Variety

AT&T Will Retain U-verse TV, Won’t Force Customers to Switch to DirecTV

AT&T will not force U-verse TV customers to take DirecTV service, if the telco’s $67 billion deal for the satcaster goes through, CFO John Stephens said.

“Customers will have their choice,” said Stephens, speaking at the JP Morgan Technology, Media and Telecom Conference. “They can stay on U-verse. This transaction is not based on freeing up wired capacity.”

AT&T at the end of March 2014 had 5.7 million U-verse TV subscribers, making it the fifth-biggest pay-TV provider in the US. “Our customers are very happy. They’re voting with their feet to stay with us,” Stephens said, noting that the telecommunications company has been adding about 200,000 TV subscribers per quarter.

Comcast’s Cohen: Whatever an Internet ‘Fast Lane’ Is, We’re Allowed to Do It

Comcast exec VP David L. Cohen isn’t sure how the Federal Communications Commission’s proposed network neutrality rules will define broadband providers’ ability to charge for an Internet “fast lane” but said that in any case, the cable giant has the right to offer paid prioritization to partners.

“Whatever it is, we are allowed to do it,” said Cohen. Cohen, who leads the operator’s public policy and communications efforts, referred to the “almost hysterical reaction” to reports about the FCC’s revised net neutrality rules. “You have the whole world reacting to a document no one has seen,” he said.

Comcast has agreed to comply with the 2010 FCC Open Internet order, under the terms of its government consent decree for NBCUniversal, until 2018 -- even though the main parts of that order were struck down by the DC Circuit in January.

“We are not sure we know what paid prioritization, or what a fast lane, is,” Cohen said. “Fast lane sounds bad… (but) I believe that whatever it is, it has been completely legal for 15 or 20 years.”

TV Creators Warn FCC: Don’t Let Internet Become ‘Like Cable Television’

As the Federal Communications Commission prepares new rules of the road for the Internet, more than 240 TV showrunners and creators have signed on to a Writers Guild of America West letter urging the commission to avoid regulations that would allow content companies to pay for speedier delivery to users.

The letter was the most significant response yet from Hollywood figures as the commission prepares for a key vote. In the letter, the writers argue that “if Net Neutrality is neutered, the Internet will become like cable television. A few corporate gatekeepers such as Comcast will be allowed to decide what content consumers can access and on what terms. The danger is that blocking, discrimination and paid prioritization could occur.

“This puts decision making and power over the Internet in the hands of the few, especially those with money. The Internet is too vital to the free exchange of ideas to allow the few companies who control Internet technology to edit the ideas and content that flow through it.”

The signers include an array of top showrunners, including John Wells, Matthew Weiner and Howard Gordon. “There are new buyers for what we as writers create. But if this new competition is unfairly pushed aside because the FCC adopts weak rules, rather than allowing consumers to decide what they prefer, neither innovation nor the best interests of society will be served,” the letter says.

Fox News Denies Shepard Smith Move Was a Result of Him Wanting to Come Out As Gay

After tweaking anchor Shepard Smith’s newsroom duties in 2013, Fox News has denied allegations that the changes were a result of Smith asking to come out as gay.

A story published by Gawker alleges that Smith was taken off of the primetime-aired “Fox Report” after attending Fox News topper Roger Ailes’ annual Fourth of July picnic with his reported boyfriend. Gawker’s story reports that around the same time, Smith was renegotiating his contract with the network and that he had asked Ailes for the go-ahead to publicly acknowledge his sexuality.

In a joint statement, Ailes and Smith called the story “100% false and a complete fabrication.”

Comcast CEO: We Have Fewer Subscribers Than Netflix, Even After Time Warner Deal

Comcast continues to paint Netflix as a competitor, as the cable giant keeps trying to make the case that it needs to swallow Time Warner Cable to have a presence on a national scale -- and compete with what it portrays as surging digital-video rivals.

Comcast Chairman-CEO Brian Roberts said that with the TW Cable acquisition and subsequent spinoff of systems to Charter Communications, Comcast will add a net 7 million customers. That would give Comcast about 30 million video subscribers -- and Roberts noted that Netflix now has more than 35 million US subscribers. The merger will give “the industry a better opportunity to have a footprint regionally and hopefully nationally,” Roberts said.

In reality, Comcast and Netflix aren’t really directly competitive: They offer different kinds of content, and Netflix is not a replacement for the broad programming available on pay TV. Comcast does offer a Netflix-like streaming service, Streampix, but that’s bundled with TV and has a much smaller content lineup. In addition, Comcast’s video biz is far larger in dollar terms. Comcast posted $5.18 billion in video revenue for the first quarter of 2014, whereas Netflix generated $1.27 billion.

Why the Viacom-YouTube Case Wasn’t a Giant Waste of Time

[Commentary] Here’s what Viacom’s lawsuit actually did: It spurred YouTube to accelerate the development of tools to detect -- and pull down -- copyrighted material, in an automated way.

Given that YouTube users upload 100 hours of video every minute, Viacom (and others) complained that it was not feasible to monitor that volume manually and send out DMCA takedown requests one at a time.

It was only during the Viacom court proceedings that YouTube announced it would filter content for all copyright holders, not just its business partners. No doubt, YouTube would have evolved its practices to a more content-owner-friendly system -- eventually. But the lawsuit prompted it to move more quickly than it would have otherwise, and also served notice to other user-generated content sites that Viacom was prepared to take aggressive legal action.

Comcast Cuts Sony Deal to Sell ‘House of Cards,’ Early-Release Movies

Comcast customers can now buy access to “House of Cards” season 1 through their cable set-top box and watch it across multiple devices -- no Netflix subscription required.

The cable giant struck a pact with Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, giving Comcast rights to sell the Emmy-winning first season of “House of Cards” through the recently launched Xfinity Store service. Netflix currently owns exclusive streaming rights to the Media Rights Capital-produced series, while Sony handles international and home video distribution.

In addition, Comcast will add select Sony titles to its early electronic sell-through service, which offers access ahead of the traditional video-on-demand-rental window.

[March 10]