WarnerMedia parent A&T said Tuesday it's set up a new $5.5 billion loan agreement at competitive rates with 12 banks to provide additional financial flexibility to its “already strong cash position.” The loans are pre-payable without penalty, it said as it seeks to reassure the markets and employees that it’s on solid ground in uncertain times.
AT&T also noted that it has access to a fully committed $15 billion revolver loan already in place that it has no need or plans to draw on in 2020 – but it’s there in case. AT&T is the latest big media company to flesh out its cash cushion to hedge against the economic risks and unknowns of the coronavirus pandemic.
In a statement, the company also offered a financial update, ticking off its points of financial strength, including a strong balance sheet and attractive liquidity. It said it had about $12 billion in cash on hand as of Dec. 31 and received about $4 billion from selling preferred stock in February. It also completed a share repurchase in March but has nowstopped all share repurchases.
Going forward, the company, which plans to roll out HBO Max next moth, said it expects the following to put it in a good place: • The strength and relevance of core subscription businesses, continued execution on business transformation initiatives, and sizing operations to economic activity will provide cash from operations that will support network investments, dividend payments and debt retirement, as well as the ability to invest in business opportunities that arise as the economies recover. • About $2 billion from the expected closing later in 2020 from the previously announced divestiture of CME, as well as additional proceeds from a number of other real estate and tower sales. • The company expects to close the sale of its Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands operations later this year and intends to use the proceeds to retire an outstanding preferred interest. • Continued access to commercial paper, bond markets and other financing activities which, as in the past, will be utilized as part of normal financing activity based on cost, duration and overall market conditions. • As it has for the past 36 years, the company will pay a quarterly dividend to shareholders. .
AT&T also added that its pension fund requires no cash in the near term and it doesn't expect any required contributions through 2022. The plan has allocated substantially all of the remaining assets to fixed income, preferred securities and other investments which have returns much less impacted by current equity markets.
It also emphasized that it believes its exposure to near term equipment shortages is limited given a geographically diverse supply chain.
“Succession” is one of HBO’s most acclaimed drama series and an Emmy frontrunner in 2020, and its popularity has been bolstered in part by its addicting opening credits sequence. The 90-second sequence is set to Nicholas Britell’s Emmy-winning original theme music and cuts together footage of the New York City skyline with home video footage of the Roy family. The grainy home videos remind viewers about the privilege and isolation of the Roy family at the start of each episode. It turns out this now-classic opening credits sequence owes a lot of credit David Fincher, who crafted virtually the same sequence to open his 1997 mystery thriller “The Game.” Both openings have been embedded in videos below.
An eagle-eyed Reddit user recently noticed the similarities between the “Succession” and “The Game” opening credits and brought it to the attention of viewers. Fincher’s 1997 movie begins with grainy home video footage that fills in the backstory of protagonist Nicholas Van Orton, played in the film by Michael Douglas. The clips show Nicholas as a child and his father at the latter’s 48th birthday party, the event where Nicholas’ father committed suicide. The editing, courtesy of James Haygood, cuts the father out of the home videos later in the sequence to reflect his death, similar to how the “Succession” credits removes the faces of the Roy parents to show their disconnection from their children.
“The Game” opened in between Fincher’s “Seven” and “Panic Room” and remains one of the director’s most underrated directorial efforts. Out of all of Fincher’s films, “The Game” is the one that gets talked about the least despite strong reviews and box office nearly $110 million on a $70 million production budget. Anticipation for “The Game” was high since Fincher was coming off “Seven,” so many at the time saw the film as a step down for the director. The plot follows Douglas’ Nicholas after he accepts an offer to compete in a life-changing game, but the game ends up destroying Nicholas’ sense of what’s real and what’s fake. The supporting cast includes Sean Penn, James Rebhorn, Deborah Kara Unger, and Carroll Baker.
Watch the openings of “Succession” and “The Game” in the videos below. It’s only a matter of time before a Fincher fan sets “The Game” opening to Britell’s “Succession” score.
Disney+ may benefit from further delays with the studio's theatrical releases as more movies may be going directly to the streaming service in the future. This, according to former Disney CEO and current Executive Chairman Bob Iger. It was recently revealed that Artemis Fowl will debut on Disney+ sometime this year, skipping a theatrical release. As Iger explains, that may not be the only title to make the move from theatrical to streaming, but don't expect to see it happen with the studio's upcoming tentpole releases.
Given what's going on in the world right now, most movie theaters are shut down entirely and virtually all major releases through June have been delayed. Some have wondered if Disney might put movies like Black Widow or Mulan on Disney+ instead. While that won't be happening, Bob Iger isn't ruling out other movies making the shift. Here's what Iger had to say about it in a recent interview.'There are some we've decided to put on Disney+. We already announced one, Artemis Fowl, that would have been released in theaters. Others we've simply delayed. In some cases we've moved things onto Disney+ faster than we would have. Frozen 2 was one of them, but Onward would be the biggest example. It was in theaters when this happened.' 'We moved to a pay-per-view period for a couple of weeks where people could buy it and own it. And then we ended up putting it on Disney+. In terms of movies going ahead after Artemis, there may be a few more that we end up putting directly onto Disney+, but for the most part a lot of the big tentpole Disney films, we'll simply wait for slots. In some cases we've announced new ones already, but later on in the calendar.'
There is a lot to unpack here. Black Widow and several other delayed movies were recently given new release dates as Disney reshuffled its 2020/2021 calendar. Black Widow and other big-budget tentpoles stand to make far more money in theaters, even with a relatively uncertain future ahead, than they could possibly generate via streaming. So putting movies like them directly on Disney+ doesn't make that much business sense.
In the meantime, taking riskier projects such as Artemis Fowl and giving Disney+ subscribers something flashy and exclusive is helpful. But what other movies might fit the bill for streaming debuts? The New Mutants perhaps? Whatever the case, as Bob Iger points out, the studio is content to wait until things return to normal. Disney, more than any other studio in Hollywood, is capable of raking in big dollars at the box office. So this truly isn't that surprising.
Other studios, on the other hand, may see value in doing a VOD/Digital release. Universal kicked that door wide open a couple of weeks back by putting recent releases such as The Invisible Man and The Hunt online. Trolls: World Tour, which was destined for theaters, will arrive digitally this month. Disney has not yet set a premiere date for Artemis Fowl, but it's...
On news broadcasts and cable news channels, the company will reduce commercial loads to allow for more programming. On the entertainment front, late night shows as well as unscripted series on Bravo, E! and USA, will all feature extended episodes and bonus content in lieu of some commercial pods.
NBCUniversal will reduce advertising loads across its networks and add more entertainment and news content as the novel coronavirus pandemic continues, and as families quarantine at home.
“Now, people all across America are turning to us more for the content that comforts them and connects them to the outside world,” writes NBCUniversal ad sales and partnerships chairman Linda Yaccarino in a blog post Monday afternoon. “At the same time, some marketers across every industry have asked to pause their advertising plans or shift their messages, and they're looking for ideas, tools, and strategies from their most trusted partners. So, in light of everything we're seeing and hearing, we want to do what's right for our audiences and marketers.”
On the broadcast news shows and the company's cable news channels MSNBC and CNBC, the company will reduce commercial loads to allow for more news and information programming.
On the entertainment front, late night shows The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon, Late Night with Seth Meyers, and Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen now originating from the hosts' homes, as well as unscripted series on Bravo, E! and USA, will all feature extended episodes and bonus content in lieu of some commercial pods.
Some of the company's channels will also launch family movie nights, with sponsored but commercial-free airings of films.
Late last month the advertising research firm Magna Global predicted that the U.S. TV ad market would fall by 13 percent in 2020 due to the fallout from the pandemic, calling the situation “totally unprecedented.” The travel, restaurant and movie sectors in particular have pulled back ad spend.
In addition, NBCUniversal finds itself in the position of having to fill many hours of programming that had been set aside for coverage of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which have since been postponed until 2021.
Yaccarino also writes that the company will be engaging in outreach to companies and waiving fees “to allow companies to reach their customers directly in their homes and generate much-needed sales.” That will include access to remote production teams, brand assets, talent, translation services, and editing services, which can all be used to create new campaigns even as most people are staying home.
The company also released new research on Monday outlining the increased media consumption during the last few weeks. The research found that digital and linear TV viewing is up, gaming is up significantly, and that streaming services are seeing subscription gains, while...