Articles of the Day


NBC Universal not shopping iVillage; will not be too active in M&A for next 18-24 months, CEO says — NBC Universal, based in New York City, is not shopping iVillage, CEO Jeff Zucker told this news service. He denied a report in Women’s Wear Daily, which cited a banker as saying that iVillage was for sale. iVillage is an online site for women, featuring horoscopes, health and pregnancy information, message boards and blogs, celebrity gossip, beauty and more. General Electric (NYSE:GE) holds an 80% stake in NBC and Vivendi (EPA:VIV) has a 20% interest. GE, with a market capitalization of roughly USD 200bn, is trading close to its 52-week low of USD 12.58 per share, down from a 52-week high of USD 38.52 per share. Vivendi will continue to be a long-time partner and there has been no discussion of an exit, Zucker said at the UBS 36th Annual Global Media and Communications Conference. Regarding acquisitions, the media conglomerate will not be too active on the M&A front in the next 18 to 24 months, he said. NBC is going to be opportunistic in the short and long term and “playing it safe” in the marketplace, Zucker said. When asked if the company could divest its theme parks, which represent 5% of revenues, Zucker told this new service, “not in this market.” Zucker did play up the company’s cable operations, which comprise 60% of its revenues. During the conference, he said the cable networks are expected to grow at a rate in the double digits even in this depressed market. Source: mergermarket.

AOL Makes Bebo Changes, Announces More To Come — AOL this morning unveiled a makeover for Bebo, the social network purchased by the Time Warner company for $850 million earlier this year. The most prominent of the new features is the “social inbox,” a “one-stop destination” which aggregates email accounts, site recommendations and social media feeds from across the Web. Beyond the new look and features, Kara Swisher says “a more radical series of announcements” is on the way from the U.K.-based company, which users can expect to be rolled out in the New Year. The latter series of changes have impressed Yahoo in particular, Swisher says, which continues to negotiate an AOL buyout with parent Time Warner. As part of the changes, AOL will turn its various social media tools — like chat rooms, news feeds and instant messaging — into embeddable features on any site. The service will be called “Site Social” and will be monetized through AOL’s Platform A advertising system. As one person familiar with the upcoming changes says, “we … have all these tools and want to reach out to publishers who need to socialize their sites and find it hard to do so.”

Yahoo Courts Former Vodafone Head For CEO Post — A new frontrunner has emerged in the race to succeed departing Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang: Arun Sarin, the former head of UK-based Vodafone, the world’s largest mobile operator. According to The Financial Times, Yahoo has approached Sarin with “strong interest,” although the former Vodafone chief has made no decision on whether to join the ailing Web giant, saying he was considering other offers as well. The report claims that at least one possibility would involve the position of chairman rather than CEO. Sarin stepped down from his post at Vodafone in July after five years with the telecom giant. He is credited with leading the company’s expansion into emerging markets, although he suffered a shareholder revolt in 2006 due to concerns about slowing growth in Vodafone’s core European operations. He was later able to repair relations with investors. Sarin is also the former CEO of Infospace, a once-mighty conglomerate of search engines.

Chrome To Exit Beta, Move Closer To ‘Web OS’ — Google will soon take Chrome, the Web browser the search giant launched last summer, out of beta, vice president Marissa Mayer announced recently at Le Web 08. The move is significant, TechCrunch says, because Google already has a number of eager customers who can’t offer the open source browser until it’s out of beta. With Chrome, Google is essentially trying to redefine the browser around open standards. On Monday, the search giant rolled out a new open source software platform called Native Client, which GigaOm says moves Google “even closer to fulfilling the early promise of a ‘web operating system.”‘ This was one of Microsoft’s original fears when Marc Andreessen brought Netscape to prominence over a decade ago: that the browser maker would be able to offer services and features that compete head on with Microsoft’s desktop software products. Famously, Bill Gates and co. countered with the scripting language ActiveX and the browser Internet Explorer, which ultimately clobbered Java and Netscape.

Goodmail Systems Allows Video In Email — A Silicon Valley company is launching a product early next year that gives movie studios and television networks a compelling new marketing tool. Goodmail Systems has developed a way to insert video directly into emails. When a recipient opens a message, they can almost instantly view a move trailer or promo for an upcoming TV episode.

Google Adds Indie VC To M&A Division — Google (NSDQ: GOOG) has added indie VC Karim Faris to the ranks of its M&A division, peHUB reports. Faris will focus on funding and acquiring smaller companies in the media and Internet space, but his background also meshes quite nicely with Google’s recent forays into energy technology. He sat on the board of Lilliputian Systems, a startup that develops portable fuel cells for electronics, during his four years as a principal at Atlas Venture. Faris also held positions at Level 3 Communications, Intel (NSDQ: INTC), Generation Partners and Morgan Stanley.

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