DirecTV subscribers apparently will not be watching any Dodgers games in the near future. Talks have broken down with the satellite TV provider and Time Warner Cable, which handles distribution of the MLB team’s new SportsNet LA channel, according to TWC.
Maureen Huff, Time Warner Cable vice president of public relations, told Deadline, “We can confirm that DirecTV has left the negotiating table. We were advised by their negotiating team that they would not counter our last proposal and that conversations were at an end. We are eager for all consumers in the Dodgers footprint to have access to SNLA and we hope that other providers will come on board quickly so that the frustrated DirecTV consumers have alternative options throughout the region. We will continue to work tirelessly to make that happen. And, in the event that DirecTV would like to re-engage discussions, we stand at the ready to do so 24×7″. Read More »
Heading into the Mip-TV market next week, the UK’s DCD Rights has sealed deals on six-part thriller The Code with DirecTV in the U.S., Sundance Channel Latin America and Denmark’s DR. Produced by Australia’s Playmaker, the drama premieres Down Under on ABC1 later this year. Set in the Oz outback, The Code centers on two very different brothers — one a journalist, the other a hacker — who unearth information that those at the highest levels of political power will kill to keep secret. Lucy Lawless stars with Adam Garcia (Camp), David Wenham (Top Of The Lake) and Aden Young (I Frankenstein). DirecTV acquired the series for Audience Network. It was created by Shelley Birse and written by Birse, Blake Ayshford and Justin Monjo. Shawn Seet directs and Playmaker’s David Maher, David Taylor and Birse are producers. DCD, which works with high-profile Aussie titles like The Slap, Rake and A Moody Christmas, is launching The Code at Mip next week.
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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DirecTV will be adapting Peter Ackerman‘s play Things You Shouldn’t Say Past Midnight as its first original comedy series. The satcaster has given a 10-episode order to the project, which will start filming in May for a premiere on Audience Network later this year. This is DirecTV’s third original series, following dramas Rogue, which returns for Season 2 next month, and Full Circle, which was based on Neil LaBute scripts. Penned by Ackerman, Things You Shouldn’t Say is set in Los Angeles and examines a variety of modern-day relationships through the conceit that nothing good happens after midnight. It comes from DirecTV’s go-to producer, Nick Hamm of Momentum TV, who also was involved in Rogue and Full Circle.
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 »
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 »
At first glance the compensation for Michael White listed in DirecTV‘s new proxy statement looks like a big pay cut. But it may simply reflect an accounting fluke: The satellite company gave him $12M in option awards in 2012 that were recorded in his tally for that year, even though they vest over three years. In any event, he ends up with a tidy $12.5M for 2013 including $1.7M salary, $4.5M in stock awards, $1.6M in option awards, $4.3M in non equity incentives, $211,247 change in pension value, and $333,193 in other compensation. That last category includes $64,491 for his personal use of the company plans as well as $20,000 to match his charitable contributions. DirecTV shares appreciated 37.7% last year. White’s package is 2.7 times the median for his four top lieutenants, which is slightly below the threshold of 3X that many corporate governance experts say suggests a CEO’s pay is out of whack. The proxy shows that 6.9% of DirecTV shares are owned by Berkshire Hathaway, the company controlled by billionaire investor Warren Buffett who takes a dim view of bloated executive pay. DirecTV’s annual meeting will be held in New York on April 29.
The second season of the suspense drama starring Thandie Newton and new addition Cole Hauser will debut on Wednesday, May 28 at 10 PM, DirecTV announced today. Newton (The Pursuit Of Happyness, Crash) will resume her role as the morally and emotionally conflicted undercover detective Grace Travis, and Hauser (Transcendence, Olympus Has Fallen) joins the cast as the charming and enigmatic Ethan Kelly. Season 2 of Rogue will pick up with Grace trying to navigate a new life as she remains separated from her husband while balancing her job as handler for an FBI Task Force investigating the shadowy world of corporate espionage in San Francisco. Read More »
Pay TV is “a pretty imperfect market. It isn’t like anything sold at Walmart, I can tell you that,” DirecTV CEO Michael White said as he outlined his initiatives to an investor group. By mid-year he plans to “simplify our offer structure” and also provide his satellite customers with “a two-page bill that you can actually understand.” The change is partly an outgrowth of his view that the pay TV industry is “not very good….There’s a lot of ways to do things better.” That’s important because, now that the industry’s mature, “it’s harder and harder for things not to devolve into price competition….We’ve all made our business more complicated than the average consumer understands and that creates challenges for the bill down the road.” White reiterated his view that consumers are getting squeezed as programming prices rise. “In an economy where consumer incomes for the bottom 60% are flat and content costs are growing double digits….consumers wouldn’t sign up for that if they had a choice. But they don’t have a choice.” White pointedly noted that mergers of distributors — including DirecTV and Dish Network — “would create a new balance of power.” Still, he isn’t confident that federal regulators would allow the satellite companies to combine, which would reduce the number of pay TV choices from three to two for about 40% of the population.
While Comcast’s planned $45.2B acquisition of Time … Read More »
While he hasn’t decided whether to oppose the deal in Washington, DirecTV CEO Mike White says Comcast’s $42.5B pact to buy Time Warner Cable would result in “unprecedented media concentration in one company.” The No. 1 satellite service provider is “still assessing some of the competitive implications” but White wants to “ensure it’s appropriately scrutinized” — especially the “effective broadband monopoly they might have in two-thirds of the country.” The owner of NBCUniversal also would have a lot of power to raise content prices. That “creates some significant changes in the competitive landscape that we have to think hard about.” Couldn’t Comcast use its clout, with 30M subs after a merger, to slow the rate of increase in programming costs? Perhaps, but “it’s a complicated dynamic because that leverage may not flow through to its competitors.”
White says he’ll continue to resist high programming costs.”None of our customers have an income like those of us on the call here.” He wouldn’t comment on the state of the carriage negotiations with The Weather Channel, which went dark on DirecTV in January, but says that his company “may have lost a few thousand customers in the first quarter” due to the dispute. “Fundamentally I continue to believe if your viewership goes down ….that should be reflected in the price.” Read More »
If you guessed Sam Champion‘s new The Weather Channel show was going to be called AMHQ — you win! Champion himself did the unveiling, this morning, via Twitter.
TWC put out a news release, however, explaining AMHQ is short for America’s Morning Headquarters – but that the official title is AMHQ. Read More »
Fans of the shock jock won’t like the conclusions that Macquarie Equities Research’s Amy Young reaches in a new report on this provocative question. While Howard Stern was a big draw for SiriusXM in 2004 when he agreed to join the satellite radio service, “the sub base is now at 25M and there’s less necessity to strike a deal when his contract comes up for renewal at the end of 2015,” the analyst writes. She bases that conclusion on a survey of 800 SiriusXM customers. It found that 12% listen to Stern, and 30% of this group tune in less than twice a week. More to the point, just 5% of all subs “would consider leaving Sirius XM if he were no longer available.” In addition, 96% say that they aren’t willing to pay extra to have him in the lineup. That indicates that Stern “could have less leverage in the next contract negotiations.” Young says that he took a 20% pay cut in 2010 with a contract that paid $80M a year, and estimates that it could drop another 13% to $70M a year in 2015. “What this tells us: for new entrants or ‘niche’ players, obtaining high-profile anchor content is a key differentiator and important in building a critical mass,” she says. “As the business evolves, it becomes less vital.” That lesson could also affect DirecTV as it negotiates to extend its deal for … Read More »
On a day when a blizzard blanketed a large chunk of the country in snow and ice, there’s a new offensive in the carriage war between DirecTV and the Weather Channel. As the blackout continued during the whiteout, TWC has fired off an open letter to the satcaster’s board (read it here). The missive, signed by the Weather Company Chairman and CEO David Kenny, urges DirecTV to waive termination fees for customers who want to switch to a provider that carries the Weather Channel. “We have heard from viewers across the country, like Heather in Texas who wrote, ‘We just signed on with DIRECTV.…Had I known this was going to happen I would NOT have signed up. I read the fine print (too late) and found that they can do that. It’s wrong.’” The letter, dated tomorrow, closes with a near-plea for expediency: “As our team of more than 220 expert meteorologists tracks winter storms, wildfires in Southern California, and many other potential weather emergencies, a prompt reply—not to me, but to your customers—would surely be appreciated.”
Weather Channel Pushing Public Safety Image After DirecTV Blackout
DirecTV Hits Back In Weather Channel Spat, Citing Customer Complaints
All this comes on the heels of the Weather Channel’s weekend session at TCA, when execs reiterated their claim that DirecTV’s blackout — which began January 14 at midnight ET. is putting Americans at risk. The Q&A with TV critics was one day at Moody’s warned that the channel’s bond rating could suffer if the satcaster dispute continues. Read TWC’s press release that accompanied its letter to DirecTV below:
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The Weather Channel faces “severe operational and credit ramifications” if it can’t reach a deal with DirecTV to bring it back to the satellite company’s 20M subscribers, Moody’s Investors Service says today. The channel went dark this week on the No. 1 satellite service. The bond rating firm isn’t worried yet, saying that “there is a good chance that both parties will eventually renew the contract in order to avoid customer dissatisfaction and churn.” But TWC had better watch out. Its debt burden sharply increased last year when it borrowed $600M to pay a dividend to its owners — NBCUniversal, Bain Capital Partners, and Blackstone Management Partners. Moody’s said at the time that the borrowing seemed to indicate that “NBCU is comfortable with high leverage at [TWC], and signals that it does not view [TWC] as a strategic core-asset, but as an opportunistic investment.” Although it said that TWC generates enough cash to pay down the debt quickly, it expected the company to “either make acquisitions or build capacity for future dividend payments.” That’s why the DirecTV dispute is worrisome. Revenues from TV ad sales and distributor fees account for as much as 60% of TWC’s sales, Moody’s estimates — and without DirecTV the top line number could decline “in the mid single to low double digit range.” That could trouble debt owners: TWC is “weakly positioned” in Moody’s rating of B1, which indicates its belief that its debt too risky for many investors. Read More »
4TH UPDATE, 10:05 PM: Each side is — gasp! — blaming the other for the blackout. Now DirecTV has issued a statement of its own regarding the Weather Channel. It reads in part: “Consumers understand there are now a variety of other ways to get weather coverage, free of reality show clutter, and that The Weather Channel does not have an exclusive on weather coverage – the weather belongs to everyone.” (The full statement is below.)
Related: Weather Channel Tells TV Critics That DirecTV Is Putting Americans At Risk; Critics Dubious
3RD UPDATE, 9:21 PM: Here we go again. In the latest showdown between a pay TV company and a content provider, the Weather Channel is no longer available on DirecTV as of midnight Eastern. The parties were unable to reach a carriage deal. DirecTV customers who tune to the familiar channel 361 are getting the feed from a small operation called WeatherNation, which the satcaster had snuck onto channel 361 before year’s end. “We offered DirecTV the best rate for our programming, and I am shocked they have put corporate profits ahead of keeping a trusted channel that subscribers rely on every day,” David Kenny, chairman and CEO of The Weather Company, said in a statement tonight. “We are not looking for a large fee increase. We are simply looking for a fair deal. …” (Read the company’s full statement below.)
During the Weather Channel’s crowded session at the TCA Press Tour this morning, its president David Clark and Sam Campion — recently poached from Good Morning America — toed the company line that the satcaster not carrying their channel amounts to a public safety issue. Their statements echoed a release from the Weather Channel late Friday that urged DirecTV subscribers to call their congressmen to voice concern about losing the service. The satellite TV giant responded with a release of its own saying it had received numerous complaints about the Weather Channel’s growing slate of reality programming.
The Weather Channel-DirecTV action comes four months after Time Warner Cable and CBS settled their dispute that had resulted in a monthlong blackout of CBS and Showtime channels for TWC customers. Read More »
A major storm rained down on Winter TV Press Tour 2014 this morning when The Weather Channel took the stage to blast DirectTV over their current carriage dispute. In anticipation of the channel’s appearance before a couple hundred journalists at the tour, it issued an ominous campaign late last night warning viewers they needed to contact their congressional reps to intervene, or else DirecTV would take away “its critical weather programming,” calling it a “public safety issue.”
TV critics at the press tour weren’t entirely drinking The Weather Channel’s Kool-aid. One critic noted TWC is a successful company owned by a big corporation, asking “Is it fair to declare it a public utility?” in what’s really a business dispute.
Related: DirecTV Hits Back In Weather Channel Spat, Citing Customer Complaints
“Absolutely. And I’m not kidding,” Weather Channel president David Clark responded ominously. “If you’ve ever been in a severe weather situation and you need to make a decision to protect your family and you need to make it fast” you need “to know your information comes from a trusted source… We have a mission to serve that we take seriously. Don’t think you can stand a fly-by-night alternative to that,” he said, warning “you’re going to be putting your audience at risk.”
And by “fly-by-night” he meant a little channel called WeatherNation that the satellite giant’s subscribers might have noticed appearing right next to Weather Channel on DirecTV’s lineup in recent weeks, as the satcaster’s carriage deal with The Weather Channel is set to expire next week.
At Clark’s side on stage, The Weather Channel’s pricey new hire Sam Champion warned “there isn’t one,” in re alternatives to The Weather Channel in a weather emergency. “I’d love to say we can rest assured we’re safe in our homes because of BLANK. There isn’t one… Getting people ready, getting them through a storm that is the worst time in their life, is something I don’t take lightly, and this channel does it better than anyone else — anywhere . The Coast Guard, the Navy — everybody — police officers, fire officers watch this channel during emergencies to get information. That’s a responsibility that no one takes lightly. What we’re trying to say is we want people to have access to it.”
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This is becoming a theme at the International CES. Earlier today Netflix said that it will stream 4K content including the next season of House Of Cards to LG TV sets. Now Samsung is raising the stakes unveiling similar arrangements with Netflix, Comcast, Paramount, DirecTV and Amazon — part of its campaign to popularize the new technology with video that’s four times as sharp as conventional HD. The Samsung UHD [for Ultra Hi-Def] Video Pack will bundle Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness, World War Z, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, and Forrest Gump. “Users will also be able to download new UHD content as it becomes available,” the company says. In addition, Comcast will have an app for 4K Internet streams. The company says that it is “working with programmers, including NBCUniversal, to provide a library of 4k UHD choices for the Xfinity TV 4K app.” Comcast Cable SVP Matt Strauss says that later this year the company’s X1 set top boxes “will deliver 4K UHD content to all 4K capable televisions.” Amazon says that it’s working with several consumer electronics companies as well as Warner Bros., Lionsgate, 20th Century Fox, and Discovery. Last month Amazon Studios said that it will shoot all of its original series in 4K.