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DOJ to review Fitbit deal; Miramax in deal talks; Marvel to shutter TV division

Top News

* The U.S. Justice Department will review Google LLC's planned $2.1 billion acquisition of wearable device company Fitbit Inc. over potential data privacy concerns, The New York Post reports, citing sources. The regulator is reportedly concerned that a Google-owned Fitbit would give the search engine company a "window into people's private data, including sensitive health information."

* ViacomCBS Inc and Paramount Pictures Corp. resumed talks to buy a stake in Miramax LLC, Variety reports, citing two insiders with knowledge of the matter. Previous talks were abandoned in November after Viacom and Paramount Pictures notified Miramax's parent company, beIN Media Group LLC, about their withdrawal from negotiations amid "frustrations with the deal terms."

* Marvel Television is ceasing all development plans as the business is set to be absorbed by Marvel Studios LLC, reports. The production company will only complete projects that are in the works, including ABC (US)'s "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.," live-action "Helstrom" and four animated series for Hulu LLC.

* T-Mobile US Inc. executives said the company shares more similarities than differences with the coalition of state attorneys general moving to block its merger with Sprint Corp. Speaking at the UBS Global TMT Conference on Dec. 10, T-Mobile President and COO Mike Sievert said enhanced competition and better consumer experience as a result of the merger should settle concerns about T-Mobile's commitment to its business strategy following the merger.

Film & TV

* In more ViacomCBS news, the company started the first round of job cuts since the merger, the New York Post reports. The layoffs are expected to impact CBS' finance division and the newly combined company's administrative and back-office divisions.

* Sony Pictures Television Inc. acquired Silvergate Media Holdings Ltd., which develops, produces and licenses children's animation, from Silvergate's management team and from private equity firm Shamrock Capital Advisors LLC. Under the deal, Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc., through a wholly owned subsidiary, acquired 100% of Silvergate Topco Ltd., whose assets include Silvergate's 49% interest in a joint venture with Dalian Wanda Group Co Ltd., which holds the rights to "Octonauts."

Internet & OTT

* AT&T Inc.'s upcoming HBO Max streaming service will compete with The Walt Disney Co.'s Disney+ service and other offerings by trying to appeal to everyone in a household, Warner Media CEO John Stankey said. At an industry conference, Stankey told investors that HBO Max represents a compelling value at $14.99 per month for both new customers and HBO's base of 33 million subscribers, and it will offer twice the amount of content currently available from WarnerMedia's premium HBO network.

* Facebook Inc. refused to back down from its plans to provide end-to-end encryption across all of its messaging platforms, reports. In an open letter to U.S. Attorney General William Barr, the company reiterated that providing law enforcement agencies with access to its encrypted services would be a gift to criminals, hackers and repressive regimes.

* Private equity firm Providence Equity Partners Inc. and Warner Music Group Corp. plan to invest up to $650 million in a music catalog platform, Bloomberg News reports. The joint venture has already acquired copyrights from songwriters Jeff Bhasker, Shane McAnally and Ben Rector.

* Netflix Inc. Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos projected that the streaming platform's crime film "The Irishman" will be viewed by about 40 million households during its first month of release. Speaking at a conference, Sarandos said the 3.5-hour film, released Nov. 27, had been screened in 26.4 million Netflix homes worldwide during its first week, following a short theatrical run.

* In other Netflix news, the Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles, barred the streaming company from poaching employees from Disney-owned 21st Century Fox Inc., Variety reports, citing a court filing. Netflix is likely to challenge this injunction. Fox sued Netflix in 2016 over claims that the latter illegally hired two of Fox's executives who were under contract.

* TikTok CEO Alex Zhu canceled planned meetings with several U.S. lawmakers in recent days, though a company statement indicated the meetings would be rescheduled. Owned by China's Beijing Byte Dance Technology Co. Ltd., the social media app TikTok is facing scrutiny from a number of U.S. lawmakers over security and privacy.

* Hulu will exclusively premiere a four-part documentary series titled "Hillary," on March 6, 2020. The docuseries from Propagate explores the life and the 2016 presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton, according to a news release.


* Tech companies clashed with federal lawmakers Dec. 10 as bipartisan calls to improve law enforcement's access to encrypted devices intensified. After a series of high-profile criminal incidents involving encrypted devices, U.S. lawmakers from both major political parties are calling on tech companies to develop a backdoor for law enforcement to access information.

* Deutsche Telekom AG CEO Timotheus Höttges testified in federal court in Manhattan, N.Y., that the T-Mobile/Sprint merger will not reduce competition in the U.S. wireless market, Reuters reports. Höttges noted that the companies are merging to increase scale and gain the wireless spectrum and that the merger's goal is not to reduce competition.

* Alphabet Inc. will file a proposed settlement by Jan. 4, 2020, to resolve the Google+ data leaks litigation, Bloomberg News reports. The Google parent is facing consumer litigation over data leaks caused by software bugs in its now-defunct social network platform. A hearing is scheduled for Feb. 20, 2020, in San Jose, Calif., to review the accord.

The day ahead

Early morning futures indicators pointed to a mixed opening for the U.S. market.

In Asia, the Hang Seng rose 0.79% to 26,645.43, while the Nikkei 225 ticked 0.08% lower to 23,391.86.

In Europe, around midday, the FTSE 100 lost 0.08% to 7,208.31, and the Euronext 100 went down 0.21% to 1,120.01.

On the macro front

The U.S. Consumer Price Index, the quarterly services survey, the Atlanta Fed Business Inflation Expectations report, the U.S. Energy Information Administration Petroleum Status Report, the Federal Open Market Committee meeting announcement and the Treasury budget are due out today.

Click here to read about today's financial markets, setting out the factors driving stocks, bonds and currencies around the world ahead of the New York open.

Featured news

The Daily Dose Europe: KKR, Axel Springer deal; Facebook ads missing in UK; NENT job cuts: KKR & Co. Inc. closed its tender offer for Axel Springer SE, Facebook Inc. lost tens of thousands of ads, and Nordic Entertainment Group AB (publ) reduced its workforce.

The Daily Dose Asia-Pacific: Sony buys Silvergate; SoftBank sells Wag Labs stake; Vodafone NZ launches 5G: Sony Pictures Television acquired animation producer Silvergate Media, SoftBank Vision Fund LP will sell its nearly 50% stake in Wag Labs Inc. back to the U.S. startup, and Vodafone New Zealand Ltd. launched its 5G mobile service.

Q&A: Cable group CEO: Operators are not making a 'wholesale exit' from video: Matthew Polka, president and CEO of ACA Connects, a group that represents small and midsize cable and telecom companies in the U.S., says broadband has been a driver of private equity activities in that cable space.

The Program Guide: BBC America sets 'Doctor Who' return date; Plex launches streaming service: The new season of "Doctor Who" is set to air on BBC America (US) on Jan. 1, 2020, while Plex launched its free ad-supported streaming service Dec. 4.

5G Focus: US rural funding; Dutch auction; Verizon/Amazon tie-up: 5G Focus is a weekly global feature including notable 5G trials, launches, use cases and major equipment supply contracts. It also features in-depth analysis of strategies, expansion plans, business models and other related initiatives.

Featured research

Multichannel Trends: Satellite services face protracted decline in DBS outlook: The U.S. direct broadcast satellite segment, challenged on multiple fronts, is on track to lose nearly 3.7 million video subs through the end of 2019 and faces a prolonged subscriber decline in our revised forecast.

Economics of TV & Film: KBOX Week 48: Thanksgiving pushes total 2019 box office past $10B: Weekly box office posted year-over-year growth for the first time in the 2019 winter season, due to the timing of the Thanksgiving holiday. Week 48 box office was $318.9 million in 2019, up 89.5% from the post-Thanksgiving $168.3 million in 2018.

Global Multichannel: 4K HDR Summit: Exploring 4K's viability beyond TV: Kagan was invited to present on the opportunity of 4K beyond the traditional TV experience at the 4K HDR Summit 2019 in Malaga, Spain.

Global Multichannel: 2019 LatAm groups report: Telecom Argentina reaps benefits from Cablevisión deal: Despite Argentina's challenging economic environment, the merged Cablevisión Argentina and Telecom Argentina increased investments in 2018 to unify and modernize networks as the company prepares to launch quad-play bundles.

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