Arguably, Comcast’s understated, professional, classy (hey, Brian called and then they sent the Mouse a letter first!) and ballsy bid for Disney is the ultimate result of the misguided "must carry" Supreme Court decision. That surprise resulted in retransmission consent … the sort of yin to the must carry yang. The leverage that local cable carriage gave to the over-the-airheads created a series of imbalances. Cable operators devised what they thought was a win-win, as the impact of the decision took hold while the over-the-airheads entertained visions of dancing dollar bills, … "We won’t pay, but we’ll let you invest in new channels and we’ll pay (as little as possible) for those." First were ESPN2 and a line extension FOX channel. (Kind of like opposite ends of a decision tree, Dr John Malone showed his friend and partner Rupert Murdoch how to do it just as Hearst’s Ray Joslin taught ESPN the magic of leverage.) Ah, but who would have thought it would go so far? And with so many line extensions. Now, Charles W. Ergen’s EchoStar is suing Viacom to destroy the practice … a mixed message for cable, satellite and mega-companies if there ever was one. And, one shouldn’t discount the suit (or its effects). After all, EchoStar is the company that initially kicked out (and far away forever) the IP underpinnings of Henry Yuen’s Gemstar. (Initially, but an Appeals Court has just remanded the decision for further review; ironic if Gemstar wins this time because the fallout already happened.) Cable operators, and (some) members of the NCTA board are quietly, but from a distance, cheering him on. Very quietly. But that leverage shift propelled the consolidation within almost all aspects of the media businesses just as much as the go-go markets of the ’90s and the latest turn of a century. "We gotta be big!" "We need a transforming transaction!" "We need a piece of every pie!" "Big is better." "Content is King." And so on. Gonna be fun to watch this play out. How big is big? How will Comcast work through the regulatory hurdles? Suppose they’ll divest the cable systems in the markets where ABC has O&Os? (Don’t laugh; they’ll look at every ramification … this is already a different world.) Anybody else bid for Disney? Maybe the Chinese government? The French government? Diller and Malone? Or will the Mouse go for EchoStar as a blocking move? Whatever, we wish all our friends luck. Random Notes

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Sports giant ESPN says it’s sitting out sending staff to China for the Winter Olympics due to COVID-19 concerns. ESPN had planned to send four reporters to China, but those reporters will now join a larger

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