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    Monday, August 31, 2009

    Reuters - Disney to acquire Marvel in $4 billion deal

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    Disney to acquire Marvel in $4 billion deal

    Monday, Aug 31, 2009 8:20PM UTC

    By Paul Thomasch and Gina Keating

    NEW YORK/LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Walt Disney Co on Monday agreed to buy Marvel Entertainment Inc for $4 billion in the biggest media deal of the year, banking on Marvel's roster of superheroes to broaden its lineup of movie franchises that appeal to boys.

    Disney adds Iron Man, Incredible Hulk and Thor to its roster of lovable characters like Mickey Mouse and Snow White, and will feature the comic book heroes in movies before rolling out associated theme park rides, TV shows and merchandise.

    But the deal comes at a tough time in the entertainment business, with advertisers avoiding spending on new campaigns and consumers cutting back on everything from DVDs to travel.

    The deal is also expensive. The price tag values Marvel at 37 times its estimated 2009 earnings, and offers shareholders a 29 percent premium to Friday's closing price. Standard & Poor's reacted by placing Disney's credit rating on its negative watchlist.

    But the risk of overpaying did not deter Disney from seeking out a deal to address an area of concern among investors: How can it better reach more young males.

    "This helps give Disney more important exposure to the young male demographic that they have sort of lost some ground with in recent years," said David Joyce, an analyst with Miller Tabak & Co.

    Indeed, Disney has long been a blockbuster brand with girls thanks to characters such as "Hannah Montana," "Cinderella" and "Snow White," but has struggled to achieve the same kind of success with boys.

    Movies including "Iron Man 2," due to hit theaters next year, or 2011's "Spider-Man 4" and "Avengers" should help resolve that issue.

    Disney will also be able to use its marketing and entertainment strength -- stretching from ABC to cable television to theme parks -- to promote and build characters such as Thor in ways Marvel never could.

    The deal is Disney's largest since the $7.6 billion purchase of Pixar in 2006, and it immediately caused reverberations. Shares in DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc spiked 5 percent on speculation it may become a takeover target.

    And analysts raised questions about companies like Viacom Inc, Discovery Communications Inc, and Hasbro Inc that have existing business partnerships with Marvel.


    To acquire Marvel, Disney agreed to pay a total of $30 per share in cash plus about 0.745 Disney shares for each Marvel share owned. The deal was approved by the boards of both companies.

    The shares of Marvel, which was founded in 1939 and rolled out its first blockbuster character, Captain America, in 1941, shot up to a high of $49.29 before falling a bit to close at $48.37 on the New York Stock Exchange.

    Disney approached Marvel a few months ago "to get to know them," Disney Chief Financial Officer Tom Staggs told Reuters. The overture began with a meeting between Disney Chief Executive Robert Iger and Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter and evolved into merger discussions over a series of meetings.

    "We at Disney had admired them because of their position and asset base," Staggs said. "With conversations over time we came to believe in the value of a combination."

    Shares of Disney, which will acquire ownership of more than 5,000 Marvel characters, fell 3 percent to $26.04. The deal is expected to close by year-end, but will not add to Disney earnings until fiscal 2012.

    The acquisition came as a surprise, even though Iger had mentioned recently the company would consider acquisitions that bolstered Disney brands across international markets and on new technology platforms.

    While it could kick-start more deal making in the media sector -- where stocks have outperformed the broader Standard & Poor's 500 this year -- few analysts see another bidder making a play for Marvel.

    A major reason is the presence of Marvel's Perlmutter, who owns 37 percent of the company and will oversee it within the Disney empire. Perlmutter will trade his stake in Marvel for a 1 percent stake in Disney, but will not receive a seat on its board of directors -- as did Pixar CEO Steve Jobs.

    Disney executives drew a number of parallels between the Pixar and Marvel deals, and suggested it would keep the Marvel brand intact.

    "The goal here is not to rebrand Marvel," Iger said on a conference call.

    Caris & Co analyst David Miller said Disney was "sandbagging a little" by estimating the deal would not add to its earnings for another two years.

    "They said the same thing with the Pixar deal," said Miller, who has "above average" ratings on both Disney and Marvel. "I think they will make it accretive a lot sooner. They are underpromising, as they always do."

    (Reporting by Paul Thomasch; additional reporting by Franklin Paul, Gina Keating and John Tilak; editing by Derek Caney, Andre Grenon and Bernard Orr)

    Reuters - Time Warner Cable, Verizon to test TV on the Web

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    Time Warner Cable, Verizon to test TV on the Web

    Thursday, Aug 27, 2009 10:36PM UTC

    By Yinka Adegoke

    NEW YORK (Reuters) - Two more U.S. pay-TV providers, Time Warner Cable Inc and Verizon Communications Inc, plan to test systems to offer shows on the Web to paying customers in a bid to protect their subscription revenue.

    Time Warner Cable and Verizon separately announced their plans on Thursday and will follow Comcast Corp, the largest U.S. cable operator, which said in July it would test a Web TV service with some of its customers.

    Pay-TV companies are concerned that the recession-resistant subscription revenue of cable television could be undermined if cable shows became widely available over the Web, effectively cutting out the cable and satellite TV operators.

    So the cable network industry, led by Time Warner Inc Chief Executive Jeffrey Bewkes, is testing a concept called TV Everywhere as a way for paying cable subscribers to access cable shows over the Web via an authentication process.

    Time Warner Cable said its TV Everywhere trial will include the NBC Universal-owned Syfy channel; Time Warner's TNT, HBO and TBS; Cablevision Systems Corp's AMC, IFC and Sundance Channel; and BBC's BBC America.

    CBS Corp and Discovery Communications Inc are also involved in the trial.

    Time Warner Cable's test involves making TV shows available on the Web to 5,000 homes of paying subscribers. They will be able to access the shows on the networks' own websites, as well as on Time Warner Cable's Web properties.

    Verizon, meanwhile, will launch a TV Everywhere trial of its FiOS TV online with programing from Time Warner's Turner networks, TNT and TBS for no extra cost to FiOS subscribers.

    DirecTV Group Inc, the largest U.S. satellite TV provider, is also working on a version of TV Everywhere, according to a person familiar with its plans.

    While cable network owners are determined to stop the successful pay-TV television business model from being undermined by programing made available free on the Web, the major broadcast networks have taken a different approach.

    Because free-to-air broadcasters are dependent on advertising revenue rather than subscriptions, they have made their shows readily available over the Web. Sites like Hulu, owned by News Corp, NBC Universal and Walt Disney Co, are free to anyone and feature broadcast network programs such as "The Office" or "House."

    In a few cases, some episodes of full cable programs are now available free on the Internet.

    (Additional reporting by S. John Tilak in Bangalore; editing by Gerald E. McCormick and Andre Grenon)

    CNN - Police: 'No known suspects' in 8 Georgia deaths

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    Police: 'No known suspects' in 8 Georgia deaths

    Authorities believe at least one person not in custody may have information about the deaths of eight people in a Georgia mobile home, Glynn County Police Chief Matt Doering said Sunday.

    "I'm confident to say that there's somebody, at least an individual, that we would like to know about that's not at the scene," whether or not they were directly involved in the case, Doering said.

    Seven people were found dead Saturday at a residence in the New Hope mobile home park in Brunswick, Georgia. Two others were hospitalized in critical condition, and one of them died Sunday, authorities said.

    Police have "no known suspects," Doering told reporters Sunday afternoon. "We are not looking for any known suspects. That doesn't say that there are no suspects. They're just not known to us."

    One person, 22-year-old Guy Heinze Jr., was arrested Saturday night, Doering said. Heinze is related to one of the victims, he said, and was the one who called 911. He told police he discovered the bodies when he arrived home.

    Heinze was being held on suspicion of having a controlled substance and marijuana, as well as evidence tampering and making false statements to a police officer, Doering said. He told reporters Heinze has been cooperative.

    "We're still looking for anybody and everybody that may be related to this," he said. "That naturally includes [Heinze]. Of course we're looking at him." He stopped short, however, of calling Heinze a suspect in the deaths.

    Autopsies on the victims were taking place Sunday in Savannah, Georgia, Doering said. Police have tentative identifications for the victims, who ranged from children to adults in their mid-40s, he said.

    Police have been called to the home before, Doering said, but would not say why.

    Doering remained tight-lipped Sunday about many aspects of the case, refusing to say how the victims died or to give a breakdown of male and female victims. All nine victims lived in the mobile home, he said, and police do not believe any of them conducted the assault.

    He said police are making progress, and have narrowed down the timeline for when the deaths occurred.

    Brunswick is about 300 miles southeast of Atlanta, on the Georgia coast.

    Volunteers conducted an extended search of the area around the mobile home, but nothing was found, Doering said.

    Meanwhile, police removed additional evidence from the mobile home. Authorities are examining surveillance video from nearby areas, but are not aware of any surveillance system in the mobile home park, he said.

    "There is cause for concern," Doering said. "We just simply don't have a whole lot to go on, and I'm not going to sit there and tell everybody not to be cautious, because people need to be."

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