I’m just now getting a chance to catch up with Charter Communications‘ astonishing SEC filing that urges Time Warner Cable shareholders to support its $37B cash-and-stock bid over Comcast’s $45.2B all-stock offer. I don’t know if there’s enough in the proxy to derail the Comcast-TWC deal. But it’s sure to create some turbulence — if nothing else by giving ammo to class action lawyers who want to argue that the TWC board failed to faithfully represent shareholders’ interests when it stiff-armed Charter and embraced Comcast.
Related: Fears Of Government Rejection Hung Over Comcast’s Deal Talks With Time Warner Cable: Proxy
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It’s not a slap on his performance — far from it in a year when Discovery shares appreciated 38%. But this year David Zaslav’s package didn’t include stock awards that accounted for $25.3M of his compensation in 2012. The 2013 tally … Read More »
Per usual, Hollywood studios dominated the spotlight this week at the exhibition industry’s annual CinemaCon confab. But AMC Entertainment CEO Gerry Lopez was the star of many private conversations about the future of the theater business. It isn’t just because the former Starbucks exec runs the second largest chain, with about 5,000 screens in 33 states, the District of Columbia, Canada, Hong Kong and the UK. Execs are closely monitoring Lopez’ two-year-old initiative to reduce the number of seats in many AMC theaters to make room for luxurious recliners — which come with a higher ticket price. It’s an adventurous departure in a business that typically tries to pack as many people as possible into venues.
Lopez also seems to enjoy speaking his mind, a rarity in exhibition where leaders tend to be private and circumspect. He has a good story to tell: AMC’s owner, China’s Wanda Group, offered a 22% stake to the public in December, and the shares since then have appreciated 26.4% — well ahead of other major theater chains and the overall market. I caught up to him at this week’s CinemaCon. Here are his thoughts, edited for length and clarity, on a few of the industry’s front burner issues.
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Investors seem to be clearing their heads from the adrenaline jolt they experienced yesterday when Bloomberg reported that Dish Network chairman Charlie Ergen recently approached DirecTV CEO Michael White to discuss a potential merger — in part as a response to Comcast’s $45.2B deal to buy Time Warner Cable. Shares in both satellite companies shot up on the news, but have started to settle as of midday trading today leaving Dish +5.5 over the day and a half period with DirecTV +2.6%. The big surprise in the report was that Ergen is still interested in a deal: He has been focused lately on amassing wireless spectrum to launch a broadband service, and has made skeptical comments about the prospects for traditional satellite TV. But he and White have noted that the companies could save a lot of money — if regulators would let them combine. Read More »
They can, but managers have to be careful, a panel at the industry’s CinemaCon confab in Las Vegas told exhibition execs this morning. Companies are intrigued as they experiment with restaurant and fast-food offerings. “Everyone’s doing a dining concept,” says Carmike Cinemas VP Rob Lehman. As a result, “we’re in the beer and wine business.” But he warned colleagues to be careful when they go for liquor licenses. “It’s a long process but we work very closely with the police. Everyone has this perception that kids are going to get drunk at the back of the auditorium. We don’t want that.” Emagine Entertainment’s Gary Butske urged managers to train staff so they can deal with problem customers. His venues try to avoid trouble by strictly carding and giving wristbands to those old enough to buy. He has a two-drink maximum (strong drinks such as a Long Island Iced Tea are classified as doubles), uses clear plastic cups for booze, and has video cameras that monitor the audience so managers can see whether a buyer passes a drink along to an underaged friend. “We reserve the right to refuse service to anybody.” But he says theaters could see a payoff, especially if they become creative about their bar offerings. He’s had success with craft beers, as well as drink specials for PG-13- and R-rated films including the Hangover trilogy, Sex And The City, and Magic Mike. His theaters also had a vodka drink for The Avengers and Looper. Read More »