Cable Catchup

12:20 PM Mediacom mulls going private, SDV shows signs of life, and other items that made the cable world go round while I was away

Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor

June 15, 2010

5 Min Read
Cable Catchup

12:20 PM -- I'm back in the saddle after a two-week, somewhat Disney-filled hiatus. The cable world didn't stop revolving in my absence, so here's a roundup of items that made waves while I was lunching with Mickey and the gang:

Mediacom may go private
Mediacom Communications Corp. , following in the footsteps of RCN Corp. and Cox Communications Inc. , may go private after receiving a non-binding proposal from MSO founder, chairman and CEO Rocco Commisso for $6 per share in cash. Commisso already owns 40 percent of Mediacom's common stock, and 87 percent of the voting power. (See RCN Going Private Via $1.2B Sale .)

The $250 million deal is a 12.6 percent premium based on Mediacom's closing price on Friday, May 27. (At last check today, Mediacom shares were trading at $7.06 each.)

"Yet another public cable operator has decided that public valuations are (still) simply too low to resist," Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. Inc. analyst Craig Moffett wrote of the proposal. Cablevision, by the way, made its third attempt to go private in 2007, but shareholders rejected it. (See Cablevision Shareholders Reject Dolan Bid.)

Time will tell if Mediacom's shareholders like this offer, but at least one analyst, BTIG Research's Richard Greenfield, thinks Commisso threw in a low ball, and will likely have to sweeten the offer. Greenfield's target price is currently $8 per share, "which is the lowest level we can fathom the independent board committee approving and public shareholders accepting," he noted, adding that Commisso himself suggested last August that the MSO was worth at least $9.75 per share.

ESPN/Microsoft accord is no cord-cutter's delight
ESPN on Monday sealed a deal to offer live events from its site and clips and sports highlights on the Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) Xbox 360 console starting this November. (See ESPN Feeds Fare to the Xbox 360.)

Although the deal might look appealing to so-called cord-cutters at first glance, it's really not. Xbox LIVE Gold members can gain access, but only if they get their Internet connection from one of ESPN's "affiliated" service providers. MSOs and other service providers with deals include Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), Cox Communications Inc. , Charter Communications Inc. , Windstream Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: WIN), RCN, Insight Communications Co. Inc. , Frontier Communications Corp. (NYSE: FTR), Cavalier Telephone Inc. , Mediacom, and Grande Communications , among others.

SDV's comeback in full swing?
As we suggested in February, switched digital video may indeed be on the comeback trail. At that time, the reason for optimism was based on Comcast's comments about the technology's future usefulness. This time, it's about actual deployments, with Charter tapping Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT), and Surewest going with BigBand Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: BBND). (See Charter Uses Moto SDV and SureWest Picks BigBand.)

Charter pays the piper
Charter has reportedly agreed to pay $18 million to settle a class-action lawsuit claiming the MSO failed to pay field techs for overtime and other earned wages. The settlement covers field techs who worked for the MSO in parts of California, Missouri, Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois, Nevada, Washington, Oregon, and Nebraska during specific time periods. The initial lawsuit covered 8,000 employees

Charter EVP and general counsel Greg Doody said the MSO settled in order to "remove the distraction and expense that comes with preparing a case like this for trial."

Muni complaint targets Cox
Lafayette Utilities System (LUS), a municipal fiber-to-the-home service provider that competes with Cox in Louisiana, is complaning that it's being blocked from joining the National Cable Television Cooperative Inc. (NCTC) , an organization that helps three service providers get volume price breaks on equipment and TV programming. LUS is blaming Cox, an NCTC member, for its denied membership, but the MSO is calling the suit "meritless," and contending that NCTC controls all decisions regarding membership.

This isn't the only time LUS and Cox have knocked heads. Last year, Cox questioned whether the muni should be allowed an integrated security set-top waiver for its IPTV service. (See Cox, Fiber Muni in Set-Top Scrape .)

Comcast video exec steps down
In a surprise move, Comcast SVP and GM of video and entertainment services has stepped down. No reason was given, but the MSO told Multichannel News that Harrar is looking at other opportunities at the MSO and outside Comcast.

Light Reading Cable caught up with Harrar at last month's cable show in Los Angeles to discuss Comcast's initial foray into stereoscopic 3DTV.

TWC mentions IPTV trial
Time Warner Cable regional president of network operations and engineering James Manchester confirmed at an industry event hosted by Multichannel News and Broadcasting & Cable that the MSO is preparing to introduce an IPTV trial later this year. He didn't spell out the details, but it's believed that the operator is going to try out Microsoft Mediaroom in its Los Angles market. (See TWC Taps Microsoft Mediaroom for IPTV Test .)

Other items of note:

  • Suddenlink Communications has expanded its 107-Mbit/s Docsis 3.0 tier in two West Virginia counties (Mason and Jackson), and in Gallia and Meigs in Ohio. Amarillo, Texas, is reportedly on deck.

  • Comcast confirmed to Multichannel News that it is closing its TVWorks LLC office in London, Ontario, on June 25, and has laid off about 125 employees there as a result. Cox exited what was then still a TVWorks joint venture last year. (See Cox Severs Ties to TVWorks.)

  • Comcast's Tunerfish social media TV Web app made its debut on Thursday, June 10 alongside the airing of True Blood on HBO. Comcast's Plaxo team developed the app. (See Comcast Connects With Plaxo.)

  • Getting access to ESPN's 3D feed of World Cup games on Comcast requires users to get a digital cable box capable of receiving MPEG-4 video signals, since that's the format of choice for the new, part-time ESPN 3D channel. (See ESPN Jumps Into the 3DTV Game .)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

About the Author(s)

Jeff Baumgartner

Senior Editor, Light Reading

Jeff Baumgartner is a Senior Editor for Light Reading and is responsible for the day-to-day news coverage and analysis of the cable and video sectors. Follow him on X and LinkedIn.

Baumgartner also served as Site Editor for Light Reading Cable from 2007-2013. In between his two stints at Light Reading, he led tech coverage for Multichannel News and was a regular contributor to Broadcasting + Cable. Baumgartner was named to the 2018 class of the Cable TV Pioneers.

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