Comcast Takes Full Control Of FEARnet, To Fold It In Into Chiller & Syfy

By | Monday April 14, 2014 @ 10:56am PDT
Nellie Andreeva

It’s the end of the road for thriller, suspense and Fearnethorror-themed FEARnet. Comcast has bought out its partners in the joint venture — Sony Pictures Entertainment and Lionsgate Entertainment — to take 100% ownership. Following the transaction, which closed this morning, FEARnet will no longer be a stand-alone brand but will be folded into Comcast’s NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment division. “NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment has acquired all remaining interests in FEARnet from its productive venture with Lionsgate and Sony,” the company said in a statement to Deadline through a spokesman. “FEARnet, along with its popular content, will be integrated into NBCU Cable Entertainment. This process will take place over a yet to be determined period of time.”

FEARnet is expected to be folded mainly into Comcast/NBCU Cable Entertainment’s similarly thriller, suspense and horror-focused Chiller, though some content could also migrate to Syfy. I’ve learned that 10 of FEARnet’s 25 employees will stay on through the transition. The other 15 are being let go today. NBCU would try to find job opportunities for some of them across the company. FEARnet president Peter Block will stay at least through the transition. Read More »

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Deadline Big Media 80 – Comcast Goes To Congress Podcast

By and | Friday April 11, 2014 @ 5:22pm PDT

Deadline Big Media ep 80In this week’s podcast, Deadline’s executive editor David Lieberman and host David Bloom untangle the latest twists in the giant Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger proposal, as a Senate committee grills Comcast’s “Jedi Master” of a chief lobbyist and Charter prepares a challenge at the TWC annual meeting. The Davids also talk about the very different tone of two just-signed retransmission deals, at least compared to last year’s Time Warner Cable-CBS brawl; how IMAX reduced its stake in China while increasing its influence; and this week’s National Association of Broadcasters conference, where FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler urged broadcasters to think like “tech disruptors” and NAB chief Gordon Smith called for a federal plan for broadcasting.

Deadline Big Media podcast 80 (.MP3 version)
Deadline Big Media podcast 80 (.M4A version)

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Comcast’s Brian Roberts Made $31.4M In 2013, +7.7%

By | Friday April 11, 2014 @ 2:39pm PDT

The company that owns the largest collection of cable systems plus NBCUniversal has about 3.6 times the market value of CBS — yet CEO Brian Roberts made less than half of what CBS paid Les Moonves in 2013?Read More »

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UPDATE: Senate Committee Expresses Skepticsm Over Comcast-Time Warner Cable Merger

Comcast-Time-Warner-Cable-logos__140213130107-150x150__140213191744UPDATED: The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing into Comcast’s $45.2B acquisition of Time Warner Cable wrapped after three hours today. And Comcast EVP David Cohen upheld his reputation as a lobbying Jedi Master, although critics of the deal scored by pointing out how it could lead to higher prices and problems for independent programmers. Senate Judiciary Cmte Holds Hearing On Comcast-Time Warner Cable MergerCohen started off strong in his opening statement: He cast his company as the embodiment of the American Dream — and announced that it has more than 1M WiFi hot spots with plans to boost their transmission speeds. “This is the 13th time we’ve increased Internet speeds in 12 years,” he says. Public Knowledge’s Gene Kimmelman — a former Justice Department antitrust lawyer — hit back. He charged that it would be “anathema to Comcast” if programmers want to offer content directly to consumers via the Internet for a low cost. The cable giant is committed to “charging top dollar” and, as owner of NBCUniversal, would be like an octopus with tentacles “each capable of squeezing innovation.”

In regard to pricing, Cohen said, in response to a question from committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), that “there is nothing in this transaction that will make anyone’s bills go up….Consumers today are in the driver’s seat.” He added later that programming costs have appreciated 98% over the last decade. Later he told Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) — who wanted to know whether shareholders would demand higher prices — us-senate-logo_20110526180215that “we have made it a point of significant discussion about our need to continue to invest to compete better with national and global competitors.” Kimmelman responded that Comcast is in the driver’s seat in the highly concentrated video and broadband markets. “The squeeze will come from Comcast,” he says. “It’s logical. They want to save money….and it could lead to significant price increases for others.”

Franken had Cohen against the ropes in a discussion about Comcast’s efforts to push customers to buy multiple or upgraded products. “When you train [sales]people to upsell, you’re not training them to sell the stand-alone product.” Cohen said that “we are allowed to train people to upsell,” but sales reps also “have to be aware of the stand-alone product” and provide it on request. Read More »

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Charter And Others Prepare To Challenge Time Warner Cable At Its Annual Meeting

It’s not WrestleMania, but Time Warner Cable shareholders can expect more excitement than usual at their annual meeting this year: time-warner-cable-logoThe company’s preliminary proxy, out this morning, includes proposals from Charter Communications and other investors  that could create problems … Read More »

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Comcast Sets Stage For Testy Senate Hearing, Telling FCC That Time Warner Cable Acquisition Serves Public

By | Tuesday April 8, 2014 @ 8:09am PDT

Comcast Time Warner Cable logos

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.).

SenateJudiciaryCommitteeComcast 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 »

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Comcast Says It May Give $2.5B To Shareholders If They Approve Time Warner Cable Deal: Report

By | Monday March 31, 2014 @ 12:22pm PDT

Comcast-Time-Warner-Cable-logos__140213130107-150x150__140213191744This is sure to hurt Charter Communications’ already long-shot effort to persuade Time Warner Cable shareholders to reject the $45B sale to Comcast. The cable giant plans to add $2.5B in share repurchases to the current plan to buy … Read More »

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Charter Asks Time Warner Cable Investors To Reject Comcast Acquisition

Charter logoReturned 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 Comcast-Time-Warner-Cable-logos__140213130107-150x150__140213191744cash-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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Apple, Comcast In Talks For Streaming TV Deal: Report

By | Sunday March 23, 2014 @ 7:17pm PDT

apple Apple and Comcast are looking to team up on a deal for high quality streaming TV, “people familiar with the matter” tell WSJ. News of the early talks between the companies comes a month after Bloomberg reported … Read More »

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WGA Urges FCC to Block Comcast- Time Warner Cable Merger

By | Sunday March 23, 2014 @ 6:54am PDT

WGABy David Robb, Special To Deadline

RELATED: WGA West & WGA East Slam Merger Of Comcast And Time Warner Cable

EXCLUSIVE: The Writers Guild of America has offered a chilling picture of the future of television to the Federal Communications … Read More »

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Netflix CEO Says Comcast Imposed An “Arbitrary Tax” In Interconnection Deal

Will Netflix end up challenging Comcast’s $45.2B deal to buy Time Warner Cable? It didn’t look that way last month when they made what they described at the time as a “mutually beneficial” interconnection deal that involved Netflix payments to Comcast. Read More »

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Deadline Big Media 77 – CinemaCon Preview Podcast

By and | Thursday March 20, 2014 @ 12:21pm PDT

Deadline Big Media ep 77In this week’s podcast, Deadline Executive Editor David Lieberman and host David Bloom preview CinemaCon, the big annual gathering of theater operators in Las Vegas that puts the popcorn in popcorn movies. They also examine the NAB’s claims to the FCC of a faltering local TV business; update the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger with news from the states; whistle through the highlights of the relatively quiescent Disney annual meeting; examine the implications of the recent settlement of the long-running Viacom-YouTube copyright lawsuit; and ponder what’s next for Yahoo, given the imminent stock IPO by Alibaba, which it partly owns.

Deadline Big Media podcast 77 (.MP3 version)
Deadline Big Media podcast 77 (.M4A version)

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Fears Of Government Rejection Hung Over Comcast’s Deal Talks With Time Warner Cable: Proxy

By | Thursday March 20, 2014 @ 8:10am PDT

That’s one of the nuggets that connoisseurs of corporate deals will find interesting in the proxy that Comcast and Time Warner Cable filed with the SEC this morning. Comcast-Time-Warner-Cable-logos__140213130107-150x150__140213191744Among other things, the document gives the public a first look — albeit a bloodless one — at the behind-the-scenes dramas that led to the $45.2B agreement. The proxy says that Charter Communications and its largest shareholder, Liberty Media, began to talk to TWC about their interest in acquiring the No. 2 cable operator on May 22, 2013.  TWC execs considered it too risky and began to talk to Comcast about an alternative arrangement in “mid-2013″ with legal reps meeting on June 27. On October 15  Comcast CEO Brian Roberts “indicated that Comcast might be interested in exploring a merger of Comcast and TWC” but also said that he had discussed the possibility of helping Charter. Conversations went back and forth until a series of  secret meetings on January 7 at International CES in Las Vegas: Charter CEO Tom Rutledge told Marcus that he was about to go public with his offer. Shortly afterward Marcus met with Roberts to bring him up to date. Later in the week Roberts said his conversations with Charter had “intensified.” Comcast management told its board, on January 12, that it preferred a collaboration with Charter. But Charter and Comcast couldn’t agree on terms, and broke off their talks on February 4. Read More »

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Time Warner Cable CEO Could Receive $80M Golden Parachute From Comcast Deal

By | Thursday March 20, 2014 @ 7:17am PDT

twcable1Time Warner Cable shareholders will have an opportunity to register their opinions about the golden parachute terms outlined this morning in the preliminary proxy for the proposed $45.2B merger sale to Comcast. Read More »

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State Attorneys General Plan To Scrutinize Comcast-Time Warner Cable Deal: Report

By | Wednesday March 19, 2014 @ 8:20am PDT

Comcast-Time-Warner-Cable-logos__140213130107-150x150__140213191744This typically happens in big cable system mergers, but still adds to the pressure on Comcast to make public interest concessions to win approval for its $45.2B acquisition of Time Warner Cable. Florida and Indiana are among the states … Read More »

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UPDATE: City Of LA Suing Time Warner Cable For Millions In Franchise Fees

By | Friday March 14, 2014 @ 11:54am PDT

DEADLINE_LEGAL_patten_100UPDATE, 11:54 AM: Time Warner Cable has responded to the suit: “As a major job creator, tax contributor and service provider in the City of Los Angeles, Time Warner Cable is an active and responsible corporate citizen in the … Read More »

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Time Warner Cable CEO Expects Last Minute Deals To Carry L.A. Dodgers

So far Time Warner Cable and closely allied Bright House Networks are the only pay TV distributors that have agreed to carry TWC’s new SportsNet LA which will feature the Dodgers. SportsNet LA logoBut TWC chief Rob Marcus … Read More »

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Tennis Channel Asks FCC To Revisit Challenge Against Comcast

By | Tuesday March 11, 2014 @ 12:55pm PDT

Tennis-Channel__120824220946-200x276UPDATE, 2:40 PM: Comcast’s Sena Fitzmaurice just responded to the Tennis Channel’s petition, urging the FCC to reject it as “baseless litigation” that “simply reiterates arguments that the court of appeals and the Supreme Court have already rejected.” In 2005 the companies “negotiated and signed an arm’s length contract” that Comcast has fulfilled “in exactly the way the contract requires.” The DC Court of Appeals agreed that Tennis Channel’s plea to be carried as a basic service would have “immense costs and no benefits for Comcast and that, therefore, Comcast’s carriage decision was appropriate and non-discriminatory. When given the opportunity to pursue the case at the Supreme Court, the government’s own lawyers chose not to do so.”

PREVIOUS, 12:55 PM: Tennis Channel has lost a game and a set in its discrimination cases against Comcast, but it still believes that it can win the match if the FCC agrees with a new petition asking it to review the matter again. The filing follows a U.S. Supreme Court decision last month not to review an appeals court decision that vacated a 2012 FCC order. The regulators agreed that Comcast had discriminated against Tennis Channel by putting it on an extra-fee sports tier while putting similar channels that it owns — Golf Channel and NBC Sports Network — on the expanded basic tier. The appeals court concluded that the FCC offered no evidence to refute Comcast’s position that it made a simple financial judgment that few subscribers wanted to watch tennis. Tennis Channel says that the FCC now can return to the case because “there is considerable evidence in the record that satisfies the new tests” the appeals court used to vacate the FCC’s order. If regulators look again, they “will once again conclude that Tennis Channel is correct in its view that Comcast has illegally discriminated against it.” Read More »

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Al Franken Blasts Comcast/Time Warner Cable Merger On ‘CBS This Morning’: Video

By | Monday March 10, 2014 @ 11:30am PDT

image003[1]The most camera-ready opponent of Comcast’s merger plans with Time Warner Cable  — who, ironically, owes his big break to Comcast-owned NBC — went on CBS This Morning to again blast the proposed merger, saying “consumers will end up paying more, there will be less competition, there will be less innovation and, worse, even worse service.” Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) this morning said he sent out an email to his constituents to get their “feelings about what kind of service they get from Comcast” and whether they think the proposed deal “will be good.” “I got 60,000 responses, and believe me, people don’t like their service from Comcast, and they don’t think this deal is going to help them,” said Franken — who, before entering politics in a big way was a writer and performer on the now Comcast-owned NBC’s Saturday Night Live from its launch in the mid 1970s until 1980, returning in 1985 for another decade. Watch his appearance here:

Franken matters because he sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee which, later this month, will hold hearings on the reported $45 billion deal that would give Comcast 30 million subscribers in 43 of the nation’s top 50 markets — aka about 30% of pay TV customers. Franken reminded CBS This Morning anchors this morning he hadn’t been any too happy about the Comcast/NBCU merger either. Read More »

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