SEATTLE—May 16, 2013—(NASDAQ:AMZN)—Amazon.com today announced an expanded content licensing agreement with NBCUniversal Cable & New Media Distribution that will bring a variety of popular programs to Prime Instant Video. Prime Instant Video offers more than 40,000 movies and TV episodes for Prime members to stream on Kindle Fire, Kindle Fire HD, iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, Roku, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii and Wii U, among other connected TVs and devices – all at no additional cost. To sign up for Amazon Prime, visit www.amazon.com/primeinstantvideo. READ MORE »
Here’s yet another mixed-bag Big Media report on this unusually busy morning, although the 2% pre-market jump in Comcast‘s shares suggests that the earnings growth here is especially impressive. The cable and entertainment colossus generated $1.65B in net income in Q1, +13.7% vs the period last year, on revenues of $15.3B, +2.9%. Analysts thought that revenues would come in a little higher, at $15.4B. But earnings of 54 cents a share beat forecasts for 50 cents. NBCUniversal did its part, with operating cash flow +17.2% to $953M — despite a 2.4% drop in revenues to $5.34B. (It would have been up 2.4% if you factor out last year’s $259M from NBC’s Super Bowl coverage.) Cable network revenue was +4.6% to $2.2B with operating cash flow +6.2% to $859M. Comcast says that affiliate fees were up 8.6% while ad price increases offset lower ratings to raise sales 2.5%. The story’s drearier at the broadcast operation: Its operating loss increased to $35M from $14M last year while revenues fell 18.5% to $1.5B. (The drop would be just 5.3% without last year’s Super Bowl.) The main culprits, the company says, were “lower primetime ratings at the NBC broadcast network and lower content licensing revenue.” In Filmed Entertainment, the company says that Les Miserables helped to propel revenues +2% to $1.2B with operating cash flow up to $69M from $6M in the period last year. Theme Parks also performed with revenues +12.2% to $462M and operating cash flow +10.3% to $173M. CEO Brian Roberts says that following his company’s acquisition of General Electric’s stake in NBCU it will “drive innovation and operational excellence to deliver superior entertainment and communications choices for consumers.”
Global Showbiz Briefs: NBCU Ups 2 In Pay-TV Unit, ‘Heroes Of War’ To History UK, Season 2 of ‘Gefragt’ in Germany & More
NBCU Taps Pair Of Execs In Pay-TV Division
NBCUniversal has appointed a pair of executives for its pay-TV channels operation. Satpal Brainch takes over as EVP and Managing Director of Universal Networks International effective May 8, and Duccio Donati assumes the newly created role of EVP of E! and Style starting in July. Brainch was President and Managing Director of CNBC International and will relocate from Singapore to London for her new role. Donati, who was EVP of Universal Networks International, will move from London to Los Angeles.
History UK’s New ‘Heroes Of War’ Focuses On Poland
History UK has tapped Sky Vision to produce Heroes Of War, a five-episode documentary series about unsung heroes from World War II. Each hourlong segment will focus on stories of heroism and sacrifice in Poland, where some of the worst atrocities of the war were committed. The series is due to premiere later in the year on H2 in the U.K. and on History in select European countries. Sarah Proctor is the Executive Producer for History UK.
Universal Studios Upgrade Plan Gets OK; Construction On Wizarding World Of Harry Potter Starting This Summer
The unanimous vote by the LA County Board of Supervisors today ends a seven-year public hearing and environmental approval process that clears the way to begin construction on NBCUniversal‘s 25-year Evolution Plan. Starting in late summer, work will begin on The Wizarding World of Harry Potter themed land at Universal Studios Hollywood theme park, as well as on new and upgraded TV production facilities, office space and infrastructure on the Universal Studios lot. The Potter attraction was first announced in 2011 and already has seen success in Universal’s Orlando theme park, which Universal President and COO Ron Meyer has called a game-changer. A Harry Potter attraction at Universal Studios Japan was announced last year. Originally, the broader Evolution Plan to build 3,000 apartments and condos and retail space on the studio back lot were scrapped in July, after Yaroslovsky and LA City Council member Tom LaBonge red-flagged the potential environmental impact and potential loss of production jobs. (Universal Studios sits on both LA city and county land; the LA City Council approved the city’s portion of the plan in February.)
In total, the plan is expected to create more than 30,000 jobs and generate $2 billion in economic activity, according to NBCU. County supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said the newly forged agreement calls for NBCU to make $100 million in transit improvements, and commit nearly $14 million to jump-start the effort to revitalize the Los Angeles River by “completing key missing links on the LA River bike path”. That includes building a nearly one-acre trailhead park on the studio’s property abutting the river. Here’s NBCU’s release on the deal:
UNIVERSAL CITY, California, April 23, 2013 – NBCUniversal announced today plans to begin construction of the first projects of its 25-year Evolution Plan. The Evolution Plan represents a $1.6 billion investment in tourism and production. This long-term investment in two industries that are vital to Los Angeles will create more than 30,000 jobs and generate $2 billion of economic activity during operations for the region.
“After nearly a decade of work on the Evolution Plan, today’s vote sets the stage for our next 100 years in Los Angeles,” said Ron Meyer, president and COO of Universal Studios. “We are thankful for the support and leadership we have received from both the County and City of Los Angeles and are ready to get started investing in these important tourism and production projects in the next few months.”
Former Walt Disney Television International and Nickelodeon exec Nicky Douglas will oversee Universal Networks International’s Universal Channel, Syfy, E! Entertainment Television, The Style Network and Movies 24 in the UK. The group of …
NBCUniversal‘s Hispanic cable network mun2 unveiled its programming lineup today at its upfront event today in New York. It features more than 200 hours of original programming and three new series: unscripted reality series Horoscopos; and docu-series Viva Los Vargas, about boxer Fernando Vargas; and Reinas De Realty. Mun2 also announced it is now the exclusive Hispanic cable home to Barclays Premier League soccer this summer, and that it is developing a series for Fandango Cine. Here’s the network’s descriptions of its shows:
NBCUniversal has its woes, but Comcast execs have little reason to complain about their personal incomes for 2012. CEO Brian Roberts — who controls a third of the voting shares — received a nice bump in pay in a year when Comcast stock appreciated 54%. His package includes $2.8M salary, $4.8M in stock awards, $4.8M in option awards, $9M in non-equity incentives, $4M change in pension value, and $3.7M in other compensation according to the proxy filed at the SEC this afternoon. About $3.3M from the “other” category represents deferred compensation. At least Roberts spread the wealth among his colleagues. His pay amounted to 1.4 times the median for Comcast’s four other top execs, which shouldn’t alarm corporate governance activists who become concerned when the CEO makes more than 3 times the average for other top execs named in the proxy. NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke ended up with $26.3M, +11.3%.
A month after chairman Bonnie Hammer was given the reins to NBCUniversal’s entire entertainment cable network portfolio, she has given expanded responsibilities at the new entity to four of her top executives to complete the exec takeover of the cable networks previously overseen by chairman Lauren Zalaznick and her team. Catherine Dunleavy, previously EVP and Chief Financial Officer for NBCU Cable Entertainment & Cable Studios, the previous division run by Hammer, will serve in the same capacity for the new NBCU Cable Entertainment Group, formed by merging the cable assets overseen by Hammer and Zalaznick. Veteran business affairs executive Beth Roberts, previously EVP Business Affairs, Cable Entertainment & Cable Studios, has been named EVP Business Operations for the Cable Entertainment Group, adding Legal Affairs to her duties. She also is keeping the COO, Universal Cable Prods title. Cheryl Rosenbloom, previously SVP Human Resources NBCU Cable Entertainment & Cable Studios, has been upped to EVP Human Resources and Diversity Outreach for the new group. And Cory Shields, EVP Communications, will serve in the same capacity for the bigger entity. Here is Hammer’s staff memo:
Comcast stunned investors Tuesday by disclosing its plan to buy out General Electric way ahead of schedule. It also released Q4 earnings that were expected tomorrow, and announced a 20% increase in its dividend as well as a $2B stock-repurchase plan. Comcast shares are up 7% in after-hours trading — an all-time high — while GE is up about 3%. “Our decision to acquire GE’s ownership is driven by our sense of optimism for the future prospects of NBCUniversal and our desire to capture future value that we hope to create for our shareholders,” CEO Brian Roberts says. The cable giant will finance the GE buyout with $11.4B billion of cash on hand, $4.0B of subsidiary senior unsecured notes it will issue to GE, $2.0B of borrowings, and $725M of subsidiary preferred stock it will issue to GE. In addition to the stock purchase, Comcast agreed to pay $1.4B for the NBCUniversal headquarters in New York at 30 Rockefeller Plaza as well as CNBC’s facilities in New Jersey.
Prior to the new agreement, GE could have required Comcast to buy half of its 49% NBCU stake beginning at the end of July 2014, and the remaining half beginning in January 2018.
Laura Molen is joining the company from an EVP post at Univision Communications to be EVP Cable Advertising Sales at NBCUniversal, where she will oversee sales efforts for USA Network, Syfy, E!, G4, Chiller, Cloo and WWE. Peter Lazarus has come aboard as SVP Cable Ad Sales, responsible for USA, SyFy, Cloo, Chiller and WWE; he arrives from USA Today, where he was head of multimedia sales for the Sports Media Group, and will report to Molen. Meanwhile, Lou Koskovolis has been named SVP Sales & Sales Marketing for NBC Sports Groups’ Golf Media, responsible for all sales and sponsorship efforts involving the group’s golf properties, after a stint at MLB as SVP Corporate Sales & Marketing. He reports to Seth Winter, EVP NBC Sports Group Sales & Sales Marketing. And Katie Larkin has joined the company as SVP Ad Sales Strategy, where she will define and develop TV and digital cross-platform sales strategy across the NBCU portfolio. She comes from an SVP role at Turner Entertainment Networks and will report to Trish Frohman, EVP, Ad Sales Strategy.
Bonnie Hammer Takes Over All NBCU Cable Entertainment Cable Nets, Lauren Zalaznick Shifts To New Role, Joe Uva Gets Telemundo
Bonnie Hammer is officially NBCUniversal‘s cable queen. Hammer, who added E! and G4 to her portfolio of USA, Syfy and Universal Cable Prods after the Comcast merger, is now taking over the combined company’s entire entertainment cable universe including Bravo, Oxygen and Style, which had been under the purview of fellow top-ranked NBCU cable executive Lauren Zalaznick. Zalaznick, whose post-merger portfolio was a hodgepodge mix of cable networks (Bravo, Style), Spanish-language broadcaster Telemundo and digital properties — red-hot Fandago and iVillage (which recently shifted to NBC News Digital) — will now take on a new role as EVP NBCUniversal, focusing on innovation, digital, monetization and emerging technology across the company. Telemundo oversight is going to former Univision Communications CEO Joe Uva, who is joining NBCUniversal as Chairman, Hispanic Enterprises and Content. NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke just outlined the restructuring in an internal email (below).
The awkward separation of NBCU’s entertainment cable assets had historic reasons. Hammer and Zalaznick originally made their mark running a cable network (Sci Fi Channel and Trio, respectively) and as they rose through the ranks, the two kept expanding their portfolios until all NBCUniversal entertainment cable nets were under the supervision of one of them. Heading into the Comcast-NBCU merger, one of Burke’s trickiest tasks was trying to keep both Hammer and Zalaznick in the company. That meant giving each some of Comcast’s cable nets — E! and G4 went to Hammer, Style to Zalaznick. But the separation of NBCU’s entertainment cable assets has made less and less sense, especially as networks on both sides were starting to move in a similar direction.
Quill.com is a real-life office-products provider that partnered with NBCUniversal‘s consumer products unit in 2011 to offer paper branded Dunder Mifflin — the fictional Scranton, PA-based paper-supply company at the center of NBC’s The Office. It turns out the initiative has been a major success, and now …
Jared DiPalma has been promoted to Chief Financial Officer at NBCUniversal Entertainment & Digital Networks and Integrated Media. In his newly created position, DiPalma will oversee financial operations for the unit’s portfolio that includes Bravo Media, …
NBCUniversal Domestic TV Distribution’s Steve Harvey, the sleeper hit among this season’s crop of new syndicated talk shows, has been renewed for a second season. It joins ABC’s Katie Couric‘s Katie, which had a two-year deal from the get-go, as the two freshman syndicated talkers to be locked in for next fall. The odds for the rest are slim at best. Endemol-produced Steve Harvey has delivered strong demo ratings, improving dramatically its time periods and providing great lead-in for Ellen on the NBC stations, boosting the ratings for Ellen DeGeneres’ veteran talk show.