MediaFile

Time Warner’s Bewkes: ‘No no, after you Brian’

If you’ve ever listened to Time Warner chief executive Jeffrey Bewkes speak, you’ll be used to his breezy, languid style. But he sounded even more so than usual on Friday at a conference in Washington D.C.  when asked about the big media story of the year so far: Comcast’s bid to take control of NBC Universal.

Comcast’s bid, led by CEO Brian Roberts, is exactly the opposite of what Bewkes has been doing at Time Warner, where rather than buying he’s spun off the cable assets and hopes to do the same with AOL by the end of this year.  So Bewkes couldn’t resist a little jab at his rival and sometimes partner:

“I don’t want to say anything that would discourage Brian from continuing in this pursuit that he has,” Bewkes said to laughter from the audience.

Bewkes agreed with suggestions that Comcast might be doing this for a share in the growing cable business. 

“They may have concerns about their future in cable and they may want to hedge into what they think is a better long-term business, which is the branded content business. It’s a good business, it’s one that everybody should want to get in. We’re in it, we’re very nicely placed in it.”

MGM to remain independent no longer?

What’s going to happen to MGM?

On Tuesday, the Hollywood studio announced it was replacing its chief executive Harry Sloan with a team that includes a turnaround expert. It’s a well-known fact that MGM, which is owned by private equity firms and Comcast, has struggled with a massive debt load. It has payments due on $3.7 billion of debt and the future isn’t looking too good, given the down market and shrinking DVD demand.

Media and entertainment industry analysts believe MGM won’t last much longer as an independent studio, according to a story in the Los Angeles Times:

Most industry watchers believe that MGM will not survive much longer as an independent studio and is likely to be sold to a bigger media company such as Time Warner Inc. or merged with another movie and TV studio like Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. Qualia Capital, a private investment firm headed by Amir Malin and Ken Schapiro, is actively looking at MGM, said a person with knowledge of the situation.

Is Comcast on the prowl for Big Media ?

Comcast made a bold $54 billion bid for Walt Disney Co. in 2004. It failed — but there are those who wonder today if the cable provider might be considering a play for another media giant.

Reuters’ Yinka Adegoke takes a look at this idea in a story that recounts the speculation about Comcast’s desire to be a major player in Big Media.

Stockholders, who have watched the value of Comcast shares shrink to historical lows, might not be so thrilled about such a move.

Comcast super-fast Internet: More speed, less cash?

Comcast is cutting the price of its super fast 50 megabits Internet access service to $116.95 a month in most markets, less than year after launching the service at $139.95.

In fact, now that Comcast has started bundling the service with its phone and video services, subscribers will be able to get the so-called ‘Wideband’ even cheaper that $116.95. Wideband will effectively be priced at $99.95 if it is bought with one of those other services from the largest U.S. cable operator.

The new pricing strategy kicks off nationally on June 15.

Comcast has been aggressively rolling out its version of the wideband cable technology and says it now reaches around a third of the homes its systems pass in the United States.

from DealZone:

After March Madness, a little May Rage

SOCCER-ENGLAND/With the end of the economic meltdown so tantalizingly close, and stock markets pricing in the spring thaw, The Consumerist’s annual Worst Company in America competition is just the tonic DealZone readers need to keep their prized sense of perspective appropriately tickled.

“It’s the bailouts versus the monopolies!” the Website’s news release rings out:

The annual 32-company battle royale has whittled itself down to the “final four”: Bank of America, Comcast, Ticketmaster and AIG. One of these disastrous companies will go on to join Halliburton (2006), RIAA (2007) and Countrywide (2008) as “The Worst Company in America.”

Comcast CEO Roberts makes the Top 15 on pay

While we were at The Cable Show last week, Comcast filed a documents with securities regulators detailing its 2008 executive compensation. The filing showed that Chief Executive Brian Roberts received $23.7 million in 2008 up from $20.8 million in 2007 but below his 2006 payout of $26 million.

Roberts, as the AP points out, has long been criticized by shareholders for the size of his pay package. His increase comes after Comcast shares fell some 7.6 percent in the calendar year 2008, but this outperformed most of the major market indexes, which fell between 30 to 45 percent last year.

In February Roberts and other executives agreed to forgo a pay rise in 2009 and cut back on personal benefits, including a previous agreement which had guaranteed the payment of his base salary and cash bonus to his heirs for up to five years after his death — a so called ‘golden coffin’ package.

Buzz builds for Kindle 2

Reuters and others are reporting that Amazon.com is expected to unveil a new version of the Kindle electronic reader on Monday.

While the Kindle is a tiny part of Amazon’s web retail business, it gets a ton of buzz, and a new version has been much speculated about on the web.  The question is whether mainstream consumers are really ready to buy it, particularly in the current economic environment.

“We think Kindle will be an interesting product which the high-end consumers love, particularly investment bankers traveling in from Connecticut,” Bernstein Research’s Jeffrey Lindsay says in the Reuters story. ”We don’t think it will be a large penetration object any time soon.”

Dark days in Hollywood

 If that notion of a recession-resistant entertainment industry hasn’t already been debunked, just get in touch with one of your pals out in Hollywood. They’ll tell you how bad it is — how jobs are disappearing.

Warner Brothers Entertainment is the latest to cut staff, announcing 800 jobs would be lost, or 10 percent of its worldwide staff.  NBC Universal and Viacom have already cut jobs, and industry watchers expect more job cuts to be announced by Walt Disney and Sony Pictures.

Perhaps more than other layoffs, the Warner Bros cuts send a signal of just how bad business look, The New York Times points out.

Time to talk Time Warner

time-warner-center.jpg

Time Warner’s earnings may be better-than-expected, but the most arresting news out of its quarterly report isn’t really about the media company’s profit, revenue or forecasts. It’s about strategy.

It’s always interesting to find out what direction Time Warner plans to take. What’s it selling? What’s it spinning off? What could it buy? Will it get rid of AOL? Could it acquire NBC Universal?

Here’s the latest news: Time Warner Chief Jeffrey Bewkes says the company would split AOL’s dial-up Internet and advertising business. This plan, along with getting rid of its cable services business, basically positions Time Warner as a content company.

Comcast FCC decision: the reactions

kevinmartinfcc.jpgThe U.S. Federal Communications Commission today ordered the largest U.S. cable TV operator Comcast Corp to change how it manages its broadband network. The regulator concluded that some of Comcast’s tactics unreasonably restrict Internet users who share movies and other material.

The 3 to 2 decision supported by two Democrat commissioners and the Republican chairman,  is precedent-setting. It could kick-start a long-simmering ‘net neutrality’ debate between advocates, who believe Internet access should always be open without interference, and some Internet service providers, who believe they should be allowed to manage Internet delivery in order to provide the best service to all users. The FCC seemed to support the former group.

“Subscribers should be able to go where they want, when they want, and generally use the Internet in any legal means,” FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said in a statement.