Comcast Submits $65 Billion All-Cash Offer for Fox Film/TV Assets, Including 22 RSNs

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Just 24 hours after the announcement that a federal judge had approved AT&T’s $85 billion takeover of Time Warner, it was reported that Comcast (CMCSA) submitted a $65 billion all-cash bid for 21st Century Fox’s (FOXA) film and TV assets (including 22 RSNs); trumping the $52.4 billion all-stock offer that The Walt Disney Company (DIS) had placed in December. Comcast’s interest largely surrounds FOXA’s 30% stake in Hulu, as the acquisition would give CMCSA controlling interest in the OTT service (already own 30%). NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke stated, “we would be very very interested in growing that business.” In fact, it’s possible that if Comcast’s offer were to be selected, the company wouldn’t even end up controlling the RSNs; language within their bid indicated the company would match any regulatory commitments made by DIS; including to “divest… any of the RSNs.”

Howie Long-Short: FOXA shares rose +7.7% (to $43.66) on Wednesday following report of the Comcast bid. DIS closed up +2% (to $106.30), while CMCSA shares remained flat ($32.32) as investors expressed skepticism about the company increasing their debt level to 4x earnings; necessary to finance both the Fox deal and their purchase of Sky PLC (SKYAY).

It’s certainly worth noting that Comcast’s bid places a +/- $24 billion valuation on the 22 RSNs.

SKYAY is another name to watch. If DIS counters CMCSA’s bid, it’s possible that Fox will up its bid (currently $14.38/share) for the European pay-tv provider. Fox currently owns 39% of the company and was planning to acquire the remaining 61%, with the intention of flipping the asset as part of the proposed $52.4 billion transaction. Should a bidding war arise, John Janedis, an analyst at Jefferies LLC said it wouldn’t be unreasonable for the winning bid to reach $80 billion. For reference purposes, Comcast bid $16.72/share for 61% of Sky. The domestic cable/internet provider wants the asset (and Star – India) to expand its business overseas.

Fan Marino: AT&T’s (T) acquisition of Time Warner (TWX) includes several sports-related properties including Turner Sports, Bleacher Report and the newly launched Bleacher Report Live service; an untethered (i.e. no subscription needed) premium sports streaming service. T also takes controlling interest in the country’s largest pay television distributor, DirectTV. TWX shares rose 2% on Wednesday to $97.95, while T shares declined 6.2% (to $32.22) on the news.

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Amazon Acquires Exclusive EPL Rights, First Non-Traditional Broadcaster to Carry League Games

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Amazon (AMZN) has acquired the exclusive rights to broadcast 20 English Premier League matches per season in the U.K., becoming the first non-traditional broadcaster to carry league games. The three-year pact, set to begin in 2019-2020, represents the e-commerce giant’s most significant live sports programming acquisition to date. AMZN will live-stream games on its digital Prime video service at no additional charge to Prime members (costs $119/year). Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed but BT Sport is reportedly paying $40 million/year for a comparable package. Late Thursday, with the league’s broadcast rights through the next cycle sold, Executive Chairman Richard Scudamore announced he would be resigning before the end of the calendar year. A successor has yet to be named.

Howie Long-Short: It’s important to simultaneously recognize the significance of this deal (i.e. a FAANG company lands exclusive rights!), while understanding that 90% of the broadcast rights available to media companies within this round were sold to traditional TV providers (i.e. linear television isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon). SKYAY will pay $1.655 billion/season for its four packages (128 games/season), a 14% discount on the expiring deal; while BT got the 5th package (32 games/season) for 8% less ($409.3 million/season) than it’s currently paying for the rights. BT picked up an additional 20 games/season at a discount rate ($40 million/season), earlier this week.

EPL clubs decided to sell the last two rights bundles (Amazon’s and the BT deal signed this week) at a cut-rate price after each failed to meet reserve prices in February’s auction and having concluding that Executive Chairman Richard Scudamore overestimated the interest from non-traditional broadcasters after the first five packages were sold to the old guard.

As for AMZN, the company posted its most profitable quarter ever in Q1 ’18. It grew revenue +43% to $35.7 billion, while net income rose 121% to $1.6 billion. Cloud computing (+49% YoY to $5.44 billion), subscription services (+60% YoY to $3.1 billion) and ad revenue (+139% YoY to $2.03 billion) all contributed to the record quarter. AMZN shares are up 7% since May 22nd and climbed past $1,700 for the first time this week, closing on Thursday at $1,689.30.

Fan Marino: The EPL’s 20 clubs currently split international broadcast revenues evenly, but top clubs like Manchester City, Manchester United and Liverpool have been lobbying for a larger percentage; arguing it’s their presence within that attracts the foreign viewer. On Thursday, they got their wish – the league’s clubs decided that any future increases in broadcast revenues would be distributed according to final league position (from ’19-’20 season forward). It should be noted that the new formula ensures the league’s top club receives no more than 1.8x the amount of the lowest-earning club.

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BT Sport, “New Online Player” Land EPL Broadcast Rights at Discount Rates

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Less than four months after Sky (SKYAY) and BT Sport (BT) agreed to spend a combined $6.194 billion on the English Premier League’s five most valuable domestic broadcast rights packages, BT Sport and a “new online player” have agreed to purchase the rights to the last two available packages (F & G) at a discount rate. EPL clubs have decided to sell the rights bundles at a cut-rate price after each failed to meet their reserve prices in February’s auction and concluding that Executive Chairman Richard Scudamore overestimated the interest from non-traditional broadcasters (think: FAANG). Financial terms of the deals have not been disclosed, but the new broadcaster’s identity will be revealed at a club meeting on Thursday; speculation surrounds both Facebook and Amazon.

Howie Long-Short: Despite the decline in the value of domestic rights, Scudamore is confident overall media rights will increase “by a decent amount” during the next cycle (’19-’20 through ’21- ‘22). Any lost domestic revenue will be offset by skyrocketing international rights. NBC (in U.S. market), ESPN (Brazil) and SuperSport (Sub-Saharan Africa) have all committed to paying a significant increase for the rights to broadcast EPL games.

As we know, NBC is owned by Comcast (CMCSA), while ESPN is property of The Walt Disney Company (DIS). SuperSport is a subsidiary of the South African based internet and media group, NASPERS. The company trades on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange under the symbol NPN or OTC with the symbol NPSNY. Shares rose 71.34% in 2017 on the back of Tencent (TCEHY), as NASPERS owns 31.2% of the Chinese internet giant. NPSNY hasn’t performed as well in 2018 though; the stock is down -7% YTD, despite being +8% (to $52.38) since last Thursday’s close.

Fan Marino: Back in February, the EPL announced BT won package A ($409.3 million/season, which includes 32 games played on Saturdays at 12:30p GMT), while SKYAY took home packages B, C, D & E ($1.655 billion/season). Packages F & G each carry 20 live midweek and bank holiday matches per season. The addition of 20 more games will give BT 52 live broadcasts/season, up from 42 under the expiring agreement.

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Most Followed Sports Media Brand on Social Media Adds DevinSuperTramp

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Whistle Sports has signed Devin Graham, better known as DevinSuperTramp, to create branded original content (including some longer-form) for the post-millennial sports network. The Whistle Sports Network (WSN), which produces, curates and distributes sports-related content (across social, digital and TV) for a youth audience, will add Graham to its talented network (500+) of creators (think: Dude Perfect, Nitro Circus). The extreme sports film-maker with a reputation for producing viral content for some of the world’s biggest brands (see: Ford, Intel), will bring a loyal following to the “most-followed (170 million subs/followers) sports media brand on social media”; 9 million followers across various social platforms, including 4.9 million YouTube channel subscribers. Content delivered by WSN generates +/- 2 million views per month.

Howie Long-Short: Whistle Sports remains privately held, but the company has raised $80.5 million to date; with much of the capital coming from publicly traded companies. iHeartMedia, Inc. (OTC: IHRTQ) participated in the company’s seed round, Sky (SKYAY) and Liberty Global (LBTYA) invested in their $28 million Series B round, and both Tegna, Inc. (TGNA, formerly Gannett) and NBC Sports Ventures (CMCSA, led round) invested in the company’s most raise; a $27.5 million Series C round in January 2017.

Fan Marino: Whistle Sports and DevinSuperTramp previously collaborated on a Super Bowl commercial for Pepsi and Papa John’s Pizza, a project called “The World’s Longest Touchdown Catch.” In the viral video (2.6 million views), Joe Montana throws a spiral out of an airplane cruising 14,000’ over California. A team of skydivers jump out after the loose ball, battling for it as they free-fall towards the earth’s surface. I won’t spoil who comes down with “The Catch”, but you can watch the video (and find out who grabs it), here.

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DRL Announces Global Expansion, Title Sponsorship Extension

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The Drone Racing League (DRL) announced global expansion and a new major media partnership. On Saturday June 16th, the DRL will bring the first pro drone race to Allianz Riviera Stadium in Nice; Level 5 of the 2018 Season. Groupe AB, a French content producer/distributor/aggregator, will carry the race; becoming the first broadcast network to bring DRL to the region. In related news, the drone racing organization announced the extension of its partnership with the circuit’s title sponsor Allianz to 5 years.

Howie Long-Short: There are several ways to play DRL with Liberty Media, Allianz, World Wrestling Entertainment and Sky all maintaining stake in the circuit. While DRL does not share equity details, it is known that the U.K. satellite provider (SKYAY), John Malone’s Liberty Media complex and Lux Capital (privately held) led the organization’s $20 million Series B round in March 2017.

As for Groupe AB, the company was acquired by the production-distribution group Mediawan for +/-$290 million in January 2017. GroupAB, widely distributed throughout French speaking Europe and Africa, is now at the center of Mediawan’s business; which is rapidly expanding as the company scoops up content generators across fiction, animation and documentaries. Mediawan trades on Paris’ Euronext under the symbol EPA: MDW.

In late March, MDW reported FY17 financials; including $198 million in revenue (3% above target) and $49 million in EBITDA. CEO Pierre-Antoine Capton noted that a “substantial international appetite for original European productions” will lead to international expansion, across Europe, in 2018.

Fan Marino: Back in 2008, New Meadowlands Stadium, LLC was in discussions with Allianz SE surrounding a naming rights partnership for the Jets/Giants new venue. However, overwhelming outrage over the company’s past association with Nazi Germany (learn more, here), forced the developer to break off negotiations. I had to ask DRL CEO Nick Horbaczewski if the racing organization had any reservations about associating with the Munich based financial services company?

Nick: “We’re thrilled to have extended our title sponsorship with one of the world’s leading insurance companies, Allianz, who has partnerships with iconic brands all over the globe, including legendary art museums like MoMA, innovative sports leagues like Formula E, and historic football teams like FC Barcelona.”

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Stars Group Pivots from Poker to Sports Betting, Buys SBG for $4.7 Billion

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Stars Group, Inc. (TSG) has acquired Sky Betting & Gaming (SBG) from CVC Capital Partners and Sky, Plc (SKYAY) for $4.7 billion in cash and stock options, as the company pivots from online poker cardroom to sports betting operator. SBG has an established gaming presence in the U.K. (3rd largest operator) and recently expanded operations in to Italy and Germany. While SCOTUS’ pending decision on PAPSA’s constitutionality offers potential upside for TSG shareholders, CEO Rafi Ashkenazi clearly stated, “the trigger for this deal was not the U.S.”; before adding that should sports betting be legalized in the country, the company would be “very strongly positioned to capture significant market share.” TSG shares climbed 14% on the news, closing Monday at $33.45; just below their all-time high ($33.50).

Howie Long-Short: Ashkenazi has been aggressively looking to reduce TSG’s reliance on a stagnating poker business (2/3 of ’17 revenue, $2.36 billion, +7% YoY) and recently increased the company’s stake (to 80%) in Australian sports betting and gaming company, CrownBet Holdings (which acquired the Australian arm of William Hill). That’s a wise decision. In 2017, 50% of all casino winnings ($49.8 billion) came from sports betting and 26% originated from casino games, while just 6% came from poker.

Much like the DFS companies, TSG owns a valuable database of U.S. gamblers from poker’s mid-to-late aughts heyday. Combine that information with SBG’s strengths in marketing (was U.K.’s 8th largest operator in ’11, now 3rd) and technology (80% of revenue comes from mobile apps), and it becomes a particularly sensible acquisition for TSG.

Fan Marino: No European gaming company is better positioned to capitalize on legalized sports betting in the United States (particularly if SCOTUS’ decision is limited to New Jersey, for the time being), then William Hill (WIMHY). Back in ’13, the company bought the rights to run a sportsbook (and split profits 50/50) at Monmouth Park (NJ), if ever permitted by law for $1 million. It’s been a long 5 years, but a decision could come down as early as today. Should that happen, WIMHY will be taking bets at Monmouth within weeks. The company also plans to add a 2nd $5 million sportsbook on the premises.

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Sports-Centric Streaming Service Raises $75 million From TV Programmers

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Fubo TV has announced it has closed on a $75 million Series D round, increasing the total amount that the company has raised to $150 million; including a $55 million Series C round in June ’17. The sports-centric digital TV service will use the newly raised capital to expand its engineering and product teams (plans to double staff, open 2nd office by end of ’18), increase its marketing budget and acquire additional content rights. Launched in 2015, the live TV streaming platform has found a niche targeting sports fans (offering 30,000 sporting events/year); surpassing 100,000 subscribers in September 2017. While impressive, the company still lags far behind Sling TV (2.2 million) and DirecTV Now (1.2 million) in terms of market share.

Howie Long-Short: Existing shareholders (and TV programmers) 21st Century Fox (FOXA), Sky (SKYAY) and Scripps Networks Interactive (DISCA) all exercised their pro-rata rights, participating in the latest round; while AMC Networks (AMCX) invested in the company for the first time. While it appears to be an ill fit on the surface, Fubo TV isn’t the only web TV provider that TV programmers have invested in. The Walt Disney Co., pending final approval of its 21st Century Fox acquisition, controls 60% of Hulu; Comcast owns 30% and Time Warner owns 10%. It’s also worth pointing out that A&E, Discovery Communications, AMC and Viacom are invested in Philo.

Fubo TV’s business model is predicated on both recurring monthly subscription fees and ad sales. Despite having just launched “server side ad insertion” in January, ad sales represent a “low single-digit percentage” of total revenue. The company is expecting an overall revenue run rate of $100 million within 12 months.

Fan Marino: Fubo TV’s $45/mo. package, marketed as “a real sports package, for the real sports fan”, contains 85 channels; a collection of local TV networks (think: ABC, CBS, FOX), national cable networks (think: FS1, NFL Network), RSNs (think: MSG, YES, NESN) and difficult to find conference networks (think: Big 10 Network, Pac-12 Network). The bundle includes more sports channels than any other competitor, but lacks the most valuable (to a sports fan) national cable network; ESPN. Is ESPN (and ESPN2) worth the additional +/- $55/mo. required to retain your cable bundle? Probably not, but I’m not signing up for an OTT service without it.

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Amazon Interested in Premier League “Super Pack”

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Amazon is reportedly interested in acquiring a “super pack” of English Premier League (EPL) broadcast rights; a package that would give them 40 live matches/season, near live rights to all 380 games/season and the ability to show highlights. The rights would span 3 seasons (’18-’19 through ’21-’22) and in theory, help the e-commerce juggernaut bring new subscribers to their Prime service. The EPL, looking to offset the loss of value (-14% from last round of negotiations) from the first 5 packages that were awarded, has additional incentive to work out a deal with AMZN; the organization is considering launching its own OTT service and wants to use the next 3 seasons to gauge the potential for streaming success.

Howie Long-Short: Of the 5 rights packages awarded thus far, Sky Sports (subsidiary of Sky PLC, SKYAY) won 4 of them; for $1.655 billion/season. On Tuesday, Comcast Corp. (CMCSA) made a $31 billion offer for the European pay TV provider, driving SKYAY share prices up 21% (to $74.58). While that’s good news for SKYAY shareholders, the offer likely has DIS execs fretting. SKYAY was the “crown jewel” of DIS’ $52.4 billion offer for FOXA assets. DIS now must decide if it will proceed with the FOXA deal without SKYAY or look to outbid CMCSA for an asset it desires.

Fan Marino: The term “near live rights” refers to a networks ability to re-broadcast games shortly after their conclusion. That must be a European phenomenon. I find second screen devices (and platforms like Twitter) critical to the sports viewing experience. If the game isn’t live, you’re eliminating the use of those devices for the purposes of social interaction, game updates etc. Of course, you also must manage to avoid the score of the game while it’s being played; good luck with that!

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Sky Sports, BT Sport Retain 5 of 7 EPL Live Rights Packages Through ’21 Season, Broadcast Rights Lose Value

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Sky Sports (SKYAY) and BT Sport (BT) have won 5 of the 7 live rights packages that the English Premier League had up for auction, agreeing to pay a combined $6.194 billion to broadcast league games between 2019-2021. The EPL announced BT won package A ($409.3 million/season, includes 32 games played on Saturdays at 12:30p GMT), while SKYAY wrapped up packages B, C, D & E ($1.655 billion/season). The 4-package haul gives Sky Sports the exclusive rights to broadcast 128 league games, including all Saturday tea-time (5:30p GMT) and 7:45p GMT matches, Super Sunday afternoon games, Monday and Friday night football. There are reportedly “multiple bidders” (that may include Amazon) interested in the last 2 packages, F and G; each containing 20 matches to be played on bank holidays and mid-week. BBC locked up the domestic highlights rights package for the next cycle.

Howie Long-Short: SKYAY and BT Sport are currently paying $7.147 billion, so the value of domestic rights decreased by $2.8 million/match. SKYAY is picking up 2 matches per year and paying 16% less over the term of the 3-year pact. Unlike the new Fox NFL TNF deal, which is expected to be a loss leader for the network; BT believes with its acquisition of EE (and the corresponding increase in viewership), the company will turn a profit on their investment. It must be noted that while the value of domestic EPL broadcast rights declined, the league is seeing massive overseas growth; reflected in newly signed deals with the U.S. ($178 million/season through ‘22, twice the value of the previous deal) and China ($250 million/year through ‘22, 14x value of current deal).

Fan Marino: There was some big news on the U.S. soccer front late last week, when Carlos Cordeiro was named the winner of the U.S. Soccer Presidential election (8 candidates); after 3 rounds of voting. Cordeiro who acknowledges he’s not a “soccer expert”, will hire 2 GMs (USMNT, USWNT) who will report to CEO Dan Flynn. Cordeiro isn’t new to U.S. Soccer, he’s been the federation’s Vice President the last 2 years and spent the prior 9 years as an independent board member.

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Amazon Takes on The Sports World; 25 Companies That Will Be Affected

Amazon has been credited with killing everything from book stores to electronics retailers since its 1994 launch. Now, with a market cap +/- $570 billion and $16 billion in annual operating cash flow, the company is taking aim at the sports world. In our final newsletter of 2017, we look at 4 of AMZN’s recent initiatives and the 25 companies most likely to be affected in 2018.

Amazon Expands Brand Registry Program, Now Includes Nike

In June, Nike (NKE) agreed to join Amazon’s brand registry program; seeking to curb counterfeiting and non-licensed selling within the e-commerce marketplace. The partnership also supports the athletic apparel and sneaker brand’s initiative to boost revenue through a shift to digital and DTC sales, relying less on struggling retailers. Competitors Adidas (ADDYY) and Under Armour (UAA) already have direct-sales deals in place with AMZN.

Names to Watch: FINL, DKS, FL, HIBB, BGFV; LON: SPD, LON: JD

Howie Long-Short: Athletic apparel and sneaker retailers count on NKE (70% of FL business comes from NKE); but NKE launched its “Consumer Direct Offense” strategy in fiscal Q1 ’18, increasing e-commerce business 19% YOY. Mediocre retailers beware, the company is maintaining just a few dozen wholesale relationships as it looks to increase its e-commerce business (from 15% of revenue to 30% over the next 5 years).

Amazon Entering Private-Label Sportswear Business

In October, Amazon (AMZN) announced it was entering the private-label sportswear business and working with the same Taiwanese suppliers, Makalot Industrial Co. (TPE: 1477) and Eclat Textile Co. (TPE: 1476), that some of the world’s biggest athletic brands use. Elcat’s involvement is particularly noteworthy as the company manufactures high-performance sportswear for Nike (NKE), Lululemon Athletica (LULU) and Under Armour (UAA).

Names to Watch: NKE, UAA, ADDYY, LULU; TPE: 1476, TPE: 1477

Howie Long-ShortAMZN wants to be in the private-label clothing business because it pushes retailers to sell inventory on the e-commerce site. Should a retailer choose not to, AMZN will simply produce the item themselves and compete directly against the brand.

The Pursuit of Exclusive Broadcast Rights

In September, the company hired Brian Potter to lead its sports video business. In November, Jim DeLorenzo, head of sports, Amazon Video, said the company was pleased with viewership numbers, engagement and the reliability/quality of the cloud-based streaming service during its season long experiment streaming Thursday Night Football (10 games, $50 million); though it is too early to say if the company will pursue future exclusive sports broadcasting rights. The company has since done deals that will deliver Prime subscribers 37 ATP tour events (previously owned by SKYAY), the AVP Beach Volleyball tour each of the next 3 summers and docu-series on Michigan Football.

Names to Watch: CBS, DIS, FOXA, CMCSA, FB, GOOGL, NFLX, AAPL, SKYAY

Howie Long-Short: NFL Senior VP, Digital Media, Vishal Shah recently said “we continue to think some of the best days are ahead [for traditional TV partners] despite some shifts in the media landscape.” That doesn’t sound like linear television will be excluded in the next round of negotiations, but the NFL is encouraging interested media companies to bid on both television and streaming rights for the leagues TNF package; leaving the door ajar for the tech giants to receive exclusivity for the first time.

Twitch: The Future of Game Broadcasts?

Twitch, the live-streaming platform most often associated with video games, has agreed to stream up to 6 live G-League (Gatorade sponsored NBA minor league) games. Broadcasts will include interactive overlays (viewers can click a team name/logo for player, team, game and season stats), a loyalty program to reward viewer engagement during broadcasts (i.e. custom emotes for group chat) and the ability for users to provide their own live commentary (over the game feed) via the Twitch co-streaming feature.

Names to Watch: CBS, DIS, FOXA, CMCSA, TWX, RCI, MSGN

Fan Marino: NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has gone on record stating he’d like to see changes in the way sports broadcasts are presented; pointing out the lack of live stats and chatter surrounding the broadcast, that gamers have become accustomed to. I’m not ready to give up Mike Breen, Marv Albert and Ian Eagle for Towelliee; but it’s worth watching to see if anyone else is.

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