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Fox-Time Warner News Colors Senate Committee Look At Online Video; Netflix’s Reed Hastings Declines Invite

By | Wednesday July 16, 2014 @ 2:25pm PDT

Fox-Time Warner News Colors Senate Committee Look At Online Video; Netflix’s Reed Hastings Declines Invite“We’re in an arms race,” Public Knowledge CEO Gene Kimmelman told the Senate Commerce Committee at a hearing to explore the prospects for broadband video. It’s “no surprise, content companies bulk up” as Fox wants to do with its $80B bid for Time Warner, which was rejected by the company but disclosed today. Following Comcast’s deal to buy Time Warner Cable, and AT&T’s with DirecTV, “consumers are between a rock and a hard place….They started the ball rolling and as we’ve seen from today’s stories, we don’t know where it’s going to end.”

Representatives from Comcast and AT&T indirectly debated with execs from Dish Network, the WGA, and Kimmelman over whether online video providers have to fear mergers or need strong net neutrality rules. Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W Va) ended the proceedings by arguing for municipal broadband to provide a low-cost option for poor residents. He also said that he invited Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, who declined to show. “I can’t figure [it] out because I’m trying to help them, I think. But he didn’t want to be here.”

Dish says that later this year it plans to introduce a low-priced online video service that will include live streams of ESPN, and could be threatened by the union of the two largest cable companies. “Comcast doesn’t necessarily want us to succeed because we’re competitors,” says the satellite company’s Deputy General Counsel Jeffrey Blum. “We are very concerned that a combined Comcast and Time Warner Cable will have an incentive and ability to stifle our service.” Read More »

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FCC Starts Clock On Comcast’s Deals With Time Warner Cable And Charter

By | Thursday July 10, 2014 @ 12:50pm PDT

FCC Starts Clock On Comcast’s Deals With Time Warner Cable And CharterAnd they’re off…The FCC officially started its informal 180-day clock to review Comcast‘s planned $42B acquisition of Time Warner Cable, and its side deals to transfer systems to Charter Communications and a new spinoff entity temporarily (I hope) called Spinco. FCC chairman Tom Wheeler and his four fellow commissioners set an August 25 deadline for comments and petitions to deny the applications. Parties must respond by September 23, and replies to those comments are due October 8. Although the FCC wants to reach a decision within 180 days, regulators often stop the clock if they need additional time to sort through issues on major deals. Read More »

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Charlie Ergen Urges FCC To Stop Comcast From Buying Time Warner Cable

By | Wednesday July 9, 2014 @ 12:48pm PDT

Charlie Ergen Urges FCC To Stop Comcast From Buying Time Warner CableThe Dish Network chairman made his plea on Monday in meetings with all five FCC commissioners and several staffers, according to a Dish filing today. Comcast’s $45B deal for Time Warner Cable “presents serious competitive concerns for the broadband and video marketplaces and therefore should be denied,” Dish told regulators, according to its account of the talks. “There do not appear to be any conditions that would remedy the harms that would result from the merger.” Charlie Ergen said that Comcast could hobble Internet video services at three choke points: The cable company would control last-mile connection to the home and the point where content providers access Comcast’s network. In addition, it could squeeze potential rivals by devoting lots of its web capacity to special high-speed lanes for favored services. “Each choke point provides the ability for the combined company to foreclose the online video offerings of its competitors,” the filing says. Read More »

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DeadlineNow: FCC Signals Hard Look At Proposed Mega-Mergers (Video)

By | Tuesday July 8, 2014 @ 12:58pm PDT
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FCC Taps Economist Who Opposed Comcast's Acquisition Of NBCUniversal To Oversee Proposed Mega-Mergers

Deadline's David Lieberman looks at the FCC's choice to oversee the proposed Comcast-Time Warner Cable and AT&T-DirecTV mergers.

FCC Picks Critic Of Comcast’s NBCU Acquisition To Review Its Time Warner Cable Deal

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FCC Picks Critic Of Comcast’s NBCU Acquisition To Review Its Time Warner Cable Deal

By | Monday July 7, 2014 @ 12:21pm PDT

FCC Picks Critic Of Comcast’s NBCU Acquisition To Review Its Time Warner Cable DealComcast needs no introduction to the economist who the FCC tapped today to help regulators sort through the cable giant’s plan to buy Time Warner Cable, and AT&T’s for DirecTV: Former FCC Chief Economist William Rogerson, now a professor at Northwestern University, was an important opponent of Comcast’s acquisition of NBCUniversal. He wrote at least three reports in 2010 that challenged Comcast’s economic analysis and concluded that the deal would hurt consumers. One, which he wrote on behalf of the American Cable Association, estimated that the reduction in competition from a combined Comcast-NBCU likely would lead pay TV customers to pay an additional $316.8M a year. That meant “the harm of this transaction is more than ten times as large as the benefit,” he said at the time.
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Media Stocks Join In Wall Street’s Fireworks Market

Media Stocks Join In Wall Street’s Fireworks MarketThe bull market that began in 2009 continued its stampede today in abbreviated trading ahead of Independence Day: The Dow Jones Industrial Average increased 0.5% and crossed 17,000 for the first time following a strong June jobs report that showed the unemployment rate dropping to 6.1%, its lowest point since late 2008. Media companies joined in the rally. The Dow Jones U.S. Media Index, up 0.7%, hit an all time high. So did Disney (+0.5%), Time Warner Cable (+0.7%), Charter (+0.3%), and Nielsen (+0.6%), while Time Warner (+0.7%) and Gannett (0.7%) touched 52-week highs.

Fox (+1.4%) led the Big Media pack followed by Discovery (+0.8%), Time Warner, Disney, Viacom (+0.2%), Comcast (+0.6%), and CBS (no change) while Sony dropped 0.5%. Read More »

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Comcast CEO Brian Roberts Reups Contract To 2015

By | Tuesday July 1, 2014 @ 8:48am PDT

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts Reups Contract To 2015No surprise here. Comcast CEO Brian Roberts, whose family controls the company, has extended his contract for one more year to June 30, 2015. Roberts’ decision comes as the Comcast’s $45.2 billion offer for Time Warner Cable remains under regulatory review. According to a proxy filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Roberts earned $31.36 million last year, up from $29.1 million in 2012.  During Roberts’ oversee of Comcast, the cable company bought NBC-Universal in 2011.

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Video: Nick Offerman Roasts Time Warner Cable, Comcast At Radio & TV Correspondents’ Dinner

Sometimes, deadpan humor goes a long way with the Washington D.C. crowd (Joel McHale, take note), and Parks and Recreation straight man Nick Offerman served up a number of zingers about Hollywood and the Beltway at Thursday’s 70th annual Radio and Television Correspondents Dinner at the Marriot Marquis. White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough addressed the crowd, speaking humorously about his job but turned a serious note when it came to democracy and debate, while Offerman took care of the entertainment.  Some particular highlights from Offerman’s speech below: “According to the Supreme Court, corporations are now considered as people, which is great because it’s always been my dream to punch Time Warner in the face.”  Also: “Between Republicans and Democrats, this city has become a noxious stink hole, where very little gets down because of backstabbing, deceit and greed. Just want to thank all of you for allowing a Hollywood actor like myself feel welcome. But Republicans have come around on sex education: I understand they’ve allowed to teach fracking in schools.” Enjoy:

Related: Obama Rips Cables News & Joel McHale Bombs at White House Correspondents’ Dinner

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R.I.P: Glenn Britt

By | Wednesday June 11, 2014 @ 7:11am PDT

Glenn Britt Dead Time Warner CableA sad day for the cable industry. The former Time Warner Cable CEO, and a cable pioneer, died this morning from cancer at age 65. His successor, Rob Marcus, just released this statement: “Glenn left us with a legacy of innovation, integrity and inclusion. We were guided for many years by his strong belief that a company must be willing to reinvent itself to be successful; his commitment to saying what you mean and doing what you say; and his conviction that a richly diverse workforce – diverse in ethnicity, culture, beliefs, perspectives, experiences time-warner-cable-logoand lifestyles – is necessary to best serve our diverse customers and communities. He will long be remembered for his thoughtful and steady leadership through rapidly changing times in the communications field.”

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts calls Glenn Britt “an incredible leader, visionary, and for decades he was a wonderful friend and mentor. He was a key part of our industry’s growth and success and was a true leader in every respect.  His focus on helping others was heartwarming, and his competitive spirit was inspiring.  He will be deeply missed.”

Britt became TWC’s chief in 2001, when the company was still part of Time Warner. Earlier he oversaw the creation of Road Runner, the nation’s first high-speed Internet service. He also served as Time Warner’s treasurer, and — before it merged with Warner Communications — CFO of Time Inc. Read More »

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Bright House Begins To Offer Epix

Epix logoThis is a nice — if predictable — pickup for Epix, which has been struggling to become a fixture on pay TV distributors’ premium channel lineups. Bright House is the No. 6 cable company, with about 2M video subscribers including a heavy concentration in Florida. But most of its carriage deals are handled by Time Warner Cable. And TWC gave a big boost to the Viacom-Lionsgate-MGM-owned service in March when it became the biggest pay TV operator to carry Epix. With a 90-day free introduction, Epix “has become one of Time Warner Cable’s most-watched networks,” Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer told analysts last week. Distributors including Comcast and DirecTV have questioned the need to offer a movie-oriented premium channel in addition to ones controlled by HBO, Showtime and Starz. Read More »

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Comcast’s Brian Roberts: It Was “Now Or Never” On Time Warner Cable Deal

By | Wednesday May 28, 2014 @ 11:40am PDT

Brian Roberts with Walt Mossberg and Kara SwisherWith an aggressive Charter Communications takeover looming over Time Warner Cable, Comcast executives felt like they had only one chance if they wanted to buy the LA and NYC systems they didn’t already own, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said at this morning’s Code Conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA. “Our judgment was the company was going to be sold and if we wanted New York and Los Angeles, it was now or never,” Roberts said. The company was trying to move beyond a persistent perception of it as a “regional cable provider” that hampered deals with potential partners such as Reed Hastings of Netflix in years past. Even with the big 2010 acquisition of NBCUniversal still being digested, the company needed to move fast with its $45.2 billion offer for TWC, which is still under regulatory review. Comcast also signed a $20 billion side deal to sell or swap out 3.9 million of the subscribers with Charter to further concentrate operations in big cities and keep below a self-imposed limit of 30 percent of the U.S. cable TV market. That deal is contingent on the main acquisition going through.

Related: CEO Brian Roberts Says X1 Rollout Is Comcast’s Top Priority For 2014

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Time Warner Cable & L.A. Lakers Slammed In $1M Discrimination Suit

By | Tuesday May 27, 2014 @ 6:15pm PDT

DJP LEGAL BADGEA longtime Los Angeles Lakers Spanish-language radio announcer today sued the team and Time Warner Cable for “no less than” $1 million in a discrimination and harassment complaint. “The Lakers have treated Plaintiff differently and less favorably than his Anglo-American counterparts in terms of wages, hours and conditions of employment,” claims Fernando Gonzalez in a 28-page filing today in LA twclogo__130119002526Superior Court (read it here). The plaintiff is seeking a declaratory judgment, injunctive relief, and a variety of damages for “a money judgment representing compensatory damages including lost wages, earnings, income, and other employee benefits, and all other sums of money, together with interest on these amounts; for other special damages; and for general damages for mental pain and anguish and emotional distress.” Besides the Lakers and TWC, Gonzalez has named Tim Harris, the Lakers SVP Business Operations, TWC Programming VP Pablo Urquiza and SVP and General Manager for TWC Sports Regional Networks Mark Shuken as defendants too. Gonzalez also evokes the federal Fair Employment and Housing Act, which prohibit discrimination and harassment in the workplace.

City Of L.A. Suing Time Warner Cable For Millions In Franchise Fees
NYT Opposes Comcast-TWC, A Break From Editorial Pack
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New York Times Opposes Comcast – Time Warner Cable, A Break From Editorial Pack

By | Tuesday May 27, 2014 @ 11:30am PDT

Comcast Time Warner Cable merger logoThe media elite took notice this morning when The New York Times editorial board opposed Comcast‘s $45B acquisition of Time Warner Cable. Calling it “A Cable Merger Too Far” the lead editorial says: “The merger will concentrate too much market power in the hands of one company, creating a telecommunications colossus the likes of which the country has not seen since 1984 when the government forced the breakup of the original AT&T telephone monopoly.” The board signaled its likely conclusion in February when it said that regulators should not accept the pro-deal argument “without conducting a thorough investigation into what effect a merger between the country’s two largest cable companies would have on the media and the Internet.”

The change in the editorial view stands out because, well, it’s The Times — and therefore assumed to wield influence over any public policy debate. It adds establishment heft to the anti-deal case as the Justice Department and FCC weigh the merits, and politics, of their decisions.

But the editorial also is notable because it breaks from the major newspaper pack. The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, and Philadelphia Inquirer (Comcast’s home town paper) have supported the merger. “Consolidation is the only way to ensure these companies have enough capital to invest in new and better technology that will keep their customers happy — or, at least, satisfied enough not to … Read More »

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Consumers Dislike Cable Companies More Than Any Other Industry: Report

American Customer Satisfaction IndexIt’s time for the pay TV industry’s annual slap in the face from the American Customer Satisfaction Index, which surveys 70,000 people about the products and services they use most. Cable and satellite distributors always fare badly in these polls — but this year’s results are especially disturbing after a slight uptick last year. The companies’ pay TV services collectively scored 65 out of 100, down 4.4% from last year, making subscription TV the second-least liked of the 43 industries ACSI tracks. What’s worse? Internet service providers, with a score of 63, down 3.1% — and which mostly consists of the same companies. People ”question the value proposition as both, as consumers pay for more than they need in terms of subscription TV and get less than they want in terms of Internet speeds and reliability,” ACSI Chairman Claes Fornell says.

Related: Can Comcast Be Trusted? Company Report Says It Exceeded Promises In NBCU Deal

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Cable Show: LA Mayor Makes Plea For Resolution To Dodgers TV Dispute

By | Tuesday April 29, 2014 @ 12:39pm PDT

garcetti ncta cable show“I’m calling on all participants to resolve this so we can get our hometown Dodgers,”  LA Mayor Eric Garcetti said during his welcoming address to the NCTA Cable Show at the Convention Center downtown. The team is embroiled in carriage disputes that is keeping it off-air to many Angelenos who do not have Time Warner Cable, which distributes the Dodgers-owned SportsNet LA and is asking carriers for a steep fee to carry it. “We love the Dodgers and we love Time Warner,” Garcetti said with TWC CEO Rob Marcus in the building, the mayor noting that he actually has no power to force a resolution through anything except persuasion.

TWC Chief Says Subs Coming Over For Dodgers Channel
Time Warner Cable, DirecTV In Stalemate Over Dodgers Channel

Dodgers SportsNetGarcetti had a busy day. Before he stepped out to participate in a press conference following LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling’s lifetime ban from the NBA for making racist comments, the mayor welcomed Cable Show attendees to “the creative capital of the world.” He noted his efforts to halt runaway production and bringing more film and TV back to Hollywood. “As other states offer incentives, we are pushing hard to have California expand its jobs programs,” he said of legislation inching its way through the state Assembly to evolve California’s current $100 million Film and TV Tax Credit program.

Related: Cable Show: ESPN President Rips Streaming Services
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Cable Show: ESPN President Rips Streaming Services

By | Tuesday April 29, 2014 @ 12:26pm PDT

ESPN Skipper pic“We have better product than they do,” said ESPN President John Skipper today at the NCTA’s Cable Show convention in downtown LA about challenges to cable from Netflix, Amazon and Yahoo. “Shame on us if we don’t protect our turf,” he added. “We’re allowing them to set the tone of the conversation — we should set the tone of the conversation.” Proclaiming that “the single greatest buttress in the pay-TV package is ESPN,” Skipper also acknowledged the shifting landscape of cable and the real threats from new platforms. “We’re not all going to grow and make more money unless we sell the value” of pay-TV, he said. “There was not this discussion when it was a growing pie. We’ve got to find a way to grow the pie.”

imgresThe sports TV boss and Cable Show co-chair was joined today on the panel in the cavernous West Hall of the LA Convention Center by Time Warner Cable CEO Rob Marcus, A+E Networks president and CEO Nancy Dubuc, Turner Broadcasting Systems CEO John Martin and Suddenlink CEO Jerald Kent. “You’re dealing with a Netflix and Amazon that are not sharing their viewership,” said Dubuc, picking up on Skipper’s comments. Said Skipper: “Competition is not a bad thing but we need to feel a way to innovate. And find a way to let people get content on all their devices.” Read More »

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UPDATE: WGAW Says Comcast-Charter Deal Creates A ‘Cable Cartel’

Charter logo2ND UPDATE, 12:25 PM: The WGA West has weighed in on the divestiture plan between Comcast and Charter — and it isn’t mincing words. Here’s the guild’s just-released statement — judge for yourself: “Today’s announcement from Comcast would, in essence, lead to the creation of a three-company cable cartel. Masquerading as subscriber divestitures, the agreement with Charter brings together the three largest cable providers, who account for 38% of cable subscribers and 45% of Internet subscribers. The decision of these three powerful companies to divide markets and share ownership of subscribers through a new publicly traded corporation is unprecedented and adds to the mounting evidence against the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger.”

UPDATED: Looks like Charter will become the cable king of middle America, while Comcast tightens its hold on major markets, in this morning’s deal. Comcast will pick up Charter systems in California, New England, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, Texas, Oregon, Washington and Virginia. Meanwhile, Charter will acquire Time Warner Cable franchises in Ohio, Kentucky, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Alabama — and manage others in Michigan, Minnesota, Indiana, Alabama, Eastern Tennessee, Kentucky and Wisconsin that it will partly own in a new Comcast spinoff company. Here’s the map the companies released showing holdings for Charter and the new Charter-managed spinoff from Comcast (for now referred to as “SpinCo”) after the deal, which CEO Tom Rutledge says will make his company No. 1 in 10 states.

Charter-Comcast mapPREVIOUS, 3:18 AM: The terms pretty much match earlier reports about the companies’ discussions. Assuming the feds approve Comcast’s $45B acquisition of Time Warner Cable, the cable giant would: (1) Sell systems with 1.4M TWC subs to Charter, making it the No. 2 operator. (2) Swap with Charter systems that include 1.6M subs. (3) Create a spinoff company with 2.5M subs that would be 33% owned by Charter. “The realignment of key cable markets achieved in these transactions will enable Comcast to fill in our footprint and deliver operational efficiencies and technology improvements,” Comcast CEO Brian Roberts says. While the companies didn’t put a dollar value on the deals, analysts have estimated it at about $20B. Comcast and Charter will disclose more info later this morning in a call with analysts.

Here’s their release: Read More »

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Comcast Close To $20B Cable Deal With Charter: Report

By | Saturday April 26, 2014 @ 3:11pm PDT

Comcast Time Warner Cable merger logoThe combination of system sales and swaps valued at $20B would affect nearly 5.6M cable subscribers — and would remove Charter as a potential obstacle to Comcast‘s $45B acquisition of Time Warner CableFinancial Times reports. Word of a possible deal has been circulating for days, but the paper, citing “people familiar with the matter,” now says the companies are “close to agreeing” to the complicated transaction, perhaps this week.Charter logo It’s all contingent on federal approval for the mega-deal to combine the nation’s two largest cable providers. The new agreement has three components: Charter would buy from Comcast systems now owned by TWC that include 1.4M subs. The cable giant would create a new company with 2.5M subs, in which Charter would have a 35% stake. And Comcast and Charter would swap 1.65M subs. FT says it’s “unclear exactly which subscribers will be swapped or the exact geographies under discussion.” Comcast wants to increase its clout in major markets, including New York and Los Angeles: The company has said that it sees big growth opportunities in offering business services.

Related: Olympics Help Comcast To Beat Q1 Earnings Expectations

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Time Warner Cable Chief Says Subs Coming Over For Dodgers Channel

Rob Marcus pitched a what-me-worry response to an analyst who asked him this morning about Time Warner Cable‘s inability to persuade other pay TV providers (aside from close ally Bright House) to carry SportsNet LA —  which the Dodgers own and TWC distributes.Dodgers SportsNet “The good news is the product is great,” the CEO says. “We have a first place baseball team and the production quality is outstanding….There are a whole lot of customers at twclogoTime Warner Cable who are happy” while others are “moving to Time Warner Cable” to watch the Dodgers. TWC is said to want other distributors to pay $4 per month for each subscriber — including those who don’t watch sports.  That would make SportsNet LA one of the country’s most expensive regional sports channels. TWC needs the high price to help it cover its $8.35B, 25-year commitment for the distribution rights.

Related: Time Warner Cable Q1 Earnings Beat Estimates

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