Hulu Revamps Management, Company Structure

Looking to shake up its internal management structure, Hulu has hired a new chief technology officer, its first chief data officer and realigned the subscription streaming video platform into four operating segments, among other changes.

Notable in the reorganization is the departure of chief content officer Joe Stillerman and Tim Connolly, SVP of partnerships and distribution. Stillerman had been with Hulu for just a year after joining the company from AMC Networks. Also leaving is Ben Smith, SVP, experience, who is retiring in July.

Hulu is conducting a search for a head of the new content partnerships group and is eliminating the CCO position.

“Ben, Tim and Joel have all played a significant role in getting Hulu to the strong position it is in today. They will forever be a part of Hulu’s success story, and we wish them the very best in their next endeavors,” CEO Randy Freer said in a statement.

The company’s original programming and relationships with creators, producers and studios will now operate as a dedicated business function led by SVP of content, Craig Erwich, who reports to Freer at the company’s Santa Monica, Calif.-based headquarters.

Other business segments include technology & product, “subscriber journey,” advertising, data & analytics. All of Hulu’s shared services functions — finance, legal, corporate communications and talent & organization — will continue operating as usual, reporting directly to Freer.

Hulu hired Jaya Kolhatkar, former SVP, global data and analytics platform for Walmart, as chief data officer. Kolhatkar, who begins July 2, will be responsible for elevating Hulu’s customer intelligence, implementing data governance and pushing the SVOD’s decision making based on data.

Dan Phillips, former COO at TiVo, becomes Hulu’s chief technology officer, responsible for aligning the company’s technical and product strategy. Philipps begins today (June 4).

Chief marketing officer Kelly Campbell assumes responsibility for “subscriber journey,” which includes acquisition, engagement and retention, to viewer experience and research, across all of Hulu’s business operations. In addition, this group will now oversee Hulu’s subscriber partnerships, including its relationships with Spotify and Sprint.

The advertising sales group continues to report to Peter Naylor, SVP of ad sales.

Hulu, which last month topped 20 million subscribers, continues to spend big attempting to bridge the gap with Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.

It lost $920 million in 2017 compared to a loss of $531 million in 2016. The fiscal loss is reportedly projected to reach $1.7 billion this year as original content (“The Handmaid’s Tale,” Marvel’s “Runaways,” “Future Man,” and “The Doozers”) spending skyrockets.

The losses are primarily driven by continued investments in programming and marketing by Hulu’s four corporate parents 21st Century Fox, The Walt Disney Co., Comcast and Time Warner.

Comcast, Fandango Partner to Sell Movie Tickets on the TV

In a unique inter-corporate marketing move, Comcast Cable and Fandango May 30 announced that Xfinity subscribers can now for the first time purchase movie tickets via the X1 set-top and voice remote on their television.

Fandango, which includes transactional platform Fandango Now, is part of the Universal Filmed Entertainment Group, which is a unit of NBC Universal and owned by Comcast.

Xfinity X1 customers can say “Get tickets” into their X1 voice remote while watching trailers to more than 30,000 theatrical screens in the U.S., including Universal Pictures’ Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom,which debuts June 22. The companies expect to extend this feature to additional new releases throughout the year.

“Xfinity X1 enables us to continually explore one-of-a-kind experiences that complement the TV viewing experience, allowing viewers to interact with content where and when it is convenient for them,” Nancy Spears, VP, strategy and execution, Comcast Cable, said in a statement.

X1 customers who watch the Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom trailer on Xfinity On Demand will receive an on-screen notification prompting them to say “Get tickets” into their voice remote (or press the info button on the remote) to initiate the online ticket-buying process. From there, they’ll be able to review a list of showtimes at nearby theaters. Customers can opt to send the local showtimes to their mobile phone to complete the purchase via Fandango’s mobile app or website.

Prior to the launch of Fallen Kingdom and to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Jurassic Park, Xfinity TV customers can watch the entire Jurassic franchise through a new curated destination on X1 — accessible via the movies section on Xfinity On Demand or by saying “Jurassic World” into the voice remote.

Subs can rent or purchase any of the previous films, pre-order Fallen Kingdomhome entertainment release and access clips, trailers and other special content related to the film franchise.

“At Fandango, we are always looking for innovative ways to super serve movie fans, when they are engaging with movie content so that they can easily act on their interest and purchase a ticket to the theater on the platforms and devices they use,” said Mark Young, SVP, head of business development and strategy at Fandango.

 

 

 

Sky’s Cycling Dilemma

NEWS ANALYSIS — Chris Froome, racing for the $40 million Team Sky professional cycling team sponsored by the British satellite pay-TV operator, May 27 won his third straight Grand Tour stage race, finishing first overall in the Giro d’Italia (Tour of Italy) that began in Jerusalem and ended three weeks later in Rome.

For Froome, who has won four Tour de France races, in addition to last year’s Vuelta a España (Tour of Spain), victory came May 25 after a jaw-dropping win into Bardonecchia that saw the South African-born rider erase a seemingly insurmountable three-minute, 21-second deficit in the overall standings to take the lead for good.

The win brought back bad memories of American Floyd Landis’ similar performance in 2006 when he overcame a significant time gap to vanquish his Tour de France rivals on the next-to-last stage.

Landis was eventually stripped of the win after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs — leading to a chain of events that would ultimately bring down his former teammate Lance Armstrong on similar charges.

Froome and Team Sky are supposed to be different than Armstrong’s heavy-handed squads of the early 2000s that pushed systematic doping to the extreme.

Founded in 2010, Team Sky has dominated professional and Olympic track cycling with a mandate of clean racing. It is a bragging right of sorts for corporate parent Sky, which eyes the team’s “inspiration and participation” as grounds for its massive marketing spend.

But it remains to be seen how much longer Sky — which has first-run distribution deals with major Hollywood studios, direct-access to Netflix and includes DVDs with electronic sellthrough purchases on the Sky Store platform — will support the team financially at it sits in the merger crosshairs of The Walt Disney Co., 21st Century Fox (which owns 39% of Sky), and Comcast.

And money is hardly the issue.

Team Sky’s dominance has produced increasing naysayers, who contend its results are due to exploiting loopholes within doping rules.

Indeed, Froome, a well-documented asthmatic, often uses inhalers during competition. But apparent misuse of inhalers contributed to Froome testing positive for illegally high levels of an asthma drug during last year’s Vuelta.

The case is under review by cycling’s governing body. Should Froome be found guilty, he would be suspended and stripped of the Vuelta win, and likely the Giro as well.

Without its marque rider, Sky would probably drop its sponsorship.

But in the meantime, Froome keeps racing. As does Team Sky, whose Columbian rider Bernal Gomez recently won the Tour of California.

“My conscience is clear,” said Froome in Rome.

Netflix Worth More Than Comcast, Disney on Wall Street

Thanks to a record stock price, subscription streaming video behemoth Netflix quietly ended May 23 with a market value exceeding Comcast for the first time.

The same Comcast that owns NBC Universal, DreamWorks Animation and wants to own 20th Century Fox Film and British satellite TV operator Sky.

Netflix ended the day with market capitalization of $149 billion, which bested Comcast’s $147 billion market cap. Netflix opened May 24 up to $151.8 billion, which passed Disney’s $151.7 billion market cap.

With more than 125 million subscribers globally, Netflix continues to grow. The service expects to add 6.2 million subs in the second quarter ending June 30.

The service also continues to expand its creative product with the bow of “Dear White People,” “The Break with Michelle Wolf” on May 27, and announcement of future projects with former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.

The latter drew some pushback on social media, with several subscribers saying on Twitter they would cancel their service, according to Fortune.

Apparently, President Obama’s desire to “cultivate and curate the talented, inspiring, creative voices who are able to promote greater empathy and understanding between peoples and help them share their stories with the entire world,” being an affront to some.

Chief content officer Ted Sarandos said the Obamas are “uniquely positioned to discover and highlight stories of people who make a difference in their communities and strive to change the world for the better.”

And Wall Street agrees — for now.

Comcast Prepping Superior Offer for Fox

The Walt Disney Co. and 21st Century Fox may think they have a $52.4 million merger agreement to split off 20th Century Fox Film locked up, but Comcast is hedging shareholders will follow the money.

Comcast May 23 issued a statement that it is finalizing an all-cash (reportedly $60 billion) offer for Fox that bests Disney’s stock-based offer.

“In view of the recent filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission by The Walt Disney Company and Twenty-First Century Fox, Inc. in preparation for their upcoming shareholder meetings to consider the acquisition of Fox by Disney, Comcast Corporation confirms that it is considering, and is in advanced stages of preparing, an offer for the businesses that Fox has agreed to sell to Disney (which do not include the Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, Fox Broadcasting Company and certain other assets),” Comcast said in the statement.

Comcast also has a separate $31 billion offer on the table for British satellite TV operator Sky that trumps Fox’s $15 billion bid for outstanding shares of Sky it doesn’t already own.

“The structure and terms of any offer by Comcast, including with respect to both the spin-off of “New Fox” and the regulatory risk provisions and the related termination fee, would be at least as favorable to Fox shareholders as the Disney offer,” said the cable giant.

Comcast reiterated that no final decision has been made, but that “at this point” the work to finance the all-cash offer and make the key regulatory filings is “well advanced.”

Comcast’s $31 Billion Bid for Sky Receives Regulatory Bump

Comcast’s proposed $31 billion offer for British satellite TV operator Sky isn’t generating any concern from the government’s Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

Comcast May 7 formally submitted a counter-offer to 21st Century Fox’s $15 billion bid to acquire shares of Sky it does not already own.

“Having reviewed the relevant evidence available, I can confirm that … I am minded not to issue [regulatory concern] on the basis that the proposed merger does not raise concerns in relation to public interest considerations, which would meet the threshold for intervention,” Mike Hancock said in a statement.

Separately, media reports say Fox will formally ask shareholders to vote in July on The Walt Disney Co.’s $52.4 billion offer for 20th Century Fox Film, which includes 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

Comcast reportedly is readying its own bid for Fox assets in June.

In January, the U.K. Competition and Markets Authority issued a report warning Fox’s majority takeover of Sky without concessions would not be in the public’s best interest.

Fox, like Comcast, has vowed to leave Sky News as an autonomous operation with editorial and fiscal freedom in the event of a merger.

The CMA said successful bids by Disney or Comcast of Sky would “significantly weaken” Rupert Murdoch’s tie to Sky – the basis of the regulator’s concerns.

“On the face of it, these concerns would fall away,” the CMA said.

Comcast Announces Xfinity Retail Store

Comcast May 21 announced the launch of the new interactive Xfinity retail store.

The store is “created to provide customers an immersive destination to discover and address service needs for Xfinity products and services,” according to a company release.

The first locations of the new store format recently opened in Pueblo, Colo.; Aventura, Fla.; Henrico, Va.; Chattanooga, Tenn.; and Tucson, Ariz.

“We want to bring our customers an incredible shopping experience, which showcases the power and innovation of our Xfinity products and demonstrates how they work together,” said Tom DeVito, SVP, retail sales and service, Comcast Cable. “We have heard from our customers that they want to touch and feel our Xfinity products and understand their capabilities as they make decisions for their own home. Our Xfinity stores are the place to do that.”

Comcast has built or re-designed more than 250 new stores since 2015, according to the company. The company will open more than 50 of the new and enhanced Xfinity stores in high-traffic shopping centers across the service footprint in 2018.

“Comcast’s ultimate goal is for customers to be within a 15 minute drive of a Xfinity store,” according to the release.

Xfinity stores are designed strategically by product area —Xfinity Mobile, Xfinity X1, Xfinity Home and Xfinity Internet.

  • At Xfinity Mobile, customers can purchase new mobile phones or bring in their own Apple devices and choose a data plan.
  • At Discover xFi, the Xfinity home WiFi experience, customers can learn how to view and control network devices through the app, site or voice remote in the Xfinity Internet zone.
  • At X1, the next-generation video platform, the store features a living room environment, so customers can try the voice remote and see how X1 works firsthand.
  • The Connected Home Zone section showcases how Xfinity Home shows customers how they can control IoT devices from their phone, tablet or Xfinity Home touchscreen.

Customers can visit the store to upgrade or swap equipment, ask questions about their Xfinity service, troubleshoot equipment or pay a bill at an in-store kiosk. In-store appointments can be scheduled online on their local store website.

New Xfinity stores also have a dedicated space for Comcast Business customers and prospects to come in and discuss their business technology needs with an expert.

Report: Multichannel Subscriptions Fall Slightly in Q1, But Get Virtual Lift

Combined cable, direct broadcast satellite (DBS) and telecom multichannel subscriptions fell 0.8% sequentially in the first quarter ended March 31, to 93.2 million, including 90.3 million residential customers.

That’s according to the Q1 2018 U.S. Multichannel Subscriber Report by Kagan, a media research group within S&P Global Market Intelligence.

However, noteworthy gains for virtual platforms DirecTV NOW and Sling TV cut the quarterly subscription losses in half, raising the overall residential figure to 94.1 million.

Other findings:

  • The residential multichannel penetration rate stood at 76.1% as of March 31 when including the virtual smartphone platforms owned by AT&T and DISH Network (DirecTV NOW and Sling TV).
  • Cable operators logged their largest first-quarter video subscriber decline on record, with the top two multiple system operators, Comcast and Charter, accounting for 59% of the drop.
  • Telco video appears to be regaining its footing as AT&T’s U-verse stabilizes. The platform’s video customer losses fell below 100,000 for the first time since the third quarter of 2015.
  • DBS losses ramped back up in the first quarter, bringing the sector’s total down to 31.1 million.For more information, visit www.spglobal.com/marketintelligence.

Lachlan Murdoch to Become Chairman/CEO of New ‘Fox’

Twenty-First Century Fox May 16 revealed the senior management team at the revamped “Fox” once it consummates the asset sale of 20th Century Fox Film Corp. to The Walt Disney Co. (or Comcast).

Current executive chairman Lachlan Murdoch will serve as chairman and CEO of the new company, while his father, Rupert Murdoch, will serve as co-chairman. John Nallen, CFO at 21st Century Fox, will take a broader role as new COO.

No mention of current Fox CEO James Murdoch, who apparently won’t have a role in the new company.

The younger son was seen as more progressive politically than his father and brother. Indeed, James was reportedly embarrassed by ongoing sexual harassment issues at Fox News, and late last year wrote an email criticizing President Trump’s response to the deadly skirmish in Charlottesville, Va., between protesters and white nationalists and alt-right groups that left one woman dead and 19 people injured.

The downsized Fox will feature Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, Fox Broadcasting Co., Fox Sports, Fox Television Stations Group, and sports cable networks FS1, FS2, Fox Deportes and Big Ten Network.

It will house the top cable news channel in the country, and a stations group in nine of the 10 largest metro areas in the U.S. Its broadcasting and cable sports brands will have long-term sports rights to the NFL, MLB, World Cup soccer and NASCAR.

“We have worked through the winter ‘standing up’ a reimagined independent Fox,” the younger Murdoch said in a statement.

Rupert Murdoch said the revamped company would become the only media company solely focused on the domestic market.

“Focused on what Americans love best – sports, news and entertainment,” he said.

Comcast’s Solution to Video Sub Losses: Raise Broadband Pricing

Comcast Cable lost 96,000 video subscribers in the first-quarter (ended March 31), and 200,000 subs in 2017 — many to competing over-the-top video services and/or online TV platforms.

So, what is Comcast Cable doing in response to cord-cutters? Raising broadband (high-speed Internet) fees, CEO Dave Watson told an investor group.

Speaking May 14 at the MoffettNathanson Media & Communications Summit in New York, Watson reiterated that the traditional cable bundle still represents the best value to consumers eyeing a-la-carte programming alternatives such as Showtime OTT, HBO Now, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu, etc.

When pay-TV subscribers opt for OTT video alternatives, they lose the multiproduct discount, while Comcast is able to lower its programming costs, while hiking monthly broadband fees.

Indeed, Comcast added 379,000 high-speed Internet subscribers in Q1, which helped upped broadband revenue 8.5% to $14.8 billion — 64% of video revenue.

“We’ve seen some low-end customers that have dropped video, maintain broadband … it’s accretive when that happens,” Watson said.

The executive said Comcast’s cloud-based X1 set-top continues to meld the traditional set-top with OTT video. The platform, which accounts for almost 60% of Comcast’s residential video footprint, now offers direct-access to Netflix and YouTube.

“We still think video is a very important category,” Watson said. “We’re still going to compete.”

At the same time, Watson concedes that competing streaming media set-top dives such as Roku offer similar features of X1, including the Xfinity app.

“We have a lot of optionality around how we manage the video relationship,” he said.