Business briefing

The daily business briefing: December 31, 2018

Verizon and Disney reach a distribution deal, a Texas judge stays his ruling calling ObamaCare unconstitutional pending appeals, and more

1

Verizon, Disney reach distribution deal

Verizon and Disney announced Sunday that they had reached a deal to keep Disney channels on Verizon's Fios fiber-optic network, a day before their distribution contract had been set to expire. The deal will preserve Fios users' access to Disney channels such as ESPN, which will air college football bowl games on New Year's Day. Other channels that would have been affected included the Disney Channel and ABC stations in New York and Philadelphia. The deal's terms weren't announced. Verizon last week said Disney had been demanding "hundreds of millions of dollars more for its programming, despite the fact that many of its key networks are experiencing declining viewership." Disney had said its history of "providing extraordinary value to consumers and distributors" was "unmatched."

2

Texas judge stays ruling that ObamaCare is unconstitutional

A Texas judge ruled Sunday that the Affordable Care Act, or ObamaCare, can remain in effect pending the appeal of his ruling that it is unconstitutional. In his order issuing a stay in the controversial case, U.S. District Court Judge Reed O'Connor said he still believed that former President Barack Obama's signature health reform law cannot stand now that Congress has eliminated the penalty for failure to comply with the individual mandate to get insurance, but that the ruling should not take effect until appellate courts confirm his ruling, which he expects them to do. "[M]any everyday Americans would otherwise face great uncertainty," he wrote. The stay likely means that ObamaCare will remain the law of the land for at least another year.

3

California AG says utility could face homicide charges if responsible for fire

California's largest public utility provider, Pacific Gas & Electric Co., could face murder charges if found responsible for starting recent deadly wildfires, according to court documents filed by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. PG&E, which provides electricity to 16 million Californians, has come under scrutiny for possible links to the start of the Camp Fire, the deadliest and most destructive in California history. According to the brief, which was filed Friday but reported Sunday, PG&E could face charges ranging from minor misdemeanors related to clearing vegetation around power lines to felonies if it is found to have started the fire, possibly including "homicide offenses like implied-malice murder and involuntary manslaughter."

4

U.S. stock futures rise at close of rough year

U.S. stock index futures rose early Monday on rising optimism about talks between the U.S. and China on easing their trade war. President Trump said over the weekend that he and Chinese President Xi Jinping had a "very good call" about trade, and added that "big progress" was being made on the issue. Clouds remain over the market as a rough year ends, however. The Wall Street Journal reported that Trump "may be overstating" advances toward easing trade tensions. Also, the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, or CPTPP, goes into effect without the U.S., potentially hitting U.S. farmers hard. And China reported Monday that its manufacturing sector contracted in December for the first time in two years, falling short of expectations and adding to evidence of a China slowdown that could drag down global economic growth.

5

Aquaman holds onto box office lead

Aquaman held onto the top spot in the North American box office this weekend, making $51.5 million in ticket sales. The Warner Bros.' DC superhero film, which stars Jason Momoa, also led the global box office for the fourth consecutive week, bringing in $85.4 million in 78 foreign markets to bring its overseas total to $560 million and its global total to $749 million. Aquaman is now the second-highest grossing DC film behind The Dark Knight Rises. Disney's Mary Poppins Returns held onto the No. 2 spot domestically through the holidays. It earned $28 million to bring its domestic total to nearly $100 million.

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