Posts Tagged ‘Comcast’

Letter From New York 05 26 15 Of mergers and mania, notes from the media world…

May 26, 2015

The sun has darted in and out behind clouds all day. I woke up fairly early but had decided not to take my regular train into the city but the one after that; after a long Memorial Day weekend, much spent on the deck watching the creek flow by, I got up, had my morning cup of coffee and started perusing the news.

Pushing to the head of the news today was that Charter Communications will acquire Time-Warner Cable in a deal that is worth about 78 billion dollars, only a few weeks after Comcast withdrew its bid for Time Warner Cable because it looked like it would not receive regulatory approval.

This time the chances are better. Why? It’s not Comcast that is doing the acquiring but Charter. Comcast also holds lots of other assets besides its cable assets, including a small company called NBC Universal.

In the interesting and byzantine world of cable, Charter’s largest shareholder is Liberty Media, a company controlled by John Malone, a cable pioneer who built the nation’s largest cable company, TCI, and sold it to Bell Atlantic back in 1994 for $55 billion.

John Malone’s TCI financially backed and gave carriage to a number of struggling cable networks, including Discovery which has gone on to being its own small behemoth.

In those days, he earned the sobriquets of “Darth Vader” and the “King of Cable.” He dominated the cable business from his office in Denver. Liberty Media is a conglomerate with interests in lots of companies here and abroad. John Malone is personally worth about $8.6 billion and is the largest landowner in America.

The combined companies will be the number two cable and broadband supplier in the country, after Comcast. But the fact that it will only be number two and won’t control about 50% of broadband connections is what will make it easier for regulators to say yes to this while having said no to Comcast.

In the days when cable customers are beginning to shift their loyalty to streaming services such as Netflix, cable operators are seeking partners to bulk up to face the challenge.

Recently, European operator Altice purchased Suddenlink, a smaller cable company. It will be interesting to see who is where when the music stops.

The music stopped for ITV’s purchase of The Weinstein’s TV division. Too caught up in the movie business of the Weinstein brothers and ITV has no appetite for the film business.

This story is days old but keeps repeating. Media bosses make good paychecks, especially if you work with a company that has John Malone on the board. Several of the companies that Liberty is invested in have CEO’s who have rich compensation packages.

David Zaslav of Discovery Communications, in which Liberty has an interest, is the highest paid exec of a publicly traded company. He earned something like $156,000,000 last year, after extending his contract.

Breathtaking.

As we move into the negotiations for advertising next year, in what is called “the upfront” there are a couple of trends to be noted. One is that traditional TV dollars are down while digital is growing strongly, 21%.

Big brands are having a tough time in packaged goods. Consumers are beginning to gravitate to smaller brands that feel more “authentic” than say P&G or Clorox. It’s going to be a tough fight out there over the next few years for the hearts and minds of consumers, particularly in latching on to young consumers who are consuming media in such different ways.

Kellogg is pulling advertising from YouTube until they get better numbers, a blow for the service. They want someone like a Nielsen to come in and verify the numbers. The trend is growing and Kraft Foods is saying its probably going to follow suit with some platforms.

Branded entertainment is growing but is still a fraction of traditional advertising. It’s still hard to get some buyers to buy.

Cowen and Company, a research company, is predicting that by 2020 Netflix will have one hundred million subscribers and about 17 billion dollars in revenue, domestically and internationally.

They have just acquired all the 1990’s episodes of “Bill Nye The Science Guy.” Go Netflix.

Being a Netflix fan I will probably go home after a bite or two at a favorite place and watch something off the service.

Have a good evening everyone!

Letter From New York, February 4, 2011

February 5, 2011

Or, as it seems to me…

Last week in DC, the 13th Annual Real Screen Conference, a gathering of non-fiction filmmakers from all over the world, was held. Approximately 1500 filmmakers and executives gathered in DC at the Renaissance Hotel to survey the state of non-fiction filmmaking, to learn what might be coming next, to postulate about the meaning of changing technology to both the art and the business of non-fiction. It was the biggest Real Screen to date.

The meeting took place against a turbulent landscape, both inside and outside the particular slice of an industry being examined. Out on the great stage of the world, the hotel monitors displayed the ongoing protests in Egypt that are re-shaping the geo-political landscape. In that country, the unthinkable is occurring: Mubarak is falling. Now. Perhaps today. What comes next is the biting question. Out of Tunisia has come a wind of unrest that is unsettling the entire Middle East and leaders are scrambling to hold back the deluge.

All of this has been facilitated by the new technologies, by Twitter and Facebook, the presences of networks like Al Jazeera, not to mention CNN and all the other windows on the world technology has provided over the last two decades.

And technology has provided an enormous number of new outlets for non-fiction films over those same last two decades. Cable networks have been growing up and have become powerhouses. Their ratings are beginning to reach parity with broadcast networks, their stars fill the covers of the celebrity rags, and their programs are water cooler worthy. A lot has changed since Real Screen first gathered thirteen years ago to discuss Fair Use in documentary films.

You know an entertainment sector has become important when Hollywood agents descend upon its event and they were here in force this year for the first time. CAA, WME, APA, and ICM – all the big initial agencies had their minions present in numbers. It was the most commented upon fact of this Real Screen. The clubby atmosphere of years ago is fading.

What’s hot? Let me share with you something I have run by a number of network executives, none of whom have disagreed: bring a network LARGER than life characters, in interesting, perhaps exotic, hopefully life threatening situations who will give you an embarrassing amount of access to their lives and you probably have a chance at a show. That’s the basic formula right now as far as I can tell.

To me, it’s a bit sad. I admit to missing the more straightforward docs of yesteryear. But there are those executives and filmmakers who feel that today is a Golden Age of documentary filmmaking. Regardless, right now it’s all about the characters.

There is soul searching going on, wondering what the newer new technologies mean for the older new technologies and their futures, their business models and what the value of their brands will be as the proliferation of distribution platforms continues to accelerate. How big a threat is Netflix? Is it additive? Or not? Netflix now has over twenty million subscribers, second only to the world’s largest cable company, Comcast, in the number of subscribers. How can content providers monetize their investment against this kind of landscape? And not just the providers but also the creators, who are feeling incredibly squeezed by their network buyers to produce more on less money with no rights maintained for future exploitation.

It’s a tough world out there for everyone even while the business has never done better. Ratings are up for most. History Channel has pummeled its competitors and is probably the leader of the pack these days among male oriented non-sports non-fiction networks. Ice Road Truckers is a monster hit. Larger than life characters, etc.

Real Screen is an industry event. Perhaps not seemingly important to Mr. and Mrs. America and all the ships at sea unless you think about the fact that much of what you will be seeing on non fiction cable networks in the coming year will have been pitched and perhaps purchased during the last week.