Media and Money

Archive for the ‘Media Mergers’ Category

While trying to explain to my friends why the NBC and Comcast merger was bad for this country, they all thought that this would have not effect on anything from pricing to programming.

I was shocked, alarmed then frightened to learn that Keith Olbermann has left MSNBC. His final sign-off damn near brought me to tears. On a personal note, Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow-and sometimes Chris Matthews kept me sane through the 2008 presidential election.

This is scary because now it seems like any voice that opposes the views of Comcast can easily be taken away from the general public. This could lead to biased, tainted and unfair/unbalanced reporting. While we don’t know for sure why Olbermann left MSNBC, it is suspiciously coincidental that he was let go immediately after the merger was approved by the FCC. Damn shame too because I didn’t think we would see any effects until at least after January 28th. Countdown with Keith Olbermann would have called that BS from a mile away, but now we have no one as vigilant as Olbermann to call out the BS, state the obvious when the obvious has been ignored.

I am worried about getting another viewpoint or perspective. At a time when conservative talk and punditry has the highest ratings ever, I am deeply concerned about having someone speak as strongly as Olbermann about liberal and progressive issues.

I have signed online petitions and will be on the look out for what’s next for Mr. Olbermann.

But for now, “Good Night and Good Luck.”

Watch Olbermann’s Final Sign-off from Countdown:

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Today, the Federal Communications Commission grants—with conditions and enforceable commitments approval of the assignment and transfer of control of broadcast, satellite, and other radio licenses from General Electric Company (GE) to Comcast Corporation. The approval will allow GE and Comcast to create a joint venture involving NBC Universal, Inc. (NBCU) and Comcast.

Some critics such as John Silver, President of the Free Press, are outraged at this merger saying:

You should be afraid and mad as hell.

The new Comcast will control an obscene number of media outlets, including the NBC broadcast network, numerous cable channels, two dozen local NBC and Telemundo stations, movie studios, online video portals, and the physical network that distributes that media content to millions of Americans through Internet and cable connections.

While even some politicians like Senator Al Franken are fighting against this push with a call to action:

This deal would mean higher cable rates and less freedom of choice for American consumers, and it would give a single media conglomerate unprecedented control over the flow of information in America. Whenever the same company owns both the content and the pipes delivering that content, consumers lose.

Already, we have seen that Comcast is not operating in good faith. By imposing a new fee on the company delivering Netflix’s online video streaming, Comcast is trying to kill off a competitor. Comcast has also refused to provide the FCC with documents necessary for the review process, and has already named the 43 executives who will take over NBC Universal.

As American consumers, we know a bad deal when we see one. Allowing this merger to proceed could lead to subsequent deals, leaving Americans at the mercy of a few powerful media conglomerates.

Sign Al Franken’s petition HERE!

Even Bloomberg has filed papers against the ruling stating the specifics:

Comcast is to pay GE $6.5 billion in cash and to contribute cable channels valued at $7.25 billion to a joint venture that will own the entertainment company. The joint venture is to include NBC Universal businesses and Comcast properties including E!, Versus and Golf Channel, the companies said in announcing the deal.

GE said in a statement today it expects about $8 billion in proceeds from the sale and a “small” after-tax gain when the transaction closes. The sale marks the end of more than two decades of ownership after GE acquired the NBC network in 1986 via its purchase of RCA Corp.

Paris-based Vivendi SA is to sell its 20 percent stake in NBC Universal as part of the deal.

Comcast was advised by Morgan Stanley, UBS AG and Bank of America Merrill Lynch, with Davis Polk & Wardwell as legal counsel. GE was advised by JPMorgan Chase & Co., Citigroup Inc. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. Weil, Gotshal & Manges acted as legal advisers.

Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News, has filed documents opposing the Comcast-NBC Universal combination as it was proposed.

by Georg Szalai from The Hollywood Reporter

Study: Comcast-NBC Universal Merger Will Cost Consumers $2.4 Billion
The American Cable Association unveiled an economic study Monday that argues that consumers over the next nine years will pay at least $2.4 billion more for pay TV services if regulators don’t place conditions on the planned Comcast-NBC Universal deal to curb the combined entertainment giant’s pricing power.

The organization, which represents small cable operators and has opposed the proposed merger – at least without conditions, said Monday that $204 million in estimated financial benefits from the deal claimed by the merger partners will be outweighed by “consumer harm” of the transaction of $2.566 billion.

Comcast in a statement called the analysis flawed and said the issues raised in the report have been examined by the FCC in  previous transactions. The commission “in each case rejected imposition of a condition on national cable networks,” it said. “There is no reason for the FCC to treat Comcast and NBCU worse than it treated Fox, DirecTV and Liberty [Media] in those recent deals.”

The ACA study, conducted by Dr. William Rogerson, professor of economics at Northwestern University, who served as the FCC’s chief economist 1998-1999, estimates vertical harm of the deal at $1.43 billion and the horizontal harm at $1.14 billion over the next nine years.

Vertical harm stems from the combination of programming assets and distribution, which will permit Comcast-NBC Uni to raise the fees it charges for programming to other distributors, including ACA members, such as RCN and WOW!

The horizontal effect stems from the merged firm’s control of key programming assets from both companies, which will allow it to negotiate prices for a broader portfolio, the group said.

“It is clear that the Comcast-NBCU deal will send monthly cable bills higher by billions of dollars over the next decade, underscoring ACA’s view that regulators must protect consumers and competition from a transaction whose benefits are vastly outweighed by its harms,” said ACA president and CEO Matthew Polka. “Without meaningful and cost effective conditions on the Comcast-NBCU transaction, regulators also run the risk of crippling effective competition in the pay-TV distribution market.”

By Michael White and James Callan

(Bloomberg) — Walt Disney Co. and General Electric Co.’s NBC Universal named new executives to lead their film studios after falling behind competitors at the box office.

Adam Fogelson was named chairman of Universal Pictures and Donna Langley co-chairman, the Los Angeles-based studio said yesterday. Burbank, California-based Disney promoted cable- network chief Rich Ross to studio chairman, replacing 38-year company veteran Dick Cook, who resigned last month.

Disney and Universal occupy the bottom two spots among the six major studios in U.S. and Canadian box-office sales in 2009, a year in which revenue has surged 7.5 percent. Studios are cutting back on the number of movies and grappling with a decline in DVD sales, developments that spotlight disappointments like Disney’s “Confessions of a Shopaholic” and Universal’s “Land of the Lost.”

“The industry is changing,” Chris Marangi, an analyst with Gabelli & Co. in Rye, New York, said in a phone interview. “There’s fewer films getting produced, there’s pressure on the home entertainment revenue stream and that’s led the studios to examine their cost structure and to be choosier about what pictures get made.”

Ross, who turns 48 tomorrow, will oversee worldwide production, distribution and marketing for live-action and animated film labels that include Touchstone, Miramax and Pixar, Disney, the world’s largest media company, said yesterday.

Disney, also the largest theme-park operator, said separately that Ed Grier, 54, retired as president of the Disneyland resort in Anaheim, California, to work on a business venture with his sons.

Box Office Surge

U.S. and Canadian box-office sales have risen to $7.96 billion this year from $7.4 billion, according to Los Angeles- based researcher Box-Office. Time Warner Inc., the box-office leader in 2008, is in first again this year with $1.61 billion in sales and 20 percent of the market, according to Box Office Mojo, which also tracks receipts.

Disney is fifth with $972.1 million in domestic ticket sales, or 12 percent market share, according to Box Office Mojo, based in Sherman Oaks, California. Last year the company was sixth with 11 percent.

Universal’s $837.2 million in sales so far in 2009 account for 11 percent of the market. Last year the company was fourth with 13 percent.

Disney’s “Confessions of a Shopaholic” generated $108.3 million worldwide, according to Box Office Mojo. “Jonas Brothers: The 3-D Concert Experience,” took in $23.1 million worldwide.

Ross, who was president of the Disney Channel, will lead efforts to restore movie-making profit. Disney has agreed to distribute films for Steven Spielberg’s DreamWorks studio and plans to purchase Marvel Entertainment Inc., gaining rights to comic-book characters.

“He’s done a great job with the network and he’ll continue to focus the studio on franchise pictures,” Marangi said.

disney and marvel
In an attempt to attract a wider audience of young males, The Walt Disney Company acquired Marvel Entertainment, Inc.

According to President and CEO of the Walt Disney Company, Robert Iger, this transaction combines Marvel’s strong global brand and world-renowned library of characters including Iron Man, Spider-Man, X-Men, Captain America, Fantastic Four and Thor with Disney’s creative skills, unparalleled global portfolio of entertainment properties, and a business structure that maximizes the value of creative properties across multiple platforms and territories. Iger believes Ike Perlmutter, the CEO of Marvel Entertainment, and his team have done an impressive job of nurturing those properties and have created significant value and that adding Marvel to Disney’s unique portfolio of brands provides significant opportunities for long-term growth and value creation.

On the Marvel side, Perlmutter says that Disney is the perfect home for Marvel’s fantastic library of characters given its proven ability to expand content creation and licensing businesses. “This is an unparalleled opportunity for Marvel to build upon its vibrant brand and character properties by accessing Disney’s tremendous global organization and infrastructure around the world,” says Perlmutter

Under the deal, Disney will acquire ownership of Marvel including its more than 5,000 Marvel characters. Mr. Perlmutter will oversee the Marvel properties, and will work directly with Disney’s global lines of business to build and further integrate Marvel’s properties.

Take a look at the top ten list of potential movies that Marvel fans will be sure to dread.

Facebook announced that it has agreed to acquire FriendFeed, the innovative service for sharing online. As part of the agreement, all FriendFeed employees will join Facebook and FriendFeed’s four founders will hold senior roles on Facebook’s engineering and product teams.
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Coinstar, Inc. announces an agreement with The Kroger Co. to expand the presence of its Redbox fully automated DVD rental kiosks at stores the company operates nationwide. Redbox DVD kiosks are currently available at more than 200 Kroger locations, and more than 2,600 Kroger-operated supermarkets and convenience stores will feature the popular redbox DVD kiosks within the next year.

“Kroger has been a valued customer of Coinstar for a number of years, and we’re very pleased to expand our relationship with this industry leader beyond our self-service coin counting kiosks to now include redbox DVD kiosks,” said Gregg Kaplan, president and chief operating officer of Coinstar, Inc. “Our products are designed to deliver convenience and value to the consumer while increasing foot traffic for our retailers, and we look forward to partnering with Kroger to serve their customers.”

“This partnership with Coinstar will give our customers across the country access to new release DVDs for $1 a night,” said Paul Scutt, senior vice president of Retail Operations for Kroger. “Our shoppers tell us that the redbox kiosks are an easy, convenient and affordable way to watch popular new movies at home with their families.”

The rollout of more than 2,600 redbox DVD kiosks at Kroger and Kroger-operated banner supermarkets and convenience stores nationwide will be completed in 2010.

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