What Are You Missing? Dec 30 – Jan 12
Happy New Year! Here are ten or more media industry news items you might have missed recently:
1) WWE announced during CES this week the upcoming launch of WWE Network for February 24th, a first of its kind over-the-top 24/7 streaming channel with on-demand access to a vast library of content. The move comes after years of speculation as to the form the previously announced WWE Network would take, with WWE attempting deals with both cable and satellite providers for a more traditional system WWE Network will be accessible on nearly all digital platforms like Android, iOS, Kindle Fire, Roku, Playstation, XBox, smart TVs, and more all through a single subscription fee of $9.99 a month with a six month commitment. The fact that the content (both new originals and archival) will include WWE’s monthly Pay-Per-Views at no additional cost has ruffled some traditional outlet’s feathers, as DirecTV has threatened to stop offering PPVs since the WWE Network will essentially compete against them. With WWE about to enter renegotiations with cable channels for airing rights to its television shows, the Network’s upcoming launch will certainly play a factor.
2) Following up on rumors of a deal for Time Warner Cable, John Malone’s Liberty Media Corp has said it plans to buyout SiriusXM, putting Malone in a clearer position in consolidation with Time Warner Cable due to Liberty’s controlling stake in competitor Charter Communications. It is a very complicated plan, involving the creation of a new class of stock for the company, but the bottom line is it makes for even more consolidation and puts Liberty in a better position to acquire Time Warner Cable through its Charter holdings. There are those who object, notably shareholder Ralph Nader, but Liberty defends the plan as leading to a more rational structure.
3) A big week for online television service Aereo, as the Supreme Court has announced it plans to hear the case between the startup and four major broadcasters. The case is an appeal made by CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox and others after they were denied an injunction over whether Aereo’s system that captures their broadcast signals and reroutes them to customers Internet devices violates performance rights. This is a massive case, ABC Television Stations vs. Aereo for those playing at home, as the future of network television and its relationship to Internet platforms hangs in check. The news of the high court taking the case came just days after Aereo had closed on $34 million in additional financing, putting them at $97 million raised to date. How much that is really worth will be decided by the Supreme Court in their upcoming docket.
4) If you plan on watching CBS’s The Good Wife on Sunday night (and why wouldn’t you be!?), you can look forward to three songs from Bruce Springsteen’s upcoming new album High Hopes, part of a larger partnership between Springsteen and CBS to promote the upcoming album’s release. The albums is currently streaming on CBS.com as a sneak preview, a move promoted after last week’s episode of The Good Wife. This is a rare move for a network to host an album debut on its website, something more traditional online and music retailers are sure to dislike.
5) Speaking of online music retailers, they have more bad news this year as 2013 marks the first time digital music sales have decreased. The drops come in the form of both individual track sales as well as album bundles, despite the latter starting the year strong. The main culprit being blamed is the increase in popularity of ad-based and subscription-based music streaming services like Pandora and Spotify, though streaming numbers for 2013 have yet to be released.
6) Not to fear, as 2013 was also a year of massive rises in media company stocks. Most major media conglomerates closed out 2013 at 52-week highs, with Disney being a big winner with their stock gaining over 51% this past year. When you expand to look at the entire market, Netflix had an astonishing year growing 296%, placing it as the second-highest performing stock of 2013 behind only Tesla, the up-and-coming luxury electric car manufacturer. When it comes to films, Lionsgate did well off the back of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, rising 99.2%. For television, AMC did quite well closing 2013 up 34%.
7) Perhaps bolstered by its stock’s performance, Netflix raised the salary of CEO Reed Hastings by 50%, bringing it to $6 million for 2014. This is the man who just two years ago helped announce Qwikster, which almost signaled the end for the video-streaming service that is now outpacing every prediction.
8) The Parents Television Council is pushing for an overhaul of film and TV ratings, claiming the current system is inaccurate. PTC president Tim Winter criticized the systems by saying, “content ratings much be accurate, consistent, transparent and publicly accountable. The current system is none of that.” While the MPAA has yet to comment, industry-supporting organization TV Watch has pushed back, arguing the PTC uses flawed methodology and false claims to push their agenda.
9) Mostly because I wanted to include a picture of that suit, controversial Chinese tycoon Chen Guangbiao has intentions to buy the New York Times Co., what he deems the most influential news outlet in the world. Making millions in waste management, Chen claimed to have set up a meeting with the company, which is an odd choice since the NYT’s website is currently blocked in China. After this meeting was rebuffed, Chen admitted it would be a difficult acquisition, but insured others his intentions were genuine.
10) Staying with China the country has temporarily lifted a 14-year ban on video game consoles. The ban started in 2000 with the Chinese government claiming they were dangerous to one’s health. This opens the door for foreign console manufacturers like Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo to begin manufacturing in the Shanghai Free Trade Zone.