FuboTV Boots Up Next-Gen App on Fire TV
AMC Orders ‘Geeking Out’ Late Night Talk Show
TV Everywhere Continues Its Climb

ESPN Aboard New FiOS Skinny Tier

ESPN Aboard New FiOS Skinny Tier

FiOS TV, which shook up the pay TV universe last year with the introduction of Custom TV, a skinny bundle without sports juggernaut ESPN, has revamped that offering, introducing a new Custom TV package – Sports & More – that includes the Worldwide Sports Leader for the same price.

Custom TV subscribers still have the option of selecting a sports-free package — which FiOS is calling Custom TV Essentials. The difference is now they also have the choice of selecting an option that includes sports channels — Custom TV Sports & More — for the same monthly price.

ESPN had chafed at being left out of the original Custom TV package, and even went as far as suing Verizon over breach of contract, but that suit never seemed to move forward.

But dropping ESPN from Custom TV seemed to fuel speculation that the once must-have cable network was losing steam, which was exacerbated by Nielsen data that showed the channel had lost about 3 million subscribers in 2015.

Disney chairman and CEO Bob Iger hinted that ESPN had worked out a deal with Verizon on the media giant’s fiscal first quarter conference call, adding that the sports channel was in talks with several skinny bundle and OTT service providers. While Iger and other content and distribution CEOs have pointed out that fatter bundles still appear to be the most popular with viewers, ESPN seemed pleased with its addition to the Custom TV tier.

“We are encouraged by the changes that Verizon has made to Custom TV,” ESPN said in a statement. “We expect the vast majority of Verizon subscribers to continue to get ESPN as part of their Extreme HD or Preferred HD package and we welcome the opportunity for additional subscribers to enjoy ESPN and ESPN2 as part of the new entry-level Custom TV offering.”

After all the hype, Verizon said it will introduce new Custom TV bundles this Sunday (Feb. 21) aimed at appealing to a broader range of customers, adding that the new packages are designed with the same goal as the original: “to give customers the flexibility and choice to only pay for the types of channels they want and not the ones they don’t.”

The new plans are:

Custom TV – Essentials: Including about 75 channels such as Discovery Channel, Lifetime, History, Bravo, Fox News, Nickelodeon, MSNBC, CNN, Hallmark Channel, FX, Food Network, Disney Channel, MTV, Spike, USA and Turner Classic Movies.

Custom TV – Sports & More: All the regional sports channels in the customer’s service area, as well as about 55 channels such as ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, Fox Sports 1, NBC Sports Network, the NFL Network, and non-sports channels including Cartoon Network, CNBC, Syfy and TNT.

After choosing their plan, customers can enhance their channel lineup by selecting up to three additional, genre-based add-on packs for only $6 each – Movie Lovers Pack, Kids Teens & Family Pack, and the Global Sports Pack.

Custom TV customers will also receive the Fios TV Local package, which includes the customer’s local broadcast channels and other local programming.

“For many customers, less is more – they would rather pay less and get more of the content they are actually interested in,” said Verizon Consumer and Mass Business Group president Tami Erwin in a statement. “The original Custom TV has proven very popular since we launched it last year, and we’ve incorporated our customers’ feedback to make the next generation of Custom TV even better with a simpler choice and a much wider variety of channels available.”

Custom TV triple plays with Fios Digital Voice and Fios Internet with symmetrical upload and download speeds of 100 megabits per second, start at $69.99 per month online. Standalone versions of both packages are prices at about $54.99 per month each.

Customers that want the most content can also still purchase Verizon’s more traditional Fios TV plans such as Preferred HD, Extreme HD or Ultimate HD.

TiVo Study: NBC the Least Time-Shifted Broadcast Net

TiVo Study: NBC the Least Time-Shifted Broadcast Net

NBC, with 52% of its primetime programming viewed out of pattern, had the least time-shifted prime among the Big Five broadcast networks, according to TiVo’s State of TV report, which reflects the fourth quarter of 2015. At the other end of the broadcast scale, The CW had the most time-shifted viewing, at 78%, surpassing all cable networks in terms of time-shifting in prime

On the broadcast side, between NBC and The CW, Fox weighed in at 56%, then ABC at 63% and CBS at 64%.

The most time-shifted cable network in terms of prime was Bravo (69%), followed by BBC America and AMC (60%), FX (59%) and Syfy (58%). Weather Channel, ESPN, Sprout and TBS were among the least time-shifted.

Top time-shifted cable series were BBC America’s Doctor Who, FX’s Fargo and Freeform’s Switched at Birth.

The data was gathered from an anonymous sample of 350,000 TiVo DVRs in October-December.

Read more at broadcastingcable.com.

WWE Pins Down New Website

WWE Pins Down New Website

WWE Thursday launched a revamped WWE.com website that will provide fans with a rich multi-media, multi-language experience across multiple platforms.

The site, which was developed in collaboration with publishing/design company Code and Theory, features an all-new look with a variety of site designs and experiences that changes daily, according to network officials.

The mobile-friendly site will also feature a persistent, site-wide video experience that presents relevant clips depending on when fans visit the site and what pages they visit.

The WWE will also launch English, Spanish and German language versions of the site that will offer locally relevant content driven by WWE teams around the world who will curate up-to-the-minute content during and around all WWE live TV programming.

Also included are improved social sharing and commenting features and an infinite scroll on the homepage and key destinations allowing users to explore unlimited content options, saidthe WWE.

“WWE has always been at the forefront of embracing new technology, and the all-new WWE.com will allow us to better serve our fans by providing them with compelling content anytime, anywhere on the platform of their choice,” said Rajan Mehta, WWE Executive Vice President & Chief Technology Officer. “With locally relevant content, WWE.com will enhance the experience for our fans around the world.”

Time Warner Shares Hit Hard Over Q4 Results

Time Warner Shares Hit Hard Over Q4 ResultsTime Warner Inc. chairman and CEO Jeff Bewkes

Time Warner, under pressure as activist investors reportedly circle the media giant looking for ways to break it up, didn’t help its case to remain independent as fourth quarter results across all of its divisions came in below expectations.

Time Warner shares fell hard in early trading on the New York Stock Exchange, opening at $56.26 per share, down 12% (6.95 each). The company is scheduled to hold a conference call with analysts to discuss results at 10:39 a.m. By around 11 a.m., during the call with analysts, TWI was up to $60.71, down about 4% from the opening.

(UPDATE FROM THE CALL: TWI, HBO execs call out progress on HBO Now, which has hit 800,000 paying subscribers.)

Overall revenue fell 6% in the fourth quarter to $7.1 billion and adjusted operating income fell 12% to $1.4 billion due to declines at all of the media giant’s operating division. Time Warner did beat consensus estimates on earnings per share– $1.06 per share versus analysts’ expectations of $1.01 per share – but that was mainly because it paid fewer taxes than expected.

At its Turner networks unit, revenue increased 2% and advertising revenue climbed 5%, but adjusted operating income declined 15% to $781 million, mainly due to a 22% increase in programming expenses. At Home Box Office, revenue increased 6% to $1.4 billion in the quater, but adjusted operating income was flat at $393 million due to programming costs increases and higher marketing and technology expenses associated with its standalone product HBO Now.

In a statement, Time Warner chairman and CEO Jeff Bewkes concentrated on full year results, which were better, with a 3% rise in revenue and a 19% gain in AOI.

“All three of our operating divisions increased revenue and profits while also investing to capitalize on the shift to on-demand viewing and growing worldwide demand for the very best video content,” Bewkes said in the statement. ?

In a research note, Sanford Bernstein media analyst Todd Juenger wrote that while Time Warner’s results were no surprise – they had basically pre-announced results in January. But how they got there – missing operating income estimates in every segment and beating earnings per share expectations because of a lower tax rate (25% vs. 35% iln the prior year) — was.

“This is not a forgiving market environment in general, or for media stocks specifically. We don’t think [Time Warner] shares will get a “pass” on a tax beat …,” Juenger wrote

Univision Launches Voter Turnout Effort

Univision Launches Voter Turnout Effort

Spanish-language media company Univision is pulling out all the stops to promote Hispanic and Latino voter turn-out.

Univision has launched a “Vote for Your America” campaign to mobilize 27 million Hispanic and Latinos eligible to vote in the general election.

The campaign will include a digital election guide, which the company describes as a “nonpartisan election resource for multicultural and millennial voters,” developed with a number of Hispanic-targeted networks including Fusion and El Rey, available at YourAmerica.com.

The campaign will also include get-out-the-vote PSAs, bilingual text messaging, and hundreds of events including voter registration drives town halls social media outreach and viewer call centers with election information.

Also part of the effort are the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund, the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), Democracy Works/TurboVote, Voto Latino, Get Schooled, The Latino Coalition, Hispanic Federation, Mi Familia Vota and Rock the Vote.

“This year, with our Univision Contigo Vote For Your America campaign, we will deliver on our mission like never before by providing unique, nonpartisan and culturally-relevant resources…. Moreover, we are taking our mission a step further by uniting our strategic partners and multi-platform model to engage eligible multicultural and millennial voters,” said Univision President Randy Falco.

Oprah, Currency Rates Pressure Discovery

Oprah, Currency Rates Pressure Discovery

Discovery Communications stock was down more than 5% Thursday after the programmer reported mixed fourth quarter earnings and said TV icon Oprah Winfrey could exercise put options that would require the company to purchase some of her interest in the OWN channel.

Discovery shares were down as much as 9% ($2.38 each) to $24.33 per share Thursday after the company said total revenue was down 2% to $1.6 billion, adjusted OIBDA fell 10% to $574 million and net income dipped 16% to $219 million as foreign currency rates pressured results. The stock was trading at $25.88 each in afternoon trading Thursday, down 3.1% (83 cents each).

The company said that excluding foreign currency fluctuations and the impact of its acquisition of Eurosport and the sale of SBS Radio, revenue and cash flow would have increased in the period.

Discovery also noted that TV icon Oprah Winfrey, who controls 50% of OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network, now can require Discovery to purchase a portion of her interest in the channel. On a conference call with analysts, Discovery CEO David Zaslav said the company would welcome the opportunity to increase its stake in OWN.

Zaslav said that if Winfrey decides to exercise that put option, it would be beneficial for Discovery.

“We think it has a great niche and some very strong IP,” Zaslav said. “And over time, as our interest grows, if we have an opportunity to consolidate it, that would be very favorable for us. But in the meantime, it’s a 50/50 venture with Oprah having rights to put interest to us over time beginning this year, and she is very happy with the venture and it’s quite a success story.”

Winfrey’s investment company Harpo, Inc., has the right to require Discovery to purchase Harpo’s interest in OWN every 2 1/2 years beginning Jan 1, 2016. According to the agreement, if Harpo decides to exercise the option, Discovery would have to purchase the interest at fair market value up to a maximum put amount that ranges from $100 million on the first put exercise to $400 million on the fourth put exercise date.

Discovery has done several recent deals to make its content available on TV Everywhere platforms. Zaslav also threw some cold water on claims that skinny bundles are putting pressure on content providers, adding that the vast majority of TV viewers still opt for more robust programming packages.

“With all the talk of the skinny bundle and as appealing as it seems, most consumers seem to want the big bundle,” Zaslav said.

Hallmark Hall of Fame Moves to Hallmark Channel

Hallmark Hall of Fame Moves to Hallmark Channel

Hallmark Cards said it has reached an agreement with Crown Media Holdings for the Hallmark Channel to become the producer and new home for the Hallmark Hall of Fame television series. Crown Media Holdings operates and distributes Hallmark Channel to more than 90 million subscribers in the United States.

As part of this agreement, Crown Media Productions, the in-house production unit of Crown Media, will develop and produce future Hallmark Hall of Fame movies. Hallmark Cards will continue to sponsor the series and will remain involved in the creative process, including approving scripts.

“The Hallmark Hall of Fame has been one of our brand’s most valuable assets and will celebrate its 65th anniversary this year,” said Hallmark CEO Donald J. Hall, Jr. in a statement. “Hallmark Channel has become a leading destination for quality, family-friendly programming and is where Hallmark Hall of Fame viewers expect to find our programs. Hallmark Channel’s experience creating engaging, original content and their outstanding production capabilities make Hallmark Channel the perfect new home.”

The Hallmark Hall of Fame debuted on Christmas Eve 1951 and has had more than 255 broadcasts to date. The series has earned 81 Emmys and nine Golden Globes and 64 Academy Award-winning actors have appeared in Hallmark Hall of Fame presentations.

“We are thrilled to continue the successful legacy of the Hallmark Hall of Fame,” said Crown Media Family Networks CEO Bill Abbott in a statement. “For the past year, Hallmark Channel has premiered Hallmark Hall of Fame movies and now, with Crown Media Productions, we will have the opportunity to play a greater role in continuing the Hallmark Hall of Fame tradition.”

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