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  1. AT&T to spin off and combine WarnerMedia with Discovery in deal that would create streaming giant New York (CNN Business)The streaming TV race is about to get even more competitive. On Monday morning AT&T (T) and Discovery, Inc. (DISCA)announced a deal under which AT&T's WarnerMedia will be spun off and combined with Discovery in a new standalone media company. The deal, subject to regulatory approval, will combine two treasure troves of content, including the HBO Max and discovery+ streaming services. CNN will be included in the transaction. Discovery CEO David Zaslav will run the combined business, according to Monday's announcement. "I think we fit together like a glove," Zaslav said at a virtual press conference. On one level, the tie-up is a logical way to better compete with Netflix and Disney, the two top streaming players. "Scale" is the word AT&T CEO John Stankey used repeatedly in interviews on Monday. On another level, the transaction is also a complex way for AT&T to unwind its 2016 bid for Time Warner, which took effect in 2018, with the assets named WarnerMedia. A spin-off will help AT&T prioritize its broadband business and pay down its huge debt load. "AT&T would receive $43 billion (subject to adjustment) in a combination of cash, debt securities, and WarnerMedia's retention of certain debt," Monday's announcement said. Zaslav said Monday the new media company will start with $55 billion in debt. AT&T's shareholders will get the majority of the shares in the combined company, at 71%, while Discovery's shareholders will get 29%. Shares of AT&T were up about 2% in morning trading. Shares of Discovery, which popped as much as 16% pre-market, were down about 2%. Now this new company needs a name The executives leading the transaction said they'll announce a name for the spun-off company later this week. They expect the deal to take effect in mid-2022. Prominent Wall Street analysts said the deal made strategic sense. "In short order," Craig Moffett of MoffettNathanson wrote, "the new company will be able to join the upper tier" of global streaming service players. In an interview with CNN's Poppy Harlow, Zaslav said that "'more' does make a difference," meaning more programming available in more ways. "We think if you can take our content" at Discovery "together with the great content on HBO Max as well as the amazing production coming out of Warner Bros, that we'll have something that is truly unique," he said. Added scale is also a factor in the cable television businesses that made both WarnerMedia and Discovery into media behemoths in the first place. Cable remains hugely profitable, though the businesses are under pressure due to cord-cutting and streaming. The Discovery-Warner portfolio will include six of the top-rated eight channels on cable in key advertiser demographics: CNN, TNT, TBS, ID, HGTV, and Food Network. This could give the company more leverage in negotiations with distributors and ad buyers. AT&T slimming down Bloomberg News broke the news of the impending deal on Sunday. Zaslav and Stankey indicated Monday that the pairing had been in the works for months. In many quarters the news is being seen as AT&T admitting defeat after an ill-fated attempt to bring content and distribution together. Earlier this year AT&T also struck a deal to carve out its satellite business DirecTV at a significant loss from the 2015 purchase price. And another telecom giant, Verizon, threw in the towel on its content efforts as well, agreeing to sell Yahoo and AOL for $5 billion. Of course, the media world looks very different today than it did just a few years ago. "We are now in a world where relevance and future success will be tied to greater scale and growth globally," Stankey said in a memo to WarnerMedia staffers. "To be one of the best global media companies requires not only broad and deep creative assets, but an investor base and access to capital to make it happen. The decision to combine WarnerMedia with Discovery is rooted in this conclusion." Discovery's nonfiction-focused streaming service launched in January, utilizing a library of shows from channels like TLC and Animal Planet. At the time, Zaslav told CNN that discovery+ was a "great complement to someone who has Disney (DIS) or Netflix (NFLX), or HBO, Disney and Netflix." Zaslav also emphasized Discovery's global reach. HBO Max, currently available in the US, is about to make an international push. Stankey said the combination will support HBO Max's global growth "and create efficiencies which can be re-invested in producing more great content to give consumers what they want." Zaslav said Discovery and Warner currently spend a total of $20 billion a year on content. Netflix plans to spend at least $17 billion on content this year. "Executives from both companies" will be in "key leadership roles," according to the press release. WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar was not mentioned in the announcement, but Zaslav signaled that Kilar may remain with the company. "Jason is a fantastic talent," Zaslav said. Zaslav also affirmed the independence of CNN's newsroom. He said he commits to "the greatest editorial integrity" for CNN and intends to fund CNN's streaming service plans. Zaslav, a longtime friend of CNN Worldwide chief Jeff Zucker, said at the press conference, "We love CNN... We think one of the true differentiators of the future is live news, live sports." Soruce: AT&T to spin off and combine WarnerMedia with Discovery in deal that would create streaming giant
  2. One of America’s largest internet providers is uploading its oldest broadband technology into the sunset. On Oct. 1, AT&T stopped selling digital-subscriber-line connections, stranding many existing subscribers on those low-speed links and leaving new residents of DSL-only areas without any wired broadband. “We’re beginning to phase out outdated services like DSL and new orders for the service will no longer be supported after October 1,” a corporate statement sent beforehand read. “Current DSL customers will be able to continue their existing service or where possible upgrade to our 100% fiber network.” DSL – a broadband connection delivered over old copper telephone lines – is no prize at AT&T. The company doesn’t sell downloads faster than 6 Mbps, less than a fourth of the 25-Mbps minimum definition of the Federal Communications Commission and further cramps their utility with stringent data caps of just 150 gigabytes. But the technology that provided many people (myself included) their first real broadband still works to provide an always-on connection and far more capacity than satellite connectivity. “I'm really not surprised that AT&T is phasing out DSL, as it's an obsolete technology,” emailed one soon-be-stranded DSL subscriber, retiree Jack Mangold of Collettsville, North Carolina. “I am, however, very disappointed that AT&T has no interest in replacing DSL in rural areas with some other technology.” AT&T reported 653,000 total DSL connections at the end of its second quarter, compared to 14.48 million on its fiber-optic and hybrid-fiber services. The latter, sold as “AT&T Internet,” combines fiber trunk lines with DSL last-mile connections for faster speeds. The company has seen DSL subscribers steadily dwindle. Bruce Leichtman, president and principal analyst at the research firm Leichtman Research Group, wrote in an email that two years ago, AT&T had just over a million DSL customers. “AT&T basically gave up on fighting cable over a third of its territory” said Dave Burstein, editor of the trade publication Fast Net News. That decline has put AT&T narrowly behind Verizon in this slower slice of the market; that New York firm reported 661,000 DSL connections in its second quarter, versus 6.298 million Fios fiber-optic connections. Verizon and such smaller telecom firms as Lumen (formerly CenturyLink) and Frontier have not announced plans to sunset their own DSL. That’s a good thing for the potentially 3 to 6% of the U.S. that Burstein estimated can only get wired broadband via this technology, even if such fixed-wireless ventures as Verizon’s just-announced expansion of its unlimited-data LTE Home Internet service to some rural areas across 48 states give more people more choices. But for those customers to get faster connections, providers can’t neglect their networks. “When I was at the FCC, there was actually hope that DSL technology could be improved to provide actual high speed broadband,” emailed Gigi Sohn, a fellow at the Georgetown Law Institute for Technology Law & Policy who served as an advisor to FCC chairman Tom Wheeler during the Obama administration. “If I recall correctly, the companies were making promises of speeds around 25 Mbps or even higher.” That remains possible, as the CEO of a regional provider offering DSL over AT&T phone lines humble-bragged in a Twitter direct-message conversation. “We deliver up to 100 Mbps,” wrote Dane Jasper, CEO of Sonic. That Santa Rosa, California firm reaches those speeds by pairing DSL connections and installing its own, upgraded switching gear. In some areas, it also sells separate fiber-optic connections that can run 10 times as fast. Jasper said Sonic customers in its slower lanes don’t have to worry about their own bandwidth’s viability: “That is unaffected by AT&T’s decisions about their own network.” Source
  3. (Reuters) - AT&T Inc on Thursday reported the coronavirus pandemic had taken a heavy toll on its media business, but quarterly results were offset by stronger than expected gains in new phone subscribers lifted by offers for its HBO Max streaming service for free on certain phone plans. That helped AT&T beat revenue expectations. Total revenue was $42.3 billion during the third quarter ended Sept. 30, exceeding the average analyst expectation of $41.59 billion, according to IBES data from Refinitiv. Shares of AT&T rose 1% to $27.03 in premarket trading. The company added 645,000 net new phone subscribers during the quarter who pay a recurring monthly bill. Analysts had expected AT&T to lose a net 9,000 customers, according to research firm FactSet. AT&T, which has spent the past few years investing in media businesses, said it had 38 million subscribers in the United States for both its premium TV channel HBO and HBO Max during the third quarter, reaching its 2021 goal a year early, as more people sought out entertainment at home. It currently has 57 million subscribers worldwide. AT&T reported 8.6 million HBO Max “activations,” which it said was a sign of engagement and are defined as customers who had access to the streaming service through their unlimited phone plans, for instance, and then activated their accounts to use the service. The services had 36.3 million subscribers in the United States in the previous quarter. WarnerMedia, the segment that contains HBO and the company’s movie and TV studio, generated revenue of $7.5 billion, down from $8.4 billion in the year-ago quarter, as movie theaters largely remained shut in the U.S. Even as the WarnerMedia segment attracts new subscribers, it must also contend with existing HBO subscribers through their pay TV providers who are cutting the cord. AT&T is playing catchup to larger streaming video rivals. Netflix currently serves about 68 million U.S. customers and nearly 200 million worldwide. Walt Disney Co’s Disney+ has more than 60 million subscribers, reaching its goal four years early. Adjusted earnings per share were 76 cents, matching analyst expectations. The figure was down from 94 cents in the same quarter last year. AT&T said the pandemic eroded earnings per share by 21 cents. The company added 357,000 net new fiber internet customers during the quarter, as demand for home internet increased with more Americans working from home during the pandemic. Source
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