Verizon’s already talking to content creators about ways to enable subscribers to access video content nationally. “You could do a wireless over-the-top” — the jargon term for an Internet pay TV service — CEO Lowell McAdam told attendees at the Morgan Stanley …
Shares are up a little less than 1% in pre-market trading following this morning’s report. The company says that it generated $7.9B in net income in Q4, up from a $1.9B loss in the same period in 2012 (with pension and Superstorm Sandy costs), on revenues of $31.1B, +3.4%. The top-line number came in just slightly ahead of analyst expectations for $31.0B. Adjusted earnings at 66 cents a share beat the consensus estimate by a penny. Verizon says that all of its major businesses grew in Q4: It added 1.7M retail wireless connections for a total of 35.1M retail postpaid accounts. It also crowed that it has “substantially completed deployment of [the] 4G LTE smartphone lineup.” That growth outweighed the continuing decline in its wireline voice business where the number of connections fell 5.2% to 11.2M. The big declines are among customers served by its antiquated copper wires — it’s trying to move many over to Verizon FiOS services with fiber optic lines. The number of FiOS Internet customers rose 2.1% in the quarter to 6.1M. The FiOS video business also grew, but at a slowing pace: With 5.3M subs, it’s up 1.8% in the quarter. CEO Lowell McAdam says that the company is “attracting more customers than our competitors and improving our financial performance.”
Here’s how FiOS video subs look over the last two years:
UPDATE, 7:50 AM: CBS CEO Leslie Moonves says the deal CBS just signed with Verizon‘s FiOS TV in New York, Los Angeles, and Dallas, among other markets, is virtually identical to the one offered to Time Warner Cable. “This important deal was reached swiftly and amicably in just a few days after our conversations began,” Moonves said pointedly in a memo to staff this morning. “You should know that Time Warner Cable has been offered almost exactly the same deal for CBS carriage to which Verizon has agreed.” TWC is entirely to blame for the “lack of urgency” on its retrans talks with the network, Moonves said. The Verizon deal gives FiOS over-the-air retrans rights; it does not cover digital rights. (Moonves’ full memo after the original story.)
PREVIOUS, AM: Three weeks into its battle with Time Warner Cable, CBS — blacked out on TWC in New York, Los Angeles and Dallas — has announced it had reached a new deal for continued retransmission of CBS-owned stations and wider distribution of CBS Sports Network on Verizon’s FiOS TV in multiple markets nationwide, including New York, Los Angeles, and Dallas. “This important deal was reached swiftly and amicably in just a few days after our conversations began,” CBS chairman Leslie Moonves said pointedly in a memo to staff. The Verizon deal includes all of the approximately 3.5 million subscribers served in markets where CBS owns TV stations. FiOS has about 5 million subs total. (CBS and Verizon already had an existing deal for FiOS to carry its Showtime and Smithsonian networks.) “We’ve reached this agreement in partnership with CBS for our customers, so that they may continue to enjoy CBS content on FiOS,” Verizon VP Video Content and Strategy added, pointedly. “Verizon continues to address areas of change where necessary in current policies to better reflect the interests of consumers.”
The announcement comes the morning after CBS and TWC had a mini-breakthrough in their retransmission head-butting. In New York City, both parties agreed to un-black-out Channel 2 for debates for mayor and comptroller. (The debates will also air on channel 75, a backup arrangement CBS made before the mini-truce was struck). Here’s this morning’s CBS/Verizon announcement:
Verizon and the Disney and ESPN Media Networks Group today announced that an agreement has been reached to provide Verizon FiOS customers the new authenticated services WATCH ABC, WATCH Disney Channel, WATCH Disney XD and WATCH Disney Junior, as well as the yet-to-be-launched WATCH ABC Family service. Verizon will also add Fusion, the upcoming news, information and lifestyle multiplatform network for Hispanics, the youngest and fastest-growing demographic in the U.S. The English-language joint venture from ABC and Univision is set to launch later this year.
Funny how the prices that Big Media companies charge for their pay TV channels rarely have much to do with the consideration that really matters: How many people actually watch? That’s what makes Verizon‘s new effort to link payments with audience levels, which The Wall Street Journal disclosed this morning, so intriguing — but also such a long-shot. The company’s FiOS TV unit wants to base the fees it pays channels on the number of households where someone tunes in for at least five minutes a month. That wouldn’t necessarily reduce subscribers’ bills, Verizon’s top programming negotiator Terry Denson tells the paper. It would simply help to “stabilize retail prices” by rewarding channels when they attract additional viewers. But Denson acknowledges that it will be hard to persuade programmers to abandon their business models which are built on the presumption that they should extract fees from all subscribers including those who never watch their channels. He says that his talks with owners of small and midsized networks are just “inching forward” and he hasn’t broached the idea with Big Media companies that dominate TV programming.
It isn’t a la carte but Verizon’s proposal to tie what it pays to carry TV channels to the number of viewers who actually watch is what big media companies might consider “disruptive”, according to the Wall Street Journal. Verizon’s FiOS TV is the nation’s sixth-largest pay-TV provider and has begun negotiations with some smaller companies about basing what Verizon pays on audience size. Under the established industry model, cable and satellite operators pay a monthly per-subscriber fee to carry channels based on the number of homes the channels are available. Verizon’s chief programming negotiator Terry Denson suggests that in many cases “We are paying for a customer who never goes to the channel”.
This agreement shouldn’t come as a surprise after NBCUniversal struck a similar deal early this month with Cablevision. The cable and phone companies are engaged in the business equivalent of hand-to-hand combat in the tri-state area …
CFO Fran Shammo had little to say to analysts this morning about Verizon‘s planned video streaming service with Redbox, aside from the fact that it’s “very close to launching” this quarter and should improve his company’s profits next year. Still, Verizon investors seem content with the company’s direction after it delivered solid Q3 results. The share price is up 1.4% in early trading after Verizon reported net income of $4.3B, +21.2% vs the same period last year, on revenues of $29B, +3.9%. The revenue figure exactly matched Wall Street’s consensus forecast. So did earnings per share, which came in at 64 cents not including charges tied to its payments to TiVo to settle its patent infringement case against the communications giant. The FiOS video business continued to slow: Subscriptions rose just 2.7% vs Q2 to 4.6M. The increase of 119,000 customers fell short of Wall Street’s expectation for 142,000. The company’s FiOS broadband unit also missed analyst targets. It ended up with nearly 5.3M customers, +136,000 vs the consensus forecast of +165,000. “The read-across for cable and satellite incumbents is self-evidently positive; lower growth for FiOS means smaller losses for their competitors,” Bernstein Research’s Craig Moffett says.
27% Of Australians Admit To Illegal Downloads
Some 27% of Australians persistently or casually download screen content illegally and at a growing rate over the past 12 months, according to new research from the Intellectual Property Awareness Foundation, a coalition of film and TV organizations. The report showed 86% of people who download or stream illegally at least once a week admit they do so because it’s free. Incongruously, 71% of the 1,654 adults surveyed acknowledge that piracy is stealing but 76% don’t think they contribute to the problem. Some 50% of respondents agree that Internet Service Providers should take more responsibility to prevent the illegal distribution of movies and TV shows online. — Don Groves
Univision Signs New Deal With FiOS
Univision Communications has reached a comprehensive multiyear agrement with Verizon FiOS to continue carrying the U.S. Spanish-language media leader’s Univision and TeleFutura network feeds and owned-and-operated broadcast stations, the cable network Galavisión. Multichannel News reports the deal also includes Univision’s new cable services sports network Univision Deportes, telenovelas network Univision tlnovelas and FOROtv, a Spanish-language news network. The FiOS agreement also includes plans for multiplatform authentication rights for Univision’s upcoming interactive digital video platform for existing and new networks. The FiOS pact is Univision’s third far-reaching affiliate agreement in 2012. Dish Network and AT&T U-verse reached deals in January and May.
For all the talk about cord-cutting in the digital era, movement in that direction is relatively slow, as many viewers switch from cable to satellite or telepone providers rather than drop multichannel service altogether. Nielsen reports that 98% of viewing remained on traditional TV in Q4 2011. Cable lost more than 2.9 million subscribers as viewers switched to telephone or satellite providers. U.S. homes subscribing to cable, satellite or telephone providers for their TV service declined 1.5% or about 1.5 million last year, according to figures Nielsen released this week. Subscribers adding telco (about 1.9 million) or satellite service (roughly 280K) weren’t enough to make up the difference.
UPDATE, 6:45 AM: CFO Fran Shammo, the only Verizon exec on today’s call with analysts, blasted commentators who said yesterday that the telecom giant was forced announce that it will auction off some of its airwave spectrum — if the government approves its deal to buy licenses held by Comcast and other cable companies. “This is nothing near a fire sale,” he says. If Verizon doesn’t like the offers it receives “then we won’t go through with the sale.” He also denied charges that the company was forced to sell the spectrum “because we ran into a roadblock at the FCC,” which — along with the Justice Department — must approve the cable deal in order for it to close. “We’re being good stewards” of the publicly owned airwaves, he said. Most of the questions dealt with Verizon’s growing smartphone and wireless data business. The company says it now offers its speedy 4G LTE service in 230 markets, about two-thirds of the country. About 9.1% of its wireless customers have 4G devices, up from 0.6% a year ago. While Shammo steered clear of specifics about the earnings hit Verizon takes for subsidizing iPhones, he says that the company is supporting Microsoft’s effort to build what he called “a third ecosystem” for Windows-powered mobile devices in addition to Apple’s iPhones and Google’s Android systems. He’s bullish about tablet sales: Verizon sold 390,000 in Q1, up 60% vs the same period last year, but probably can improve on that. There was a slowdown in anticipation of the roll out of the new iPad, which was only available for two weeks in the period.
Verizon is starting to hold “major discussions with content providers on cross-synergies” for the phone giant’s still mysterious streaming video venture with Redbox — which is due to go live in August — CFO Francis Shammo told investors today at the Deutsche Bank Media & Telecom Conference. Verizon’s hoping that the new offering, seen as a potential rival to Netflix, will give it more leverage when it negotiates programming deals for its FiOS video service which competes with cable and satellite. “We were last to market and, obviously, the content providers made us pay a premium price for that,” Shammo says. But in its new negotiations with studios, Verizon’s seeking “a content play for all of our platforms, not just for one.” He notes that FiOS is now the fifth largest video provider, Verizon Wireless has about 100M subscribers, and Redbox attracts about 30M customers to its 35,000 kiosks. There’s still no word on what the venture with Redbox will offer and how much it will cost. The companies have said that it will be a national service, involve electronic sales and rentals, and include a tie-in with Redbox’s DVD rental kiosks. Verizon’s wireline unit will own 65% of the joint venture. ”Wireless is not involved,” Shammo says.