10/21/16: Time Warner’s stocks jump at talks of merger with AT&T


Good morning. It’s Friday October 21, and this is your first early morning digital briefing.


Skinny Bundle: A skinny bundle is a TV package that contains fewer channels than a standard cable package. (It also costs less – which is kind of the point.) Web-based TV services such as Dish’s Sling TV and Sony’s PlayStation Vue specialize in providing skinny bundles. Such web-based TV services are also called Virtual MVPDs – a term defined in a previous Codebreaker.


Is Time Warner merging with AT&T? Maybe. And that maybe was enough to send Time Warner’s stock leaping 9%. The news comes from Bloomberg, which reports that top execs from both companies have been meeting in recent weeks to talk over different business strategies, including a potential merger. Bloomberg describes the talks as informal, at least for the time being. Interestingly enough, while the news sent Time Warner’s stock value on an upward trajectory, AT&T’s stock fell by 2 percent.
Google’s getting closer to giving pay-TV providers a bigger headache than it ever has in the past. As first reported by The Information in July, the tech giant is preparing to launch Unplugged, a new “skinny bundle” of TV channels that will live on the YouTube platform. Now, the Wall Street Journal reports that Google has inked a partnership with CBS Corp. to carry CBS on the new service. Google is also close to reaching deals with 21st Century Fox, Walt Disney Co., and NBCU, according to the Journal. The Journal reports that Unplugged will likely cost somewhere between $25-$40.


Digital Model D Awards Luncheon
Innovators. Inspirers. Creators of all kinds. We celebrate those in online video content and advertising who are at the forefront of this new industry, elevating it with their state-of-the-art contributions to branded content, technology, ad campaigns, and original content.
Celebrate with us on November 4th at the Apella in New York City.
View the finalist list here


Xumo, an OTT platform that streams both TV and digital content, announced a new programming deal with Fox Sports. The Fox Sports channel on Xumo will feature game highlights and clips from FS1’s studio shows. It’ll also feature some of Fox Sports Digital’s original programs, including @TheBuzzer. Xumo is available through numerous smart TV brands, including Vizio and Panasonic. There’s also a Xumo iOS mobile app. The company is owned by a joint venture of Panasonic and Time Inc.’s Viant.
Amazon announced a new version of its $40 Fire TV Stick. The device will now come equipped with faster processors, as well as a remote control that features an integrated microphone. Consumers can use the new microphone to communicate with Alexa, Amazon’s digital assistant. (Until now, Fire TV Stick users had to buy a voice-integrated remote separately, at a cost of $10.) The Alexa integration enables video-viewers to skip back a view minutes or pause playback. As for the Fire TV set-top box, Amazon has cut the price from $100 to $90. (The Fire TV + HD Antenna bundle is now $100, and the Amazon Fire TV Gaming Edition is now $130.) Finally, Amazon has unveiled a new user interface for its Fire TV devices, which puts a greater emphasis on programming from its content partners. The new interface will first debut on the newest generation of Fire TV Sticks and Fire TV set-top boxes.
, an England-based subscription video service for kids, has a major new investor. Sony Pictures Television Networks invested an undisclosed amount in Hopster, leading its latest funding round. Along with the investment, Sony has taken a minority stake in the company. The Hopster app, which is geared toward preschoolers, costs $4.99 per month. It’s available across iOS and Android, and on certain connected TV devices.
Amazon Prime added a couple of new partners to Amazon Channels, its video subscription ad-on program. PBS Kids and the indie-film centric SVOD service Fandor are now available through the Prime platform. PBS Kids costs an extra $4.99 per month for Prime subscribers, while Fandor comes in at $3.99 per month.
Comcast announced that it has upped the speeds of Blast! and Performance Pro, its two most widely used internet tiers. (Alas, the free upgrade only applies to new and existing customers in the Northeast.) Blast! has moved from 150 Mbps to 200 Mbps, while Performance has moved from 75 Mbps to 100 Mbps.


ESports is ushering in a full-blown shift in entertainment and culture, but how do you maximize and monetize this phenomenon? Get the answers on November 17, from sponsors and marketers as they share their insights into connecting with eSports fans, laying out a blueprint for how brands can reach and connect with a generation of skeptical but affluent consumers. Register now.


Snapchat boasts many features – and PBS has apparently decided that documentary film should be one of them. POV, PBS’s documentary series, has produced two short interactive docs, part of the new POV “Snapchat Films” series, for the NowThis Media channel on Snapchat’s Discover platform. The first, debuting October 23, is We’ll Still Be Here, which centers on dominoes players. The second, an LGBT love story called The Way It Should Be, debuts October 30. The films will be available for 24-hour window, exclusively on the NowThis Discover channel. They’ll be the very first Snapchat-native docs. Variety was the first to report the news.
Fandango is launching a new video series, Indie Movie Guide, with correspondent Alicia Malone reporting on film festivals, awards and events. The digital net’s Movieclips Trailers YouTube channel recently surpassed 10 million subscribers.


Millennials and Gen Z’ers are a little bit spoiled when it comes to TV. They expect quick and easy access to content – and if they don’t get it, some of them will take their viewership elsewhere. That’s the takeaway from a new TiVo Research survey, which found that 54% of younger viewers have stopped watching a TV show because it was just too difficult to maintain viewership. Examples of barriers to access include  episodes being situated behind paywalls and not enough episodes being available to help catch up on a show. Respondents had given up on shows as varied as The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, and The Big Bang Theory. The good news: The study finds that younger viewers spend over six hours a day watching TV or streaming video. The trick is not to lose them to a competitor. 


Viacom Labs, the R&D lab that Viacom launched in May, has made an important new hire. Kiel Berry will serve as Co-Head and SVP, leading the lab alongside SVP Susan Claxton. Berry joins Viacom from a venture firm he helped to launch – Machine Shop Ventures, which represents the music group Linkin Park.


Next year, Netflix will debut a new original series based on Lemony Snicket‘s A Series of Unfortunate Events. “Lemony Snicket,” incidentally, is the pen name of an author who doesn’t just write children’s books. What’s his real name? (Email [email protected] with your answer and be sure to include your name, company, city and state.)


Our Last Trivia Question: Some decades back, the U.S. Department of Defense funded the creation of a network that served as the internet’s predecessor. What was it called? The Advanced Research Projects Agency Network, or ARPANET. Kudos to Andy Pittman-TAMU/TX, Andy Abramson- Comunicano, Inc./CA, Susan Nessanbaum-Goldberg-Generate/CA, Tim Rank-blueprint314/MO, Mathew Tombers-Intermat, Inc./NY, and Greg Siddons-Encompass Digital Media/CT


Today is the Cynopsis Sports
Open to any organization that utilized its social media platforms to promote its product to sports fans throughout 2016.
Showcase your talent and complete your entries by 11:59PM (ET)


Funny or Die has been rolling out a series of videos, each directed toward a particular state, encouraging people to vote in the upcoming presidential election. Parks and Recreation’s Ben Schwartz took on Wisconsin. Check out the video here.

See you on Monday,
David Teich

Roberta Caploe: Publisher @robertacaploe
Diane K Schwartz: Senior Vice President, Media Communications Group

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