Articles of the Day

Time Warner’s Future: All About Content (Unless It’s From Time Inc or AOL) — Jeff Bewkes has been sitting at the desk where the Time Warner buck stops for seven months now, and beyond the Time Warner Cable spin and the New Line trim we’re not all that much closer to his full vision of the company. It’s really quite simple, though, contends Tim Arango in a sprawling Sunday biz story —it’s all about content. Matching it with distribution no longer counts. Spin TWC, sell off AOL’s access business and possibly AOL itself, and focus on three core content areas: Warner Brothers, Turner Broadcasting and HBO. Or, as Bewkes describes it, “dominating niches with a clear brand strategy.” M&A & NBC: He’s also looking at acquisitions in film and TV, the NYT reports, even considering bidding for NBC Universal (NYSE: GE) should GE decide to sell, “according to executives and bankers who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to disclose details of the discussions.” (Sirius (NSDQ: SIRI) CEO Mel Karmazin tells the NY Post he doesn’t think it’s a good time for GE to sell: “Would there be buyers for NBC? Sure, but I can’t tell you whether or not they’ll pay as much as what it might be worth a year or two from now. And the cash flow it is throwing off may be worth more to GE than selling it, paying the taxes and winding up with 50 percent of what it sold for.”)

Is Google a Content Company? — The familiar and at-times tiresome argument: it Google a content company and is it competing against the very content partners that use its services? This time the culprit is the newly launched Wikipedia-challenger Knol, and the argument is whether Google will give preferential treatment in its search to articles within Knol, vs similar topics from other competing sites. NYT picks up that thread, and does say that there is little evidence that Knol has received favorable treatment in search results till now. Some of the media companies are beginning to embrace Knol, adding their own stories/topics to Knol, but some, like Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (NYSE: MSO), has no intention of building up a competitor. Wenda Harris Millard, the co-CEO of MSLO, said: “You are continuing to build their business if you do that, versus building your own.” According to Jason Calacanis, the CEO of Mahalo, a competition of sorts to Knol, it is possible that with YouTube, Knol, Blogger and other company sites, Google could take 3 of the top 10 results in some searches, thus alienating Web publishers that are Google’s advertising partners, even if there is no indication that Google artificially favored its sites. Of course at this point, very few have a choice not to work with Google…

AOL Unveils Larger Home Page Ad — Offering advertisers more prime online real estate, AOL has launched a new skyscraper unit on its home page nearly double the size of the largest placement the Web portal previously sold on its main page. The Interactive Advertising Bureau-standard (300 x 600) unit dominating the right side of the screen debuts with Samsung Mobile’s Olympics-themed “Medal Mania” campaign, awarding a $100,000 prize to the winner of an online scavenger hunt for virtual gold medals.

Twitter’s Secret Weapon: Audience — How is Twitter able to maintain such a large, loyal audience despite persistent service outages? TechCrunch’s Gregor Hochmuth argues that the mini-blogging service reaches a wide variety of users who would never dream of starting a blog or using an RSS reader. There’s also something about releasing a tweet and knowing your friends will receive it-even if it doesn’t exactly work that way (in actual fact, anyone who wants to can follow you on Twitter, whether that person is your friend or not). But from a user’s perspective, those receiving your messages are people you know, people who care enough to “follow” you. This, Hochmuth says, is the secret to Twitter’s success: The moment you send a message, not only do you have an idea about who’s receiving your message, you also know exactly who’s online and capable of responding to your message instantly.

Cablevision Sale Of Assets Likely To Focus On Rainbow Media Division; JP Morgan And Merrill Lynch Expected To Lead Process — Cablevision’s strategic review is expected to focus on selling its Rainbow Media assets, along with other smaller units, said an industry source claiming familiarity with the situation. The source said no final decision has yet been made, however. “Everything remains on the table absent the sale of the company,” he noted. The industry source went on to say that he would expect Cablevision’s long-time bankers — Bear Stearns media bankers who joined JP Morgan and Merrill Lynch — to lead the process, although no formal mandate has yet been handed out.  The source acknowledged there was speculation material is already circulating regarding the sale of Cablevision assets, but said the speculation is premature as an official process has not been kicked off. On 31 July, during a conference call with investors, Cablevision CEO James Dolan said the media company is exploring options to close the gap between its operating performance and its current market value. Cablevision owns a broad collection of media assets which range from cable properties, to Madison Square Garden and the ownership of the New York Knicks and Rangers, to Radio City Music Hall. The asset of particular focus is Rainbow Media, a collection of cable TV stations and programming units, a shareholder said. This is an asset that can be monetized and not affect the covenants for Cablevision’s outstanding debt, he noted. Also, in a note to clients, Chris Marangi of Gabelli & Company pointed out that the media assets Rainbow owns are receiving attractive valuations in today’s market. Further, Cablevision can likely utilize its USD 1.8bn net operating loss to reduce taxes associated with a Rainbow transaction, he added. Source: mergermarket.

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