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Will Hollywood Make Sure That Netflix Faces Competition Overseas?

That’s what some analysts here predict after looking at the deal Disney announced yesterday to license movies and TV shows to NetMovies Entertainment, a Brazilian competitor to Netflix. The release says this is “the first major global studio deal for NetMovies,” which is described as “Brazil’s largest and most comprehensive online subscription service for movies and TV series” with more than 35,000 titles in its library. The multiyear deal will enable NetMovies’ subscribers to see a “large array” of Disney’s movie and TV content via broadband — including the first three Pirates of the Caribbean films, Wild Hogs, Desperate Housewives, Criminal Minds, and Brothers And Sisters. Customers also can rent DVD and Blu-ray discs. Susquehanna Financial Group analyst Vasily Karasyov says this morning that the agreement with Disney ”illustrates our argument that studios will work hard to ensure that Netflix isn’t the only buyer of streaming rights.” And although BTIG analyst Rich Greenfield questions how well financed NetMovies is, with competitors such as Amazon, Apple, Dish Network, and Google ramping up their online video businesses here Disney’s agreement with NetMovies could cause Netflix’s “wounds to fester” as it tries to expand in Latin America. International growth “is becoming more important daily” for Netflix, he says.

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Disney Won’t Fight The Navy, Withdraws Application For SEAL Team 6 Trademark

The Walt Disney Co. has reversed course and withdrawn its applications to trademark SEAL Team 6, the name of the elite Navy unit that killed Osama bin Laden. According to the Wall Street Journal, the Navy filed its own applications for rights to “SEAL Team” and “Navy SEALs” about a week after Disney, with a Navy spokesman saying, “We are fully committed to protecting our trademark rights.” A Disney spokesman said the company was withdrawing “out of deference to the Navy.” Disney planned to use the trademark to sell merchandise and, according to a WSJ source, develop a show based on the Navy unit for ABC.

Bin Laden’s death has sparked action on several projects related to the former Al-Qaeda leader. Deadline has already reported that Sony Pictures is close to a deal to distribute a project from The Hurt Locker director Kathryn Bigelow and writer Mark Boal about the raid that killed bin Laden, and also that Universal is prepping a Navy SEAL movie from Peter Berg, an adaptation of Marcus Luttrell’s Afghanistan War memoir Lone Survivor.

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UPDATE: ‘Mars Needs Moms’ A Costly Disappointment, But Disney CEO Bob Iger Stays Upbeat About Marvel, ABC And ESPN

UPDATE, 4:15 PM: How costly a mistake was Mars Needs Moms? Disney says the studio lost about $70 million in release costs and in an impairment charge for a film it now calls “very disappointing.” Still, CEO Bob Iger tried — not always successfully — to avoid sounding sour today as analysts probed him about quarterly results that seemed to have befuddled many of them. Iger talked up the prospects for Disney’s upcoming sequels to Pirates of the Caribbean and Cars. He also banged the drum for The Avengers, the Marvel action film due next year. Now that Disney has negotiated an early exit from Marvel’s distribution deal with Paramount, Iger says the movie will be the “first really big initiative” from Disney’s acquisition of Marvel with the potential to “turn into a true franchise.” He adds that Marvel is developing a block of shows for Disney XD, as well as individual programs for ABC and ABC Family. Also on the television side, Iger says the coming upfront ad market will “be a strong one” – which is far more vague than CBS chief Les Moonves’ projection of “solid-double digit increases” for his network. Iger acknowledged that the last few years were “not as great” for ABC as they were during the heyday of its hits including Lost, Desperate Housewives and Grey’s Anatomy. But while he says that ABC has made “no decisions yet” about the primetime shows it will pick up for this fall, Iger adds that he’s “encouraged” by the pilots he has seen including “some really strong shows” from ABC itself. Read More »

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Ground-Breaking On Shanghai Disney Resort

By | Thursday April 7, 2011 @ 7:30pm PDT

It’s the first Disney theme park to be built in mainland China. Friday’s announcement from The Walt Disney Company and Shanghai Shendi Group, its joint venture partner in China, marked the start of construction at a groundbreaking ceremony held earlier in the day. It featured traditional Chinese drum music, a female soloist singing in Mandarin, a 50-voice Shanghai children’s choir, and Mickey Mouse dressed in a traditional Chinese costume. Following the entertainment and remarks, Walt Disney Co President/CEO Bob Iger and Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman Tom Staggs were joined by Shanghai Party Secretary Yu Zhengsheng and Shanghai Mayor Han Zheng to officially break ground on the project. It follows approval from the Chinese central government in Beijing. Read More »

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Disneyland Turning Away Visitors At Gates

By | Tuesday December 28, 2010 @ 4:34pm PST

It’s a nice problem to have if you’re the Walt Disney Co — but not if you’re trying to visit the Anaheim theme parks. I’m told that both yesterday and today Disneyland began turning away would-be visitors within hours of opening and then redirected them to California Adventure until that park reached capacity, too. Sounds like The Happiest Place On Earth could be the grumpiest judging by this alert which the Disneyland Twitter site has been sending out regularly:

Disneyland Resort extremely popular today. Disneyland and Disney California Adventure access temporarily limited.

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Disney Online EVP/Managing Director Exits

By | Friday December 17, 2010 @ 1:37pm PST

Today 16-year Disney veteran Paul Yanover today announced his January departure in an email to his staff. This is the latest shakeup at Disney digital following a wholesale manager changeover (Bob Iger Splits Top Disney Interactive Job). Yanover follows Graham Hopper out the door in September as the 10-year head of the video game division on the eve of Epic Mickey’s launch. Yanover is EVP/managing director of Disney Online, the business unit of Disney Interactive Media Group that’s the No. 1 entertainment destination for kids and families on the web. He has global oversight of all strategic, creative, technical and marketing initiatives surrounding the Disney brand on the Internet and Mobile Web, including flagship site www.disney.com; a large portfolio of divisional Web sites for The Walt Disney Company; and a network of family-targeted sites including Disney Family.com, FamilyFun.com, Wondertime.com and iParenting.com. Yanover also oversees Disney’s suite of premium online products and virtual worlds including Disney Club Penguin, Pirates of the Caribbean Online, Disney Fairies Pixie Hollow, Disney’s Toontown Online and the upcoming Cars virtual world. Yanover began his career at Disney in 1991, left in 1999, and returned in 2002.

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Disney Moves Muppets From Xmas To T-Day

By | Wednesday December 8, 2010 @ 2:00pm PST

BURBANK, Calif. – December 8, 2010 – The Walt Disney Studios announced today that it has moved the release date for its upcoming The Muppets Movie to November 23, 2011. Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie the Bear, Gonzo, Animal and the rest of the gang will reunite in theaters just in time for the 2011 Thanksgiving holiday weekend. “Disney has had incredible success opening films over the Thanksgiving weekend, and thanks to Tangled, we have the top three Thanksgiving openers of all time,” said Chuck Viane, president of global distribution for Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. “I have spoken with The Muppets, and we all agreed this comedy is a great fit for the holiday 2011 time frame.”

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It’s Official: Disney Seals Sale of Miramax

The Walt Disney Co’s sale of Miramax Films to Filmyard Holdings for $663 million — subject to certain adjustments — has been completed, it was announced today by both companies. The actual owners are construction magnate Ron Tutor and Tom Barrack’s Santa Monica-based Colony Capital (led by former Disney CFO Richard Nanula), and Qatar Holding. The deal includes rights in over 700 film titles, including Academy Award winners Chicago, Shakespeare in Love and No Country for Old Men. Also included are non-film assets, such as certain books, development projects and the “Miramax” name.

Back on January 27th, Deadline was first to tell you that the Weinstein Brothers who founded Miramax in 1979 were trying to buy back the Miramax name, because it’s based on their parents’ first names – Max and Miriam. The bros sold Miramax to Disney in 1993, but left behind the name and the library when they walked away because of a money feud with Michael Eisner and started the The Weinstein Company in 2005. Soon even more potential buyers began kicking the tires and the Weinsteins were in a fierce bidding battle with richer rivals. But then negotiations with the Weinsteins became exclusive, only to fall through.

Then, on January 27th, I was the first to tell you that construction magnate Ron Tutor and Tom Barrack’s Santa Monica-based Colony Capital led by former Disney CFO Richard Nanula had joined together to negotiate the acquisition of Miramax from Disney. And so that deal finally gets done today after so many frustrating and … Read More »

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Disney Declares $.40 Annual Cash Dividend

BURBANK, Calif., December 1, 2010 – The Walt Disney Company (NYSE: DIS) board today declared an annual cash dividend of $0.40 per share, up five cents from the previous year. The dividend is payable on January 18, 2011 to shareholders of record at the close of business December 13, 2010. The January dividend payment represents the 55th consecutive year of dividend payments to shareholders.

“The Walt Disney Company had a strong year both creatively and financially in 2010,” said Robert A. Iger, president and CEO, The Walt Disney Company. “We are pleased to be able to raise our shareholder dividend while continuing to invest for future growth.”

The Company also announced that it has scheduled its annual shareholders’ meeting for Wednesday, March 23, 2011 at 10:00 a.m. in Salt Lake City, Utah.

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Leak Leads To Disney Earnings Drama

Disney released its earnings report today, but a leak of the numbers before the bell rung had investors making moves before trading actually ended. So shares dropped 5% in the final half hour before ending with a 2.9% loss. The company has said it’s investigating. As for the actual earnings, net income fell to $835 million from $895 million compared to a year ago. Revenues were flat at a 1% drop. The company said its fiscal 4th quarter profit dropped on charges and a decline in earnings at its cable channels and theme parks. Disney’s Media Networks division, which includes cable channels ESPN and ABC Family, experienced a revenue drop of 6.6% and a profit drop 18%. On the film side, however, the studio posted a profit of $104 million on the back of Toy Story 3 after seeing a loss same quarter last year. Bob Iger said that a shorter week in the quarter and a shift in collecting ESPN revenues were the main reasons for the company’s overall performance, but the outlook is bright. “With the acquisition of Marvel, our brand and franchise portfolio is stronger than ever and we’re confident our global growth strategy positions the company well to thrive in the coming years,” he said. 

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Disney And Time Warner Cable Have Made “Significant Progress” In Carriage Dispute

Nellie Andreeva

It looks like the negotiations between the Walt Disney Co and Time Warner Cable for a new carriage agreement may not go down to the wire after all. On IHaveChoices.com, the website Disney launched last month in response to TWC’s RollOverOrGetTough.com, the company has posted the following statement.

The Walt Disney Co. and Time Warner Cable have made significant progress in our negotiations for continued distribution of ABC, Disney and ESPN networks and services. We are now focusing all our attention on a successful conclusion of these efforts prior to the September 2 deadline.

UPDATE Sunday AM: TWC issued an almost identical statement on its site RollOverOrGetTough. Additionally, both companies have toned down rhetoric on their sites and have pulled attack advertising, a clear sign they consider an agreement pretty much a done deal. Among the issues at hand were retransmission consent fees for 4 ABC O&O stations sought by Disney, increases in carriage fees for the company’s cable channels ESPN, Disney Channel and ABC Family, a deal for new channel Disney Jr., which will replace SoapNet, as well as fees for Web-based ESPN3.com.

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Every Studio & Network Boosted Earnings; So Why Isn’t Hollywood Working More?

UPDATE: The Walt Disney Co was the last major studio and network to report quarterly earnings, and its fiscal 3rd quarter profit rose 40% on the strong box office grosses from Pixar’s Toy Story 3, Marvel’s Iron Man 2, and Tim Burton’s Alice In Wonderland 3D. As promised, here is an earnings roundup showing that Big Media is alive and well and even flourishing not just this quarter but in many cases for next quarter or even the entire year. Yet the trickle down effect has been slow or nonexistent for Hollywood. After rounds of layoffs during the economic crisis, the moguls are still slow to put people back to work. And the movie and TV community still is underemployed. But what everyone can count on is that Big Media’s good news for the benefit of Wall Street will turn into bad news to the detriment of talent, behind-the-camera, post-production, and below-the-line unions when it’s time to negotiate:

August 5th: Viacom Inc Reports Sharply Higher Earnings For Q2
Credit the rebounding economy and recovering advertising market. Net earnings rose to $420 million, or 69 cents a share, up 52% from $277 million, or 46 cents a share, a year ago. Executive Chairman Sumner Redstone gushed, ”With six months under our belt in this calendar year, day after day our confidence continues to grow as the emerging economy recovery builds. Now of course we’re not all the way back, but the light is brighter than it’s been for some time… Consumers are returning to the marketplace, marketers are beginning to spend again to grow revenues and capture share and Viacom is now and will continue to benefit.” Revenue at Viacom’s media networks group rose 6% to $2.1 billion.

Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman said ad revenue growth has been improving quarter by quarter. “Once we get into October and into the December quarter, we will benefit from this upfront where we have greater volume than last year at higher pricing. Dauman singled out Jersey Shore as a show where ”we have advertisers scrambling to get on it. We have advertisers who want to be wall to wall in particular episode. We’re turning them away.” Viacom’s movie business was down 10% to 41.25 billion, led by a 43% drop in home entertainment revenue. Also, Paramount Pictures has primarily been distributing others’ films like Iron Man 2 and Shrek Forever After in 2010 and self-financing its own pics. It is deliberately pursuing a strategy of a smaller slate of films in 2010-2011. Still, the film unit booked income of $69 million, reversing an $8 million loss in the same quarter a year ago. Viacom continued to post equity losses from its EPIX joint venture but said it should approach break-even by the end of the year.

August 4th: News Corp Posts Improved 4th Quarterly Results
News Corp posted a profit of $875 million, or 33 cents a share, for its fiscal 4Q ended June 30th easily beating analysts expectations. That compared with a loss of $203 million, or 8 cents a share, a year ago, when News Corp took an impairment charge. Revenue grew 6% to $8.11 billion, as companies spent more to advertise on the company’s television stations, TV channels and newspapers. That beat the average forecast of analysts of $8.05 billion. COO Chase Carey explained that brisk sales of advertising at Fox Broadcasting and the company’s cable television networks made the difference, while ad rates at the Fox network are up by a double-digit percentage from this spring. Ad rates are even better at the cable channels, which already represent more than 50% of the company’s profits. Local television station advertising revenues improved 29% in the quarter and 8% for the year compared to the same periods a year ago, reflecting strength in the automobile and telecom sectors. Read More »

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Disney Buys Big Social Game Developer

Burbank, California – July 27, 2010—The Walt Disney Company has agreed to acquire Playdom Inc., one of the leading companies in the fast-growing business of online social gaming. Playdom shareholders will receive total consideration of $563.2 million, subject to certain conditions, and a performance-linked earn-out of up to $200 million.

In just two and a half years of operation, Playdom has established itself as a pacesetter in building popular games for social networks enjoyed by consumers around the globe. Through well-known titles like Social City, Sorority Life, Market Street and Bola, Playdom engages an estimated 42 million active players each month.

By acquiring Playdom, Disney will strengthen its already-robust digital gaming portfolio, acquire a first-rate management team and provide consumers new ways to interact with the company on popular social networks like Facebook and MySpace.

“We see strong growth potential in bringing together Playdom’s talented team and capabilities with our great creative properties, people and world-renowned brands like Disney, ABC, ESPN and Marvel.” said Robert A. Iger, President and CEO, The Walt Disney Company.

“This acquisition furthers our strategy of allocating capital to high-growth businesses that can benefit from our many characters, stories and brands, delivering them in a creatively compelling way to a new generation of fans on the platforms they prefer,” Iger added.

“We are at the start of a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform the way people of all ages play games with their friends across devices, platforms and

Read More »

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DWA & Comcast: Who’s Pursuing Whom?

EXCLUSIVE: To overhear Jeffrey Katzenberg’s private conversations these days, Comcast supposedly wants to buy DreamWorks Animation Katzenberg400and make him head of NBC Universal. But at last week’s Camp Allen — Sun Valley’s annual Alllen & Co investment conference attended by the Who’s Who of tech, Internet, entertainment, and media industries — Comcast’s Brian Roberts and Steve Burke were telling a very different story. They mentioned to several power players that Katzenberg has been pursuing them to buy DreamWorks Animation and lobbying them to make him head of NBCU. (“Because they’re the new guys in town,” one of my sources explains. “Even though Steve and Jeffrey never got along when they both worked for Disney.” Burke, the son of former Capital Cities/ABC president and icon Dan Burke, spent a dozen years in key Walt Disney Co positions before quitting in 1998 to go to work for Comcast.) I heard that the Comcast guys told various Camp Allen bigwigs that they aren’t interested in DWA or Katzenberg — emphasizing that Burke is going to be very hands on with NBCU.

I’ve been hearing that Jeffrey already has offered up DWA to every Hollywood studio, but they and their parent companies have passed. Before Comcast, the most recent “no” came from Time Warner’s Jeff Bewkes. Meanwhile, DWA has two years to go on its distribution deal with Paramount but also an “out” clause after 10 films. Then again, Katzenberg can always obtain DWA’s freedom by buying out Paramount’s deal share himself.

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Disney Latest Big Media Behemoth To Profit During Recession & Writers Strike

iger-mouse-small.jpgThe Walt Disney Company made it an even dozen quarters in a row that its quarterly earnings beat Wall Street estimates. CEO Bob Iger reported that second quarter profit rose $1.13 billion for 58 cents a share, or 22%, based on its better than expected National Treasure sequel and theme park performance which wasn’t hurt much by the recession. Also helping at the studio entertainment division were Enchanted DVD sales and the Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds concert tour 3-D film that set a record for ticket sales per screen when it opened February 1st. Iger reported that, despite the writers strike, broadcast profit rose. Disney stock has been up 3+% this year
chernin-news-corp.JPGAnd analysts expect News Corp (Fox, FBN, 20th Century Fox, Fox Searchlight, etc) to report a higher fiscal third quarter profit tomorrow afternoon on improved revenues from the broadcast and cable television networks and a gain on the sale of DirecTV Group Inc to John Malone’s Liberty Media. In other words, the company will be barely affected by the writers strike. News Corp even raised its forecast for 2008 operating profit in February…

Given this, it’s awfully hard for these Big Media behemoths to continue to plead poverty during guild negotiations, like the ongoing talks with the big actors union SAG and the upcoming bargaining with the smaller actors union AFTRA. True, network TV viewership is down at the … Read More »

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