Feb 12, 2020 We've got a new "Big 3" in wireless: T-Mobile + Sprint gets approved Read More I approve this relationship... Judge Victor Marrero to T-Mobile and Sprint. Approval of the biggest merger in the wireless industry powered Sprint stock up 77% (investors we're expecting this outcome). If the opinion remains unchallenged, we're left with 3 major carrier choices: Verizon, AT&T, and the new T-Mobile (that ate Sprint). Here's the history of this complex courtship:
June 2018: T-Mobile's CEO announces that his company has agreed to merge with Sprint. The combo company – valued at $146B – would be split between 3 owners: Deutsche Telekom (T-Mobile's parent), SoftBank (which owns most of Sprint), and retail investors like you and us who own remaining shares.
November 2019: The Department of Justice and the Federal Communications Commission approve the merger under certain conditions... But 13 states plus DC sued to block the deal, saying it would hurt competition and lead to pricier phone bills.
Sprint has been lagging rivals for a while... so the judge doesn't think this deal will substantially hurt competition. Plus, regulators will make sure that Dish Network enters the game as a viable new service provider. Sprint will have to sell Dish 9M customers, but that'll still be a distant competitor to the Big 3.
The Takeaway:We have a three-opoly on our hands... Here's the pecking order now: Verizon #1, New T-Mobile #2, and AT&T #3. And a three-opoly could affect your bill:
Interpretation A: Competition has been reduced, now that we've gone from 4 major players to 3. When there's less competition, companies tend to charge higher prices.
Interpretation B: Actually, this merger increases competition, because Sprint was never a real player and T-Mobile wasn't big enough to compete over future 5G networks. Now T-Mobile + Sprint can effectively challenge AT&T and Verizon. Jan 3, 2020 Apple TV+ steals the guy who made HBO become HBO Read More For "Best Leading Man in an Executive Role"... Apple selects ex-HBO CEO Richard Plepler. Now that the tech company launched its Apple TV+ paid streaming service last November, it's hoping the media legends will come. To start, Apple just cast Plepler to train it for the Streaming Wars:
Before: Plepler led HBO over 27 years to 160+ Emmys, from Game of Thrones to Big Little Lies.
After: Now his new production company has signed a 5-year exclusive deal to only make shows, documentaries, and films for Apple TV+.
This says more about HBO than Apple... The media icon that brought us The Sopranos and "winter is coming" is now owned by AT&T. Plepler wanted a "Chinese wall" between HBO's creatives and their new telecom-ish parent company (he's got a “Don’t let anyone monkey with your swing” sign on his desk) — but AT&T disagreed. So Plepler quit last March.The Takeaway:The media industry probably never started a year this confused... Take streaming:
HBO's (still) trying to replace Game of Thrones.
Netflix had to splurge $13B on original content last year to stay ahead — but it's losing The Office and Friends.
NBC's jumping in (late) with its new streamer Peacock in April 2020.
Disney+ may hit 25M subscribers just 2 months after launching.
And Apple TV+'s The Morning Show already snagged 3 Golden Globe noms — but the rest of its original programming is facing critic hate.
Sep 17, 2019 Netflix splurges on Seinfeld to survive the streaming wars Read More But are you master of your domain?... Netflix is. The streamer just treated itself to Seinfeld. All of it — for more than $500M. Netflix rounded up the crew from Tom's Restaurant (close-talkers included) because it needs to replace its top shows that are getting yanked by their owners amid these streaming wars.
The Office (#1 Netflix show): Gone in 2020 — NBC is taking it back to include in its own yet-to-be-named streaming service.
Friends (#2): Gone in 2021 — AT&T is taking it back and adding it to HBO Max.
All Disney movies: Gone by November — Disney is launching competitor Disney+.
FYI: Seinfeld hits Netflix in 2021 (not that there's anything wrong with that) and remains on Hulu (probably with commercials) until then.
'No streaming for you, Sony'... The key here isn't how much Netflix paid (it was more than Friends or The Office recently went for), it's who sold it: Sony. The only companies willing to work with Netflix are the ones without their own streaming platforms. Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer aren't too worried — their series has made over $3B since the finale episode.The Takeaway:You're loyal to George Costanza — not Netflix... Streamers are discovering that cord-cutters care most about the shows they'll watch over and over again — aka sitcoms. Netflix lost US subscribers last quarter because its news shows didn't land. Now it's searching for a "loyalty leader" — a show that keeps you hooked to your subscription. It's betting Seinfeld will, yada yada yada, maintain your subscription. Sep 10, 2019 Apple reveals iPhone 11 — then ends its always-raising-prices streak Read More The Touch screen. The no-headphone-jack. Siri... Apple has evolved over the course of its annual new iPhone product unveils. The stage and dark lighting haven't. Here's what we get with the new iPhone 11:
Size and colors: Pastels for days with the new lavender, soft green, and honey yellow. Both the regular and Max versions are slightly bigger than the previous ones.
A "Pro": $999+ gets you three cameras (the starter, a backup, and 3rd-string, just in case), which create quite a bulge. Your move, Pixel 4.
The "Slofie": Sloooow-mooootion videoooo getssss addedddd to the front-facing camera, too.
Forget iPhone — Apple TV+ is the star... and it arrives Nov. 1 at a ridiculously low-priced $4.99/month. Netflix ($12.99), HBO Now ($14.99), and even Disney+ ($6.99 starting in November) aren't happy about this price war aggression. Tim Cook also showed off original Apple TV+ shows (there aren't many of 'em, but they star Steve Carell and Reese Witherspoon) and a $4.99/month video game "Arcade" pass.The Takeaway:Apple's thinking about the whole customer... New colors, a 3rd camera, and the A13 chip aren't forming fanboy lines outside glass-plated Apple Stores anymore. So it's focusing on prices: Lower some prices, offer some freebies, and hope to make $$$ on sales every few years (with monthly service subscriptions in between):
iPhone 11 starts at $699 and the Pro version at $999 (iPhone X started at $999 when it debuted in '17).
Apple Watch 5 is the same price as the previous ones and its Watch 3 is a Fitbit-ish $199.
Apple TV+ costs a Venti Latte per month at $4.99, or free for a year when you buy a Mac, iPhone, or iPad.
Sep 10, 2019 AT&T gets an "open letter" from a hedge fund to basically change everything Read More Haters gonna hate... Only some release a 23-page open letter about it. Hedge fund Elliott Management just sent one to AT&T after splurging $3.2B for a 1.2% stake in the telecom giant. The letter's core theme: Change (almost) everything. Here's how to interpret the Real Housewives-style takedown:
It's not personal, AT&T: Elliott has "tremendous respect for the Company’s legacy."
But there's a problem: Over the last 10 years, the broader market (the S&P 500) has risen 193% — but AT&T only rose 42%.
So it's time for a makeover: Specifically, cut the CEO and the board – Elliot thinks that “this is the moment to determine the right team for the next decade.”
Take the free advice and everyone wins: The fund thinks its proposals could push up AT&T stock by 65% in 2 years.
FYI, the fund doesn't own enough stock to force AT&T management to listen — but shares jumped because investors hope it does.
Here's the problem... There are a lot of problems facing AT&T. The hedge fund spent pages 2-23 covering them.
The botched iPhone: AT&T enjoyed exclusive rights to sell iPhones when they launched — but its poor service quality ended that.
The identity crisis: Verizon snagged the high-end wireless market while T-Mobile/Sprint grabbed the low-end — AT&T was awkwardly left in the middle.
The brutal acquisitions: AT&T has dropped a hefty $200B on them the last few years — it bought DirecTV at its peak, and satellite TV has only lost subscribers since.
The Takeaway:AT&T is a tech company led by landline guys... That's the biggest issue. The current CEO has run things for 12 years, and the newly-promoted COO's telecom roots go back to 1998. But now AT&T is a tech media company that owns streaming tech and HBO — that means it competes directly with Netflix. Elliott wants leadership to be more iPhone, less landline. Jul 10, 2019 AT&T releases "HBO Max," flexing Netflix's Achilles heel: reruns Read More "Storytelling" is the star... The word was dropped a disproportionate 4 times in the AT&T press release about HBO Max, the new streaming service launching in the spring of 2020. The storytellers — including Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon — will create original shows for HBO. But the real unspoken highlight is the unoriginal.
Reruns are HBO Max's differentiator... AT&T acquired HBO's parent, Time Warner, last year. So it now owns (and will include in HBO Max) a wealth of "the-one-where-she-did-BLANK"-style episodes.
Time Warner icons: Warner Bros, TNT, TBS, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, Looney Tunes.
HBO legends: Game of Thrones, The Sopranos, The Wire, Sex and the City, Curb Your Enthusiasm.
The Takeaway:Reruns are Netflix's Achilles heel... Netflix has poured billions annually into original content, but this stat reveals a dramatic problem: 8 of the top 10 shows on Netflix aren't Netflix originals. It's definitely losing its #1 and #2 most-streamed shows — The Office to NBC in 2021 and Friends to HBO Max in 2020 — just as HBO Max reruns itself.