The cable operator will pocket $525M and AMC Networks will end up with $175M the companies said today in an SEC filing. This was the last big question remaining after Dish Network agreed in October to pay $700M to settle the breach of contract suit that Cablevision and AMC filed. They asked the courts to determine whether Dish had the right in 2008 to terminate its 15-year deal to air the VOOM Networks suite of HD channels. The channels, formerly owned by Cablevision, were packaged with AMC when the cable company spun off the network operation last year. The cash split between Cablevision and AMC does not account for the income that the cable networks company will receive from the fee increase that Dish agreed to pay to continue carrying channels including AMC, IFC, Sundance Channel, and WeTV.
Citi Research analyst Jason Bazinet thinks it is, and he agrees that “the odds have increased dramatically that Cablevision is sold within the next 12-18 months.” His report today making the case for chairman Charles Dolan and his son, CEO Jim Dolan, to sell — most likely either to Time Warner Cable or Charter — contributed to a 2.5% rise in Cablevision’s stock price, to $14.08. Without the sale speculation, Bazinet figures Cablevision shares would trade closer to $11. Why should the Dolans unload the company they’ve worked so hard to build? Cablevision has a lot of debt, and may find it too difficult to grow. Rising prices for programming “will likely continue to place downward pressure on profitability,” the analyst says. (Cablevision recently sued Viacom alleging that it jacked up programming costs by bundling channels, a charge that the entertainment giant rejects.) Cablevision can’t easily raise prices: It’s engaged in trench warfare with Verizon’s FiOS to attract subscribers the tri-state area around NYC. And Cablevision also recently gave up some potential growth by selling its Rocky Mountain cable systems to Charter.
BETHPAGE, N.Y., March 11, 2013 – Cablevision Systems Corporation (NYSE: CVC) today announced the appointment of Gregg Seibert to vice chairman. In addition to this new leadership position, he will continue to serve as the company’s chief financial officer, reporting to James L. Dolan, Cablevision president and chief executive officer.
The argument in a redacted version of Cablevision’s antitrust lawsuit at U.S. District Court in New York, released today (read it here), hits at a key part of Viacom’s defense. The entertainment company says that Cablevision could have licensed Viacom channels individually in the long term deal that they signed two months ago, and that businesses often provide discounts to customers who accept package deals. But the cable company says the “penalty” for not taking the package was so onerous that it “was no offer at all.” Indeed, the difference in prices over the life of the contract (undisclosed, although they typically run about six years) ”exceeded Cablevision’s entire 2013 budget for programming.” Viacom has so much market power, the suit says, that it was able to raise its prices at a time when ratings fell for its most popular networks which include Nickelodeon and MTV. What’s more, national ratings show “substantial declines in the daytime and primetime ratings” for nearly all of Viacom’s networks with Logo and VH1 Classic ranking “among the 10 lowest-rated cable networks, for both prime-time and 24-hour average viewing.” If Cablevision wasn’t forced to carry the lower rated Viacom channels, it says that it could have offered “superior programming” from Ovation, GMC, Me-TV, ASPiRE, and Retirement Living TV.
Listen to (and share) episode 25 of our audio podcast Deadline Big Media With David Lieberman.
Deadline Executive Editor Lieberman and host David Bloom look at the antitrust suit Cablevision filed against Viacom and what it might mean for the pay-TV oligopoly; whether Starz can be a star on its own; growing shareholder opposition to Bob Iger’s dual role at the top of Disney; and whether quality films can still sell lots of tickets.
UPDATE, 11:07 AM: Viacom and others are starting to react to Cablevision’s surprising lawsuit. The programming company says that “at the request of distributors” Viacom and others “have long offered discounts to those who agree to provide additional network distribution.” The company says that these are “win-win and pro-consumer arrangements” that “have been upheld by a number of federal courts and on appeal.” Viacom adds that it will “vigorously defend this transparent attempt by Cablevision to use the courts to renegotiate our existing two month old agreement.”
But Time Warner Cable seems to be cheering for Cablevision. “We frequently have pointed out that there are serious problems with the current programming environment,” the company says. “We think this lawsuit raises important issues, and we look forward to their resolution in the courts.”
PREVIOUS, 8:57 AM: Hold on to your seats. Cablevision filed its antitrust suit in federal court in Manhattan, alleging that Viacom illegally tied deals to offer must-watch channels including Nickelodeon, MTV and Comedy Central to agreements for 14 smaller channels including Palladia, MTV Hits, and VH1 Classic. “The manner in which Viacom sells its programming is illegal, anti-consumer, and wrong,” Cablevision says. “Viacom effectively forces Cablevision’s customers to pay for and receive little-watched channels in order to get the channels they actually want. Viacom’s abuse of its market power is not only illegal, but also prevents Cablevision from delivering the programming that its customers want and that competes with Viacom’s less popular channels.” The suit alleges that Viacom threatened to “impose massive financial penalties unless Cablevision complied with Viacom’s demands.” Cablevision says the practice of selling channels as a package, instead of individually, is a “per se” tying arrangement that violates federal and New York state antitrust laws. It also charges that the practice violates laws against “block booking.” Cablevision wants the court to require Viacom to pay treble damages and legal fees, to bar the network owner from continuing to demand carriage deals, and to let the cable operator have separate deals for the “core” and “ancillary” networks while they negotiate new agreements.
On Tuesday I told you that something big was afoot at Charter Communications. Now we know: CEO Tom Rutledge has agreed to buy a collection of Cablevision’s cable systems in the Rocky Mountain states that he used to manage when he was COO of the Long Island-based company. He left at the end of 2011. Cablevision paid $1.4B for the systems, formerly known as Bresnan Communications, in 2010. But it said in November that it was considering selling the operation. The systems in Colorado, Montana, Wyoming and Utah have 304,000 video subscribers. Rutledge calls them “some of the fastest growing cable assets in the United States.” Cablevision shares were up 5.6% today as word of a possible deal began to spread. Charter was down just 0.5%.
Here’s the release:
Stamford, Connecticut – February 7, 2013 – Charter Communications, Inc. (NASDAQ: CHTR) (“Charter”) and Cablevision Systems Corporation (NYSE: CVC) announced today that they have entered into a definitive agreement under which Charter Communications Operating, LLC will acquire Cablevision’s Bresnan Broadband Holdings, LLC (“Optimum West”) for $1.625 billion in cash. Optimum West manages cable operating systems in Colorado, Montana, Wyoming and Utah that pass more than 660,000 homes and serve 304,000 video subscribers and 366,000 customer relationships.
BETHPAGE, N.Y. November 28, 2012 – Cablevision Systems Corporation (NYSE: CVC) today named Tom Montemagno the company’s executive vice president of programming, responsible for all programming-related functions and negotiations covering all forms of content delivered to customers – including linear, On Demand and out-of-the-home authenticated programming. He will report to James L. Dolan, Cablevision’s president and CEO.
It’s a tough period for the Long Island-based cable company, not helped by a Q3 earnings report this morning that disappointed analysts and sent shares down more than 5%. Execs can’t estimate how much Hurricane Sandy might end up costing, although the company says the number could be “significant.” CEO James Dolan says that “there clearly will be some” homes lost, especially on Long Island’s shore lines. Customers who call Cablevision will be able to receive a rebate based on how long service has been out. But execs shied from providing specifics about the potential losses — as well as other timely subjects including one it raised today: Cablevision says it might sell its systems in Montana, Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado.
Cablevision Systems and AMC Networks announced today they have settled all litigation with Dish Network. Settlement includes a new long-term agreement for Dish to resume carriage of AMC Networks including AMC, IFC, Sundance Channel and WE TV. AMC will …
It started today with a note on the New York State Supreme Court’s website that says there’s a “possible settlement” in the case when the trial resumes on Monday. That was enough to drive up stocks for AMC Networks (+3.9%) and Cablevision (+4.3%) — the companies that filed a $2.4B breach of contract suit against Dish Network following its 2008 decision to drop the now-defunct VOOM suite of HD channels. The settlement hopes also contributed to a 4.8% jump in Dish shares. Investors are eager to see AMC’s channels return to Dish, which dropped them in June, and for the satellite company to be free of the threat of a courtroom loss that is starting to look inevitable following a string of embarrassing revelations that suggest it tried to hide evidence that it feared might hurt its case. “In the context of the $2.4 billion in damages originally sought, we believe a cash settlement could be worth between $200 million and $1 billion…equating to $1-$4 per share in aftertax cash consideration” for AMC,” Barclays Equity Research’s Anthony DiClemente says. He adds, though, that “the amount of a potential cash consideration is less important than the value of a new carriage deal.” Without Dish’s 14.1M subscribers, AMC could lose much as $100M per year in cash flow. “Assuming a 7 year deal, we estimate carriage would be worth $7 per share” for AMC, DiClemente says.
The new deal, which covers more than 70 services, looks a lot like the one that Disney struck with Comcast in January. Cablevision agreed to introduce channels including ESPN3, ESPN 3D, and the upcoming news channel from ABC and Univision. It also picked up rights to offer much of Disney’s programming on VOD and to stream shows — including to mobile devices when Cablevision’s subscribers are away from home. The companies didn’t disclose financial terms, or say how long the deal runs. But Cablevision CEO Jim Dolan says he considers the addition of VOD offerings “a key element of our video strategy and value proposition to customers.” The cable company faces tough competition from Verizon’s FiOS and AT&T’s U-verse in its core territories in the New York tri-state area. It didn’t raise rates last year, but has held open the possibility of doing so in 2013. Cablevision’s shares are up about 1.5% in early trading.
Here’s the release:
Cablevision’s amicus brief asking the U.S. Court of Appeals in New York to deem Aereo illegal could sting the fledgling Internet streaming company. Aereo and its defenders frequently cite a case involving Cablevision to justify the service. The court in 2008 agreed with Cablevision’s defense of its Remote Storage DVR technology (RS-DVR), and rejected broadcasters’ copyright infringement arguments. Judges said that the RS-DVRs operate just like home DVRs, even though they store programs on a central server instead of a set top box. Aereo, which is backed by IAC/InterActiveCorp chief Barry Diller, says the same logic applies to its service. Aereo says it rents antennas to subscribers so they can receive free, over-the-air broadcast signals — just as they could at home — before it streams the programming to them via the Internet. But Cablevision says there’s a big difference between its RS-DVRs and Aereo: ”Cablevision pays statutory licensing and retransmission consent fees for the content it retransmits, while Aereo does not,” the brief says.
The new sales effort puts a spotlight on Kristin Dolan, who’s Cablevision‘s senior EVP Product Management and Marketing — and also happens to be the wife of CEO Jim Dolan, and a member of the boards of Cablevision, AMC Networks, and Madison Square Garden. A long-time Cablevision employee, she formally took charge of Cablevision’s image machine last November. But analysts noted that her power at the company grew early this year as several top execs left, including COO Tom Rutledge and Marketing EVP Jonathan Hargis. (Both are now at Charter Communications.) BTIG analyst Rich Greenflield said in March that Jim Dolan decided to take control of operations because he blamed the old guard for allowing the company to lose ”both its technology and marketing edge.” Marketing is especially important for Cablevision. It faces stiff competition from Verizon FiOS in many of its systems in the tri-state area around New York. The company’s shares are down 7.7% over the last 12 months, a stark contrast to Time Warner Cable’s +43.7% and Charter’s +64.8%.