Sky, Discovery Expand New Long-Term Partnership

Comcast-owned Sky and Discovery have agreed on a new long-term, multi-faceted partnership across the U.K, and Ireland, Germany and Austria. Discovery’s portfolio of real-life entertainment channels, including Discovery Channel, will continue to be showcased across the Sky platforms in the U.K., and on the Sky Deutschland platforms in Germany and Austria. The Discovery Channel will continue to be available on the Now TV platform in the U.K. and Sky Ticket in Germany.

The deal includes linear channel distribution, video-on-demand, direct-to-consumer products, and extension of the advertising relationship.

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For the first time, the multiyear deal also covers Discovery’s non-linear brands in the U.K. and Ireland. Sky will be a distribution partner for Discovery’s existing direct-to-consumer streaming services such as MotorTrend, and new products from the future pipeline of Discovery’s direct-to-consumer offerings.

“We bring together the best content from partners like Discovery, HBO and Showtime, add it to the best live sport in Europe, our award-winning Sky Originals and apps we love like Netflix, and put it all in one place on the world’s best platform, Sky Q,” Stephen van Rooyen, CEO of U.K.  and Europe for Sky, said in a statement.

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Sky Q and Eurosport will also be working together to bring the best possible experience to customers across the U.K. and Ireland for the 2021 Olympics with UHD and HD pop up feeds dedicated to specific sports and events.

As part of the expanded deal, Sky Media and Discovery renewed their advertising sales partnership in the U.K. and Ireland while creating new opportunities for advertisers in VOD and via AdSmart. Reaching more than 95% of the U.K. population, Sky Media represents all of Sky’s channels and also sells on behalf of a range of renowned broadcasters and channels including Channel 5, Viacom and Discovery.

“Sky and Discovery have been working together for more than 30 years to bring audiences the best in real-life entertainment,” added Kasia Kieli, president and MD for Discovery EMEA. “We are very pleased that our strategic relationship continues to grow, and our new multi-dimensional agreement means Sky customers can continue to enjoy our wide range of factual, sport, lifestyle and entertainment channels and programs for years to come.”

Comcast Extends Free Wi-Fi Access Through Year’s End

Comcast June 19 announced it will extend free access to its 1.5 million public Xfinity Wi-Fi hotspots to anyone who needs them, including non-customers, through the end of 2020.

Comcast launched free access earlier this due to the coronavirus pandemic. It then extended the offer for 60 days of free home Internet access for new eligible Internet Essentials customers, to help provide additional support to students and families in need through the end of the year. Comcast will also continue to waive the requirement that those customers not have a past due balance with Comcast to qualify for the free offer.

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“We saw a huge jump in usage after we opened up our public hotspots, and we’re excited to keep them open through the end of the year as the nation begins taking steps to reopen,” Dana Strong, president of Xfinity Consumer Services, said in a statement.

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Since making all of its hotspots available for free, Comcast said hundreds of thousands of non-Xfinity customers have taken advantage, and overall usage by consumers of the free public Wi-Fi hotspots has skyrocketed. The cabler’s public Wi-Fi network is the largest of its kind in the nation, and three times larger than that of any other provider. It’s available in outdoor and business locations, all of which can be found online at www.xfinity.com/wifi.

Comcast has a history of making its public hotspots available for free following local emergencies like hurricanes in the South, wildfires in California, and the recent tornadoes in Nashville.

Comcast Buying $2.5 Billion of its Long-Term Debt

Comcast June 11 announced that it is offering to purchase any and all of its outstanding “Floating Rate Notes” (due 2021), and together with subsidiary NBCUniversal Enterprise, has commenced a cash tender offer to purchase any and all of its outstanding “Senior Floating Rate Notes” (due 2021).

The purchase price for each $1,000 principal amount of each note validly tendered and accepted for purchase pursuant to the tender offers ranges from $1,006 to 1,003.50.

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All holders whose notes are accepted for purchase will also receive accrued and unpaid interest on the purchased notes from the last interest payment date up to the settlement date.

The tender offers will expire at 5 p.m. ET on June 17, unless extended or earlier terminated. Holders who have validly tendered their notes may withdraw such notes at any time at or prior to the expiration time.

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Byron Allen, Comcast Settle Racial Discrimination Lawsuit

Despite a previous setback ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, litigants in the case involving Byron Allen’s Entertainment Studios Networks and Comcast June 11 announced they have made nice, entering into a content carriage arrangement that extends and amends terms for The Weather Channel and 14 broadcast television stations.

The companies announced that pending litigation between the two organizations has been withdrawn. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

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Allen and the National Association of African-American Owned Media in 2015 alleged Comcast worked to keep black-owned media networks off its platform. The Court in March ruled unanimously to send the case back to the appellate level, arguing Allen needed to better prove bias on behalf of Comcast.

The new carriage deal includes distribution of Comedy.TV, Recipe.TV and JusticeCentral.TV on X1 and video on demand and TV everywhere rights for those networks. Comcast will also launch the free ad-supported digital app, Local Now, on the Xfinity X1 and Flex platforms, and Xfinity customers who receive The Weather Channel will have access in the coming months to its weloveweather.tv website and app on an authenticated basis.

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“We’re excited to begin a new phase of partnership with Comcast and Xfinity, including the distribution of our cable channels for the first time on Xfinity platforms,” Allen said in a statement.

Bec Heap, SVP of video and entertainment at Comcast Cable, said the pay-TV operator was pleased to move past litigation and iron out a mutually beneficial deal.

“We are pleased to have reached this multifaceted agreement that continues our long relationship with The Weather Channel while bringing Xfinity customers additional content,” We look forward to an ongoing partnership,” Heap said.

Comcast corporate earlier this week pledged $100 million to assist minority-based businesses and social justice organizations.

Allen’s separate litigation against Spectrum continues.

Comcast Pledges $100 Million to Fight Racism, Advance Social Justice

Comcast chairman/CEO Brian Roberts June 8 issued a letter decrying the civil unrest rocking the country since the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police on Memorial Day.

Roberts said Comcast would pledge $100 million to fight for social justice and equality, which includes $75 million cash and $25 million in media spending.

“We know that Comcast alone can’t remedy this complex issue,” Roberts wrote. “But you have my commitment that our company will try to play an integral role in driving lasting reform. Together, we hope to help create a more equitable, just and inclusive society.”

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Specifically, Roberts said the media giant would partner with, and provide significant grants to, organizations working to eradicate injustice and inequity. Organizations will include but not be limited to: the National Urban League, the Equal Justice Initiative, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the National Action Network and the Community Justice Action Fund.

Roberts said Comcast would put the “full weight” of its media resources behind highlighting black voices and black stories and educating viewers on diverse and inclusive cultures, perspectives and experiences, by making anti-racism education and inequality awareness a priority.

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“We will use our platforms across the organization to continue to shed light on societal issues related to race,” Roberts wrote. “NBC News will host a series of Town Halls, similar to their ‘Can You Hear Us Now’ special that aired this past Tuesday, and we will use the X1, Flex, Peacock and Sky platforms to promote and amplify multicultural content.”

Xfinity Flex Surpasses 1 Million Devices Deployed

Comcast May 14 announced it has deployed more than 1 million Xfinity Flex devices since the unit’s launch last year. Included with Xfinity Internet (broadband) for free, the device leverages Xfinity X1 technology to deliver video to high-speed Internet-only (non-pay-TV) subscribers.

Dana Strong, president, Xfinity consumer services, said the platform combines access to 200 third-party streaming services such as Peacock, Hulu, CBS All Access, Radio.com and Black News Channel. These services join Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Amazon Music, HBO Now, YouTube, Epix, Starz and Pandora. Flex also affords subs access to AVOD services such as NBCUniversal’s Xumo, Tubi and Pluto TV.

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“Flex was designed to fit seamlessly into the lives of our Internet-only customers,” Strong said.

Last month, NBCU previewed Peacock to Flex subs. Peacock Premium is now available to Xfinity X1 and Flex customers at no extra cost. The service offers over 15,000 hours of shows and movies, and Flex customers can simply say “Peacock” into their voice remote to explore iconic shows and movies, NBC favorites, plus trending news and pop culture updated daily.

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NBCUniversal, Sky Partner on Joint Advertising Platform

NBCUniversal and sister company Sky have launched of an advertising partnership enabling the companies’ original content to be available for purchase through NBCUniversal’s upstart “One Platform.”

Leadership of the new global division will be announced in the coming weeks, and will report into NBCUniversal Chairwoman Linda Yaccarino as well as partner closely with Sky Chief Business Officer Patrick Béhar.

NBCUniversal parent Comcast acquired U.K. satellite TV operator Sky for $39 billion in 2018.

With many consumers stuck at home during mandated government quarantine measures, domestic TV viewership is expected to add 8.3 million viewers in 2020 — the first increase since 2011, according to eMarketer.

With the global coronavirus pandemic upending traditional advertising strategies, NBCUniversal’s One Platform aims to give marketers access to premium content and advanced advertising capabilities that NBCU and Sky each bring to market.

Comcast, NBCUniversal and Sky’s combined $24 billion investment in original content ranges from “Saturday Night Live” to “Game of Thrones,” as well international news efforts. NBCUniversal and Sky claim to reach an audience that spans more than half a billion viewers every month in more than 160 countries.

“At a time when lots and lots of companies are slashing their ad budgets, or at least pausing them, now the supply of viewing time or ad inventory exceeds the demand from advertisers to fill it,” Ross Benes, analyst at eMarketer, told CNBC. “It’s great to get people to watch your show, but each viewer is being monetized much lower than they were months ago.”

One Platform hopes to remedy that issue.

Germany’s Bundesliga Soccer to Resume on May 16

Germany’s Bundesliga professional soccer league is set to become one of the first sports organizations in the world to resume play on May 16. All remaining nine weekend games of the season will be played in empty stadiums for televised and streaming video audiences. The league has been suspended since March 13.

The German Football Association says the matches would run under strict health protocols, including requiring players have regular COVID-19 tests.

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Comcast’s Sky Deutschland will broadcast all games live in Germany and Austria. Pay-TV operator BT Sports has Bundesliga rights in the U.K. is reportedly considering broadcasting the games for free (with ads).

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Comcast’s Brian Roberts, Wife Donate $5 Million For Laptops to Philadelphia Public Schools

With public schools switching to online classes during the coronavirus pandemic, Comcast Corp. CEO Brian Roberts and his wife Aileen have pledged $5 million toward the purchase of laptop computers for school children in Philadelphia.

According to a 2019 School District survey, only about 50% of third- through 12th-grade students have the equipment they need to begin participating in online lessons. Roberts’ donation will support the purchase of 50,000 Chromebooks, which will help ensure that all students who attend the 220 District-led public schools across Philadelphia have the tools they need to learn at home.

“We’re living in an unprecedented time and COVID-19 is presenting our society with new challenges every day,” Aileen and Brian Roberts said in a statement. “When we heard that many Philadelphia students weren’t going to be able to learn from home without laptops, we quickly decided we wanted to help and provide these teachers, parents and students with the technology they need to begin learning online within just a few weeks.”

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The laptops will be distributed along with the estimated 40,000 laptops already in school buildings to students and families. Once the equipment is received at the School District headquarters, it will be dispensed between April 13 and 17. During the interim two weeks, the laptops will be prepared for the students and the Philadelphia School District teachers will be trained to support distance learning.

“The generous gift from Aileen and Brian Roberts and their family will help to transform the learning experience for thousands of Philadelphia’s public school students who will now be able to access online educational resources from home,” said Superintendent William R. Hite, Jr., Ed.D. “Our public schools belong to all of us and this is a great example of what’s possible when we work together to improve educational supports for all of our young people. I am grateful for their generosity.”

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Students and their families who don’t already have Internet access can get it through any Internet Service Provider (ISP) in Philadelphia. Comcast is currently offering low-income families who don’t already have Internet service two free months through Internet Essentials, which is the nation’s largest and most comprehensive high-speed internet adoption program.

Comcast Selling $4 Billion in New Bonds (Debt)

Comcast is taking a fiscal page from Disney’s playbook and not waiting for Congress to bail out its struggling business segments.

The media giant March 25 disclosed it is selling $4 billion in new bonds (long-term debt) that mature in the next five to 20 years.

“We intend to use the net proceeds from the offering … for general corporate purposes,” Comcast said in the filing. The company operates Comcast Cable, satellite TV operator Sky, DreamWorks Animation, NBCUniversal — the latter including Universal Pictures and FandangoNow, among other businesses.

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The funding sale comes the day after Comcast issued a warning to investors that its business segments could have a “material adverse” impact in the short-term — including the first fiscal quarter ending March 31.

NBCUniversal launches the branded Peacock subscription streaming video platform on April 15.

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