VO L U M E 41 • N U M B E R 21 • N OV E M B E R 9, 20 20 • $ 6 .9 5
NATION DIVIDED Preparing for change after the votes are counted POSTSEASON SLUMP FOR SPORTS ON TV
TVISION HELPS T-MOBILE BUILD ITS BUNDLE
VOLUME 41 • ISSUE 21 • NOVEMBER 9, 2020 WWW.MULTICHANNEL.COM
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10 COVER STORY FEATURES
10 COVER STORY The math favors Vice President Joe Biden in a tight Electoral College battle with President Donald Trump. Should Biden prevail, there will be big shifts in federal telecom policies. By John Eggerton 16 PROGRAMMING The delayed postseason for pro baseball, basketball and hockey led to a packed sports calendar and ratings cannibalization. But observers see a likely comeback in viewership numbers. By R. Thomas Umstead
4 AGENDA 8 THE WATCHMAN 18 TECH 24 FATES & FORTUNES 26 DATA MINE 30 VIEWPOINT 32 THE FIVE SPOT
20 BUSINESS Altice USA is backing off its $3.9 billion pursuit of Cogeco’s Atlantic Broadband unit, but CEO Dexter Goei says there are still acquisition opportunities among smaller cable systems. By Mike Farrell
ON THE COVER
Former Vice President Joe Biden and President Donald Trump in a composite photo illustration.
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Cover illustration: Joe Biden: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images; Donald Trump: Mark Makela/Getty Images This page: Tom Pennington/Getty Images
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Patriot Games Patriot Media CEO Holanda sees growth ahead for Astound after $8.1 billion deal By Mike Farrell firstname.lastname@example.org @MikeFCable
s CEO of Patriot Media, Jim Holanda has had a lot of experience running Astound Broadband, the cable and internet service operator purchased by Stonepeak Infrastructure Partners for $8.1 billion. Patriot, which has been running the assets for about a decade, will continue to do so after the Stonepeak deal is closed, and will also have an ownership interest in the assets. Holanda spoke with Multichannel News senior content producer, finance, Mike Farrell about the Astound deal and his plans for the company going forward. The following has been edited for space and clarity.
MCN: How did this deal come about? Jim Holanda: [Private equity firm] TPG has been a wonderful partner over these four-plus years, and their strength in providing capital allowed us to buy Wave Broadband and put this company together, make it the sixth-largest cable company in the country and give us a real national, coast-to-coast footprint. Clearly, when you’re with private equity, you’re always exploring optionality in terms of what people want to do. I think we were looking at that from the start of the year, looking at all of our options, as TPG has been an enthusiastic supporter of the business. And then COVID hits and you’re unsure of the world. We took advantage of the debt markets and the low interest rates at the end of August and the beginning of September, when we refinanced the company with even lower rates. At that point, [TPG] introduced a portability structure within the debt so that the debt could just be assumed by anyone that would take over the company at some point in the future. With that in place, that woke up people to the fact that there was no financing risk in purchasing the business. MCN: What’s the plan going forward? JH: We have the opportunity for organic growth within the footprint. We have the opportunity to expand our residential and commercial networks into new territories continuous with our existing footprint. We’ve been expanding fiber networks outside of traditional footprints, in partnership with anchor tenants, on some very large deals to build an even more robust and geographically diverse fiber network and
AT A GLANCE:
RCN, Grande Communications, Wave Broadband, EnTouch Communications
Chicago, Eastern Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, New York City, Northern California, Oregon, Texas, Washington, D.C., and Washington state
More than 1 million
$8.1 billion ($3.6 billion in cash, $4.5 billion in assumed debt)
SOURCE: Company and published reports
Patriot Media CEO Jim Holanda
we’ve made these material and tuck-in acquisitions. TPG buying Wave three years ago and putting the three brands together as a single company was transformative in nature. We announced the Entouch acquisition back at the beginning of the pandemic and closed on it just a month ago and that gave us a great fiber footprint in Houston, Texas, which was the only big city in Texas our footprint didn’t cover. We recently filed with the FCC on a small fiber acquisition [Digital West] in central California that will fill a fiber gap for us. So I think we’re able to grow the company from all of those standpoints. MCN: Will you continue under the Astound brand name? JH: We own the Astound name because Wave four or five years ago bought a small company in California named Astound. That’s how people have come to know us on Wall Street and in the banking community.
So whether we will pivot to that name in conjunction with the brands or as a replacement for the brands is a decision we have not made yet. We’re continuing to evaluate, but everybody seems to like it. Time will tell. MCN: With COVID, has the business changed for you? JH: Today, commercial services represent less than 20% of our revenues. Having said that, for the past three or four years, it’s the fastest-growing segment within our business. Long term, we think that will continue to be not the only focus for us, but an important focus for us. The pandemic hits and clearly we are seeing the same strength, resilience and growth on the residential side of the business as others are seeing. That points to the importance of broadband within the home and having these reliable connections. We’ve clearly benefited from that. And clearly that first quarter after the pandemic hit, commercial services were hit pretty hard, but we came up with some creative solutions and creative programs and we’re seeing that slowly recover as the economy recovers. MCN: Have you had a relationship with or known the people at Stonepeak before? JH: We had heard of Stonepeak, they obviously have a strong reputation. They own Cologix, which is a data-center business; they own ExteNet, which is building out fiber distributed networks and wireless connectivity. They recently bought Xplornet, which is a Canadian rural broadband provider. Obviously with the other fiber residential broadband infrastructure deals, clearly there has been a lot of activity on that side and we were hoping we would be able to find an infrastructure provider with a long term view of the business as a logical next partner in our evolution. In the months we've gotten to know Stonepeak, we’ve been very, very impressed with them. They have deep conviction in the business, a great deal of knowledge given their prior investments in infrastructure and have a very strong balance sheet in terms of their ability to allow us to grow across all of these various disciplines. MCN: You have more than 1 million subscribers. Is that enough scale to do what you want to do? JH: Almost all of our customers have broadband and we’re a broadband company. Buying Wave and getting a coast-to-coast fiber network in eight of the top DMAs gives us the scale that we need to be very successful in the long term. We’re happy at this size. We’re bigger than other public cable companies, like Cable One and WOW. I think we have the scale we’re very comfortable with. But if there are opportunities to grow through mergers and acquisitions or organically, we’re going to continue to pursue those, because they historically have been very accretive for us and have accelerated our growth. ●
NIELSEN SHEDS UNIT AS IT GEARS UP FOR BIG DATA Boom in streaming and addressable push new approaches
By Jon Lafayette email@example.com @jlafayette
here’s a saying in the advertising business that if you can’t measure it, you can’t sell it. The TV business is looking to sell the swelling number of streaming viewers watching on connected TVs and offer more addressable advertising, but needs to be able to compare apples to apples as clients struggle for breath in a sea of cross-platform data. The audience measurement leader, Nielsen, told clients it is working on a currency for advertising that incorporates big data from millions of set-top boxes and smart TVs, along with its iconic panel of Nielsen households. The new currency will also count the impressions for individual commercials, instead of the “average commercial minute” calculated in the current C3 and C7 metrics. (Nielsen will continue to produce C3 and C7 for buyers and sellers who prefer to continue to use that metric as currency.)
Addressing Addressable Ads
NIelsen also plans to measure addressable advertising and offer daily downloads on an enlarged set of streaming services, including Pluto TV, Tubi and Xfinity. “The changes are incredibly important to 6
Nielsen’'s new measurement currency will work in data from smart TVs and set-top platforms like Comcast’s Xfinity X1. That should boost addressabe ad inventory, says CIMM’s Jane Clarke (above).
the ecosystem, especially as it further develops advanced advertising products,” Howard Schimmel, president of Janus Strategy & Insights, said. Having agreed to sell off its Global Connect business for $2.7 billion to Advent International following a strategic review, Nielsen might have cleared its financial deck, enabling it to get the job done. “Nielsen now has more clarity following the sale of Connect,” analyst Daniel Salmon of BMO Capital Markets said. “Now the case needs to be made for media, and while elements are trickling out we anticipate more on the mid- and long-term strategic vision to come.” Nielsen is expected to lay out its media measurement plans at its investor day on Dec. 9. “The amount of disruption and innovation that we have experienced in the past few months would normally happen over the course of a few years,” Nielsen CEO David Kenny said on the company’s earnings call with analysts. “We are collaborating closely with the industry to build alignment between media buyers and sellers and we have seen demand from our key industry players.” Panels alone can’t measure addressable advertising, added Jane Clarke, CEO of the Coalition for Innovative Media Measurement. “This is one of the factors that has delayed the launch of addressable inventory in national TV minutes,” she said. “Now Nielsen has to work with all the MVPDs, with
[standards -setting consortium Project] OAR and also with their own Advanced TV division to get the addressable ad data passed back to them. These are all new processes and business agreements.” The methodology for determining de-duplicated reach across streaming and linear and addressable isn’t completely sorted out either, Clarke added. “Nielsen plans to use their panel, but has also launched a Nielsen ID graph. They’ll most likely need another ID graph partner to link the STB, smart TV and addressable data with the digital data.” Nielsen isn’t the only one looking to tackle the new media environment. At Comscore, digging itself out from financial issues and a strategic review, new management has laid out an aggressive plan to roll out cross-platform and addressable measurement products. “COVID hits, and what we thought would take probably half a decade to play out is playing out in a very brief period of time,” Comscore CEO Bill Livek said, noting that his company was built on using big data for census-level measurement. “We have a jump because we’ve been producing exact commercial impressions with audiences and what ties national, local and addressability together are the impressions.” Dave Morgan, CEO of Simulmedia, a pioneer in using data to target TV advertising, said it's going to be put up or shut up time for all of the ad measurement companies. “Nielsen's biggest challenge will be, I suspect, that some deeply entrenched players in TV, particularly large buyers, may not be so eager to have full reporting on commercial ad ratings since it will certainly show that there is a big gap between average show ratings — who watched the content — and the actual rating on each and every 15 and 30 second spot, which is almost always lower,” Morgan said. “Fortunately, advertisers will be the big winners, since they will now have much more transparency into what they actually get in each and every TV ad campaign.”
New Players Stake a Claim
Newer companies are also staking out their place in cross-platform measurement. “Set-top box and Smart TV data represent scale along with an improved level of granularity. However, to create individualized reporting, a single-source cross-platform and cross-device system that can measure everything in the home is needed to calibrate all of the various large the data sets,” said former GroupM advanced advertising guru Michael Bologna, now president and chief revenue officer of HyphaMetrics, which has raised $2 million to measure cross-platform exposure to advertising and content. HyphaMetrics said one of its upcoming products will employ proprietary panel technology. While the industry is in a hurry, some won’t want to move too fast. “It’s impossible to know how this will impact ratings levels,” Schimmel noted. “I think the market will ask for more time to prepare, being that they’re dealing with out of home viewing being in the currency now, and two major changes in two years might be too much.” ●
WATCH THIS …
Senior content producer Michael Malone’s look at the programming scene
By Michael Malone firstname.lastname@example.org @BCMikeMalone
Watchman: HBO (Industry); Fred Hayes/Bravo (Housewives); Watch This: Elizabeth Sisson/NBC (Chicago Med); CBS (SWAT); Reagan Library (The Reagans)
HBO Takes ‘Industry’ to the Bank
Industry premieres on HBO Nov. 9. The drama follows a group of young staffers at a massive international banking firm in London. It is inspired by the first job out of Oxford for creators Mickey Down and Konrad Kay. (See The Five Spot, page 32.) Neither one was suited for finance. “We were equally bad for different reasons,” said Kay. They reconnected and decided to give screenwriting a shot. “We like being in a room together all the time,” said Kay. “We sit in a room for eight hours and spend six of those talking absolute rubbish, and there will be two hours of productivity.” Myha’la Herrold plays Harper, an American woman learning the ropes in London. Down described the Industry ethos as “honoring the small moments of work success when you’re very young.” Lena Dunham directed the pilot. An HBO exec sent her scripts, and she was on board almost immediately. “She said, I don’t understand this world at all but I
The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City Multichannel.com
Season six of Chicago Med rolls on NBC Wednesday. The Dick Wolf trauma drama depicts the lives of the doctors and nurses at a hectic hospital in the Windy City. Also Wednesday, season four of SWAT kicks off on CBS. Shemar Moore plays a former Marine who runs the specialized tactical unit “that is the last stop in law enforcement in Los Angeles,” according to CBS. Back to the lives-ofdoctors theme, Thursday is the start of season 17 of Grey’s Anatomy on ABC. It’s a two-hour
understand these relationships,” Down said. “She was incredibly supportive.” Industry is darkly funny, and offers a glimpse at office life you may not miss in work-from-home 2020. “We just hope people get a lot of vicarious enjoyment out of it,” said Kay. “Me and Mickey want it to be a rip-roaring, super-watchable, super-fun, great piece of entertainment.”
‘Real Housewives’ Invades Salt Lake
The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City is on Bravo Nov. 11. The show offers a peek at “six successful women who’ve created their own paradise filled with luxury homes, shopping sprees and multimillion-dollar businesses,” according to Bravo, along with “the undiscovered world of Salt Lake City.” “We weren’t looking for a new Housewives franchise,” Noah Samton, Bravo senior VP of current production, said. Then Bravo execs saw the pitch from the producers. “We saw the potential,” said Samton. “The cast was really interesting.” Shed Media produces. There are Mormons among the six cast members, along with others who are Jewish, Pentecostal and Muslim. “Put all that together and it feels unique and special and really compelling,” said Samton. “They all bring something special and amazing to the show.” The women are Lisa Barlow, who owns a tequila line and calls herself “Mormon 2.0”; Mary Cosby, a Pentecostal woman who inherited an empire of churches and restaurants; Heather Gay, who was born Mormon but distanced herself from the church after her divorce; Meredith Marks, a Jewish woman who designs jewelry; Whitney Rose, who descends from “Mormon royalty”; and Jen Shah, a CEO who converted from Mormonism to Islam. Real Housewives has been set in New York City, Beverly Hills, Miami and Dallas, among other locales. Add Salt Lake to the list. “The show uncovers a world the audience might not be familiar with,” Samton said. ●
SWAT season premiere. On Friday, it’s Gold Rush: White Water on Discovery. It is a rough season for mining in Alaska, with snow falling heavily and the rivers raging. Sunday, The Reagans premieres on Showtime. The four-part series “contextualizes the legacy of Ronald and Nancy a generation later while exploring the palace intrigue of the Reagan White House years,” Showtime said.
‘BLUE RIPPLE’ WOULD MAKE Biden: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images; Trump: Mark Makela/Getty Images; Bedingfield: ABC; Ducklo: Fox News
A Biden FCC would bring sea changes on key issues like net neutrality, media ownership
By John Eggerton email@example.com @eggerton
HEN ALL THE VOTES are counted, it is looking increasingly likely that the Democrats will have recaptured the White House by a donkey’s whisker. But it was unclear, though a long shot, if that blue ripple would flip the Senate. If so, that would give regulatory-minded congressional Democrats the ability to put an end to the legal wrangling over a neutral internet, impose tougher new privacy laws or pass their version of social media regulation. There were razor-thin races still being contested, with more potential twists possible at press time. But on the assumption that the late, urban-centric counties secured a victory for former Vice President Joe Biden
that can’t be overturned by President Donald Trump’s lawyers or reversed through recounts — and if the FCC does shift to Democratic leadership — then cable, broadband and broadcast players face the potential return of a number of regulations, including network neutrality rules and an end to the FCC’s push to deregulate broadcast ownership. The National Association of Broadcasters has hit its members up for more money, in part pointing to the possible need to make its deregulatory pitch to a re-regulatory D.C. With Republicans holding onto the Senate, there would be no legislation reclassifying internet access as a Title I telecommunications service subject to mandatory access and potentially rate regulation. But a Democratic FCC would almost certainly do the reclassifying and restore rules against blocking, throttling and paid prioritization, which would be challenged in court again and continue the
HOORAY FOR HOLLYWOOD JOE BIDEN’S TOP campaign communications staffers, who would likely transition to communications director or press secretary roles in a Biden White House, are familiar names to the industry, both film and TV. Deputy campaign manager and communications director Kate Bedingfield (l.), who was tapped to be then-Vice President Joe Biden’s communications director in August 2015, came to that post after several years as VP of the Motion Picture Association, where she was chief spokesperson for the then-MPA chairman and former U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd, who 10 Multichannel.com
himself had a campaign role helping Biden make his vice presidential picks. If a Biden administration continued the pattern or grilling Big Tech over third-party content, Bedingfield would feel at home. During the flap over the Sony email hack in 2014, MPA lit into the tech giant. "Google's effort to position itself as a defender of free speech is shameful," Bedingfield said in an interview at the
time. "Freedom of speech should never be used as a shield for unlawful activities.” After Biden left office and decided against a 2016 run for president, Bedingfield moved to Monumental Sports and Entertainment, the media company of former AOL executive Ted Leonsis, as vice president of communications. The Biden campaign’s national press secretary is also well known inside the industry: T.J. Ducklo was senior communications director at NBC News before joining the campaign and, before that, was senior manager of corporate
communications for Viacom in New York. Before that, Ducklo worked with Bedingfield at MPA in Washington, first as a press assistant and then as deputy director of corporate communications. It is not yet clear just how the campaign communications staff would transition to the White House hierarchy. But if it follows suit, and according to the NBC The West Wing guide to who is whom, Bedingfield would be the president’s Toby Ziegler and T.J., appropriately, would be C.J. NBC has history with The West Wing, both the show and the actual one. Kevin Sullivan, transitioned from senior VP of corporate communications for NBCUniversal, to White House communications director under President George W. Bush. — JE
If the FCC does shift to Democratic leadership, then cable, broadband and broadcast players face the potential return of a number of regulations.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images; Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images; CBS News; JohnStaleyPhoto.com (2)
years-long careening from regulation to deregulation of internet access. The FCC under a Democratic chair would likely conclude that broadband is not being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion, a 180-degree turn from the Republican-led FCC’s conclusion that progress toward deployment met that definition. If the FCC says deployment is not up to snuff, the law allows it to regulate to make it so. That effort could include rate regulation because, unlike Republicans, the Democrats argue that price is an impediment to reasonable broadband rollout. Democrats could also raise the speed threshold for the definition of broadband availability, which could reduce the number of households credited with broadband availability. On the broadcast side, the FCC has been defending its broadcast ownership deregulation in the wake of a court remand from the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which concluded the FCC had not sufficiently taken into account the impact of deregulation on diversity.
Ownership Rules Likely Stay
A Democratic FCC would almost certainly view the broadcast landscape differently. The Democrats have long argued that loosening local ownership rules simply helps megagroups like Sinclair Broadcast Group get larger, to the detriment of localism and diversity. But one veteran broadcast executive said that if a chairman Jessica Rosenworcel-led FCC, for example, does try to re-regulate, exhibit A against that move should be the recent report from Senate Commerce Committee Democrats that found online news has “decimated” broadcast TV news revenues in the age of digital, in part due to “unfair and abusive practices by tech platforms.” Look for a Democratic FCC majority, which would likely be led by a woman and include at least one minority member, to launch a serious
inquiry into broadcast diversity — particularly considering the current reckoning over racial inequalities that are definitely evident in the makeup of broadcast ownership. As the Rev. Jesse Jackson, NCTA–The Internet & Television Association president and CEO Michael Powell and many others have pointed out, minorities and women were not allowed in line when broadcast licenses were handed out, or in the room when big media deals were struck and the spoils divided. The current FCC has shown no interest in launching a larger diversity inquiry in connection with the court’s directive to explicitly address the issue in any broadcast deregulation. Chairman Ajit Pai has dismissed the court remand as essentially an impediment to his diversity efforts, which included creating an incubator program that the court threw out and reconstituting the FCC’s diversity advisory committee. According to the FCC’s latest biennial report on broadcast station ownership, released earlier this year, members of racial minority
NETWORKS ALL IN AS ELECTION DAY TURNED INTO ELECTION DAYS WITH ALL THE madness surrounding 2020, it was only fitting that Election Day would end without a winner decided. The network news-gatherers knew they were in for a long night, and in terms of drama, anxiety and, yes, length, Election Day did not disappoint. “This has been unlike any election we’ve covered,” said Norah O’Donnell, CBS Evening News anchor, after CBS coverage began at 7 p.m. ET. The networks were happy to show off their new bells and whistles, be it augmented reality or a new wrinkle to the touch-screen Magic Wall. “Let’s show off our toys here!” said Chuck Todd, NBC News political director, as he clicked to display 12 Multichannel.com
early, absentee and Election Day voters. NBC’s screen hollered “Road to 270.” Hallie Jackson, NBC’s chief White House correspondent, said, “There’s a lot of eyeballs on Pennsylvania tonight.” Her counterpart at ABC, Jonathan Karl, also cited the Keystone State early in the coverage. “Pennsylvania, be prepared to be patient,” he said. On the ABC set, Chris Christie said the early signs “look very good for the president’s prospects in Florida.” On CNN moments later, John King, chief national correspondent, was focused on Florida as he tweaked the Magic Wall, drilling down on the Sunshine State’s individual counties. “Welcome to the roller
Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee for president, speaks to supporters on election night in Wilmingon, Del., as votes continued to be counted in his tight race against President Donald Trump.
groups as of 2017 racial minorities collectively owned 26 commercial full-power TV's, or only 1.9% of the total, down from 36 (2.6%) in 2015.
Section 130 Still Looms
One issue that won’t going away no matter which party wins the Senate or White House is the debate over what to do about Section 230, the provision in the Communications Decency Act that has allowed social media to flourish without the threat of civil suits over third party content on their sites. With an incoming Democratic administration, Pai would be unlikely to follow through with his plans on an order responding to the president’s call for social media regulation. Usually, lame-duck chairmen stand down from controversial items at the behest of congressional leadership from the other party. Pai does not have to comply, but a new FCC could simply reverse an 11th-hour Section 230 order. The concerns about the size and power of Big Tech run across party lines, though. There
in the popular vote around 8:30. “In the coaster that is Florida,” he said. end, some people feel more comfortable Steve Kornacki, NBC News national with Donald Trump as their leader,” he said. political correspondent, worked the Speaking with Broadcasting+Cable Magic Wall on MSNBC, diving deep before Election Day, CBS on Ohio counties to see how News president Susan voting compared to four Zirinsky put the 2020 years ago. contest in context. Todd had other “The election really toys to show off will determine a on NBC, clicking very critical period to display 2016, in our nation’s 2012 and 2008 history,” she said. vote tallies in the “The impact of Florida counties. (From l.): CBS’s what is happening “This is the toy I John Dickerson, in this election — love the best,” Norah O’Donnell and everything is at stake. he said. Gayle King. O’Donnell mentioned At 8 p.m. the Fox the “huge, unprecedented broadcast network signed on, turnout” by voters. Added with anchors Trace Gallagher and John Dickerson, CBS political analyst, Sandra Smith on the desk. On Fox News “Democracy is working really, really well.” Channel, Fox News Sunday anchor Chris At 10 p.m., CNN teased a Key Race Wallace noted President Trump was ahead
THE NEW FCC?
will likely be some changes to Section 230, said a former top FCC official speaking not for attribution. But there probably won’t be anything going out the door on a matter as controversial as that before a change in administrations. Biden has been a critic of Section 230’s broad immunity, as have congressional Democrats. But while Republicans were using the issue as a cudgel on Silicon Valley giants they say were systematically censoring conservative speech, Democrats say that charge is bogus and was, at least in part, a way to try and pressure Twitter and Facebook not to flag the president’s tweets before the election. Democrats are focused on curtailing hate speech and election meddling via changes to Section 230. “I definitely see something happening on Section 230, though I think it is constitutionally dicey to find some way to raise and lower the liability issue based on curation,” Robert McDowell, a Republican FCC commissioner during the Bush and Obama administrations and now co-chair of Cooley’s global
Alert, only to say that several states, including Iowa, Nevada, Utah and Montana, were too early to call. At 10:30, John King said “there are no surprises on the map thus far.” He cracked, “If Joe Biden can rebuild the Blue Wall, forgive me, Donald Trump will pay for it.” Ten minutes later, O’Donnell suggested viewers brew a pot of coffee, as the grand conclusion was not coming soon. Ed O’Keefe, CBS News political correspondent, agreed. “Election Days,” he quipped. Just before 11 p.m. ET, CNN had Biden at 192 electoral votes and Trump at 108. “It’s easy for a Democrat to get to 192,” said King, but not so much to 270. As the night ended it seemed clear it would take days for either candidate to get to 270, at least officially. “We’re just getting started,” King said. “We are just getting started.” — Michael Malone
President Donald Trump speaks to supporters in the East Room of the White House on election night.
Current FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel (l.) and former member Mignon Clyburn are candidates to head up a Biden FCC.
A BIDEN FEDERAL Communications Commission could well be led by current commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel. As the senior Democrat, she would almost certainly be named acting chair in the early days of a Biden administration, as was her former boss, Michael Copps, when Barack Obama won in 2008. If so, it will have been the most peripatetic route to the post. She was commissioner, had to leave when her renomination was held up in an unrelated political fight, then returned when the smoke cleared — the first commissioner to exit and re-enter the panel. Rosenworcel voted against deregulating internet providers and has called for the return of rules against blocking, throttling and paid prioritization, as had fellow Democratic commissioner Geoffrey Starks. She and Starks also voted against eliminating broadcast regulations. It is unclear whether the Republicans would stick with Trump’s pick of Nathan Simington of NTIA to replace Republican commissioner Michael O’Rielly. According to former top FCC officials, a more likely scenario would be that the Nov. 10 confirmation hearing for Simington proceeds, but the pick is not scheduled for a vote. Instead the seat would go to Crystal Tully, deputy staff director at the Senate Commerce Committee, who is said to be the choice of Commerce chairman, Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Ohio). Simington was the president’s choice to replace O’Rielly after Trump pulled the latter’s nomination, reportedly stung by O’Rielly’s criticism of the president’s effort to regulate social media. Simington was not the choice of Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the Senate majority leader, who by all accounts preferred O’Rielly. Since the days of President Bill Clinton, who set the precedent, FCC picks generally are done in consultation with Congressional leadership, which is why they are often former Hill staffers — O’Riellly and Rosenworcel among them. Former commissioner Mignon Clyburn is also a front-runner for the big chair, given her experience and the fact that the endorsement of Biden by her father, House Minority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.), during the primaries essentially saved his campaign when it was on life support. If so, she would be the one setting precedent as the first Black woman to hold that post,
as well as a commissioner who left only to return as chair. She has already occupied the post, serving as acting chair following Julius Genachowski’s exit in 2013. “The seat is hers for the asking, assuming she wants it,” said Adonis Hoffman, a communications lawyer and former staffer at the FCC and in Congress. Clyburn has been vetted, confirmed twice and, by virtue of her legacy and loyalty, would be a solid and steady hand at the commission. She has no baggage and plenty of friends on the Hill, in the administration and in the advocacy community. Plus, while socially progressive, she has a good track record with industry. But Hoffman also likes Rosenworcel’s chances, saying she has the support of Senate Democrats, with whom she earned a reputation as a reliable defender of the public interest. Andrew Schwartzman, senior counselor at the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society, called Rosenworcel a logical front-runner. “Her strongest asset may be years of work as a Senate staffer, during which time she almost certainly had personal contact with then-Senator Biden and absolutely certainly became well-known to Biden staffers who remain close to him and will be involved in the transition and selection process,” he said. Plus, she has the added advantage of not needing Senate confirmation. Schwartzman warned that while speculation typically centers on D.C. insiders, “Presidents sometimes pick others who are connected to the White House through other pipelines, e.g., longstanding friend, important supporter, [or from] industry.” Travis LeBlanc, like McDowell also with the Cooley firm in Washington, is another name to note, perhaps for the third FCC seat if Rosenworcel is named chair. He is a former FCC Enforcement Bureau chief and, more importantly in this context, former senior adviser to presumed incoming Vice President Kamala Harris back when she was California attorney general. Then there is FCC commissioner Geoffrey Starks, who is connected to Harris through LeBlanc, who hired Starks at the Enforcement Bureau. Don’t count Starks out for the FCC chairmanship or some other post, said one former FCC official said. — JE
I definitely see something happening on Section 230, though I think it is constitutionally dicey. — Robert McDowell, former FCC commissioner and co-chair of global communications practice group at Cooley communications practice group, said. “I am not sure how that survives constitutional muster when it comes to political speech.”
Privacy Laws Still Hard
Had Democrats won the Senate, privacy legislation might have finally seen the light of day after lots of bipartisan talk and no action. Now, presumably, not so much, though McDowell suggests that, while politically popular, it would still have been hard even in an all-Democratic town, where it becomes essentially an intramural fight. He pointed to the large California delegation that would want something at least as strong as the state’s privacy law, the California Consumer Privacy Act. “It is difficult even with the most apolitical policymakers,” McDowell said. “But there is the popular sentiment that something amiss in the tech world,” McDowell said. Industry players were not rooting for a re-regulatory pendulum swing in this election. But even though he was an avowed deregulator-in-chief in some ways, Trump’s inconsistency made it hard to predict where he would come down on issues, and he drew flak from various communications quarters. NCTA recently took strong issue with Trump’s executive order on diversity training, a directive that no government contractor would get business with his administration if their diversity training included efforts to address systemic racism. The Biden administration would almost certainly reverse that order ASAP. The president’s targeting of cable news networks for scorn, as well as his threats to break up Comcast NBCUniversal and try to block the AT&T-Time Warner merger, have put him at odds with an industry that would have otherwise been in his deregulatory corner. The NAB pushed back hard on Trump’s attacks on the news media, while the Consumer Technology Association was highly critical of his stands on immigration and tariffs, which respectively threatened a high tech workforce and raised the cost of tech products. If Biden is the president, look for Trump tariffs to be reviewed/rescinded and for a better working/sparring relationship with the mainstream media. ● 14 Multichannel.com
BIDEN WIN WOULD HAVE MINOR IMPACT ON CABLE PROFITS THE POSSIBLE ELECTION VICTORY of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in has worldwide implications, but for the cable industry, it all comes down to dollars and cents. While a Democratic victory usually means greater scrutiny on the regulatory side — and a new Federal Communications Commission, which would oversee the rules — for businesses, Biden could seek to implement a corporate tax increase. Cable companies, long averse to tax payments, are mostly regular taxpayers now. And that could mean a Biden presidency could eat into profits. Bernstein media analyst Peter Supino did an analysis in mid-October of the potential impact of a Democratic victory on the cable business, determining that a 7% increase in the corporate tax rate, to 28% from 21%, would mean a 10% decline in profits for operators with mostly U.S.-based operations like Comcast, Charter Communications and Altice USA. Comcast has been a regular federal taxpayer for years and Charter is expected to become one next year. Altice USA hasn’t had to pay federal taxes yet, according to Supino, but is expected to join its peers in paying Uncle Sam in 2021. AT&T is the wild card, the analyst wrote, “as they have had wildly different cash tax payments relative to expenses in the past.” Still, the overall impact isn’t expected to be too great. Shares in the top publicly traded distribution stocks were up even as the outcome of the election was awash in uncertainty early on Nov. 4. By late that afternoon, Charter was up 7.4%, Cable One had rose 7%, Altice USA was up 5.6% and Comcast was up 2.7% “Our coverage companies are well-practiced in tax optimization strategies, so we expect certain company cash flows to be impacted less than accounting earnings,” Supino wrote, noting that after the 2016 election,
companies with higher proportions of U.S. income outperformed others for a period of weeks. He didn’t expect as dramatic a decline in a Biden administration. Other potential tax changes — an alternative minimum tax of 15% on companies with accounting profits of $100 million or higher, raising the tax rate on foreign income of U.S. companies to 21% and imposing a 10% surtax on companies that post jobs overseas to sell goods to Americans (which will mainly apply to companies with call centers) — could all have an impact. Supino noted that although Comcast and AT&T have the biggest international revenue streams, they are small enough that the tax impact will be insignificant. “Because a Biden victory in 2020 would be less surprising than was the Trump victory in 2016, and because the proposed change in corporate tax rates is smaller than was the Trump proposal, we believe that the underperformance of the same stocks after a potential Democratic victory in 2020 would be less sharp,” Supino wrote. On the programming side, MoffettNathanson media analyst Michael Nathanson wrote that the biggest threat of a Biden presidency is to Fox Corp., parent of Fox News Channel, which stands to lose the most if Trump starts his own rival news network. In a research note, Nathanson estimated that a Trump Network could poach about 20% of FNC’s news audience and capture 10% of the total news market. That could cost Fox News around $225 million in lost ad revenue and about $200 million in EBITDA. “Given the singular financial importance of Fox News to Fox Corp., the fear of a new rival competing with Fox News has created a new, bearish narrative that appears to be restraining Fox’s equity momentum,” Nathanson wrote. — Mike Farrell Trump Network 10%
THIS … IS TNN
MoffettNathanson media analyst Michael Nathanson estimated that a Trump News Network could capture as much as 10% of the viewing audience.
Fox News Channel 36%
SOURCE: Bernstein analysis and estimates
TAX WHAM A potential rise in the corporate tax rate could have an impact on future earnings and free cash flow for distributors, according to Bernstein analyst Peter Supino.
NET INCOME IMPACT 2021E 2022E
FCF IMPACT 2021E 2022E
SOURCE: Bernstein analysis and estimates
Sports Title Tilts Take Ratings Hit NBA and NHL Finals, World Series down but not out going into 2021 By R. Thomas Umstead firstname.lastname@example.org @rtumstead30
World Series: Tom Pennington/Getty Images; A Teacher: Chris Large/FX
he delayed championship runs for the NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball suffered a major body blow in the ratings, but industry observers say that viewership for those sports events should bounce back in 2021. Last month featured an unprecedented sports schedule in which the NBA Finals, hockey’s Stanley Cup Finals and baseball’s World Series all took place within three weeks in October. Pandemic-related delays caused the NHL and NBA to reschedule their playoffs from the spring to the fall, while baseball played three rounds of postseason games in a span of three weeks. While many observers predicted the games would generate strong appeal from sportsstarved viewers, the championship runs for each sport suffered significant declines. The six-game World Series, pitting the Los Angeles Dodgers against the Tampa Bay Rays, averaged 9.79 million viewers for Fox, down 30% from last year’s seven-game Washington NationalsHouston Astros series (13.9 million) and finishing as the lowest-rated World Series ever, according to Sports Media Watch’s reporting of Nielsen ratings. The NBA Finals, where the Los Angeles Lakers bested the Miami heat in six games, also set a record low. ABC’s coverage averaged 7.49 million viewers, down 49% from last year’s Golden State Warriors-Toronto Raptors final in June 2019, according to Sports Media Watch. The six-game NHL Stanley Cup Finals between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Dallas Stars averaged 2.15 million viewers for NBC, down 60% from the June 2019 St. Louis Blues-Boston Bruins finals. The unprecedented glut of pro content in such a short time span hurt viewership, sports analyst Lee Berke said. “We’ve never had a year where the NBA Finals, the Stanley Cup Finals and the World Series — along with Sunday Night Football and Monday Night Football — are playing up against each other,” he said. “Under those circumstances there has to be some cannibalization of viewers.” Media consultant Bill Carroll said other factors, such as the election and fears surrounding COVID-19, pushed potential sports viewers toward news programming. Indeed, networks such as Fox News Channel set
audience records during October with continuing coverage of the election as well as pandemic-related developments. “Unfortunately, I think folks got used to not having sports, and more people focused on their health and the election — those sorts of things overshadow even live championship sports programming,” Carroll said. “That gets reflected in the ratings.”
A TEACHER (Premieres Nov. 10 on FX on Hulu)
Content Still Valuable
Despite the low numbers, Berke is not worried about the future of live sports programming. He pointed to the positive trends regarding the business of TV sports content, including baseball’s recent extension with Turner Sports and the NFL’s recent deal with Amazon Prime Video to stream a playoff game in 2021, as evidence that live sports content is still a valuable commodity for cable, broadcast and streaming services. “Overall, sports viewership has gone up in terms of the amount of hours people are watching sports, along with the digital consumption of sports content which went up substantially (in October),” Berke said. “Once everything gets back in a pattern, I’m not foreseeing much of an issue. I don’t think anyone wants a repeat of this year with all of those big sports events going against each other.” Viewers should return to their normal sports viewing patterns once league championships again take place during their usual timnes, Carroll said. “I think if and when we get back to some sense of normalcy next spring or summer, that may help turn things around,” he said. “If we’re still in relatively the same circumstance as we are right now, I think that will negatively impact what happens with any event.” ●
Ratings for Fox’s coverage of the Dodgers-Rays World Series were down 30% from 2019.
FX ON HULU DELVES into the taboo teacher-student affair dynamic in its new original series A Teacher. The series stars Kate Mara as Claire Wilson, a high school English teacher looking to fit into a new environment. Unsatisfied in her marriage to her college sweetheart Matt (Ashley Zukerman) and looking for some companionship, Claire eventually befriends fellow teacher Kathryn Sanders (Marielle Scott) as she looks to get settled in her new surroundings. The attractive teacher quickly catches the eyes of hormonal senior high school students and friends Eric (Nick Robinson), Logan (Shane Harper) and Josh (Dylan Schmid), but it is Eric, a star athlete more reserved than most students his age, who captures Claire’s attention. A chance meeting between Claire and Eric at the diner where he works provides the impetus for the two to get to know more about each other beyond the confines of the classroom. Claire agrees to tutor Eric for his upcoming SAT exam, leading to more encounters before the relationship turns intimate after a school dance. Eventually both Claire and Eric begin to feel the gravity of their illicit relationship. When their secret gets out in the open, much of the second half of the 10-episode series finds the two having to navigate their lives while dealing with the scrutiny of their affair from both those close to them and from the community at large. A Teacher executive producer Hannah Fidell artfully balances the predatory nature of the illicit sexual affair (each episode begins with a warning about depictions of grooming that may be disturbing) with the genuine emotions and feelings of the two protagonists. Mara and Robinson turn in great performances that make the relationship both believable and tragic. Hulu will stream the first three episodes on Nov. 10, with later episodes appearing weekly. — RTU
$10-a-month super skinny bundle that includes a compelling grab bag of around 30 entertainment-oriented cable networks. TVision also lets users subscribe to premium networks through its app like Starz, Showtime and Epix. But using the app in iOS on both an iPhone 11 and new iPad Pro, MCN found TVision far faster to load — and faster at pretty much everything — than the comparably priced Sling TV. We also found the configurable program guide far more straightforward and easier to navigate. If all T-Mobile wanted to do was bundle a live TV app with its wireless services, it might make more sense to market a third-party app, as Verizon does with YouTube TV. But TVision has another gear.
TVision: The Video Multi-Tool T-Mobile’s Wireless Rivals Lack Review: Flexible offering gives ‘Uncarrier’ a leg up on bundling TV entering the fixed 5G era By Daniel Frankel email@example.com @dannyfrankel
-Mobile’s reinvention of its TVision pay TV platform falls short of the promises made several years ago when the self-proclaimed “Uncarrier” declared disruption on the pay television business. But while TVision may not represent a wholesale reinvention of the model, it is an elegant, versatile video platform, a multi-tool that gives T-Mobile a number of different ways to bundle TV/video as it begins to ramp up fixed 5G internet service in homes over the next few years. Importantly, none of its major U.S. wireless competitors — AT&T, Verizon Communications or even Dish Network — have anything as good lined up. Classifying TVision is tough. It can be a skinny-bundle linear pay TV service, with its own Android TV “set-top”; it can be a robust standalone virtual MVPD app, playable on virtually any device other than Roku; or it can be a super-cheap, ultra-skinny bundle app, a la Philo and the erstwhile AT&T Watch, one with an even bigger grab bag of
cable channels, for less money. At the heart of the TVision service is the TVision app, which is essentially a virtual MVPD.
The TVision pay TV service has four tiers, including the 30-channel Live TV package for $40 a month, the 40-channel Live TV Plus bundle for $50 and the 50-channel Live TV Zone for $60. The base Live TV app includes local ABC, Fox and NBC stations, but no CBS. ESPN, FS1 and FS2 and TNT/TBS provide sports. CNN, MSNBC and Fox News Channel provide news. The Live TV Plus upgrade adds additional sports channels (BTN and more ESPN networks) and networks like Disney Channel. Going full monty to Live TV Zone adds NFL Network, Redzone and a few regional sports channels. Each of the Live TV bundles includes a cloud DVR, capable of recording 100 hours worth of HD shows. In addition to the CBS absence, ViacomCBS cable channels such as MTV, Comedy Central and BET aren’t included in any of the three tiers. Neither is AMC. Notably, ViacomCBS channels and AMC are included in the entirely different Vibe tier, a
The four-tier TVision pay TV platform will be available on most devices or an HDMI dongle called the “TVision Hub” (below).
While its platform runs on a wide variety of devices, T-Mobile gives customers the option of paying a one-time $50 charge for an HDMI dongle and remote called TVision Hub. (You can also get the pricey Apple TV 4K for $100 if you sign up for TVision by Dec. 31.) As Android TV-powered OTT devices go, the Hub isn’t super-exceptional. It lacks searchand-recommendation features that are at the heart of TiVo’s similarly profiled Stream 4K device, for example. But what Hub does nicely is split the lentil between full-contract, full-fee traditional pay TV services and more simple, economical and versatile live streaming apps, turning TVision into a system that feels a little bit like one of those thin-client Android TV video systems offered by cable companies. That experience starts with a full-featured remote control that not only has dedicated buttons for OTT services like Netflix, but also a program guide button that takes users directly to the linear programming grid. It also has a full alpha-numeric keypad. The remote provides an excellent hybrid experience, combining the streamlined elegance and simplicity of an OTT device remote, complete with the requisite skinny profile. It also incorporates the more robust functionality of pay TV remotes, complete with programmable buttons that let you turn the volume up and down and the TV on and off. The responsiveness of the Hub dongle — manufactured by Shenzhen SEI Robotics, the same company that makes Sling TV’s AirTV companion device — felt more like a traditional pay TV set-top than an OTT service. Notably, SEI Robotics also makes Dish Network’s AirTV device, which is the hardware complement to Sling TV. MCN also has tested the first generation of this Android TV-powered AirTV device. Using it with Sling TV, it functions nowhere nearly as smooth or fast. And that’s before you get to the clunky Sling TV app. Our only quibble with TVision Hub hardware is the device’s WiFi reception, which isn’t as good as that of the Rokupowered, 55-inch TCL smart TV the device was connected to. ●
Altice USA: We’re Still on the Hunt With Atlantic Broadband looking less and less likely, operator focuses on other, smaller targets By Mike Farrell firstname.lastname@example.org @MikeFCable
ith its $3.9 billion pursuit of Atlantic Broadband nearly just a memory, Altice USA is turning its focus to smaller acquisitions, telling analysts it has a “handful” of potential targets in mind as it looks to boost growth. Altice USA launched a $3.6 billion offer for Atlantic Broadband — part of a larger $7.8 billion joint bid with Rogers Communications for its parent, Canadian telecom operator Cogeco — on Sept. 2. After Cogeco’s controlling shareholder rejected that deal, Altice and Rogers increased their offer to $8.4 billion ($3.9 billion for ABB) on Oct.18, which was again summarily rejected. On its Oct. 29 conference call with analysts to discuss third-quarter results, Altice USA CEO Dexter Goei noted that there is still time for Cogeco to change its mind — it had imposed a Nov. 18 deadline for Cogeco to accept the deal — but he held out little hope. “We’re very cognizant that the controlling shareholder needs to be acquiesced,” Goei said on the conference call. “Based on his rhetoric and his statements to date, I think it’s fair to say that there is a low chance of us collectively with Rogers being able to move forward on this project. Formally, we’ve got until Nov. 18, so we’ll see if anything shakes loose.” The apparent failure of the Cogeco bid doesn’t mean Altice USA is giving up on M&A. On the conference call, Goei pointed to a handful of potential targets, adding that interest is growing among small operators to sell out. “We are out there looking at a handful of things,” Goei said, adding that given Altice USA’s 21-state footprint, there are several opportunities to find small systems contiguous to its operating area.
While the choices may be few and far between in Altice’s Optimum footprint — the former Cablevision Systems operations in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut — the opportunities appear greater in its Suddenlink division. Suddenlink, which
BETTER, FASTER Broadband subscriber growth rates at Charter and Comcast have been rising steadily over the past several quarters, fueled by the pandemic, while Altice USA’s growth has been slower. Q1 19
Q3 19 Q4 19
Q2 20 Q3 20
SOURCE: Company reports, MoffettNathanson estimates
Altice purchased in 2015 for $9.1 billion, operates in 14 states and has been a “sneaky” source of organic growth for the company, according to Bernstein media analyst Peter Supino. In a research report, Supino estimated Altice would add about 90,000 broadband customers in 2021, 85,000 in 2022 and 70,000 in both 2023 and 2024, with the bulk of those gains (66,000; 67,000; 69,000 and 71,000) coming from Suddenlink. “Why would a decades-old business in smaller midwestern and southeastern cities offer a growth opportunity?” Supino asked in his report. “Amidst steadily rising demand for bandwidth — a powerful trend long before COVID-19 — and with relentless cable upgrades overwhelming DSL [digital subscriber line] competition, small-town cable has become a quasi-monopoly on Internet service.” Altice USA already showed its appetite for smaller systems when it purchased Service Electric Cable TV of New Jersey in July for $150 million. In its Q3 conference call, Goei said Service Electric has proven to be a strong purchase, adding that Altice has been able to grow the unit with minimal effort. Service Electric has about 30,000 subscribers. “It’s not necessarily that easy to unlock all of this, but given the environment, given the interest rate environment, given that size does really matter here in terms of getting operational synergies and investing heavily in technology and customer service, it is
Altice USA CEO Dexter Goei told a conference call there’s a “low chance” of getting a deal for Cogeco done.
starting to percolate that some of the smaller operators, the mom-and-pop guys, are looking to deal,” Goei said. He pointed to Service Electric, which needed some investment in its network and didn’t have a consistent marketing strategy when Altice first bought it, but has responded well with minimal effort. “We’re seeing a lot of low-hanging fruit just by adding two or three additional salespeople both on the SMB [small and medium-sized businesses] side and the B2B side, that’s been very lucrative for us just increasing penetration out there, bringing new products, and we’re upgrading the network as quickly as we can,” Goei said. “Everything that we are able to get our hands on in terms of M&A opportunities will be the best use of our capital.” Altice also has the financial wherewithal to do a deal. In addition to generating a ton of free cash flow — $458 million in Q3, 48% above consensus and three times the prior year figure — the cable operator is expected to receive about $1.1 billion in cash from the sale of a 49% interest in its LightPath business telecom unit to Morgan Stanley Infrastructure Partners. That deal is expected to close in the fourth quarter.
Little Guys Seek Deals
According to sources in the cable M&A community, smaller operators are indeed looking to do deals. In addition, TPG, the Dallas-based private equity firm that owns RCN, Grande Communications, EnTouch Communications and Wave Broadband, agreed to sell its systems with more than one million customers to private equity group Stonepeak Infrastructure Partners and Patriot Media in a deal valued at about $8.1 billion, including the assumption of debt. TPG, which put the assets on the block in September, purchased the systems in three separate deals, agreeing to pay $2.25 billion for RCN and Grande in 2016, and completing its $2.36 billion purchase of Wave in 2018. It purchased Entouch in September, adding 22,000 customers. While most of the attention is heaped on large, publicly traded cable operators, the industry is still peppered with small, family-owned operations that dot the country. According to Kagan, a unit of S&P Global Market Intelligence, there are more than 700 cable operators across the country with less than 100,000 subscribers, with a number of those companies located in states where Suddenlink operates, like Kansas (29), Kentucky (28) and Texas (23). One small operator that asked not to be named added that the number of companies willing to do deals isn’t necessarily increasing, it’s just that as other growth opportunities fade, they
pandemic. Altice said that during the second quarter about 10,000 customers under the KAC pledge were past due on payments for more than 90 days. Now that number of delinquent accounts is under 3,000, the company said.
are becoming better noticed. “To some extent, I think those deals in the smaller operator space have always existed,” the operator said. “I don’t think we have seen any particular uptick.” According to analysts, while Altice USA’s growth strategy includes edging out its current footprint and driving penetration rates in its existing territory, it is a bit hamstrung by its popularity in its bigger markets. Penetration rates in its Optimum service footprint — basically metropolitan New York — are more than 50%. While opportunities are greater in its more rural Suddenlink markets, with penetration rates of 30% to 40%, buying systems still appears to be the fastest way for Altice to achieve its goals. In a research note, MoffettNathanson principal and senior analyst Craig Moffett acknowledged Altice’s M&A desires, adding that a combined strategy of organic growth and M&A deals are what will most likely drive the stock in the future.
“Altice clearly wants to grow, not only through acquisition, but also by edging out into unserved adjacent rural markets,” Moffett wrote. “And that’s precisely what the market wants.” Barclays Research media analyst Kannan Venkateshwar agreed, adding that while Altice does have some strong growth drivers, its high penetration rates and industry-high ARPU (average revenue per user) limit visibility in the long term. “Consequently, we do believe [Altice USA] is likely to more actively seek smaller cable deals over the course of the next year, to extract growth from synergies instead,” he wrote. After an impressive 66% run in 2019, Altice USA shares have slid about 3% this year. A lot of the pressure on the stock is due to investor concerns that its nearly fully penetrated in the competitive New York market. “Anything that Altice can do to geographically diversify away from their legacy Optimum footprint would be welcomed by the market, even if they have to pay a premium to do it,” Moffett wrote.
BUYERS RECOURSE Altice USA made some big acquisitions to break into the U.S. cable market, but its most recent deals have been considerably smaller. COMPANY
CHEDDAR SERVICE ELECTRIC CABLE TV OF NJ
SOURCE: Company reports
BIGGIE SMALLS According to Kagan, a unit of S&P Global Market Intelligence, there are more than 700 cable companies across the country with less than 100,000 subscribers. Here are the 10 states with the most small operators. COMPANY
# OF SYSTEMS WITH < 100,000 SUBSCRIBERS
SOURCE: Kagan, a unit of S&P Global Market Intelligence
Altice had strong Q3 results — broadband growth at 26,000 subscribers was above consensus expectations — in line with other larger operators. Altice USA also managed to convert a large chunk of broadband subscribers that were receiving service as part of the Keep America Connected pledge, where most providers agreed not to disconnect broadband service during the
Altice could seek out opportunities in smaller markets that are complementary to its Suddenlinkbranded systems.
Altice USA’s broadband growth comes as larger companies continue to rack up high-speed internet subscribers. The country’s largest cable operator, Comcast, added 633,000 broadband customers in Q3, its best quarter for broadband growth ever. No. 2 Charter Communications added 537,000 broadband customers in Q3, and has gained more than 1.4 million broadband customers in the past 12 months. On a conference call with analysts, Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts marveled at the continued momentum for the broadband product, which most cable operators began offering in earnest at the turn of the 21st century. “To have the best broadband quarter in the company’s history sitting here in 2020, when it’s a 20-year-old product, give or take, is a pretty dramatic and amazing statement in my opinion,” Roberts said on the call. Broadband growth has been robust to say the least during the pandemic. According to Moffett, high-speed internet growth rates at Charter have been between 6.1% and 8.8% for the past three quarters, while Comcast has ranged between 5.5% and 6.7% growth. Altice, which has a much smaller and more highly penetrated customer base, grew between 2% and 3.7% over the past three quarters. While Altice, like its larger peers, is building out its footprint to include homes previously not receiving service, that won’t likely be enough on its own to move the growth needle. Altice said it is extending its network to about 150,000 new homes per year. Charter is building out between 500,00 and 600,000 homes and Comcast is doing about the same. In a conference call with analysts Oct. 30, Charter chief financial officer Christopher Winfrey said while the effect of the build outs has had a “meaningful” impact on broadband subscriber growth, it hasn’t been “material.” “It’s helpful, but it’s not the material driver for our growth,” Winfrey said. That would mean for companies like Altice, acquisition — any acquisitions — may be the only way to turn the corner on growth fast enough to satisfy Wall Street. “To be sure, waking up to news that Altice has bought a small operator many people won’t have ever heard of before isn’t as sexy as waking up to news that they’ve been bought by Charter would be,” Moffett wrote. “But it is infinitely more likely, and Altice shares are cheap enough that buying a small operator or two might be all that is needed to finally close the valuation gap.” ●
FATES & FORTUNES
People Notable executives on the move BRIEFLY NOTED Other industry execs making moves
Emily Powers was promoted to executive VP and head of BritBox North America. A member of the streaming service’s original launch team, she had been senior VP and commercial head.
CBS Entertainment Group has elevated Bryon Rubin to chief operating officer, overseeing all financial and business operations that support its divisions. He will continue as chief financial officer.
Television analytics and advertising platform Innovid has named Dale Older chief operating officer. He had been chief product officer at Integral Ad Science.
Magellan Advisors has named John Williams engineering program manager. He led fiber-to-the-home deployments for Bristol (Tenn.) Essential Services and Erwin (Tenn.) Utilities.
Steve Youngwood was elevated to CEO of Sesame Workshop in New York. He had been the children’s TV producer’s chief operating officer and president of its Media & Education division.
Sherrie Westin was tapped as president of Sesame Workshop. She had been the president of the educational TV nonprofit’s Social Impact & Philanthropy division.
Ad data company Standard Media Index has named Todd Koons as VP, strategic partnerships, a new post. He was manager, marketing & media, licensing management & contract compliance at PwC.
Video software provider Synamedia has named Paul Segre as CEO, replacing the departed Yves Padrines. Segre had been chairman and CEO of customer experience software firm Genesys.
Michelle L. Rice was named president of TV One and Cleo TV. Rice had been general manager of TV One since 2019 and spearheaded the 2019 launch of women-targeted network Cleo TV.
Tom Ryan has been named president and CEO, ViacomCBS Streaming, overseeing CBS All Access (to relaunch as Paramount Plus next year) and Pluto TV. He was CEO of Pluto TV.
ViacomCBS Networks International (VCNI) chief operating officer Kelly Day will take on an expanded role as president of streaming, VCNI, overseeing all non-U.S. digital and streaming platforms.
Channing Dungey has been named chairman, Warner Bros. Television Group, effective with the retirement of current chief Peter Roth early next year. She most recently was VP of original series at Netflix.
Ryan Spoon has joined BetMGM as chief operating officer. He was senior VP of social and digital content at ESPN. … Firstlight Media has added Bal O'Neil as VP of solutions engineering, Eric Goldstein as head of business development, and John Ferrandino as head of sales. All three executives will be responsible for delivering partner and client solutions for video service providers. … Fox News Channel signed veteran on-air reporter John Roberts to a new multiyear deal as chief White House correspondent. … Subscription commerce and customer experience platform Piano has named Joanna Catalano as chief growth officer. She comes from Dentsu Aegis. … Sinclair Broadcast Group has tapped David Morgan as VP of digital sports news for its 21 regional sports networks. The sports-media veteran has worked at USA Today Sports Media Group, Yahoo! Sports and the Los Angeles Times. … Sony/ATV Music Publishing has elevated John Pires to executive VP, global business development. Pires was senior VP, business development.
Data provided by
Ad Meter Who’s spending what where
PROMO MOJO Our exclusive weekly ranking of the programming that networks are promoting most heavily (Oct. 26-Nov. 1)
MOST-SEEN TV ADS
Brands ranked by the greatest increase in TV
Brands ranked by TV ad impressions
Est. TV Spend:
Est. TV Spend: Spend Within Industry:
TV Ad Impressions: 365,527,453
Total TV ad impressions within all U.S. households, including national linear (live and time-shifted), VOD plus OTT and local
Est. Media Value: $2,617,803
Fox News Channel
Estimated media value of in-network promos On the strength of 365.5 million TV ad impressions, a Fox News Channel election promo is No. 1. The all-cable rankings have Comedy Central’s The Daily Show With Trevor Noah at No. 2, HGTV’s Fixer to Fabulous promo in third, Food Network’s Holiday Wars promo at No. 4, and a general promo for Discovery and its sibling networks’ wide range of lifestyle programming (including HGTV and Food Network) in fifth. The Daily Show spot has the ranking’s highest iSpot Attention Index number (115), meaning viewers were on average highly likely to watch it all the way through (vs. interrupting it by changing the channel, pulling up the guide, fast-forwarding or turning off the TV).
TV Ad Impressions:
Est. TV Spend:
TOP 5 PROMOTIONS
Est. TV Spend:
Spend Within Industry:
2020 Election, Fox News Channel
TV Ad Impressions:
Walmart ▲ 194%
TV Ad Impressions:
Est. TV Spend:
Est. TV Spend:
Spend Within Industry:
1.22B $20.2M 94.17
1. 2020 Election, Fox News Channel TV Ad Impressions Est. Media Value
2. The Daily Show, Comedy Central TV Ad Impressions Est. Media Value
3. Fixer to Fabulous, HGTV TV Ad Impressions Est. Media Value
4. Holiday Wars, Food Network TV Ad Impressions Est. Media Value
5. Discovery Family of Networks, Discovery Inc.
TV Ad Impressions Est. Media Value
Spend Increase: Est. TV Spend:
Liberty Mutual TV Ad Impressions: Est. TV Spend:
Spend Within Industry:
Est. TV Spend: Spend Within Industry: Top Network:
Law & Order: SVU
Macy’s Spend Increase:
Verizon ▲ 106%
$2.6M 8% CBS
TV Ad Impressions: Est. TV Spend: Completion Rate: Top Show:
1.14B $25.1M 90.46
NFL STREAMING VIEWERSHIP INCREASES BY 41% NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE broadcast-TV ratings this season have continued what has become a long, steady decline, dropping a collective 10% across CBS, Fox, ESPN and NBC through the first four weeks of the 2020 pro football campaign, according to Sports Business Daily. But in its third-quarter State of Streaming report, research company Conviva releases NFL viewership data that seems to fly in the face of that downward trend.
MCN’S MOST VIEWED Top stories on multichannel.com, Oct. 19-Nov. 4 1. Fiber Broadband Association Names New President 2. Sinclair RSNs: Timing Is Everything
NFL VIEWING 41% INCREASE NFL VIEWING TIME GROWTH
Connected tv Mobile PC Total Other
Q3 2019 vs Q3 2020
5. AT&T Tries to Package U-verse TV, AT&T TV Now in DirecTV Sale
3. Top Distribution Executives Leaving at WarnerMedia 4. Hulu Dropping Sinclair Regional Sports Networks
Overall, pro-football viewing is up 41% on streaming platforms this season, Conviva said in a report released Oct. 29. The biggest spike in streaming NFL usage is via connected TV, which has seen a 38% spike. Mobile viewing is up only 15%. Streaming viewership of NFL games is up most in the daytime — 63% vs. the 2019 season. NFL streaming is up only 32% for primetime games. — Daniel Frankel For more stories like this, go to nexttv.com.
To read these stories, go to multichannel.com.
SHARE OF NFL VIEWING TIMES Q3 2020
STICKIEST SHOWS Top 10 cable programs ranked by viewer engagement Ratings Rank
Telecast (Week Ending Oct. 25)
Fox Business News
Fox News Channel
90 Day Fiancé: The Other Way
Jingle Bell Bride
Monday Night Football 1
La Rosa de Guadalupe
Baseball: Allen Kee/ESPN Images; Presidential Debate: Fox News
The Stickiness Index looks at viewer engagement based on several factors. A higher number indicates more of the audience is tuned in for the duration of the telecast. * TV Engagement ratings powered by Comscore’s TV Essentials. (Sorted by social media activity.)
Data provided by
STICKIEST SHOWS Top 10 broadcast programs ranked by viewer engagement
Telecast (Week October 25)
Todo Por Mi Hija
Imperio de Mentiras
Médicos, Línea de Vida
World Series Game 4
The Stickiness Index looks at viewer engagement based on several factors. A higher number indicates more of the audience is tuned in for the duration of the telecast. * TV Engagement ratings powered by Comscore’s TV Essentials. (Sorted by social media activity.)
THE WEEK OF OCT. 26 TV Time users track the shows they're watching on TV via the TV Time app. That data is then used to determine the most-binged shows of the week in the U.S.
Share of binges: 3.08%
The Haunting of Bly Manor
Share of binges: 1.89%
The Queen's Gambit
Share of binges: 1.71%
Share of binges: 1.25%
Share of binges: 1.19%
Top five stories on nexttv.com, Oct. 19-Nov. 4
Share of binges: 1.09%
Share of binges: 1.07%
1. T-Mobile’s TVision: It’s the Video Multitool that Wireless Rivals AT&T and Verizon Lack (Review)
Share of binges: 0.98%
Blood of Zeus
Share of binges: 0.87%
Share of binges: 0.86%
LAST WEEK: 2
LAST WEEK: 1
LAST WEEK: —
LAST WEEK: 6
LAST WEEK: 9
LAST WEEK: 4
World Series: Sean M. Haffey/Fox Sport; Away: Netflix
LAST WEEK: —
LAST WEEK: 7
LAST WEEK: —
LAST WEEK: —
Networks reflected don't include every viewing platform available nor total viewing in share of binge
To receive "The Binge Report" and otherTV Time reports, visit https://www.whipmedia.com/subscribe/
NEXT TV’S MOST VIEWED
2. The Chromecast with Google TV Reviews Are In: Roku and Amazon Have a Problem 3. Apple Faces Backlash After Moving ‘Peanuts’ Holiday Specials Off Broadcast TV 4. Hulu Dropping Sinclair Regional Sports Networks 5. Netflix’s ‘Away’: How Did It Go From No. 1 to Canceled in Just Six Weeks? To read these stories, go to nexttv.com.
Ratings Favorite sitcoms among U.S. millennials TODAY.YOUGOV.COM
Mike & Molly
Will & Grace
Fresh off the Boat
Methodology: Based on an average sample size of 628 US millennials who had a positive rating of these shows between October 2019 - October 2020
By Lee Hunt @LeeHuntLLC
Have Promos Crossed the Streaming Rubicon? Shift in TV show campaigns another sign of video’s changing terrain
Mandalorian: Disney Plus; Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Amazon Prime
his fall, streaming services scored another revealing first in the battle with linear networks for market-share dominance. I’m not highlighting another cord-cutting milestone, though it is estimated that a record-breaking 6.6 million households will cancel their pay TV subscriptions in 2020, exacerbated by the pandemic. I’m talking about a major shift in the balance of promo campaigns for new series, new seasons or original movies and specials — a metric on-air marketing research service CMOintelligence has been analyzing for 40 linear and streaming services daily since 2015. Something unusual happened in the last week of August. For the first time, there were more new (or “first occurrence”) streaming campaigns than linear campaigns. While it was only a 14% difference at first, it was enough to catch my attention. Two weeks later, the streaming numbers jumped again, this time by 29%, and by the following week, they had climbed to 61%, with the total number of campaigns for both linear and streaming services more than doubling. In the fall, I expect to see a significant increase in new series and season campaigns as the broadcast networks roll out their programming. And, during this time, cable networks do tend to slow their introductions, but I’ve never seen the streamers ramp up this much this quickly. Just to further qualify the data, I took a more predictive approach, turning to CMOmarketplace to analyze real-time activity between media companies and the creative agencies that produce their promo campaigns. What types of marketing campaigns were getting the most views?
Promoting content on one streaming service gives you more bang for your buck than running multiple content spots from multiple linear channels. the Rubicon,” referencing the river that marked the point of no return for Julius Caesar. John Miller, chairman of NBC Universal Marketing, responded: “Lee, we didn’t just cross the Rubicon. The streamers flooded the TV landscape!”
What Happens Next?
Pulling the numbers for September, I found another telling shift. Seven of the top 10 most-viewed promo/marketing projects were for streamers such as Disney Plus, Peacock, Netflix, HBO Max, Topic and Amazon. So what’s really driving streaming’s surge in promo campaigns? As I see it, there are several factors at play: 1) A year ago, there was no Disney Plus, HBO Max or Peacock. 2) These services have linear channels that can act as barker channels with cross-channel promotion. Amazon, Netflix, Apple TV Plus and other independent streamers must buy airtime in national or local ad breaks. 3) CMOintelligence tracks 25 linear general entertainment channels, but only eight of those are significant general entertainment streamers (Amazon, Apple TV Plus, CBS All Access, Disney Plus, HBO Max, Hulu, Netflix and Peacock). Doing the math, nearly one-third of these entertainment brands — the streamers — accounted for more than 60% of the marketing campaigns for new series, seasons, specials and movies. In sharing these findings with media companies, I suggested that we had “crossed
Lee Hunt is a TV marketing veteran and a co-founder of CMOintelligence, a platform that tracks the on-air marketing of 32 networks plus Netflix, Hulu and Amazon.
Looking ahead, I predict that media companies will continue to significantly reduce the amount of cross-channel promotion to linear channels and shift that inventory to promoting their streaming services. Certainly, with the recent management restructures at the major media companies, and the across-the-board philosophical shift to streaming solutions, that would be expected. But it’s more about efficiency. Most streaming services host content from the multiple linear channels as well as the company’s back catalog. Promoting content on one streaming service gives you more bang for your buck than running multiple content spots from multiple linear channels. Add that to the campaigns the independent streamers, Amazon, Netflix, Apple TV Plus, and the like will continue to run, and I believe, as John Miller said, “it’s not just a flood, but a complete sea change.” ●
Promo campaigns for offerings like Amazon’s Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (above) and Disney Plus’ The Mandalorian have become more prominent.
THE FIVE SPOT
Mickey Down and Konrad Kay
Creators, Executive Producers, Co-Writers, ‘Industry’ Former London bankers take on City life in new HBO series
ickey Down and Konrad Kay burst on the scene in 2014 with their black comedy Gregor, snagging a British BAFTA nomination for their first feature film. This year the duo tapped into their past lives in the finance world for the HBO series Industry, focusing on a diverse group of young investment bankers in London. While the show is steeped in finance, don’t expect any long insider-trading arcs, a la Billions. The pair spoke about the show, which premieres Nov. 9, with Multichannel News senior content producer – finance Mike Farrell. An edited transcript follows. Investment banking isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think of series topics. What drew you to this? Mickey Down: It sounds like a cliché, but we’d always call this show a ‘people show’ more than a ‘finance show.’ The starting points were always the characters rather than some overarching plot about insider trading, or banks failing or any similar, well-trodden territory. We were always more interested in the micro-politics and relationship dynamics Mickey Down (l.) and Konrad Kay on the Industry set.
in places like these and what they looked like through what we feel is a unique vantage point — their youngest and least powerful people. Konrad Kay: One of the more prominent themes of the show is the role mentors play during the formative stages of a career. These are incredibly hierarchical institutions which pretend not to be by flattening the playing field — managing directors sat next to baby-faced graduates — but in truth, somebody’s always watching and assessing you. … We wanted to crack open the black box of high finance — much talked about, little understood — and give the viewer a peek inside, taking them on a roller coaster through the highs and lows of a graduate’s first year on the floor. Did you watch and/or read a lot of finance-themed shows/movies/books while you were writing this? MD: We didn’t purposefully steer clear of all other ‘finance-themed’ art while writing this, mostly because we’ve probably already seen and read all the classic stuff. In fact, a lot of it was (and remains) the reason many people go into finance in the first place. The literature, film, television, whether it’s trying to do this or not, remains a recruitment tool for these institutions.
BONUS FIVE What’s your favorite all-time TV show? KK: The Sopranos/ Mad Men (depending on mood) MD: The Sopranos/ Chappelle's Show (depending on mood) What books are on your nightstand? KK: A Thousand Moons, Sebastian Barry; Something Happened, Joseph Heller MD: All That Man Is, David Szalay; The Struggle for Mastery, David Carpenter Favorite recent meal KK: The Canton Arms, pub in London MD: The roast pork my mum made last night.
Destinations on your bucket list? KK: Tokyo MD: Utah
What’s on your DVR/ in your queue? KK: New season of Fargo, more NXIVM content MD: The Real Housewives of New York
Why set this in London and not New York? Is it because of all the potential LIBOR jokes? MD: Haha! We’ve both worked and lived in London our entire lives and the show speaks to our experiences both professionally and personally. We always try to write from a place of authenticity so it just made more sense to set it in the space we have firsthand knowledge of. In the trailer, Harper Stern (Myha’la Herrold) says the reason she’s there is because it’s ‘the closest thing to a meritocracy there is.’ MD: We were interested in the idea of meritocracy and what constitutes a true meritocracy, or whether that concept even truly exists. A crucial idea that these places sell on entry to their young recruits is that they are meritocracies, blind to socioeconomic background, gender, race, class. We wanted to try and unpick this idea and what it means in 2020. KK: While there have been steps taken to open the doors to transparency and end the cult-like opaqueness of these places, the underlying methodology of evaluating people by productivity or P&L and compensating them accordingly hasn’t really changed. The insecurities of people who measure their status and worth by what their boss hands them in an envelope in February still very much exists. Lena Dunham directs the pilot. You both said you were fans and were going for a bit of a Girls vibe with your feature film Gregor. Is that what you were hoping she would bring to Industry? MD: That’s good detective work! We were huge fans of Girls. The show had been out a few seasons when Konrad and I started writing together and we were blown away by it — by its frankness, humanity, humor, naturalism, its deeply flawed but deeply human characters in their twenties. It achieved things on TV we didn’t think were possible until then. These are all things we wanted to emulate with Industry. ●
Multichannel News - November 9, 2020