MediaFile

TV Content wars, blackouts could spur M+A

Dish customers: No 'Breaking Bad' for you! (Photo: Reuters)

 

Evercore analyst Bryan Kraft believes the prolonged blackout that has left DirecTV’s 20 million subscribers without MTV, Comedy Central or Nickelodeon for a week, could lead to some industry consolidation.

In a research note out late Wednesday night, the analyst said if content providers Viacom, as well as home of ‘Breaking Bad’,AMC, which was dropped from No. 2  satellite provider Dish Network in July, get the upper hand, it raises the chances of a merger between satellite companies and cable providers.

If DirecTV and Dish comes out the winners, he said, it encourages cable TV networks to merge, but only when their valuations fall. DirecTV has pushed backed against what it claims are exorbitant increases in Viacom’s programming fees that it says it does not want to pass on to customers.

And DirecTV viewers aren’t the only ones suffering. Kraft estimates that the dispute is making Viacom lose about $14 million a week. Meanwhile DirecTV would need to lose 1.15 million subscribers before its cash flow was impacted. Kraft said that if DirecTV expects to lose more than 1.15 million subscribers, it should pay up the $3 per subscriber fee Viacom is likely seeking.

As one of the most high profile blackouts stretches into its second week, time will tell whether the spat will be the one that changes the pay TV landscape for good or whether it just causes viewers to change the channel.

Charlie Ergen’s Management Theory: Dumb & Dumber and Seinfeld

YouTube Preview Image Some executives quote philosophers like Plato or legendary coaches such as Vince Lombardi. But not Charlie Ergen; that’s far too high-brow for him. The Dish Network chairman seems to get his theories on management from television and movie comedies.

Just a few quarters after he described Dish’s wireless situation as a “Seinfeld Strategy” (it may not seem clear now but it’ll make sense in the end), the Dish chairman gave a shout out to the Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels 1994 classic comedy “Dumb and Dumber” on Thursday. When asked by an analyst whether Dish would receive government approval to use its wireless assets, Ergen said:

“I’m hoping. You know that Dumb and Dumber line? I think there is a chance.”

Dish’s kangaroo pitchman doesn’t cooperate

Dish Network went kangaroo-crazy at this year’s CES. Not only did a mascot in a kangaroo suit greet attendees at its press conference, but CEO Joe Clayton took to the stage cradling a wallaby, which resembles a small kangaroo.

Whilst Clayton cuddled the marsupial, someone whispered in the audience: “Does PETA know about this?”

The kangaroo schtick promotes the company’s new set-top box, the Hopper, and its smaller counterpart, the Joey. Together, the devices will let Dish customers record six shows at once that can then be watched in four rooms.

What’s Charlie Ergen’s strategy this week?

Satellite TV billionaire Charlie Ergen isn’t a regular on Dish Network’s analyst conference calls these days especially

Charlie Ergen, Reuters archive photo from 1999

since he stepped down in May as chief executive (which he still chairs). But when he makes an appearance, nearly as rare these days as one of those biennial dividends it pays, it’s worth a listen.

After losing more subscribers than expected in the third quarter Dish executives pointed to larger rival DirecTV’s hugely successful NFL football Sunday Ticket giveaway as the primary source of competition.

Tech wrap: YouTube changing the channel?

A man looks at a YouTube page in a file photo. REUTERS/Peter JonesYouTube is working on a major site overhaul to organize its content around “channels” as it positions itself for the rise of Internet-connected TVs that allow people to watch online video in their living rooms, writes the WSJ’s Jessica Vascellaro and Amir Efrati. Changes to the homepage will highlight sets of channels around topics such as arts and sports and approximately 20 “premium channels” will feature 5 to 10 hours of professionally-produced original programming a week, according to a Vascellaro/Efrati source.

Dish Network won Blockbuster in a bankruptcy auction for $320 million, further broadening its business beyond satellite TV and setting up a possible showdown with Netflix. The deal covers “substantially all” of the rental chain’s business, and likely gives Dish the rights Blockbuster had to stream movies over the Internet, the Blockbuster brand name and customer lists.

A Deutsche Bank estimate that 100,000 Motorola XOOM units were sold over its first two months means the tablet was a flop, writes Business Insider’s Jay Yarow. For comparison, Apple sold 300,000 iPads on the first week weekend it was available. BetaNews’s Joe Wilcox calls the XOOM a surprising success, noting that the tablet came to market with “huge handicaps, all of which make comparisons to iPad 2 unrealistic”. Wilcox says higher pricing has been the main deterrent to buying a XOOM.

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.

from DealZone:

DirecTV adds to media merger excitement

With media titans GE and Vivendi still negotiating a deal to bring cable operator Comcast into a mega-media joint venture, a management move at DirecTV is giving dealwatchers a fresh programming alternative.

Yinka Adegoke and Sinead Carew report the appointment of PepsiCo veteran Michael White (pictured below), who has no experience in pay TV, as DirecTV CEO is being read as a sign the company's parent, Liberty Media, just wants a baby-sitter until its sells the operation in the next couple of years.

Telecom leaders Verizon and AT&T approached Liberty earlier this year, they report. Both have cross-marketing deals with DirecTV and would leapfrog the rest of the market with the addition of DirecTV's subscriber base. But fears of insurmountable regulatory resistance put those talks on ice.

Epix nears launch date — more distribution deals coming?

Suddenly, after limited news over the past year, Epix has been very much the talk of the town in recent days. A number of publications, including Reuters, have picked up on some announcements out of the pay TV site jointly owned by Paramount, Lions Gate, and MGM.

The key bit of news, of course, was the announcement that it had reached its first distribution deal, with Verizon. Chief Executive Mark Greenberg suggested to us that other deals should be coming soon — that he is talking to everybody and “some are further along than others.”

This is key, in the eyes of Wall Street. Distribution deals are always a bit tricky, and even tougher in the current economic environment. But analysts want to see Epix sign a deal with one of the big players — one with a ton of subscribers. We’re talking about Cablevision, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, DirecTV. So far the reaction has been a little lukewarm from some of the big boys but that could just be a negotiating tactic.

Viacom has much riding on “Star Trek”

How big is “Star Trek” for Viacom?

The movie dominated the box office this weekend, taking in an estimated $72.5 million in North American ticket sales. Combined with $4 million grossed from Thursday evening’s preview screenings, “Star Trek” tallied $76.5 million in U.S. and Canadian receipts through Sunday.

Paramount could use a big hit. Last year, as the economy worsened, Paramount scaled by its film releases and cut costs by about $50 million. And this year’s first quarter didn’t offer a lot of cheer: Viacom’s entire filmed entertainment division posted an operating loss of $123 million.

“The weak economy continued to dampen the home entertainment market and Paramount was not immune to the impact,” Chief Executive Philippe Dauman said on the quarterly conference call. That put it mildly.

Dish’s Charlie Ergen: Me and Mel don’t have a beef

Ah the media, we love a ruckus. We really do. And when the two pugilists are characters as colorful and savvy as Dish Network’s founder Charlie Ergen (left) and Siriux XM Satellite Radio CEO Mel Karmazin (right) we do really get excited.

If you remember, Ergen was widely reported last month to have made a back door bid to take a stake in Sirius XM by quietly buying up some of the satellite radio company’s outstanding debt.  Analysts and experts came up with all kind of theories as to Ergen’s ambitions including taking complete control of Sirius on the cheap, combining various satellite assets, and kicking Mel out.

At the time Ergen ‘s official channels at Dish and EchoStar declined to comment on the matter. So today’s Dish earning call was the first time we heard from the man himself on the matter. Well, it turns out the press was right on most things connected with the Sirius bid, according to Ergen. Except for one thing: he does not have bad blood with Sirius CEO Karmazin.