If you think cable companies already have too much power, just wait. Over the next five years or so the industry “will consolidate to around 3-4 dominant cable operators, which will have sizeable footprints,” Moody’s Investors Service SVP Neil Begley says in a report today. The big guys will start to snap up smaller operators, and swap systems, because it will help them compete with phone companies to attract business customers. “Business services, primarily including voice and data, will be the largest single growth driver for cable over the next decade as residential services growth stagnates,” Begley says. Commercial customers soon will spend about $80B a year for voice, video, and Internet, and cable operators just collected $7.5B from them last year. But cable has a problem because operators’ systems “are like a jigsaw puzzle of efficiency customized to serve the residential customer” but are “inefficient or insufficient to serve multi-location commercial customers compared to most telecom competitors.” The problem is especially acute for mid-sized companies including Cox, Charter, and Cequel Communications, forcing them to choose to be either buyers or sellers. Comcast may have to sit out the consolidation wave “given the regulatory scrutiny it already faces as the largest U.S. cable operator.” But Time Warner Cable “has substantial financial flexibility” to buy.
The FCC voted unanimously to allow cable companies such as Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Cablevision to encrypt basic services, Bloomberg reported. Prior to the ruling issued late Friday, cable companies encrypted premium cable programming but were barred from scrambling …
2011 TV: Comedy Is Back, Soaps Are Out, Charlie Sheen Is Out Then Back, Netflix Challenges TV, & Oprah’s OWN Struggles
Who knew that the biggest TV story of 2011 would be a sitcom cast change? The Charlie Sheen meltdown and subsequent public firing from the CBS hit Two And A Half Men, followed by the show’s successful transition with new star Ashton Kutcher and Sheen’s comeback in the new comedy series Anger Management, grabbed the biggest headlines. But it was eventful year, featuring major shakeups in daytime and off-network syndication as well as ushering in new players in original programming and a comeback for comedy.
No other TV area saw more dramatic changes in 2011 than daytime. Soaps’ march toward extinction accelerated with the demise of ABC’s One Life To Live and All My Children. Two other staples of daytime TV, talk show queen Oprah Winfrey and another longtime host Regis Philbin, made their departures. Winfrey’s exit changed the landscape of daytime television, which she had dominated for a quarter of a century. With her gone, two big names threw their hats in the daytime talk show ring this year — former Today co-host-turned-CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric, whose job change once again became a media circus, and Queen Latifah. Couric’s Disney-ABC talker launches next fall, Queen Latifah’s Sony TV-produced talk show is targeted for fall 2012.
Closing one chapter, Winfrey and the ABC soaps tried to open another, but the transition proved bumpy for all. On Jan. 1, 2011, Winfrey launched OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network. A year and some $300 million in investment by Discovery Communications later, OWN is still struggling to find an audience and outperform the Discovery Health network it replaced. Heavily promoted entries like Mark Burnett’s reality series Your OWN Show, Oprah Presents Master Class and the Rosie O’Donnell talk show have disappointed, and the network has been mulling a more niche approach, catering to African American audiences. Winfrey will make another attempt to salvage her network with Oprah’s Next Chapter, a new weekly primetime show, which premieres on Jan. 1, OWN’s first anniversary.
There will be no next chapter for canceled ABC soaps All My Children and One Life To Live. After a five-month effort to secure financial backers and union agreements, Jeff Kwatinetz’s Prospect Park recently abandoned its plans to continue the daytime dramas online after licensing the shows from ABC in July.
While Prospect Park couldn’t find a business model that would sustain network quality series online, another company, Netflix, made a big bet this year that it can make it work. In the most significant challenge to traditional TV networks to date, the streaming giant last spring outbid the network with deepest pockets, HBO, for the David Fincher-Kevin Spacey drama House Of Cards in a deal that could be worth more than $100 million. Since then, despite the company’s stock price woes stemming from blunders in the core DVD rental/movie and TV shows streaming business like the ill-fated Qwikster spin-off and fee hike, Netflix has been aggressively building a slate of original series. In the past couple of months, it picked up Jenji Kohan’s comedy Orange Is The New Black, Eli Roth’s horror thriller Hemlock Grove and a new season of Arrested Development.
AMC, USA and other competitors in TV’s world of letters take turns lobbing barbs at HBO and each other in this number from College Humor.
Google is working on a strategy to offer paid cable TV services to consumers, the Wall Street Journal reports, as part of a previously announced project to build a super-high-speed fiber optic service in metropolitan Kansas City. The strategy would involve combinging Internet, video and phone services similar to cable and telecom companies, and Google has had exploratory talks with Disney, Time Warner and Discovery Communications about delivering TV channels over the video service. In September, Google hired former cable TV executive Jeremy Stern, who is leading those discussions. Google’s actions could accelerate the competition for a share of the more than $150 billion per year that traditional TV in the U.S. receives from advertisers and consumers paying monthly fees. Already the biggest seller of Web ads, Google wants some of those TV dollars.
Comcast is continuing to mull what to do with all of its NBCUniversal assets. The latest example: The Wall Street Journal reports today that NBCU is in talks with mixed-martial arts league Ultimate Fighting Championship to take a controlling …
In its first upfront presentation since its Jan. 1 launch, OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network announced the pickup of six new unscripted series and the renewal of four existing shows. The announcement didn’t include the most anticipated new OWN series, an Oprah Winfrey show, which will launch in September, after the end of her syndicated talk show. The network is yet to share details about it, though it is expected to be a talk show. OWN has been slow out of the gate, barely outperforming the channel it replaced, Discovery Health. One of the most heavily promoted first new series, Your OWN Show, flopped, and Oprah Presents Master Class has underperformed. But the network found early success with Our America With Lisa Ling, the first OWN series to get renewed, and Season 25: Oprah Behind the Scenes. The Judds also had a promising premiere on Sunday. Joining Our America on the list of renewed OWN series are Ask Oprah’s All Stars (picked up for six more episodes), Enough Already! With Peter Walsh (six episodes), In the Bedroom with Dr. Laura Berman (six episodes) and Oprah Presents Master Class (eight episodes). The six new series include Confronting…, I Owe You My Life, Louie Spence Dance Project, My Mom And Me, Sweetie Pies and Unfaithful: Stories Of Betrayal. Here are description of the newly picked-up shows:
CMT’s first foray into scripted TV proved short-lived. The music-driven cable network has canceled its first original sitcom, Working Class, after one season. “Unfortunately, CMT will not be pursuing a second season of Working Class,” a note posted …
Jon Stewart channeled Glenn Beck in his send-off of the departing Fox News anchor (and favorite punching bag) on The Daily Show last night.
New Showtime entertainment president David Nevins is going 2-for-2 in his first development season at the pay cable network, picking up both pilots he ordered — drama Homeland and comedy House of Lies — to series. Both have received 12-episode orders and will start production in the summer. Thriller Homeland, from 24 showrunner Howard Gordon, stars Claire Danes, Damian Lewis and Emmy and Mandy Patinkin, while management consulting comedy House of Lies is toplined by Don Cheadle and Kristen Bell. “Homeland and House of Lies are audacious in both their concept and their casting,” Nevins said. “They build upon the network’s successful pedigree and expand the definition of what a Showtime series can be.