Articles of the Day


Tribune Hires Bankruptcy Advisers; May File Ch. 11 This Week — Tribune, the Sam Zell-owned newspaper chain, has hired bankruptcy advisers in an attempt to stave off potential bankruptcy filing, reports NYT, citing sources. It is using investment bank Lazard and the law firm Sidley Austin, to try and restructure its crippling debt and assess its options, the story says. WSJ says it could file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection as early as this week. Last month, the company reported a Q3 loss of $124 million, compared with earnings of $84 million for the same period last year. Publishing advertising revenues slid 19 percent ($111 million), and as part of that, interactive revenues dropped 7 percent ($4 million). The company has about $12 billion in borrowings, and stayed ahead of the interest payments as a result of asset sales, but the economy and resulting ad decline continues to hit it hard. The company doesn’t have enough cash to pay $1 billion in interest payments this year, and also owes a $512 million debt payment in June.

Why Can’t Google Invest in Hulu? Or At Least Do A Syndication Deal — As I have been playing around with Sling.com, the new video portal from Echostar-owned Sling Media, this thought came to mind: if Sling can make a deal with Hulu to essentially create a competitor to Hulu, then why can’t Google (NSDQ: GOOG) make a deal with the News Corp-NBCU JV? With YouTube, Google will continue having a tough time doing mainstream full-episode TV deals. I think even YouTube realizes it, as its head of content partnerships Jordan Hoffner hinted in his speech at B&C’s OnScreen Media Summit this week: “If people want to see the last episode of Ugly Betty they know they can go to ABC.com, but on the other side, we can compete by getting into everyone’s old favorite [TV shows] and feature films … Given the audience and how big it is, do we essentially become the museum of broadcasting? Do you start doing deals for libraries?” Pretty boring, if you ask me. The way YouTube is currently tooled and perceived, it will not be a lean-back experience for most users. Hoffner’s main message was: “YouTube is a great place for premium content … But we need to do a better job of creating areas where the user can go and know what they are going to get.” And that is the biggest dilemma for the company. Then Google has to deal with YouTube’s monetization head on, especially as the next year is going to be a tough slog for everyone.

Obama: ‘We’ll Renew Our Information Superhighway’ — A day after the dismal news that the United States lost 553,000 jobs in November, President-elect Barack Obama outlined some of his job creation and economic recovery plans—including a strong emphasis on improving broadband access. In his regular Saturday morning message, Obama promised “the single largest new inv*stm*nt in our national infrastructure since the creation of the federal highway system in the 1950s” and “the most sweeping effort to modernize and upgrade school buildings that this country has ever seen.” Then the president-elect—who made a point from the beginning of distributing his message online through YouTube as well as traditional radio—placed broadband alongside those efforts: “As we renew our schools and highways, we’ll also renew our information superhighway. It is unacceptable that the United States ranks 15th in the world in broadband adoption. Here, in the country that invented the internet, every child should have the chance to get online, and they’ll get that chance when I’m President – because that’s how we’ll strengthen America’s competitiveness in the world.”

Diller Looking For Buying Opportunities In Downturn; Offers The Pretzel Metaphor For IAC — Bring on the downturn! Barry Diller is still looking to buy websites, because the economy “tomorrow will present unknown opportunities.” The IAC (NSDQ: IACI) CEO told Reuters’ media summit in New York he expects a “‘cascade’ of acquisition opportunities at bargain prices,” Reuters reports. Acquisitions won’t come so much in search, where IAC already owns Ask.com, but: ”The interest would be on audience; we would acquire audience absolutely; we would acquire vertical audiences as we acquired with Dictionary.com, Thesauraus.com.” Rule out social media buys; they’re not good advertising plays, Diller said: “Think of the bimbo words this internet has created: ‘portal’, ‘social network’; I could riff on … ‘networking,’ horrible word too.”

TV Guide’s Print Buyer To Launch A New Site, Separate From TVGuide.com — TV Guide, the print magazine now under the ownership of LA-based private equity firm OpenGate Capital, plans to launch a new website (at TVGuidemagazine.com which it owns) to accompany the mag. The only problem is that TVGuide.com exists, and was not sold by Macrovision (NSDQ: MVSN) as part of the sale, so not sure how the PE firm will navigate around that confusion. The closest parallel I can think of was the Wired.com and Wired magazine situation (the online part was owned by Lycos US and print by Conde Nast) that existed for a few years until Conde Nast bought back the online part two years ago.

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