Comcast CFO Mike Angelakis says that The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter was so successful for Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure that it became “a reset mechanism” for the theme park. But he stopped short of confirming reports that the company plans to bring Potter to Universal Studios Hollywood, even as he gave analysts attending the UBS Annual Global Media and Communications Conference every reason to believe that they’re accurate. Indeed, he seemed determined to avoid making news, sticking instead to Comcast’s familiar talking points: He acknowledged that there are “challenges” at NBC but says it’s also ”an opportunty for us,” adding that Comcast is “investing where we can have a level of success.” He vowed to be ”disciplined” in bidding for sports programming, calling Comcast’s agreement in June to pay $4.4B for U.S. broadcast rights to the Olympics from 2014 to 2020 “a smart deal for us.” The company also talked up its new pact to sell wireless spectrum to Verizon Wireless, with the companies cross-selling each other’s products. “We don’t have to build a wireless network,” Comcast Cable CEO Neil Smit says. “We’re thrilled.” He noted that Comcast will be able to sell Verizon Wireless phone services even in markets where the cable company competes with Verizon’s FiOS video and broadband offering.
The companies bidding to buy Hulu may not want to talk to CBS chief Les Moonves. ”What are they getting and how long are they getting it?” he mused in an interview Thursday with UBS investment banking chief Aryeh Bourkoff at The Paley Center for Media. “Are they buying two years of programs for $2B? I don’t know. I shouldn’t say more — I’ll get in trouble.” CBS is the only major network that isn’t part of the Hulu joint venture. And Moonves says he’s glad he made that decision. “We want to control our content.” Online broadcasts cannibalize TV viewing and syndication and that’s something “we’re not going to do. Even a little bit. … We protect the family jewels.” But his company’s programming on premium channel Showtime is different. CBS is gearing up to launch Showtime Anywhere — a digital service for Showtime’s cable subscribers. ”We are half the way getting there,” he said. Like Time Warner’s HBO Go, Showtime Anywhere would enable customers to watch shows from the premium channel on demand via broadband including on mobile devices like tablets and smartphones. Moonves adds that, also like HBO, he won’t charge extra for Showtime Anywhere.
When it comes to the ad market, the CBS chief showed remarkable self-awareness for a media exec saying, “I know I sound a little Pollyannaish.” But he was consistent with the see-no-evil projection he made yesterday during an investor conference. “The world wants us to tell them that the sky is falling. It’s not.” He added that ”the signs are nothing like they were in 2007 and 2008. The only place we’ve seen real softening is with Japanese auto makers. And that’s coming back. … Toyota’s coming back bigger in November and December.” Read More »
Comcast’s NBCUniversal will face a potentially serious programming and financial challenge in 2018 now that the International Olympic Committee has announced that the Winter Games that year will be held in Pyeongchang, South Korea. The media company recently agreed to pay $4.4 billion for the domestic TV rights to the four Olympics between 2014 and 2020 — even though it didn’t know where the final two would be held. Barclays Capital projected that Comcast would lose about $127 million in the 2018 games. But that calculation could look optimistic now that we know where the events will be held. The problem is the time difference: Pyeongchang is 14 hours ahead of New York in the winter. That likely means NBC will have few, or no, popular events that it can broadcast live in prime time. The Winter Games in 2014 will be in Sochi, Russia, and the summer events in 2016 will be in Rio de Janeiro.
CBS chief Les Moonves pretty much accused Fox this morning of spoiling the advertising upfront season for the broadcast networks by failing to hold out for higher prices. CBS is angling for increases of about 18% vs last year in the price advertisers pay to reach 1,000 viewers. But Fox, which cut the first major ad deals this year, is said to have settled for about 10%. ”Fox plays their game. We play our game, and I like our game,” Moonves told analysts at the Nomura Securities U.S. Media Conference. ”We’re not going to sell at 9% or 10%.” Maybe not. But while CBS digs in its heels, the smart money is betting that it will have to settle for a lot less than Moonves wants. Although many of the biggest ad deals have yet to close, the word in advertising circles is that ABC has agreed to low-double-digit percentage price increases for some of its spots. A lot could change over the next few days, though. Networks and advertisers appear to be in the home stretch of their negotiations, leading some to believe that the upfront dealmaking could wrap up within the week.
In other news, Moonves told the investor group that CBS will not make an offer next week to land broadcast rights to the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, and the 2016 Summer Games in Rio De Janeiro.
Good Riddance, NBC Sports’ Dick Ebersol
International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge said today that Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts and NBCUniversal bosses Steve Burke and Gary Zenkel have assured him that the resignation of NBC Sports & Olympics president Dick Ebersol does not alter NBC’s plan to bid on the next round of U.S. Olympic broadcast rights next month, a competition that is expected to include ABC/ESPN and Fox. Rogge told the Associated Press that the news of Ebersol’s departure was a “shock,” certainly in part because the move comes less than three weeks before the IOC opens bidding in Laussane, Switzerland, on deals for the 2014 and 2016 Olympics. It’s a process Ebersol has overseen countless times for NBC, which has broadcast every Summer Olympics since 1988 and every Winter Games since 2002. (In 2003, NBC won the current rights package with a $2.2 billion bid to the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics — the network reportedly lost $200 million on that one — and the upcoming 2012 Summer Olympics in London.) ”The three reiterated the full support of NBC/Comcast for the Olympic movement and the Olympic Games,” Rogge told AP. “They said they would come for the bidding. They … made it very clear that the resignation of Dick had absolutely nothing to do with the bidding.” Read More »