AT&T and Time Warner launch WatchTV, with new unlimited data plans

AT&T and Time Warner launch WatchTV, with new unlimited data plans

The dust has barely settled on the legal ruling that is paving the way for AT&T (T) to combine with Time Warner (TWX), and we are alread hearing of new products and services to stem from this combination. No surprise as we are seeing a blurring between mobile networks and devices, social media and content companies as Apple (AAPL), Facebook (FB), Google (GOOGL) and now AT&T join the hunt for original content alongside Netflix (NFLX), Amazon (AMZN), and Hulu, which soon may be controlled by Disney if it successfully fends of Comcast to win 21st Century Fox.

While we as consumers have become used to having the content I want, when I want it with Tivo and then the content I want, when I want it on the device I want it on with streaming services, it looks now like it will be “the content I want, when I want it, on the device I want on the platform I choose.” All part of the overlapping to be had with our Connected Society and Content is King investing themes that we are reformulating into Digital Lifestyle – more on that soon.

In short, a content arms race is in the offing, and it will likely ripple through broadcast TV as well as advertising. Think of it as a sequel to what we saw with newspaper, magazine and book publishing as new business models for streaming content come to market… the looming question in my mind is how much will today’s consumer have to spend on all of these offerings before it becomes too pricey?

And what about Sprint (S) and T-Mobile USA (TMUS)…

 

Taking advantage of the recent approval of its merger with Time Warner, AT&T on Thursday announced WatchTV, a new live TV service premiering next week — and initially tied to two new unlimited wireless data plans.

WatchTV incorporates over 30 channels, among them several under the wing of Time Warner such as CNN, Cartoon Network, TBS, and Turner Classic Movies. Sometime after launch AT&T will grow the lineup to include Comedy Central, Nicktoons, and several other channels.

People will be able to watch on “virtually every current smartphone, tablet, or Web browser,” as well as “certain streaming devices.” The company didn’t immediately specify compatible Apple platforms, but these will presumably include at least the iPhone and iPad, given their popularity and AT&T’s long-standing relationship with Apple.

The first data plan is “AT&T Unlimited &More”, which will also include $15 in monthly credit towards DirecTV Now. People who pay extra for “&More Premium” will get higher-quality video, 15 gigabytes of tethered data, and the option to add one of several “premium” services at no charge — initial examples include TV channels like HBO or Showtime, and music platforms like Pandora Premium or Amazon Music Unlimited.

&More Premium customers can also choose to apply their $15 credit towards DirecTV or U-verse TV, instead of just DirecTV Now.

WatchTV will at some point be available as a $15-per-month standalone service, but no timeline is available.

Source: AT&T uses Time Warner merger to launch WatchTV, paired with new unlimited data plans

Positioning for the post AT&T-Time Warner ruling

Positioning for the post AT&T-Time Warner ruling

 

KEY POINTS FROM THIS ISSUE:

 

Earlier this week, a court ruling paved the way for at least two things that are poised to alter the entertainment/media industry. I’m talking about the victory had by communications company AT&T (T) over the US Department of Justice in its bid to acquire content company Time Warner (TWX). The gist of the merger between these two companies is it brings together one of the biggest programmers of movies and television with one of the biggest mobile carrier in the US. From a thematic perspective, this combines our Connected Society and Content is King under one roof, and the result is likely to be rather disruptive.

What does it mean?

Those are two legs to a combination that I am increasingly referring to as the Digital Lifestyle, which also includes our Cashless Consumption investing theme – a powerful three-legged stool that reflects the consumer digital footprint. Consumers will not only be able to get content when, where and whatever device they want, but AT&T will now have a content moat around its business. We’ve seen this strategy in play before, most notably when Comcast (CMCSA) acquired NBC Universal from General Electric (GE), but also in the combination of Disney (DIS) and ABC/Capital Cities in the mid1990s. We’ve also witnessed the power of captive content in Netflix’s (NFLX) business model, and we’re seeing companies from Amazon (AMZN) and Facebook (FB) to even Apple (AAPL) tapping into it, igniting a would-be arms race for content.

This means the competitive lines are being redrawn, and in our view serves to confirm something we have long said here at Tematica – sector investing is dead. A simple question proves the point – what sector will the new AT&T-Time Warner be in? Communications? Media/Entertainment?

That brings us to the second thing – this court ruling and potential combination of AT &T with Time Warner will more than likely send shock waves throughout these industries, leading to the usual copycat merger and acquisition activity that we tend to see. Much like a game of musical chairs, companies will look to partner up in one form or another so as to avoid being out in the cold by themselves. Of course, in this game of pick up, the longer one takes to partner up, the lower quality partnership choices one faces. This likely means companies such as T-Mobile (TMUS), which is finally combining with Sprint (S), will need to at least consider making a similar move to acquire a content-producing engine. We could see Verizon (VZ) doing the same to go beyond just its digital properties under the Oath brand, which includes the old AOL and Yahoo! web properties. As I pointed out above AT&T will be competing with those companies that are already challenging their businesses and are not tied to their legacy business models of telephone and TV services.

Odds are this means we will see a pronounced pickup in acquisition activity. Aside from AT&T-Time Warner, we are seeing another M&A attempt heat up between Disney and 21stCentury Fox (FOXA) as Comcast (CMCSA) has re-entered the bidding fray. We’ll see how this resolves itself, but odds are the company that loses the bid will look to shore up its content position. It takes time to build one’s own content library and character pool, which is another reason to expect a pickup in M&A activity and again competitors will not want to be caught flat-footed especially after the AT&T- Time Warner ruling.

How to play it?

While there are several content companies out there including CBS (CBS) and Viacom (VIAB), the vast majority of them have market capitalizations over $20 billion, which can make for an expensive proposition. Well below that threshold, however, is AMC Networks (AMCX), which is home to AMC, WE tv, BBC AMERICA, IFC, and SundanceTV and boasts a growing roster of original content, including The Walking Dead franchise, Love After Lockup, Killing Eve, McMafia, Brockmire, Dietland, Better Call Saul, Nosferatu, and others, under its AMC Studios business. That businesses’ content library also includes Mad Men and Breaking Bad, as well as its burgeoning gaming business.

To me, all of the above makes AMC Networks a likely takeout candidate and that means we are adding the AMC Networks (AMCX) September 2018 $65 calls (AMCX180921C00065000) that closed last night at 2.05 to the Tematica Options+ Select List. We’ll set a wider than usual berth with our stop loss at given the recent move from $57 to the current share price over the last several trading days, which popped the September calls from roughly $1.00 on May 23 to last night’s closing price. Factoring that in, I’m setting the stop loss at 1.25.

 

Time Warner Shareholders Say “Yes” to AT&T

Time Warner Shareholders Say “Yes” to AT&T

As we noted yesterday, Time Warner (TWX) shareholders met yesterday to decide on the $86 billion merger with AT&T (T). As expected Time Warner shareholder approved the proposed merger and coming out of that meeting, Time Warner anticipates the transaction closing before the end of 2017.

Time Warner’s CEO Jeff Bewkes said in a statement that “78% of our outstanding shares” voted in favor of the merger, “and of the shares voted, 99% were cast in favor of the proposal.”

Pretty much a non-event, but one that removes one more hurdle in the proposed merger. We remain fans of the combination as it moves Connected Society AT&T into the Content is King tailwind, and we’ve seen how that investment theme has benefited Tematica Select List’s Disney (DIS) as well as Comcast (CMCSA) following its acquisition of NBC Universal.

  • With merger and synergy details from the proposed merged companies still pending, we continue to rate T shares a Hold, with a $45 price target. All things being equal, we’d look to revisit our rating on the shares below $40.
Look out DirecTV Now, here comes Hulu’s live TV streaming service complete with ESPN

Look out DirecTV Now, here comes Hulu’s live TV streaming service complete with ESPN

The race to replace broadcast TV with streaming services has become even more competitive with Hulu tossing it’s hat in the ring alongside the soon to be launched DirecTV Now from AT&T that is likely to benefit from the announced Time Warner acquisition. To drive viewers, it’s all about the content and increasingly proprietary content like we’re increasingly finding at Netflix and Amazon. While the Disney relationship brings ESPN into its fold, it sounds to us like Hulu needs to get that balance sheet going.

Hulu said today it has partnered with Disney and 21st Century Fox for its upcoming live TV streaming service, launching next year. The deals involve Fox’s news, entertainment, sports, and other properties, along with Disney’s portfolio of networks from is ABC Television Group and ESPN, among other things. In total, the two agreements will bring more than 35 TV networks to Hulu’s live TV service.What this means for consumers who are considering cutting the cord with pay TV is that they’ll gain access to two of the top broadcast networks, Fox and ABC, on Hulu’s new streaming platform.In terms of sports, the two deals will include Fox Sports networks (Fox Sports 1 and 2), BTN, ESPN networks, including ESPN1, ESPN2, ESPN3, ESPNU, ESPN-SEC, and Fox’s regional sports networks in dozens of markets. Meanwhile, other popular cable TV channels will also be included, like Disney Channel, Disney XD, Disney Junior, Fox News, Fox Business, Freeform, FX, FXX, FXM, National Geographic and Nat Geo Wild.

Source: Hulu’s live TV streaming service will have channels from Fox & Disney, including ABC, ESPN & more | TechCrunch

AT&T CEO puts DirecTV Now at $35/month, but…

AT&T CEO puts DirecTV Now at $35/month, but…

AT&T has been all over the news the last several days, and the news flow continues today when fresh from yesterday’s conference call to discuss the merger with Time Warner,  CEO Randall Stephenson shared its soon to launch DirecTV Now video streaming service will cost $35 per month. Details were rather sparse and we expect more when the official launch happens “next month.”

We expect many comparisons to offerings from Sling as well as pricing relative to Netflix and Hulu, but we suspect it will be far cheaper than the video services offered by Verizon’s FiOS, Comcast and others. As potential chord-cutters, we are anxious for the details!

Speaking at a Wall Street Journal conference today, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson reportedly told attendees that DirecTV Now will launch in November at a price of $35/month. That puts the service $15/month above the starting point for the competing Sling TV live-TV streaming offering, and about the same price point for the barest-bones versions of Sony’s PlayStation Vue service.Where DirecTV Now appears to be trying to compete is on content. According to reports — again, this has not been officially announced or confirmed — Stephenson says that DirecTV Now will offer 100 channels.

Source: AT&T CEO: DirecTV Now Streaming Service Will Cost $35/Month, Launch Next Month – Consumerist