Media Madness: Comcast, Disney, Al Franken & more

Tom Paine

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Universal Studios Florida Entrance / Wikipedia

When Comcast made a surprise $54.1 billion bid for Disney in 2004, most observers thought the primary targets were its cable networks (particularly ESPN), and saw the theme parks as a mere afterthought. When Comcast acquired NBCU in 2011, NBCU only owned half of Universal Orlando at the time and again questions were raised about Comcast's commitment to that business.

But in 2011 Comcast agreed to buy out the other half of Universal Orlando, and as Bob Fernandez reported in Sunday's Inquirer, Comcast says its been a great business for them , and is investing hundreds of millions of dollars in its Florida and California parks in a challenge to Disney, although Comcast execs say there is plenty of room for both to grow.

The co-chair of Disney Media Networks and president of Disney/ABC Television Group, Anne Sweeney, is stepping down to focus on doing TV production, a surprising move, and hasn't indicated how she is going to go about doing that. There was speculation, largely since discounted, that Facebook COO Sheryl (I'm not the boss of you) Sandberg might be in line to replace Robert Iger as Disney CEO in two years when he steps down.

Disney is also reported to be considering the possible acquisition of YouTube network Maker Studios at a price that could exceed $500 million (the latest figure I saw was as much as $900 million). Another YouTube-based company, Fullscreen, received an investment from Comcast Ventures last year.

Netflix is trying to accelerate its international growth, starting with a new push in Europe later this year, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Comcast take an active interest in the international OTT market with its combination of content and technology. Streampix is not the delivery equivalent of Netflix yet (far from it), and Comcast would not have a built-in broadband advantage in Europe as it does in the US. I have no source on this, but its just my speculation that this is something Comcast might be looking at. Comcast has been saying recently it wants to boost its international presence.

Reports indicate that the Senate Judiciary Committee is moving its hearing on the proposed Comcast/Time Warner Cable merger from March 26 to April 2 to accommodate additional participants. Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes says his company hasn't decided yet to change its name after Time Inc. is spun off, but will be happy when consumers can no longer mistake Time Warner Cable trucks for his own company's (Time Warner Cable and Time Warner Communications split a few years back).

More from DC: Senator Al Franken (D-Minn), whose media career reached its zenith on
NBC's SNL, again took to the public airwaves to blast the proposed merger on CBS Monday morning.

This while CBS CEO Les Moonves suggests he might just take his network off the public airwaves and go OTT if Aereo wins its upcoming Supreme Court case.

Links 3/12/2014: SunGard spinoff SunGard Availability loads up with $1.275B in debt

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Media executives question Comcast-Time Warner Cable deal (Reuters)

Comcast Deal Has 'Huge' Potential, Says Time Warner Cable CEO (Hollywood Reporter)

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Where Comcast-TWC Would Face Broadband Competition (Wall Street Journal: Digits)

Comcast and NRG Launch Electricity Bundle in Pennsylvania
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Tennis Channel Asks FCC to Look Again at Comcast Case

SunGard spinoff SunGard Availability preps $1.275B in debt (Reuters)