MediaFile

Who wants a college sports TV network? Who doesn’t?

YouTube Preview ImageSure it was obvious, but I applaud the decision by whoever organized the IMG Intercollegiate Athletics Forum to pipe The Cars “Shake It Up” through the loudspeakers of a bland room in New York’s Marriott Marquis as the conference wrapped up.

College sports — and here I’m the one being obvious — are going through a serious transition. Conferences are realigning, TV deals are being struck, and feelings are getting hurt.

“This has been a painful, stinging two years,” said Chris Plonsky, Women’s Athletic Director at University of Texas, which this year launched its own regional sports network, The Longhorn Network.  The battling “belongs on the field”, she said. “When it comes to business, let’s play nicely in the sandbox.”

Easier said than done, given the big money at stake. Check out these estimates from IMG: College sports have 173 million fans; 79 million of them are female and 29 million of them earn at least $100,000 a year. Those are the kind of numbers that make a TV executive’s head spin.

Sharing the stage with UT’s Plonsky were NBC Sports President Jon Litner, University of Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick, and Chris Bevilacqua, a well-known dealmaker who helped put together the Pac-12 TV network.  It was no surprise, then, that Swarbrick was asked about Notre Dame’s own plans for a TV network. (At the moment, Notre Dame, with its huge following, has a long-term deal with NBC reportedly worth around $9 million year).

Verizon, Netflix and those darn bloggers aka Reuters

Lowell McAdam, Verizon CEO

Bear with us a minute while we toot our horn (again) and point to our story on Verizon’s plans to launch an online Netflix competitor next year. Needless to say, we were pleased to get it out there first, but it’s probably unsurprising that Verizon was not ready with a press release as it hammer out deals with programmers.

So it was amusing to hear Verizon Chief Executive Lowell McAdam as he tried to squirm his way around questions about his company’s plans during an interview at the UBS conference.

“I think the jury is out but I do think there is a place for over-the-top here and it will be part of our strategy,” said McAdam.

Tech wrap: Verizon feeds hunger for cable spectrum

Verizon Wireless plans to pay $3.6 billion for wireless airwaves from a venture of cable companies Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks. Comcast said that the deal represented a 64 percent premium over the $2.2 billion price the cable consortium paid in 2006 for the wireless spectrum being sold to Verizon Wireless.

U.S. Representative Edward Markey asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate whether software maker Carrier IQ violated millions of mobile phone users’ privacy rights. Carrier IQ makes software that companies including AT&T and Sprint install in mobile devices. It runs in the background, transmitting data that the software maker says its customer companies use to better understand their devices and networks.

Zynga, which plans to go public in two weeks, slashed its value by more than 30 percent to $9 billion, hoping to avoid the fate of other recent Internet IPOs that have disappointed after stock market debuts. Just two weeks ago a filing listed the Facebook game maker’s value, based on a third party assessment, at $14.05 billion. CEO Mark Pincus, a serial entrepreneur before he founded Zynga, will hold a class of shares with 70 times more voting power than the common stock that will be sold in the offering.

Is Netflix the new cable guy?

Reed Hastings, CEO Netflix in Buenos Aires earlier this month

Customers tired of abuse from cable companies found a refuge in Netflix, the video rental service that won over Wall Street with a fast-growing and fiercely loyal stable of subscribers wowed by great customer service.
The old cable narrative has always been about cable cowboys acting like typical old world monopolies: providing poor customer service (here’s a video of a Comcast technician having a nap on the job), terrible user experience and still having the nerve to raise prices every year. Cable companies have changed and evolved in the last decade but not enough for many customers.
Netflix was supposed to be different — very different.
It had a responsive customer service, a pleasant user experience and also fairly simple pricing. It was the opposite of cable. In no time at all users were telling their friends about Netflix.
That might have all changed.
Netflix has angered so many customers it was forced to lower its fourth-quarter subscriber projections, and CEO Reed Hastings offered an apology for the company’s handling of a recent price increase.
Hastings acknowledged many subscribers “felt we lacked respect and humility” when the company announced in July it was raising the cost for DVD subscribers by as much as $6 a month, or 60 percent. He said he “messed up” and “slid into arrogance based upon past success.”
Hastings did not, however, roll back the price increase.
Many customers weren’t buying the apology, with negative reactions piling up on the Netflix blog. Plus, Hastings provoked more anger by moving the DVD business to a separate website from the streaming service. That will force customers of both services to visit two different sites.

NBC Universal creates new sports marketing agency

It’s no secret that sports has been the brightest star of broadcast television lately. It pulls big audiences, and those viewers watch live — a combination that advertisers drool over.  So NBC Universal figured it was high time to make the most of its sports assets — soon to be coupled with those of Comcast – and today announced the creation of “NBC Sports Agency.”

The purpose of the group is to market NBC Sports, whether it’s their coverage of hockey, football, horse racing or the Olympics, and produce campaigns for advertisers or league partners like the NFL or the NHL. John Miller, credited for coming up with the “Must See TV” campaign for NBC’s primetime, will head up the effort. Many industry watchers had predicted that Comcast’s take over of NBC would see a push for more competition for sports rights with Disney’s ESPN powerhouse. Let the battle commence.

Here’s a video of Miller on his new role.

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Comcast brings TV shows to iPad

Xfinity App Image 1

Comcast, the largest U.S. cable operator, is unveiling an app for the iPad that will allow its digital TV customers to watch shows and movies wherever they are.

The Xfinitiy TV app is both a TV guide and mobile video player according to Comcast, and will enable customers to use the iPad as a remote control, search for their favorite cable shows to watch on TV, On Demand, online or on the iPad.

Cable companies, grappling with increasing competition from Johnny-come-latelys like Netflix and Sezmi, are very keen to seek new ways to provide better value to customers for  ever-rising cable bills. The ability to watch what shows you like, when you want – even when you’re on the move — might be one way to provide that value and avoid the mythical or real threat of ‘cord-cutting’.

Netflix soars, investors cheer…then Web service crashes.

ReedHastings

It’s been a heady few months for Netflix, the DVD by-mail company fast becoming a online video streaming service. Yesterday, its third quarter numbers again beat Wall Street expectations as it revealed it is now the third largest video subscription service behind Comcast and DirecTV with nearly 17 million subscribers. Wall Street analysts at UBS and Oppenheimer, already in love with the company, upgraded it on Thursday morning helping to push shares to a new record high of $174.40 before closing at $172.69. To think you could have bought the stock for $47.56 exactly one year ago.

Analysts were m0st excited about the potential for Netflix’s video streaming-only service, which will do away with the heavy expense of delivering DVDs to subscribers homes across the country. In the words of Netflix Chief Executive Reed Hastings (here pictured):

“Three years ago, we were a DVD-by-mail company that offered some streaming.” “We are now a streaming company, which also offers DVD-by-mail.”

Charlie Ergen: Satellite cowboy, TV viewer, pitchman

Charlie Ergen is best known in media business circles as the straight talking homely founder of satellite TV provider Dish Network Corp. He’s often been disarmingly honest on quarterly conference calls with Wall Street analysts by admitting that he had personally taken his eye off the ball when the company was losing customers a few years ago or putting his annual family vacation ahead of being present on the quarterly call.

Well Dish Network’s marketing team is hoping that Ergen’s southern gentleman charm can win over new customers or at least keep old ones in the pay-TV wars versus DirecTV Group and the various US cable operators.

Ergen appears in a new in-house produced campaign below talking about his pride in the company he founded, his “embarrassing” picture from his early days, and its recent success in customer service etc.

Telcos are winning the cable TV battle but are they losing the broadband war?

War scene

The latest quarterly numbers from AT&T and Verizon Communications points to steady addition of TV customers which they are very likely winning from the cable companies as well as satellite players. AT&T said it posted its first ever billion-dollar revenue quarter for its U-Verse services (which includes Internet).  It added 209,000 U-Verse TV subscribers and now has 2.5 million in total. Meanwhile Verizon said it added 174,000 FiOS TV subscribers and now has 3.2 million in total.

Together the telcos, wh0 only launched their competing services less than five years ago now have a more than 5 percent share of U.S. pay-TV homes.

So well done to the telcos! Or is that the whole story? Analysts at Bernstein Research point out that both phone companies lost a combined 65,000 Internet access subscribers (after netting out additions from U-verse/FiOS and losses of DSL customers).

Relief in Philadelpia? NBCU profit up 13 percent

NBC Universal’s quarterly results — still wrapped into the General Electric numbers — should have some of the folks down in Philadelphia smiling this weekend. The numbers didn’t set the world on fire, but both profit and revenue showed improvement thanks to (what else) the cable division.

Overall, NBCU’s quarterly profit rose 13 percent to $607 million. Revenue climbed 5 percent to $3.75 billion.

Keith Sherin, GE’s finance chief, credited Jeff Zucker with delivering what he called “a strong performance” and said the regulatory review of the sale to Comcast “is progressing as expected.”