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LIVING ON THE EDGE After a year of pandemic-fueled gains, cable operators are rolling out the broadband carpet by extending their networks deeper into less-populated areas

VOLUME 42 • NUMBER 2 • JANUARY 25, 2021 • $6.95




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12  COVER STORY After a year of pandemic-fueled record gains for cable broadband service, operators are moving on to the next opportunity by extending their networks deeper into lesspopulated areas. By Mike Farrell 6 AGENDA  With shows on Netflix and Amazon Prime Video — and The Office holding strong amidst its move to Peacock — Greg Daniels knows what it takes to succeed on streaming platforms. By Jon Lafayette


18 PROGRAMMING  El Rey Network, which shut down its traditional cable-network feed in December after seven years, hopes to find a second life as a digital platform. By R. Thomas Umstead

18 PROGRAMMING This page: Getty Images; El Rey Network; Commerce.Senate.gov via screenshot

CONTENT VP/Global Editor-In-Chief Bill Gannon, william.gannon@futurenet.com Content Director Kent Gibbons, kent.gibbons@futurenet.com Content Manager Michael Demenchuk, michael.demenchuk@futurenet.com Senior Content Producer - Programming R. Thomas Umstead, thomas.umstead@futurenet.com Senior Content Producer - Finance Mike Farrell, michael.farrell@futurenet.com Senior Content Producer - Washington John S. Eggerton, john.eggerton@futurenet.com Senior Content Producer - Technology Daniel Frankel, daniel.frankel@futurenet.com Senior Content Producer Michael Malone, michael.malone@futurenetcom Senior Content Producer Jon Lafayette, jon.lafayette@futurenet.com Content Engagement Manager Jessika Walsten, jessika.walsten@futurenet.com Assistant Content Producer Chelsea Anderson, chelsea.anderson@futurenet.com Contributor Paige Albiniak Production Manager Heather Tatrow Managing Design Director Nicole Cobban Art Editor Cliff Newman


24 POLICY Nathan Simington, the Trump administration’s last-minute addition to the FCC, offers his takes on Section 230, broadband deployment and more in his first interview. By John Eggerton

Vol. 42 • No. 2 • January 25, 2021. Multichannel News (USPS 590-190) (ISSN 0276-8593) is published semimonthly, except July, with additional issues in January and September by Future US, Inc., 11 West 42nd Street, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10036-8002. Subscription prices: U.S. 1 year, $199. Canada 1 year, $249. Foreign 1 year, $299. Prepayment in U.S. funds only. Please send subscription orders to Multichannel News, P.O. Box 1337, Lowell, MA 01853-1337, (888) 266-5828. Outside the U.S., call (978) 667-0352. Please allow three to four weeks for your subscription to begin or for changes to become effective. Periodicals postage paid at New York, NY, and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Please send address changes to Multichannel News, P.O. Box 1337, Lowell, MA 01853-1337. Publications Mail Agreement No. 40612608. Printed in U.S.A. © 2021 by Future US, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Multichannel News® is a registered trademark of Future US, Inc.




Charter Withdraws Request To Exit TWC Merger Conditions Docket remains open, just not for anything related to petition By John Eggerton john.eggerton@futurenet.com @eggerton


ith the hours running out on the Republicancontrolled Federal Communications Commission, Charter Communications withdrew its petition that the commission end two conditions on the company’s merger with Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks. That petition was one of the issues that appeared to be left hanging as FCC chairman Ajit Pai’s tenure drew to a close. He exited on Jan. 20, with President Joe Biden naming Democratic commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel as acting chairwoman the next day. Pai was never a fan of merger stipulations, which he sees as attempts to regulate via condition. “At this time, the bureau will no longer consider filings specific to this petition,” said the Wireline Competition Bureau, “but the docket will remain open for additional

filings, such as those required by Charter or the Independent Compliance Officer.” Charter has been looking to get out from under the “no charging for interconnection” and “no usage-based/data caps” pricing conditions. A court threw out the first condition, so that request was essentially moot, but the second is still in force. Those conditions were set to expire in May 2023 but Charter wanted them to end in May 2021.

Charter had asked the FCC to end a ban on data caps and usagebased internet pricing two years early.

FCC approval could have had a major impact on Charter’s over-the-top video strategy. In imposing the conditions, the agency said they were to ensure Charter could not “hamper or prevent its current and future online video rivals from expanding, becoming more competitive, or starting up in the first place.” Charter had suggested those OTT rivals hardly need protection from the company given that rival internet service providers have not had similar conditions and the over-the-top marketplace is flourishing. Charter likely saw the handwriting on the wall with the upcoming change in administrations. FCC Democrats now in control were fans of the merger conditions. One of those commissioners, Rosenworcel, now acting chairwoman, voted against deregulating internet providers and has called for the return of rules against blocking, throttling and paid prioritization, as has fellow Democratic commissioner Geoffrey Starks. She and Starks have also voted against eliminating broadcast regulations. Until Democrats can confirm a new fellow party member to fill the seat of the exiting Republican chair Pai, the commission will be at a 2-2 political tie, meaning noncontroversial items are likely on the docket at the outset. Rosenworcel could become permanent chair down the road, though Biden could have simply designated her chair had that been the plan. With the Senate controlled by Democrats, it will be easier for Biden to pick someone else, who might still need Senate confirmation. Rosenworcel, though, has plenty of fans inside and outside the commission, particularly on Capitol Hill. ●

Spectrum; Trae Patton/CBS



VIACOMCBS CONFIRMED a March 4 launch date for the new Paramount Plus subscription service, but key distribution options remained a question. It was still unclear at press time whether or not ViacomCBS will have support for the Paramount Plus (Paramount+) app on the two biggest device ecosystems, Roku and Amazon Fire TV, from day one. ViacomCBS said it will release key details about the service, a major expansion of the five-year-old CBS All Access platform, at a Feb. 24 Q4 earnings event. CBS All Access has been aggressively sold through the “channels” on both Roku and Amazon. ViacomCBS said in November that it had 17.9 million Multichannel.com

customers combined across its subscription OTT channels, a grouping led by CBS All Access and the Showtime streaming service. WarnerMedia suffered a major hangup in its quest to establish HBO Max as a standalone app on Roku and Fire TV without those channels as an outlet. HBO Max launched in late May, but didn't establish support for the No. 2 OTT device ecosystem, Amazon Fire TV, until November. It didn't launch on the No. 1 platform, Roku, until December. Both Roku and Fire TV tout more than 50 million active users. The Walt Disney Co. also had difficult negotiations with Amazon in its attempt to make Disney Plus a standalone app on the Fire TV platform, rather than have

Paramount Plus will include originals available on CBS All Access, such as Star Trek: Picard.

the service’s content disaggregated and resold through Amazon Prime Video Channels. NBCUniversal launched its Peacock streaming service in July but did not gain Roku distribution until September and still is not available via Amazon Fire TV. Discovery, in contrast, launched the Discovery Plus SVOD service in January with support on all major platforms.

ViacomCBS reached a deal with Apple in the fall that allowed CBS All Access and Showtime to be resold through Apple TV Channels. Paramount Plus will also debut in Latin America on March 4, when Canada will see CBS All Access rebranded and expanded as Paramount Plus. The service will launch in the Nordics on March 25 and in Australia in mid-2021. — Daniel Frankel


Greg Daniels Knows What Works In Streaming: He Created ‘The Office’ Producer says comedy’s switch to Peacock is ‘exceeding expectations’ at dailies and go, ‘Oh, yeah, I remember that,’ ‘Oh my God, I haven’t seen that since we were on the set,’ or stuff like that.

By Jon Lafayette jon.lafayette@futurenet.com @jlafayette


Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images; The Office: NBC/ Peacock

reg Daniels turned a British hit, The Office, into a legendary comedy on NBC. After it left the network, The Office became a big cannon in the streaming wars, topping the charts for years for Netflix and, since Jan. 1, leading the charge for Peacock, the streaming service launched by NBC parent companies Comcast and NBCUniversal. Daniels, whose writing credits also include Saturday Night Live and The Simpsons, knows a few things about TV, whether it’s old-fashioned broadcast or this newfangled streaming stuff. He’s got another show on Netflix, Space Force, starring the world’s best boss from The Office, Steve Carell, and Upload on Amazon Prime Video. He spent the summer re-editing The Office to create “superfan” episodes for the shows with restored deleted scenes. And he’s now in Vancouver shooting Upload. Daniels talked about the state of TV in this interview with Multichannel News. An edited transcript follows.


MCN: The Office is a hit in streaming. Was that a surprise to you that this is the No. 1 show in this supposedly new medium of streaming? Greg Daniels: Yes. It’s interesting because I was just on my computer and something was just released saying that we were the No. 1 streamed show in 2020. And as I put it in a little folder I saw that I had clipped something that said the same thing in 2017. I think it might have been for four years, which is pretty amazing. Obviously, we were the No. 1 show on NBC at one point when we were being aired, so it wasn’t like we never were successful before. But this was unexpected and, yeah, pretty cool. MCN: How involved were you in the decision to move The Office over to Peacock? GD: Well, frankly, I wasn’t, Multichannel.com

MCN: Was there a lot of stuff that you didn't remember and just thought was terrific? Or was there more stuff that was on the cutting room floor that belonged on the cutting room floor? GD: Well, there was stuff that is still on the cutting-room floor. We didn’t use every piece of scrap. And some of these long ones don’t play the same, because when we’re putting in a lot more material [into an episode] they’re not as tight. I don’t want to compare ourselves to the Beatles, which I’m about to do, because it gets a little hairy, but I have friends who are so into the Beatles and they have these bootleg tapes and it’ll be them just sort of tuning the guitars and chatting with the engineers and you’re just like, ‘Wow.’ And if you’re really into it, even that is fun. So I think some of this stuff, it’s just fun to see, like that moment when they return from Beach Games when they’re singing The Flintstones. We’ve seen that, but it was an hour drive and we had them sing a lot of other songs, so it's just fun to see them doing different ones.

Greg Daniels (above) found a hit with staying power in The Office, starring Steve Carell (below).

because I would have probably left it on Netflix just because it was doing so well there. If all you’re worried about is the show, why would you risk it? But Peacock really wanted it and we’ve been working with everybody over there. There’s something very appropriate and great about it being back on Peacock since it’s an NBC show, and they really understand it very well and they’re committed to making the most comprehensive fan experience. And so they’re very good about trying to provide extra content, and make it fun, and kind of make it the very best experience for a super fan you could possibly want. I’ve gone back with the original editors, and we had access to all of the footage, because it’s NBC, and all of the marketing and all of the interviews with the cast. It’s just been really fun this summer, while we were all locked up, that we could go back and look

MCN: Are you getting much feedback yet from people watching The Office on Peacock? GD: Well, I’m getting feedback from Peacock that they’re very happy with the amount of consumption of the extended cuts. I’ve heard from them that it exceeded their expectations and they had high expectations, so that’s good. MCN: If you were producing The Office for streaming, is there any way you would have done it differently? GD: Well you know what’s so funny about that is, I have a show on Netflix now with Steve Carell, Space Force, and I have a show on Amazon that I’m in Vancouver producing right now called Upload. In both of those instances, I will be talking with the streaming executives and they will say stuff to me like ‘Well, as you know with streaming there’s all these differences and you know, we are a special case and when people are bingewatching it’s not like network and all this stuff,’ and in the back of my head, I keep thinking, ‘Yeah, but this show that we did on NBC is the No. 1 show on streaming. So, is it really that different?’


Space Force: Netflix; Upload: Amazon Prime

MCN: You used to get notes from NBC execs like Kevin Reilly and Ben Silverman based on watching the show. Theoretically, the streaming guys are giving you notes based on data. Is data more intelligent than the average network executive? GD: Well, we were in a marketing meeting for Space Force very early on at Netflix and they said, ‘Let us tell you what we found works on our platforms.’ And they said, ‘We found that workplace ensembles with a large, diverse cast of funny people that include romantic entanglements and have very relatable humor work really well on our platforms.’ And you know, Steve and I looked at them and we were like, ‘Yeah you’re talking about The Office. We’re aware of that.’ MCN: Are you more comfortable releasing seasons in batches, like you do on the streaming services? Or do you think there was a merit to the weekly drip, drip of a series over 22 weeks? GD: Well, from the standpoint of somebody who's producing, the old system was good because you had a writing staff that was there the entire year. We would sometimes do 28 episodes a season and that provided enough employment for the writers to just be there year after year, the same people. So you were able to go, ‘OK. I know who’s good at this and is good at that, and you go cover the set and I’ll sit in the editing room and you do this.’ But with these eight- or 10-episode seasons, the writing staffs disappear, because they are



Greg Daniels has a big presence on three streaming platforms, with current Netflix series and Carell vehicle Space Force (top), current Amazon Prime Video series Utopia (inset) as well as The Office on Peacock (below).

only on for 2.4 weeks per episode. So they’re gone usually by the time you start shooting and then you’re all by yourself in post and it’s actually harder to do these small seasons because you end up doing more of it yourself. I think from the standpoint of the audience, the other thing is you could lose yourself in one of these old TV shows that have 100 episodes or 200 episodes in a way that it’s harder to do if you’re only if you’re doing 10 episodes every 18 months. By the time you get 30, 40 episodes it’s, you know, it’s been six years. I don’t know. I do think it’s a different experience. MCN: Has there been any discussion about having a reunion show for The Office? GD: Well, I hate to talk about that because every time I say anything about that you know

if that’s the only thing that anybody pays any attention to. So no comment on that. MCN: What are you watching that’s good out there in the television world? GD: I loved I May Destroy You. I thought that was terrific. And what else have I been watching? This is one of those weird things about Netflix. I just got into this Korean cop show called Bad Guys. You probably have not heard about this. And it’s affected my stream. I watched so much of this Korean cop show that the only thing that they are offering me are either Korean shows or other international cop shows. I’ve gone down this rabbit hole of Korean cop shows. But I really like Bad Guys. MCN: What’s the status of Space Force and Upload? GD: We’re writing season two of Space Force. The room is writing and we are going to shoot it in Vancouver starting in May. And we are shooting Upload starting next week. So right now, I’m just finishing doing all the production meetings and stuff like that. MCN: Would you go back into doing a broadcast show again? GD: Yeah, I would, actually. Because of what I said about the fun of being able to have a large staff around again. I think there’s something good about that. But so much depends on who you’re doing the show for, both the executives and who the audience is and what they’re going to want. ●




Senior content producer Michael Malone’s look at the programming scene

Mixed-ish Mixed-ish starts season two on ABC Tuesday. The Black-ish spinoff looks at Rainbow Johnson growing up in a mixed-race family. Also on Tuesday, Teen Mom OG starts on MTV. Amber, Catelynn, Cheyenne, Maci and Mackenzie share their most personal struggles. “The women are showcasing what it’s been like to be a mom in this current ‘new normal,’ ” said MTV. Friday, We Are: The Brooklyn Saints is on Netflix. The four-part docuseries follows a youth football program in New York. The


By Michael Malone michael.malone@futurenet.com @BCMikeMalone

All Aboard Season Two of ‘Snowpiercer’

Season two of Snowpiercer is on TNT Jan. 25. About a train whizzing around the world carrying the world’s last survivors, Snowpiercer has Daveed Diggs, Jennifer Connelly and Sean Bean in the cast. The series premiered in May. With so many people stuck at home due to the pandemic, a yarn about people trapped on a train offered a unique take on escapism. Showrunner/executive producer Graeme Manson mentioned “an all around sense of watching something close to home,” and said he was pleased with how Snowpiercer landed. “It made it feel of the zeitgeist,” he added. “There were political parallels going on at the time, and I

Resident Alien 10 Multichannel.com

don’t think that’s a bad thing. I like to squirm.” Season two offers some hardy head-to-head battles, including Connelly’s Melanie and Bean’s Mr. Wilford. Snowpiercer shoots in Vancouver. Manson doesn’t ride trains much in his “walkable” nabe, he said, but mentioned having crossed Canada twice on trains and digging the experience. “I love train lore and I love train songs — a Western song with a train in it,” he said. Dark as it may be, Snowpiercer also shows the decency of humankind. “Season two develops a theme of hope,” said Manson, “and the strength it takes to have hope.”

‘Alien’ Lands on Syfy

Resident Alien starts on Syfy Jan. 27. A mix of comedy and drama, the series follows Harry, an alien that crash-lands on Earth and passes himself off as a doctor in a small Colorado town. Chris Sheridan, longtime Family Guy writer, is showrunner and exec producer. The folks at Amblin sent him the graphic novel to gauge his interest in adapting it. “I loved the story, I loved the character, and I could see it as a show,” he said. Alan Tudyk plays Harry. Sara Tomko, Corey Reynolds and Alice Wetterlund are also in the cast. Sheridan notes “slight similarities” between Resident Alien and Family Guy, but “very different worlds.” Producers can get away with stuff on Family Guy because the characters are animated, he said, and on Resident Alien because the main character is an alien. The series begins with Harry trying to kill a boy who knows he’s an alien. “That’s not a likeable trait, wanting to kill a kid,” said Sheridan. “But you forgive him, and the horrible things he might do, because he’s an alien.” While Harry is on Earth, he’s searching for a device he lost when he crash-landed. He needs the thing to complete his mission, according to Sheridan. He called Fargo an influence. “We go for a similar tone,” he said. “Resident Alien has dramatic things in it and it’s also got some dark comedy. And the setting is specific to the show.” ●

We Are: The Brooklyn Saints “program is more than a sport — it’s a family, and a vehicle for opportunity,” said Netflix. Sunday, Desus & Mero is back on Showtime. Desus Nice and The Kid Mero host. Also on Sunday, The Lady and the Dale is on HBO. From Mark and Jay Duplass, this four-part documentary is about Elizabeth Carmichael, brains behind a fuel-efficient, three-wheeled car in the oil crisis of the ’70s. The Lady and the Dale


FRINGE BENEFITS After a year of pandemicfueled gains, cable operators are rolling out the broadband carpet by extending their networks deeper into less-populated areas

By Mike Farrell michael.farrell@futurenet.com @MikeFCable

tions from all providers, already rising at a

customers in Q3, its best showing ever. Smaller

healthy pace in 2019, grew by about 4.7% in Q3

operators like WideOpenWest, Atlantic

2020, or 2 percentage points above the prior

Broadband and Mediacom Communications

year, according to MoffettNathanson principal

also reached milestones.

and senior analyst Craig Moffett. Overall broadband penetration grew another 2 points

subscribers in 11 states from Maine to Florida,

adding more than 4 million customers

during the year to 85%, per Sanford Bernstein

added 23,475 broadband customers in the first

in the first nine months of that year,

media analyst Peter Supino.

nine months of fiscal 2020, a 25% increase over

fueled in part by the pandemic. But as

For cable operators, the growth trajectory

the prior fiscal year. The company has

hopes rise that COVID-19 will loosen its

was even more dramatic. According to

supplemented its edge-out efforts with federal

grip on the country, sending more

Moffett, cable broadband subscriber

and state grants, and has also partnered with

people back to offices and schools and poten-

additions rose 50% to 1.4 million in Q3 2020.

municipalities to share the cost of extending the

tially softening broadband gains, many

Overall, broadband subscriptions increased

network. And the efforts go beyond just

providers are looking toward the fringes of

at a 7.4% pace, nearly 3 points higher than a

pushing service boundaries.

their footprints and extending their networks

year before, in Q3 2019, and the fastest growth

deeper into less-populated areas for growth.

rate since 2009, according to Moffett.

Extending the footprint, or making “edge-

Telco broadband providers lost nearly 1% of

“We are not only pursuing edge-outs and working to connect new subdivisions,” Atlantic Broadband spokesman Andrew Walton said in

outs,” is nothing new for the industry. Many

their customers, that sector’s best showing

a statement. “We also are finding creative ways

operators have occasionally extended their

since 2016.

to connect established, previously unserved

reach within certain territories as popula-

Getty Images

Atlantic Broadband, which has about 492,000

able operators smashed records in 2020,

Practically every cable operator broke

subdivisions that due to distance from existing

tions shifted or new businesses have emerged

broadband subscriber records in 2020. Charter

plant would not meet traditional build criteria.

in less dense areas. But only recently have

Communications led the pack with an

By working closely with homeowners’

large and small operators focused on the

astonishing 850,000 customer additions in Q2, a

associations, we have found creative ways to

fringe as a potential growth area, encouraged

nearly fourfold increase over the prior year.

minimize risk, share costs and improve the rate

by improvements in technology and the

Lockdowns and work-from-home orders,

of return on costly projects, including sharing

availability of federal and state funds to

coupled with school closings across the country,

construction costs with HOAs and obtaining

extend their networks.

increased the need for ubiquitous broadband

service commitments from residents.”

It appears that 2020 was a breakout year for broadband. Residential broadband subscrip-

12 Multichannel.com

availability. Comcast, the largest cable operator in the country, added 633,000 broadband

Increasing speeds also helps boost service take rates, Walton continued, adding that more


than 90% of ABB’s footprint has access to 1

two years. According to Moffett,

Gigabit per second service. The rollout of its

footprint expansion had been flat

new managed WiFi offering also is expected to

or about 1% annually for the top

attract customer interest.

four publicly traded cable operators

WOW added 27,400 broadband customers in

prior to 2019.

the first nine months of 2020, more than it has

Charter and Comcast began to

in all of the past two years. Mediacom added

meaningfully increase that pace in

97,000 high-speed internet customers, the

2019, though, to around 2%, adding

largest three-quarter increase in its history.

nearly 1 million homes to their respective

While the early months of the pandemic

No matter what happens over the last two months of Q4, we’re going to end 2020 with a much higher amount of customers than any of us ever expected.

footprints during that year. In the first nine

drove big increases, that pace started to slacken

months of 2020, Charter added another 868,000

for some operators in Q3: Charter had 537,000

homes and Comcast added 764,000 homes,

broadband additions in the period. The pace is

suggesting it should meet or surpass its

expected to have slowed further in Q4.

previous pace.

According to Supino, Comcast should add about

— Christopher Winfrey, CFO, Charter Communications

Part of the Charter increase can be attributed

515,000 broadband customers when it reports

to the approval conditions for its purchase of

gives us confidence in our ability to go extend

Q4 results on Jan. 28, ending the year with

Time Warner Cable in 2016, in which it agreed

that investment concept.”

nearly 2 million additional customers. Charter

to build out about 2 million additional under-

should end Q4 with 350,000 broadband

served homes across the country. During its Q3 earnings conference call with

additions when it releases results on Jan. 29, adding nearly 2.5 million for the year. Altice USA, which hasn’t yet set a date to deliver Q4 earnings, should add 15,000 high-speed data subscribers in the period, pushing full-year gains to nearly 200,000.

Edge-Outs Have Surged Charter and Comcast both have stepped up initiatives to expand their networks in the past

Charter CFO Christopher Winfrey (top) and WideOpenWest CEO Teresa Elder both saw robust broadband gains at their companies in 2020.

At the Morgan Stanley Virtual European Technology, Media and Telecom conference in November, Winfrey said that despite quarterly

analysts, Charter chief financial officer

differences, 2020 was shaping up to be a very

Christopher Winfrey said that the overall effect

strong year for broadband.

of the edge-out program has been “meaningful,

“What we’ve said is that our quarterly net

not material,” but he was nevertheless pleased

adds, our quarterly performance, isn’t what

with connection rates in those expanded areas.

matters,” Winfrey said. “What really matters is

Charter has seen a “high level of consistency

the totality of the year and where are we going.

in terms of our ability to get to very high

And if you look at 2020, no matter what happens

terminal penetrations when we build into

over the last two months of Q4, we’re going to

markets,” Winfrey said. “And so, that’s what

end 2020 with a much higher amount of




customers than any of us ever expected.” He said he was optimistic that the company’s


edge-out plan will be worth the effort. “We’re investing in areas where the

markets, where the runs are longer and the homes farther apart, that cost could balloon to $4,000. But rural markets, with fewer competitors,

Cable operators enjoyed record broadband additions during the early months of the pandemic, but are expected to see those gains level off in the next few years.

economics and the payback are challenging to

have a much higher opportunity to sign up

begin with for the first operator to come in,”

passed homes for service. While 40% to 50%

Winfrey said at the Morgan Stanley conference.

penetration rates could be assumed for urban


“There really isn't any ROI [return on invest-

builds, Moffett added, in rural markets 80%

ment] for the second operator to come in which

penetration rates are not unreasonable. That

means you can have a lot of confidence in terms

return on investment makes the higher costs

of where your penetration ultimately will land,

more manageable. An urban market with a 50%

and we’ve seen that already. To be fair, the

penetration rate implies a cost of $4,000 per


Number of Broadband Additions 2019







1,317 1,948 1,050 1,050 1,050 1,050


1,283 2,249 1,280 1,100 900

Altice USA 72 191 90


85 70


Other Cable 145 135 135 135 135 134 Total

2,817 4,523 2,555 2,370 2,155 1,955

Broadband penetration rates are expected to soar over the next several years, fueled by strong gains at cable companies, which dominate the sector.




tion implies a cost that is just 25% higher,

[internal rate of return], because of your ability

Moffett wrote.

to have confidence in the penetration curve, is


unit of S&P Global Market Intelligence,

investment to make and we think there’s a

smaller markets are taking broadband at an

bunch of other tangible and intangible benefits

accelerated pace. Kagan found that although

that we’re not even baking into our analysis.”

there was a nearly 30 percentage-point gap in and urban markets, homes in less populated

extending the network via line extensions is

areas were increasingly signing on to service

one of four pillars of growth.

when it became available.


the wireline broadband

edge-outs, and more of

take rate in areas with 1.1

them are stepping up

homes per mile was about

their plans. At WideOpenWest, edge-outs have been a key part of overall broadband growth, according to

conference call with analysts, Elder said that footprint expansion accounted for about 1,900 of the 10,200 broadband customers the company added in Q3, its best showing in that category since Q3 2018. For the immediate future, the





company said it will focus


According to Kagan,

also seeing the benefits of

WOW’s third-quarter


wireline broadband take rates between rural

but has said that driving connections by

CEO Teresa Elder. In


According to Kagan, the media research

actually very high. We think it’s an attractive

Smaller operators are



home, while a rural market with 80% penetra-

longer than what we typically do. But the IRR

Comcast has kept its plans closer to the vest,

SOURCE: Company reports and Bernstein estimates


cash-on-cash payback for these projects is much

SOURCE: Company reports and Bernstein analysis and estimates

on its existing markets.

Now they’ve realized that when they’re home and need service, a cellular or mobile provider is not adequate for that.

54.3%, compared to 83%

— Jared Baumann, VP of broadband solutions, NCTC

take rates rise. According

Cable companies have methodically expanded their reach to extend service over the past several years, as evidenced by their increases in homes passed. (IN THOUSANDS)

2018 2019 2020 (THRU Q3)

per mile. “Wireline broadband penetration take rates in rural America are likely impeded by limited service access due to uneconomical cable and telco deployment, inhospitable terrain or a combination of both,” Kagan determined. But as service is deployed over time, the to Kagan, broadband networks with as few as 6.8 homes passed per mile saw a 2.4 percentage point

“While it continues to be important, we are now more focused on

increase in the take rates between 2016 and 2019,

increasing the penetration rates in current

with the largest jump (4.9 points) being in

markets rather than spending additional

communities with 48.5 homes per mile. In the

capital to push new ones, especially during the

densest markets, those with 280 homes per

pandemic,” Elder said. The numbers back up

mile, the increase was just 3.4 points.

that strategy. On the call Elder said that


in areas with 280 homes

“Of note, the most urban group shows only

broadband penetration rates in communities

the fourth-largest gains in penetration during

that were edged-out in 2018 increased to 19.6%

the interval under consideration, reminding

in Q3 from 18.5% in the previous period, while

industry observers that wireline broadband

rates in communities that were expanded in

maturity challenges loom,” Kagan said in

2019 grew to 14.8% from 13.6% in Q2.

the report.

Economics Have Improved

broadband solutions Jared Baumann said the

Increased penetration metrics is one reason

National Cable Television Cooperative VP of Kagan data points to the strong demand for

cable operators of all sizes are rethinking the

reliable high-speed service in rural areas, and

decision to expand their reach. In the past,

also signals how new products take time to

pushing the network out to less densely

take hold in small communities. He pointed to

populated areas was too costly. But a combina-

the early days of the pandemic, when many

Altice USA 8,737 8,818 8,987

tion of better technology and stronger rural

rural residents used their cellphones as

WideOpenWest 3,176

subscriber characteristics makes extending

hotspots for home internet connections. But

into less populated areas more feasible.

as work-from-home orders dragged on, they

Comcast Charter

57,790 58,694 59,458 51,185 52,154 53,022



Cable One 2,094 2,326 2,355 SOURCE: Individual company reports

14 Multichannel.com 14 Multichannel.com

In a research note, Moffett estimated that it can cost between $1,000 and $2,000 per home to extend fiber into an urban market. For rural

flipped that stance. “Now they’ve realized that when they’re home and need service, a cellular or


mobile provider is not adequate for that, you really need a landline connection,” Baumann said. “More than ever you need a landline connection.” Smaller operators are spending big money on wireless spectrum to extend their reach, which many see as a more economical way than fiber to push broadband out to the

served and in some cases, unserved.” Mediacom has also taken advantage of state

we’re participating in various programs around the country to expand the amount of service-

grants for broadband expansion. It received

able footprint that we can reach. And we think

grants for about a dozen communities in

if we do that, we’ll end up with more customers,

Alabama, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois and

and a happier customer and a better relation-

Minnesota last year and expects to apply for

ship with the total community."

more this year. “That’s an area where I think with the $3.2

Mediacom, which won about $2.5 million in phase one of the RDOF reverse auction,

billion that went into the last round of the

agreed, adding that extending the footprint

[federal COVID-19] stimulus, you’re going to see

not only potentially brings unserved or

about $30 million for CBRS spectrum in

companies jump on board. And that can come

underserved homes into the fold, it can create

federal auctions, according to senior VP of

from rural or urban areas,” Larsen said.

new businesses.

hinterlands. Mediacom Communications has spent

government and public relations Thomas

The RDOF program, which will hand out $20

“Piece by piece, we’re going to inch our fiber

Larsen. That additional spectrum should lead

billion in Universal Service Fund (USF)

out deeper, pick up more homes and when you

to more broadband subscribers, as the

subsidies for rural fixed broadband over the

combine it with the CBRS spectrum, hopefully

company plans to target communities that

next decade, also should help grease the

we close massive gaps in the coverage area,”

have access to high-speed data speeds of less

deployment skids. Charter was the biggest

Larsen said, adding that the opportunities are

than 50 Megabits per second, replacing it with

winner in the RDOF auctions, snagging $1.2

huge even in states where Mediacom has a

a service with speeds of 100 Mbps upstream

billion in awards in phase one, winning just over

strong presence.

and 20 Mbps downstream.

1 million of the 5.2 million locations available.

“We’re going to try to roll out a 100/20

At the virtual UBS Global TMT conference in

As an example, he pointed to Iowa, where Mediacom has large clusters in larger areas like

service so that in those areas we are a signifi-

December, Charter CEO Tom Rutledge said he

Cedar Rapids, Des Moines and Iowa City.

cant upgrade to whatever they have today,”

couldn’t talk specifically about plans for the

Outside of those markets are vast swaths of

Larsen said. “We think we’ll do OK in those

RDOF funding, because of a quiet period, but he

territory that are underserved.

areas. That is fertile ground.”

did comment on the idea of rural expansion.

Funds to Add Rural Homes

“We think it’s good for us financially to extend

“If you look at an Iowa broadband map, a lot of the geographic areas of the state look like

our broadband network and all of our network

they’re unserved because there is a lot of

capabilities to as many people as possible,”

farmland,” Larsen said. “Every mile, you may

edge-outs for years, the difference today,

Rutledge said. “And we think working with the

have four houses or six houses. Those don’t

beyond the fact that there is more and more

federal, local and state authorities to improve

have a wireline broadband provider today, so if

competition from overbuilders than in the past,

access to poles and rights of way, along with the

we can get them a 100-Mbps wireless service

is the availability of government funds, like the

proper subsidies, can get it done, and that we

quickly, that’s a new house passed.

Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF).

can have a bigger customer base and the

Although smaller operators have used

“In places that just would never make financial sense to build with private or

Getty Images

Charter CEO Tom Rutledge: “We think it’s good for us financially to extend our broadband network and all of our network capabilities to as many people as possible.”

communities that we serve can be expanded. “We think it’s smart for our company to do

“Ultimately, we would love to figure out a solution, using that same wireless service, to be a provider to the farm itself as a business

corporate monies, you can supplement some of

that,” he continued. “We think it can be done in

operation,” Larsen continued. “So, if they have

that with the funds that are coming from RDOF

an economically efficient way and by working

water sensors or they have tractors or combines

or other government stimulus programs,” Baumann said. “It’s great for people who

with regulatory authorities, state and federal authorities, that we can expand

or whatever that are moving around the farm and we can connect wirelessly to them from the

live in these areas, because these areas

our network and have a bigger

towers, that would be another business

have traditionally been vastly under-

footprint. We’ve embraced that and

opportunity.” ●

16 Multichannel.com


El Rey Network (2013-2020) Seeks Digital Afterlife Multicultural network talks to streaming services after discontinuing linear feed By R. Thomas Umstead thomas.umstead@futurenet.com @rtumstead30

MCN: Will you maintain the El Rey brand as part of any agreement you reach with a streaming service? CP: That is really part of the discussion. You can imagine some streamers have sub-brands within their brand where they try to delineate Black and Brown voices or diversity on screen, so I think each one is experimenting. El Rey Studios will continue to exist, but the streamers are all taking a different strategy so we’re talking to all of them.


El Rey Network

l Rey Network on Jan. 1 shut down its cable network feed after seven years, but will look to continue to reach its underserved, youth-targeted audience digitally. The English-language El Rey, founded by director/producer Robert Rodriguez and production company FactoryMade, launched in December 2013 as one of the first four minority-owned networks Comcast promised to launch in seeking government approval to acquire NBCUniversal in 2011. In some 40 million homes at its peak, according to published reports, El Rey was in 13 million households when it shut down linear network operations about two months after financial partner Univision Communications pulled out of the channel. During its run, El Rey aimed for underserved millennial and Latino viewers through such shows as wrestling show Lucha Underground; soccer-themed scripted series Matador, with Gabriel Luna and Alfred Molina; and interview programs such as The Director’s Chair with Robert Rodriguez and politically themed Maria. El Rey also served as a vehicle for diverse actors and actresses and a venue for directors to tell their stories and showcase their talent. Co-founder Cris Patwa and Maria host Maria Cardona discussed next steps for the El Rey brand. An edited version of the interview appears below. MCN: How much did Univision’s decision in November to pull financial support of the network influence El Rey’s move to stop its linear feed? Cris Patwa: We just had two different agendas. That partnership was great for the first seven years, when it was about doing these cable bundle deals where they could negotiate for all of us on our behalf. But everybody now is turning to streaming, so it just makes more sense for us to be with a streaming partner to reach English-speaking viewers. Seventy one percent of the Latino community has proficiency in English, and that is where we have always been. So that’s kind of where we are in the process of what we're calling chapter two amongst ourselves. Robert has already started to see success in that

18 Multichannel.com

producers, to showrunners, could have their voices heard. The other side of this is that El Rey was launched with massive support from the community and from grassroots activists, because they knew what a huge hole El Rey was going to be filling in terms of being the voice for Latinos in English. Robert created a diversity council [headed by Cardona] that was made up of the highest level of Latino leaders who advised him on how to navigate the sea of the political spectrum as well. We were at his side every step of the way from the creation of El Rey to, frankly, how it wound down and in looking at what the next iteration of [the company] will look like.

— his We Can Be Heroes movie on Netflix was the No. 1 movie [on the platform]. There is no way a network like ours could get the kind of distribution to be in front of that many eyeballs, much less get that many people viewing in such a short period of time. Netflix has already commissioned a sequel to We Can Be Heroes, and there’s more work to be done with Netflix with [Rodriguez’s Spy Kids movie franchise]. The more we got to understand the streaming world, the more we realized that the mission is better actually served where all the eyeballs are going. We are going to be able to reach that many people who are Latino and hold to our mission of inclusivity. MCN: Was El Rey successful in accomplishing its mission during its cable run? Maria Cardona: When we launched El Rey, it was there to not just to help Comcast and NBCUniversal meet the obligation that they had promised to meet in order to get approval for their merger, but it was a really important mission for Robert Rodriguez. He was adamant that he didn’t want this to just be a place where people went for great entertainment. He wanted it to be an incubating mission, meaning that he wanted to make sure that El Rey Network was a place where young Latinos and young multicultural talent from actors to screenwriters, to directors, to

El Rey Network co-founder Cris Patwa (c.) and host Maria Cardona (below) are plotting a new chapter for the network that was home to The Director’s Chair with Robert Rodriguez and guest Frank Darabont (above).

MCN: Will any streaming deal also include El Rey’s library product? MC: We have hundreds of hours in library content, so there’s so much content that I think others are interested in, whether it’s the Lucha Underground show or even the Maria show. The network has something that people have been interested in and could live under another brand or live under the El Rey brand. Also, another beauty about working with Robert is that El Rey is so connected to him, but the real brand is really Robert Rodriguez. Everything else El Rey does will be able to be uplifted just because it's connected to him. CP: Each streamer is different. Some might be interested in the Lucha, some are interested in the network’s documentary programming and some are interested in the talk stuff like the [The Director’s Chair] and Maria. We’re curious to see after they really dive into each one to see what they think could be an interesting fit and how they would go about looking at this with us. MCN: What is El Rey’s legacy within the industry? CP: Just as BET spawned the careers of so many through their platform, El Rey has given opportunities for Latino actors and directors to shine. The great thing is they come back to the community and build more stories and they bring more Latinos into their stories. They are reaching into the culture that’s here, not something that’s bought and imported from abroad. MC: Before Gabriel Luna was the Terminator [in the film Terminator: Dark Fate], he starred in one of El Rey’s first original series [Matador]. He may have never received that kind of exposure had he not gotten his start at El Rey Network. There are so many stories similar to that one, but I think that one really paints the picture of what Robert wanted El Rey to be. ●


Edward Burns Period Piece ‘Bridge and Tunnel’ Hits Epix Twenty-somethings eye big city but are reluctant to leave their hometown By Michael Malone michael.malone@futurenet.com @BCMikeMalone

Bridge & Tunnel: Myles Aronowitz/Epix; Losing Alice: Apple TV Plus


pix premiered the Edward Burns dramedy Bridge and Tunnel Jan. 24. Set in 1980, Bridge and Tunnel revolves around a group of recent college grads on Long Island, getting set to chase their dreams down the road in Manhattan. There are six halfhour episodes. Burns said the idea came to be in a conversation with Michael Wright, Epix president. The pair spoke about “the terrible state of the world,” Burns said. “We both thought it would be great to create a show that put a smile on your face.” Setting the series in 1980 came to be because “it’s a time period we both romanticize,” Burns said. The New York City music scene — punk, rap, new wave — was booming, and people did not peck away at their mobile phones. Burns said his young cast members asked what people would do with their friends in those days, and Burns replied that they’d sit in the backyard or on the hood of a car at a park and simply chat. “We’d be bullshitting for hours,” he said. The cast includes Sam Vartholomeos, Caitlin Stasey, Gigi Zumbado, JanLuis Castellanos, Brian Muller and Isabella Farrell. Burns sought out actors with authentic New York accents, though the Australian Stasey pulled off a convincing Lawn Guyland patois. “I’ve always been a stickler for New York accents,” said Burns, who noted how Stasey stayed in character throughout the shoot. Vartholomeos mentioned to Burns how he lamented not being able to shake his Queens accent while in acting school, only to be told by a professor to keep his eyes open for an Ed Burns project down the road. Burns has appeared in Saving Private Ryan, A Sound of Thunder and The Groomsmen, among other features, and directed films such as The Brothers McMullen, She’s the One and Purple Violets. He created, produced and starred in drama Public Morals, which aired on TNT in 2015. Burns initially envisioned Bridge and Tunnel as half set on Long Island and half in Manhattan, until COVID hit. With a chunk of

20 Multichannel.com

his budget dedicated to pandemic defense and New York City not giving out many film permits, he retinkered his scripts and set it all in the suburbs. An eight-episode season was trimmed to six. Asked about influences on Bridge and Tunnel, Burns mentioned how deftly The Big Chill used popular music from its era to spice up scenes. Burns sprinkled “forgotten classics from the ’70s” into Bridge and Tunnel, he said. Michael Wright pushed Burns to rewatch Diner, and study the rapport of the friends hanging out in the diner. Burns also mentioned 1967 classic The Graduate, “if Benjamin had five friends to hang out with, instead of Mrs. Robinson.” Bridge and Tunnel is set in “a more simple time” than the present, Burns said, when face time was an actual thing, not an app. “We weren’t tethered to our phones,” he added, “and maybe we talked to each other a little more.” ●

At top, Caitlin Stasey as Jill Shore and Sam Vartholomeos as Jimmy Farrell in Epix series Bridge and Tunnel. Below, Bridge and Tunnel cast members (l. to r.): Brian Muller, Gigi Zumbado, Isabella Farrell and JanLuis Castellanos.


LOSING ALICE (Now streaming on Apple TV Plus) APPLE TV PLUS goes behind the scenes of the cinematic creative process in its alluring new drama series Losing Alice. The Israeli-produced series follows Alice (Ayelet Zurer), a successful film director who, at 48 years old, has decided to settle down and be more of a traditional wife to her famous actor husband David (Gal Toren) and mother to her young children. Her creative juices are rekindled after meeting a 24-year-old upstart film director, Sophie (Lihi Kornowski). Sophie is a big fan of Alice’s edgy films. In a chance meeting with Alice on a train during the pilot episode, Sophie confides that she acted out a provocative sex scene from one of Alice’s films. Sophie tells Alice that she envisions Alice’s husband starring in her film. Already feeling somewhat irrelevant and dismissed by the industry since stepping away, Alice begins to obsess over Sophie’s script as she sees her younger self in Sophie’s youthful exuberance and unbridled passion for life and the filmmaking craft. Alice soon begins to emotionally and psychologically re-enter the life she once knew, leading to very dark and unintended consequences for Alice. In later episodes, Alice becomes more hands-on in the development of Sophie’s movie, creating a love triangle that threatens to test the relationships and careers of all involved. Losing Alice is a creative and sexy psychological drama that takes the viewer on a dark but seductive trip through the psychosis of an aging female director willing to do almost anything to rediscover her past self and triumphs. Zurer delivers a great performance as the troubled protagonist, while the erotic chemistry between Zurer and Kornowski will have viewers glued to their screens. The eight-episode series also stars Shai Avivi, Yossi Marshak and Chelli Goldenberg.— R. Thomas Umstead


Charter Still ‘In Process’ Of Managed WiFi Rollout No. 2 U.S. operator still hasn’t deployed in key markets such as L.A.


By Daniel Frankel daniel.frankel@futurenet.com @dannyfrankel


Comcast; LG

espite having announced adoption of managed WiFi technology, Charter Communications is, increasingly, an outlier among U.S. telecoms for having yet to launch an actual service. The eighth-largest cable company in the U.S., Atlantic Broadband, recently became the latest MSO to launch managed WiFi based on a cloud-based technology developed by Plume, OpenSync. Atlantic Broadband, which reported 492,212 broadband customers as of the end of September, is now offering these subscribers “WiFi Your Way.” Powered by Plume’s HomePass technology, the new service includes AI-driven optimization features, which adapt router settings to customer usage patterns to deliver better speed and performance over time. There are control and personalization features that let parents shut down and enable their kids’ devices from their iOS and Android smartphones.  There are also online security features, as well as home security enablements, such as motion detection.  The Atlantic Broadband announcement comes about 14 months after Charter, the No. 2 U.S. cable operator, said its Spectrum operations would deploy managed WiFi based on Plume’s core technology, the open-sourced, cloud-based software OpenSync.  But Charter still hasn’t deployed the managed WiFi service, which it calls “Advanced In-Home WiFi,” to key markets such as Los Angeles. 

22 Multichannel.com

For its part, Charter just published a self-produced Q&A with its top technology executive, Stephanie Mitchko-Beale, who said the company is “in the process of launching” Advanced In-Home WiFi “throughout our footprint.” The service, she said, will enable Charter’s more than 28.6 million home internet customers “control over their security and privacy by letting them see every device that’s connected to their network and how it’s being used. “Throughout the year, we plan to make Advanced WiFi available in more markets, and we continue to expand the availability to our own Spectrum-branded WiFi Pods to enable customers to maximize network connectivity throughout their home,” Mitchko-Beale added. Asked which Charter markets have seen Advanced In-Home WiFi deployments, a representative for the MSO referred Multichannel News to the Mitchko-Beale statement.  Notably, top U.S. cable operator Comcast, an early investor in Plume, has been offering managed WiFi services based on OpenSync to 30 million-plus broadband customers for several years.  For now, the limited penetration of managed WiFi doesn’t appear to be curtailing Charter’s overall proliferation of broadband services, with the cable operator adding 537,000 high-speed internet customers in the third quarter. ●

Charter’s Stephanie Mitchko-Beale says the MSO is in the process of making OpenSync-managed WiFi (above) “available throughout our footprint.”

SOUTH KOREA’S LG Electronics — the No. 4 Seller of smart TVs to the U.S., controlling around 12% of the market — has made a major upgrade to the operating system controlling those sets. Version 6.0 of webOS will power LG’s OLED, QNED Mini LED, NanoCell and UHD smart TVs. The software will be paired with an upgrade to the remote control packaged with these sets, dubbed Magic Remote.  The previous iteration of webOS featured a simple shortcuts bar with apps, HDMI destinations and other key data on the bottom of the screen, letting users see the programming as they worked the OS. Users could select, say, a specific streaming app from the shortcuts bar, and another row of data would appear, highlighting what was on that service. For webOS 6.0, the software now has a full, dedicated home screen, like most other OS platforms — a homogenization notably lamented by tech reviewers, who preferred the simplicity of the previous iteration.  Programming recommendations sit above a horizontal row of favorite apps. Other horizontally configured lists, such as live TV picks, unfurl below the apps list.  "The new home screen provides faster access to the most frequently used apps and streamlines content discovery with the ability to receive recommendations based on the user’s preferences and viewing history,” LG said in its announcement.  WebOS 6.0 will support voice commands for both Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa.  The new Magic Remote, meanwhile, includes dedicated buttons for Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney Plus and LG’s curated channel.  “The latest version of our user-friendly open TV platform webOS 6.0 represents the most significant update since we first introduced webOS in 2014,” said Park Hyoung-sei, president of LG Home Entertainment, in a statement. “With the new edition of webOS, LG is demonstrating its commitment of offering services, products and technologies that respond to the needs and wants of our valued customers.” — DF


Nathan Simington’s Unlikely Path to the FCC Regulator’s newest Republican looks to make the most of his surprising nod By John Eggerton john.eggerton@futurenet.com @eggerton


athan Simington got the unexpected nod from outgoing President Donald Trump last fall to join the Federal Communications Commission, a nomination he says he was surprised to get but is clearly determined to make the most of. In this exclusive interview, his first as FCC commissioner, Simington talks about his road from rural (and urban) Saskatchewan to a seat on the FCC, talks about the best way to spur broadband deployment and explains his take on the hot-button Section 230 debate and more.

Commerce.Senate.gov via screenshot

MCN: Briefly tell us how you got from a rural community in Saskatchewan, Canada, to the FCC. Nathan Simington: My family has always split its time — six months in each place — between my family farm in Kincaid, Saskatchewan, which you will have trouble finding on a map because it only has two or three hundred people, and Saskatoon, which is one of the principal cities. I originally moved to the United States in 1999 when I was offered a scholarship to a college in Wisconsin. I went back to Canada for a couple of years for grad school but returned to the United States in 2003, and I guess this time it stuck. [Simington is a naturalized U.S. citizen.] My background was originally in academia. I was planning to become a professor. But along with a lot of people between 2006 and 2008 [the economic meltdown] when there were a lot of changes in society generally, I decided to try something else. I received my green card in 2007 and after working for a year in the market research industry I decided to go to law school, which eventually led me here today. MCN: You were at the National Telecommunications & Information Administration for only five or six months before being tapped for this post. What was your role there? NS: I was the senior adviser in the front office, which means I was working daily with the deputy assistant secretary and assistant secretary to formulate policy and responses on a wide variety of issues. But my primary focuses were wireline issues, spectrum issues and internet governance issues.

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MCN: How did you find out you had been nominated to the FCC? NS: I must say I was surprised. I understand that the White House spoke to a number of people trying to determine who they wanted to nominate. I got a call that they had decided to offer me the candidacy. I think they had been interested in a number of the reforms and interagency cooperation initiatives that I had discussed. Even so, there was a lot to learn and a lot of people to meet with and convince. Somehow that wound up with me being here today. MCN: Let’s talk about internet governance and Section 230. The Democrats have said that it was your work on that issue [Simington worked on a petition to the FCC mandated by the president] that got you the FCC job. You say the nomination surprised you. Why do you think the president picked you? Was your Section 230 expertise part of the reason? NS: I would not claim to have been a Section 230 expert when I was hired by NTIA. I developed a certain amount of experience with 230 and knowledge of the related legal and regulatory issues during the course of my appointment there. But, frankly, you could find any number of people in August or September of 2020 who would have been much more prominent in the Section 230 world than I was. I had never published on it and never participated in a single conference on it. Until as recently as October, I don’t think the position had even emerged that Section 230 was within the FCC’s regulatory competence. Obviously, I have become identified by both parties with the Section 230 controversies. To the extent there is any basis for that identification, I want to point out that it is now moot. Whoever is the new chair or acting chair will be the person with the agenda-setting ability and chairman Pai has said no 230 item is going to come up during his tenure. [President Joe Biden named Democratic commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel as acting FCC chair on Jan. 21.] So, what the future holds for Section 230 remains extremely unclear. That ties into the larger question of how, if at all, the U.S. government is going to choose to regulate social media. So, I suspect this is going to be the

Nathan Simington, formerly an official with the NTIA, speaks during his Senate confirmation hearing.

focus of legislation for some time to come as Congress hashes out how, if at all, it wants to address the question. MCN: Do you think social media needs regulating? NS: On the larger question of a social media regulatory regime, I don’t think the FCC has any broad power in that area. As far as whether I would like the FCC to take up a Section 230 rulemaking, I think we would need a very detailed consultative process to determine whether, in the end, that was wise. MCN: What is your regulatory philosophy? NS: Coming from private industry rather than the D.C. telecom bar, I put a lot of emphasis on the effect of capital management on business and the difficulties of doing so in an uncertain regulatory environment. On my regulatory philosophy generally, obviously the FCC has a mandate from Congress to act in the public interest and the FCC has an obligation to do so and not to allow its judgment to be clouded by other considerations. MCN: What is the best way for the government to promote broadband adoption and should broadband speeds or affordability — including price regulation — be part of that conversation? NS: As far as price regulation for broadband, I think that is a little bit of a dangerous route to go down. Price regulation can be seen as a way of immediately capturing benefits for the consumer because they are able to get more of the upsides of a given infrastructure investment than they would have been able to otherwise. But if it has chilling effects on further infrastructure investment then you can wind up capping the structural ability of that sector to absorb capital and, if that is the case, then that one-time bonus is never going to be repeated. As far as other aspects of how to roll out broadband better, I think that it is clear that more Americans have more and better broadband than has ever been the case, and this is true year after year. So, again, this becomes a question of progressing to the end of that and identifying the remaining obstacles. I am very excited about the proliferation of broadband technologies in just the past few years. LEO (low earth orbit) satellites were the number two winner in RDOF [the FCC’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund subsidy auction] and you have heard great things from very remote and underserved communities that suddenly find themselves with broadband where they had nothing prior. So that is an example no one would have predicted a few years ago. But keeping our thumbs off the scale has allowed investors to find enough confidence in this to make the billions of dollars in investment up front to make it. ●


People Notable executives on the move BRIEFLY NOTED Other industry execs making moves





Christina Spade has joined AMC Networks as executive VP and chief financial officer. The longtime CBS and Showtime Networks execu­ tive most recently was executive VP and CFO of ViacomCBS.

Cinedigm in Los Angeles has elevated Gary Loffredo to president, responsible for day-to-day management. He will continue in his current roles as chief operating officer, general counsel and secretary.

Yolanda Macias has been elevated to chief content officer, Cinedigm Entertain­ ment Group, responsible for global content acquisition across all platforms and content marketing. She had been executive VP of CEG.

INSP has promoted Tara Brown to senior director, media relations, leading a team responsible for all press and media activities for INSP series and films. She had been the network’s director of media relations.





NBCUniversal Telemundo Enterprises has added Ezequiel Fonseca Zas as senior VP, revenue strategy and distribu­ tion. He was GM of streaming platforms and senior VP of mobile partnerships at ViacomCBS International.

Malu Carmona-Botana was tapped as VP, content moneti­ zation at NBCUniversal Telemundo Enterprises. She comes from A+E Networks, where she worked as director of content distribution strategy.

Chris Falkner has joined Next Media Partners as a partner. He is the former VP of advanced TV at Cuebiq and a former senior VP, advanced TV and next generation TV strategy at NBCUniversal.

Next Media Partners has added Patrick Donoghue as a partner He is a former VP, ITV product management at Time Warner Cable and senior VP, user experience and emerging products at Cablevision Systems.





Univision Communications has named Pierluigi Gazzolo as president and chief transfor­ mation officer. He had been president of streaming and studios at ViacomCBS Networks International.

Luis Silberwasser joined Univision Communications as president, Univision Televi­ sion Networks Group. He was president of NBCUniversal’s Telemundo Networks from 2014 to 2018.

Donna Speciale was named president of advertising sales and marketing at Univision Communications. She most recently worked at Warner­ Media, where she was president of Turner Ad Sales.

Whip Media has named Sherry Brennan as executive VP and general manager of its content licensing technology division. She was senior VP, distribution of Fox Networks Group before becoming a consultant in 2019.

26 Multichannel.com

Adaptive Spirit, cableindustry organizer of the annual Denver benefit for the U.S. Paralympic Ski Team, added two board members: Colleen Langner, senior VP of field operations, Cox Communications; and Ewam de Freitas, VP of product and technology, Liberty Latin America. … Erick Opeka was named chief strategy officer of Cinedigm Corp. He will continue as president of the Cinedigm Networks unit. … White-label overthe-top service OTTera has tapped Daniel Barnathan as executive VP, ad sales. He comes from Media Solution Worldwide, where he was president. … Sinclair Broadcast Group promoted Billy Robbins to VP and general manager of WBFF Baltimore, with oversight over the company’s provision of services to WNUV Baltimore. He had been WBFF’s station manager. … Cloud communications provider Vonage has named Jay Bellissimo as chief operating officer. He had been general manager of IBM U.S. Public and Federal Market. … Univision Communications promoted Amy Tenbrink and Glenn Dryfoos to co-interim general counsel and Friday Abernethy to executive VP, content distribution and partnerships.


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 (Jan. 11-17)



Brands ranked by the greatest increase in TV spend (Jan. 11-17)

Brands ranked by TV ad impressions (Jan. 11-17)


JPMorgan Chase (Credit Card)

Spend Increase:

▲ 566%


Est. TV Spend:

Top Show:

Top Network:

GEICO ▲ 312%

$7.2M 38% ESPN


Estimated media value of in-network promos


With 392.7 million TV ad impressions, a Fox promo for 9-1-1 and 9-1-1: Lone Star takes first place. Fox also pops up in an NFL promo — along with NBC and CBS — for divisional playoff games, at No. 3. CBS’s fourth-place finish with The Equalizer means traditional broadcasters had the edge in the top five. Rounding out the ranking: Cable nets CNN and TNT, respectively, for Lincoln: Divided We Stand in second and Snowpiercer in fifth. Notably, the CNN spot has the highest iSpot Attention Index (116) in the ranking, 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). Multichannel.com

Est. TV Spend: Spend Within Industry: Top Network:

TV Ad Impressions:


Est. TV Spend:


Interruption Rate: Top Show:


NFL Football


Google Phones Spend Increase:

Home Town



Est. Media Value: $2,445,841



Spend Within Industry:

Total TV ad impressions within all U.S. households, including national linear (live and time-shifted), VOD plus OTT and local


Top Network:

Est. TV Spend:

TV Ad Impressions: 392,734,221

Est. TV Spend: Interruption Rate:

Spend Increase:


TV Ad Impressions:


Dr Pepper


Discovery Plus

Spend Within Industry:


9-1-1 and 9-1-1 Lone Star, Fox


Liberty Mutual ▲ 292%

$4.2M 13% ESPN

TV Ad Impressions:


Interruption Rate: Top Show:

1.4B $13.4M

Est. TV Spend:

NFL Football

1. 9-1-1 | 9-1-1: Lone Star, Fox TV Ad Impressions  Est. Media Value 

392,734,221 $2,445,841

2. Lincoln: Divided We Stand, CNN TV Ad Impressions  Est. Media Value 

313,428,605 $403,522

3. NFL Football, CBS/Fox/NBC TV Ad Impressions  Est. Media Value 

4. The Equalizer, CBS TV Ad Impressions  Est. Media Value 

5. Snowpiercer, TNT

TV Ad Impressions  Est. Media Value 

294,846,377 $15,129 236,059,604 $4,295,568


Spend Increase: Est. TV Spend:

Progressive ▲ 260%


TV Ad Impressions:


Interruption Rate:

Top Network:


Top Show:


2.28% NFL Football


Apple TV Plus Est. TV Spend:

1.3B $32.6M

Est. TV Spend:

Spend Within Industry:

Spend Increase: 231,170,874 $2,941,955


Truist Financial

Allstate ▲ 255%


TV Ad Impressions: Est. TV Spend:

Spend Within Industry:


Interruption Rate:

Top Network:


Top Show:

1.2B $28.9M 2.31%

NFL Football



MCN’S MOST VIEWED Top stories on multichannel.com, Jan. 7-20

THE OFFICE, WHICH was the top show on a streaming service with more than 73 million U.S. subscribers until New Year’s Day, is now even more popular on a platform with only around 26 million active users. That’s Reelgood’s story, and it’s sticking with it. The company, which specializes in directing viewers to the shows they want to stream, said nearly 10% of the streams delivered for a cohort of 2 million-plus users during the week of Jan. 1-7 went to The Office on Peacock. (See related story, page 6.) The show premiered exclusively on Peacock Jan. 1. According to Nielsen, The Office was Netflix’s mostwatched show for the week of Dec. 14-20, with all 192 episodes attracting around 1.311 billion minutes of viewing on the No. 1 U.S. SVOD platform. But according to Reelgood, for that week, The Office accounted for just less than 3% of the cohort’s Reelgood-arbitrated streams. Despite the popularity on The Office on its platform,

4. HBO Max Extends 22% Off Promotion 5. Viewer Watch 2021: More Streaming, More Uncertainty To read these stories, go to multichannel.com.

*Based on Reelgood streaming data from more than 2 million users in the United States 10%


3. New NBCU Carriage Deal with Charter Includes ‘Free Extended Trial’ of Peacock Premium

For more stories like this, go to nexttv.com.

The Office Weekly Shares of U.S. Streaming

1. Cable One to Launch IPTV Offering 2. Roku CFO Louden: We Are Not Like a Cable Company

Netflix didn’t exactly go out of its way to surface the show in the waning weeks before it bolted to a competitor. NBCUniversal, which paid more than $100 million pocketto-pocket for exclusive domestic streaming rights, has made The Office a key component of Peacock’s promotion. Still, the discrepancy seems hard to fathom. “The continued popularity of The Office says more about the content than the service that’s streaming it,” Dietrich von Behren, Reelgood’s chief business officer, said. “People will follow the programs they love and also subscribe to an additional service for new must-see shows. By offering the first few seasons of The Office on their free tier, Peacock was very strategic — creating excitement by enticing existing fans and newbies alike, which surely helped promote their debut and drive new subscribers.” — Daniel Frankel

The Office was available via Netflix U.S.


The Office began streaming via Peacock (Jan. 1, 2021)




Dec. 4-10, 2020

Dec. 11-17, 2020

Dec. 18-24, 2020

Dec. 25-31, 2020

Jan. 1-7, 2020

Jan. 8-14, 2020

DATES COVERED ** Shares of streams are relative to the top 100 most-watched TV show by Reelgood users during the specific dates covered. SOURCE: Reelgood

STICKIEST SHOWS Top 10 cable programs ranked by viewer engagement Stickiness Ratings Rank Rank

Telecast (Week Ending Jan. 10)


Stickiness Index*



2021 IIHF World Junior Championship

NHL Network




A New Year’s Resolution





90 Day Fiancé





The Curse of Oak Island





Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Reunited and It Feels So Deadly Hallmark Movies 140



La Rosa de Guadalupe





WWE Monday Night Raw





The Real Housewives of Atlanta





Winter in Vail





Below Deck



Cable One; Hallmark Channel


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


Ratings Rank

Telecast (Week Jan. 10)


Stickiness Index*



NFL Wild Card: Tampa Bay vs. Washington





NFL Wild Card: Cleveland vs. Pittsburgh





Todo Por Mi Hija





Vencer El Desamor





Blue Bloods





Imperio De Mentiras





Dulce Ambición





Aquí Y Ahora










This Is Us



Stickiness Rank

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 JAN. 11 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.


Cobra Kai

Share of binges: 2.16%


Schitt’s Creek

Share of binges: 1.73%



Share of binges: 1.71%



Share of binges: 1.68%


Criminal Minds

Share of binges: 1.66%







Top five stories on nexttv.com, Jan. 7-20

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

Share of binges: 1.39%


Grey's Anatomy

Share of binges: 1.15%

2. Roku CFO Louden: We Are Not Like a Cable Company


Attack on Titan

Share of binges: 1.11%

3. Comcast to Integrate Disney Plus and ESPN Plus Into X1 and Flex



Share of binges: 0.97%

4. Sinclair Set to Launch ‘National Desk' Jan. 18

One Piece

Share of binges: 0.79%

5. New NBCU Carriage Deal with Charter Includes ‘Free Extended Trial’ of Peacock Premium






LAST WEEK: — This Is Us: NBC


Networks reflected don't include every viewing platform available nor total viewing in share of binge

30 Multichannel.com

To receive “The Binge Report” and otherTV Time reports, visit https://www.whipmedia.com/subscribe/

1. Cable One to Launch IPTV Offering

To read these stories, go to nexttv.com.

Crazy Rich Asians: Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.; Sweet Home Alabama: Arnaldo Magnani/Contributor/Getty Images; Pretty Woman: Hulton Archive/Handout


MOST POPULAR ROMCOMS Which is your favorite romantic comedy from the 2000s? Rank



Sweet Home Alabama


My Big Fat Greek Wedding


50 First Dates


Crazy Rich Asians



Which is your favorite romantic comedy from the 1990s? Rank



Pretty Woman


There's Something About Mary


The Wedding Singer


10 Things I Hate About You


Sleepless in Seattle

Ahead of Valentine’s Day, movie platform Redbox asked a panel of 726 of the platform’s engaged customers to share their favorite romantic moves. Respondents were polled from Dec. 29 to Jan. 15.




The Capitol Siege: Images That Linger FCC members weigh in on unrest, uncertainty in D.C.

Tom Williams/Getty Images; FCC (2); Commerce.Senate.gov

The following is excerpted from the Jan. 13 Federal Communications Commission open meeting statement of commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, who was named acting chair of the agency on Jan. 21: I WORKED FOR many years in the Capitol. I know its towering heights, secluded corners, and labyrinth hallways. But it’s not the loftiness of those spaces that I find most compelling. It’s what’s down below on the floors. I’ve traversed them too many times to count, heading back and forth, clicking on the tiles in less-than-sensible work shoes. I think the most beautiful floor tiles in the Capitol are the mid-19th century encaustic mosaics. The clay is inlaid, so the colors in the tiles are especially vibrant and diverse. It’s like the metaphor for our union is right there on the ground. Even where these mosaic floors are uneven and worn, what strikes you most is the durability. They have survived so much in our history. History, of course, is always being written. The violence done to the Capitol last week is an especially ugly chapter. To see those sacred spaces desecrated stings. To see those gorgeous floors smeared with feces and hate hurts. To see the Confederate flag paraded across those tiles sears and burns. And to watch those disowning the hatred that brought us here when for too long they walked too casually alongside it is difficult. It was Martin Luther King Jr. who said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that.” Now we have an opportunity to lean into the light. As a nation we need connections — physical and digital — that strengthen our mutual bonds. We need connections that remind us that our states are united and our interdependence is powerful. And as if on cue, a new appropriations law has provided this agency with authority to help do just that. Congress directed us to establish an Emergency Broadband Benefit to expand access to high-speed connections and assist those struggling in the ongoing economic crisis. It tasked the agency with expanded support for telehealth and provided funding that will make our networks more powerful and more secure. We also cannot forget the millions of students caught in the homework gap because they lack high-speed service at home and are locked out of the virtual classroom. In short, we have real work to do. Work that helps ensure that safe, reliable, and

32 Multichannel.com

Rioters enter the Capitol at the House steps during a joint session of Congress to certify the Electoral College vote on Jan. 6. affordable communications reach 100% of this country — rural areas, urban areas, and everything in between.

bedrock expectations of every American citizen and it is what distinguishes American democracy from other governments around the world and I believe that to my core regardless of political affiliation.

Rosenworcel was not the only commissioner to weigh in on the siege. Ajit Pai, FCC chairman until last Wednesday (Jan. 20), addressed it in an interview for C-SPAN’s The Communicators series: THE SCENES WE saw were outrageous and extremely disappointing to those of us who cherish American democracy, one hallmark of which is the peaceful transition of power. I think it was a terrible mistake to suggest that the results of the election, and particularly the process that culminated in the Senate and the House [the vote to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s victory] could in any way be changed. That was a terrible mistake and one I do not believe should have been indulged. Given the circumstances that we saw — armed guards defending the Senate chamber, people wielding Confederate flags in the seat of the United States government and other actions like that — were completely unacceptable and completely outrageous and, as I said on Twitter in real time, we must be governed by the rule of law, not by the rule of the mob. Law and order must be restored and democracy must be respected. These are the

FCC newcomer Nathan Simington, an immigrant to this country, also weighed in on the violence as his first public statement as commissioner, with the preamble that he was someone who had “embraced the gift of citizenship.” (For more, see Policy, page 24.) He condemned the violence and urged everyone to work together for a peaceful transfer of power, suggesting working together begins at home, home being his new one at the FCC:

(From top): Acting FCC chairJessica Rosenworcel, former chairman Ajit Pai and commissioner Nathan Simington

I LOOK FORWARD to working in the public interest with my colleagues commissioners [Brendan] Carr, Rosenworcel and [Geoffrey] Starks, as well as the president-elect’s new nominee. Our mandate at the commission is to work for the benefit of all Americans. Should we disagree on some issues, we would do well to remember Thomas Jefferson’s words at the time of another presidential transition, the first in which the Administration changed parties: “Every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle. We have called by different names brethren of the same principle.” ●


John Chachas

CEO, Inyo Broadcast Holdings Investment banker betting on broadcast’s health, big tech’s ‘comeuppance’


ohn Chachas started his own boutique investment bank — Methuselah Advisors — with Lazard colleague Louis Zachary in 2010, soon after falling short in a bid to unseat then-U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in his home state of Nevada. (He placed fourth in the Republican primary, losing to Sharron Angle, who was later defeated by Democratic incumbent Reid.) For the longtime financial executive, with decades of experience as an investment banker with Lazard, Merrill Lynch and First Boston, it was a blessing in disguise. Methuselah carved out a niche in broadcast deals, most recently advising E.W. Scripps in its $2.65 billion purchase of Ion Media. The boutique bank was instrumental in bringing Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway in as an equity participant. In part to ensure regulatory approval of that deal, Chachas bought 23 Ion stations, creating Inyo, which reaches about 16% of U.S. TV households. He spoke with Multichannel News senior content producer, finance Mike Farrell about the television industry and his plans for the broadcaster. An edited transcript follows.

Ion Media

How did Methuselah come about? About 11 years ago, I had done something nuts and ran in the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate. When I lost in that primary back in my home state of Nevada, rather than returning to a larger firm, I decided I wanted to do something that was a little more entrepreneurial. Today, Methuselah is a small

place, but we punch above our weight. I have a great team in place. My partner Louis Zachary and I have been together for 35 years, starting back to First Boston in the early 1980s. Whether it’s selling Rolling Stone or the New York Daily News, which we did, or working on bigger deals like Ion, now we are putting our own money to work in things like Inyo. How did you get Berkshire involved in the Scripps deal? Some years ago, I got to know one of the key people at Berkshire Hathaway, a really terrific guy named Ted Wechsler [Berkshire’s investment manager], and I talk to Ted actively about deals. Having known Scripps for 40 years and knowing Ted like I did, I felt the two of them would get along pretty well from their history, roots and value systems. Frankly the credit goes to [Scripps CEO] Adam Symson and Ted. I had a good hunch and the hunch worked out, but it was really their work that turned it into a deal. Why did you think it’s a good time to get into broadcast? I think there is a reckoning on the horizon, which is going to be very positive for over-the-air television and for people that have good creative content. Big tech in this country has financially benefited disproportionately from the content created by others. I think there's a big comeuppance that is about to happen and personally I think, notwithstanding how great it is to have all these choices for streaming, the American consumer wants good content and wants it preferably free. We made a tactical bet that

John Chachas says Ion has built a profitable niche with fare like Canadian import Private Eyes, starring Jason Priestley and Cindy Sampson.

34 Multichannel.com


the over-the-air station ecosystem was going to be healthy and grow.

All-time favorite TV show? Seinfeld

Scripps has said it will not seek retransmission-consent fees for the Ion stations it bought. Will Inyo do the same? We will do the same. I think the retrans fee marketplace is suitable for certain kinds of local over-the-air broadcast assets. In this instance we’re best served by preserving our channel position and making sure that we’re carried, that the multicast channels that all these stations have are carried. I think we are better off focusing on the continuation of that model than we are trying to extract money out of the MVPDs that feel already burdened.

Books on your nightstand? The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family and Defiance During the Blitz by Erik Larson; Invent and Wander: The Collected Writings of Jeff Bezos; The Reagan Diaries by Ronald Reagan Favorite app? Probably YouTube, just because I find increasingly there are so many useful applications beyond the entertainment aspect. Destinations on your vacation bucket list? I am Greek by heritage, so I go back to Greece virtually every summer. Croatia, Vietnam, New Zealand. Favorite podcast? I love listening to Ben Shapiro [The Ben Shapiro Show] and Joe Rogan [The Joe Rogan Experience], not necessarily because I agree with all of their politics, but I just find the pace of the podcasts incredibly entertaining.

How do you compete with other larger network-affiliated broadcasters? Is there a big enough niche? People don’t realize Ion makes a lot of money. It is a very successful, genre-specific entertainment asset. The management team did a great job building awareness of Ion as a destination for specific kinds of content. Our relationship is that as long as Ion is successful, we’ll be successful. We’ll just continue to ride in that wake for now. Might we do something else in other broadcast areas in the future? I don’t know. Maybe, if we see attractive things to add, but in the near term we intend to be a supportive partner of that asset. ●


Profile for Future PLC

Multichannel News - January 25, 2021  

Multichannel News - January 25, 2021

Multichannel News - January 25, 2021  

Multichannel News - January 25, 2021