In this week’s podcast, Deadline’s executive editor David Lieberman and host David Bloom look at the big Dish-Disney deal and what it might mean for other media companies and even a possible sports-free online pay-TV service. They also discuss Disney’s continuing headaches with its Interactive unit, whether FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s new rules for local broadcast alliances go far enough and look at the speculation about Carmike, the big exhibitor whose strong quarter fueled speculation that it will be a fat takeover target.
The companies got into trouble after they ran ads for FilmDistrict‘s 2013 thriller Olympus Has Fallen that include the distinctive Emergency Alert System warning sounds, the FCC says today as it proposed what it calls the largest ever penalties for its misuse (watch the ad below). Viacom will be hit hardest with a $1.12M fine for airing the ad 108 times over five days on Spike, VH1, MTV, Comedy Central, MTV2, Centric, and BET. NBCUniversal will have to cough up $530,000 for running the ad 38 times over six days on Syfy, USA, and five regional sports networks. And ESPN follows with $280,000 for running the ad 13 times over four days on ESPN, ESPN2, and ESPNEWS. “The FCC has long prohibited the transmission of actual or simulated EAS Attention Signals or tones in circumstances other than a real alert or an authorized test of the EAS system,” the FCC says. The cable companies said that the rules don’t apply to them because they don’t participate in the EAS program, the FCC notice notes.
You can bet that government officials and opponents of Comcast’s $45.2B planned acquisition of Time Warner Cable will scrutinize its just-released third annual report describing how it has fulfilled the promises it made in 2011 to win FCC approval for the deal to buy NBCUniversal. Opponents already say the cable giant can’t be trusted. ”To the extent that Comcast has a history of breaching its legal obligations to consumers, such history should be taken into account when evaluating Comcast’s proposal for future market expansion,” Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) said last week in a letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. But Comcast says the new 90-page report shows that it has “continued to meet and in many cases exceed our obligations.” For example, it says that its Internet Essentials program has provided home broadband service to more than 250,000 low income families, and has exceeded by 64 the requirement to provide courtesy video and broadband to an additional 600 schools, libraries and community institutions in underserved areas. (The company says that tomorrow it will “make an important announcement about the future of the [Internet Essentials] program.”) For online video Comcast says it has “new or renewed agreements with Amazon and Netflix, among others” resulting in a third year in which it has made these deals to provide programming to potentially competitive services without having to go to arbitration.
Folks who have a stake in FCC activities are beginning to respond to Chairman Tom Wheeler’s plan to revive the agency’s net neutrality rules. Consumer groups for the most part applaud his ambition, but fear that his effort will fall short unless the FCC reclassifies broadband as a regulated common carrier service — it’s now deemed a largely unregulated information service. FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai, one of the agency’s two Republican members, says there’s no need for regulation calling net neutrality “a solution in search of a problem.” And industry groups are supportive, but non-committal. Here’s where they stand. We’ve highlighted the key lines, and will add to the collection as more come in.
Chairman Tom Wheeler will try to revive the FCC‘s net neutrality regulations with a view that a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals in DC last month upheld the agency’s right to set rules for the Internet, even as it vacated much of the FCC’s 2010 Open Internet Order. Verizon had appealed the order, saying that regulators overstepped their authority. The FCC will not challenge the Appeals Court decision, but today the agency will open a docket seeking public comment on Wheeler’s proposals — expected to be formalized by summer. He wants to ban service providers from blocking any legal service. The court said that the FCC had not adequately justified that condition in its 2010 order. He also would ban discrimination — for example, offering some services at faster speeds than others — and require ISPs to be transparent about their network practices. While the court agreed with the FCC’s view that it has some rights to govern the Internet, justices also said that the agency tied its hands a decade ago when it defined broadband as a lightly regulated information service as opposed to a phone-like common carrier service. If the FCC runs into trouble with new rules, Wheeler will keep open the option of asking the FCC to change its mind and classify the Internet as a common carrier, a service that — from a legal perspective — is so important that it needs to be regulated. In addition, Wheeler hopes to promote consumer options by overruling state laws that bar cities and towns from creating public Internet services that might compete with private ones.
Q&A: MLB Advanced Media CEO Bob Bowman On WWE Network, Sony’s Virtual Pay TV Plans, And What’s Next For Streaming Video
The new year has barely started, yet I already have a candidate for the eventual list of 2014′s most influential media execs: MLB Advanced Media CEO Bob Bowman. His sports-focused streaming video and Internet operation is poised to become an entertainment power following the announcements at International CES this month that it will drive two potentially ground-breaking new services. On February 24, WWE will launch a subscription-based online video channel, WWE Network, that will include live and on-demand library programming. (Bowman sat on the WWE board from 2003-2008.) And Sony turned heads with its plan to introduce a Web-based pay TV service that will include live programming from channels that are only available now to subscribers of traditional cable, satellite, and telco video services. MLBAM’s state-of-the-art infrastructure already handles live and on-demand streaming for college basketball’s March Madness, CBS Sports, and ESPN3, as well as Glenn Beck’s TheBlaze TV and in 2012 handled Obama for America campaign videos. As its business grows, financial types wonder whether baseball execs might take MLBAM public. So it’s a heady time for Bowman, who became Michigan’s state treasurer in 1983 at age 27 and went on to become COO of ITT Corp. Deadline checked in with the MLBAM chief to find out more about his plans with WWE and Sony, and the prospects for streaming video. Here are his thoughts, edited for length and clarity.
DEADLINE: Why do you consider the WWE Network so noteworthy?
BOWMAN: Economically it’s one of our largest clients for sure. In that sense it’s incredibly important. But what’s more important than dollars is this is the most vertically integrated brand in America. Vince McMahon controls everything soup to nuts — from the idea in his head to how it appears on every screen around the world. And he just demonstrated [at CES] he’s going to try and change what the economic rules are. He’s in an ideal situation to do that. That’s why a lot of the content players are going to watch this very carefully.
In this week’s podcast, Deadline’s executive editor David Lieberman and host David Bloom take up Charter Communications’ $61.3 billion bid for Time Warner Cable; the potential impacts of an appeals court ruling throwing out FCC net neutrality rules; a stalling home-entertainment industry and Best Buy’s bad holiday. They also look at the surprising shakeup at the top of Yahoo, coming as it does just a week after the company’s big CES shindig. Now at least one much ballyhooed hire departs 15 months later after arriving and there are reports that at least another top executive is out.
“We’re ready to intervene,” FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said this week about the new AT&T plan that has raised the hackles of net neutrality advocates. But that’s short of a full-fledged commitment to deal with an issue that media and entertainment companies will closely monitor. The wireless carrier told an audience at the International CES confab that it will begin to let content providers pick up the tab for some of their 4G transmissions. It’s “similar to 1-800 phone numbers or free shipping for Internet commerce,” AT&T says. In theory, that could range from a studio paying data costs for mobile device users to watch a movie trailer — to ESPN or Netflix helping people to watch their programming. The idea is “a win-win for customers and businesses,” says AT&T Mobility CEO Ralph de la Vega. Net neutrality advocates counter that AT&T’s plan would give well-funded industry giants a huge advantage over challengers in an environment where companies would effectively have to pay in order to reach mobile device users. “In addition to being a ripoff for both consumers and content creators, AT&T’s plan erects a massive barrier in front of anyone hoping to be the next big thing online,” says Public Knowledge Acting Co-President Michael Weinberg.
The agency followed through today on an effort launched last month by then-Acting Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn: It released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that invites public comment before it eliminates the rules adopted in 1975 to help broadcasters and the NFL. They say that if a sports league requires a TV station to black out a game – usually a football game that isn’t sold out — then cable and satellite distributors can’t offer it in the community either. “The sports industry has changed dramatically in the last 40 years…[and] the economic rationale underlying the sports blackout rules may no longer be valid,” the notice says. When the rules were adopted about 59% of the NFL’s regular season games were blacked out due to failure of the games to sell out. But the FCC observes that in 2011 just 6% were blacked out, and just in four cities: Buffalo, Cincinnati, San Diego, and Tampa Bay. Also, TV payments have become much more significant than gate receipts to most teams’ revenues.
Listen to (and share) episode 62 of our audio podcast Deadline Big Media With David Lieberman. Deadline’s financial editor talks with host David Bloom about growing interest in some corners of Washington D.C. about crafting new communications policies for the Internet age; AMC’s best concession deal in decades with a stock deal for its customers; a report that suggests breaking up the pay-TV bundle would “devastate” consumers and the oligopoly that dominates the industry; and new government efforts to measure the economy that say the country’s creative industries generated $915 billion in 2011, and what that might mean for new policies for Hollywood.
You’re hearing a big sigh of relief from broadcasters today. New FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said in a blog post that he wants to postpone the voluntary auction that will enable wireless broadband providers to use airwaves now controlled by TV stations. It originally was planned for 2014, but Wheeler says he believes “we can conduct a successful auction in the middle of 2015.” It’s easy to imagine that his decision was influenced by the troubled web rollout for the Affordable Care Act. “I have often defined the complexity of this multi-part simultaneous [auction] process as being like a Rubik’s cube,” Wheeler says. “As part of our auction system development, we will check and recheck the auction software and system components against the auction requirements, and under a variety of scenarios replicating real life conditions. … Only when our software and systems are technically ready, user friendly, and thoroughly tested, will we start the auction.” Wheeler also has to make a controversial policy decision about whether the government should limit how much spectrum might go to wireless giants Verizon and AT&T.
Tom Wheeler gave students at Ohio State University a lesson in political savvy today in his first policy speech since he became FCC chairman last month. His address alternately preached the virtues of small government, and public interest advocacy — especially on the controversial question of the FCC’s role in regulating the Web. “What the Internet does is an activity where policy makers must be judiciously prudent and should not be involved,” he says. But the longtime industry lawyer and former lobbyist left the FCC a lot of wiggle room to advance what he calls the “Network Compact” to promote communications accessibility, interconnection, and public safety and security. His idea of accessibility “means the ability of [Internet] users to access all lawful content on a network,” he says — adding that’s why the FCC “adopted enforceable rules to preserve the Open Internet.” The FCC needs to be the public’s representative in a transition to what he calls “the fourth network revolution” following the development of the printing press, railroads, and the telegraph. The Internet “is not a law-free zone. It depends upon standards of conduct. And it depends on the ability of the government to intervene in the event of aggravated circumstances.”
PTC Blasts ‘Family Guy’ For Jokes About Rape, Sexual Exploitation Of Kids, And “Internal Defrosting Of Frozen Hot Dogs”
The FCC will get a mess of complaints about the November 10 episode of Fox’s animated Seth MacFarlane comedy Family Guy after Parents Television Council encouraged members today to file broadcast indecency complaints with the commission. PTC says it sprang into action because the episode contained explicit jokes about rape, molestation, sexual exploitation of children — and the “sexualized use of food and perverse ‘internal defrosting’ of frozen hot dogs.” PTC sent out word of the campaign this morning to the media, with a helpful partial transcript of the episode:
- Upset at being threatened by a bully and challenged to a fight, teenage Meg runs into the girl’s restroom. She finds pedophile Quagmire inside.
Meg: “What are you doing in here?”
Quagmire: “This is my base of operations.”
Quagmire’s phone beeps. Voice on phone: “Mr. Quagmire, the girl’s gym class will be in the showers in twenty minutes.”
- Quagmire recounts being bullied by a girl when he was in high school: “That was the beginning of a long, abusive relationship. It’s one thing if you put your penis inside-out in the safety of your own bedroom. But to have it done in the cafeteria? To this day, I can’t have sex with a woman against her will without thinking about rape.”