Archive for Bebo

Articles of the Day

Posted in Digital Media, News with tags , , , , , , , , on December 10, 2008 by Dave Liu

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.

Articles of the Day

Posted in Digital Media, News with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 6, 2008 by Dave Liu

Google-Yahoo Put Partnership On Hold; Talks With DOJ ‘Continuing’ — Yahoo and Google will suspend working together in order to give the Department of Justice more time to determine whether or not their ad search pact runs afoul of anti-trust laws AllThingsD reports, citing sources close to the situation. Yahoo spokesman Adam Grossberg confirmed that report for paidContent, saying, ”The companies have agreed to a brief delay in implementing this agreement to continue our ongoing discussions with the Department of Justice. We have had discussions with regulators and look forward to responding to their questions about this agreement.”

Magazines’ Digital Revenues Offset Last Year’s Print Declines (For Some) — As magazine ad pages continued to slip this year and last, digital’s growth appeared to help offset the print losses at several publishers, particularly Time Inc. and IDG, AdAge reports. The 48 mags that shared information for AdAge’s annual Magazine 300 survey said that revenues from digital ranged from 0.3 percent to 38 percent, with the median figure for digital last year hitting 9.75 percent—about double what magazines reported last year. Counterbalancing print declines: For the most part, tech-focused mags saw the greatest gains from digital. Among the magazines whose digital sides compensated for print declines, IDG’s PC World told AdAge that its digital share gained 38 percent, the highest on the survey and up from 32 percent in 2006. Consumer titles began feeling the benefits from digital as well.

Facebook Co-Founder Moskovitz Leaving To Start New Company — Facebook co-founder and chief engineer Dustin Moskovitz is leaving the social net to found a new company with another departing Facebook engineer, Justin Rosenstein, Valleywag reported and CNET confirmed. Moskovitz served as head engineer for Facebook, having served a more behind-the-scenes role in the recent years. It’s the most recent in a series of exec departures.

Friendster Joins Bebo In Allowing Facebook App Compatibility — Making like Bebo, Friendster has announced it now supports both Facebook’s code and OpenSocial, CNET reports. The move effectively enables Fbook app developers to port their apps to Friendster and to choose between Fbook and Google’s OpenSocial APIs when launching apps on Fbook. Last year, Friendster launched its developer platform with over 180 apps and allowed participating companies and developers to advertise anywhere in the app space and keep all of the revenue. It closed a $20 million round and hired a new CEO, Richard Kimber, in August.

Ask.com Aims For More Relevance, More Engagement With Latest Revamp; More Users Wouldn’t Hurt — A busy 24 hours at IAC (NSDQ: IACI), another update from search engine Ask.com, going live now with its “next generation.” Goals include reducing searches to one click and providing direct answers on the results page in high-volume categories. The changes follow a shift in strategy announced last spring to focus less on the whiz-bang kind of services that might impress “the digerati” and more on practical results.

Ben Wolin, CEO, Waterfront Media: ‘A Two-Horse Race’ — Late last night, Waterfront Media and Revolution Health put the finishing touches on a merger that, when the dust settles, will produce a #2 health network with more than 20 million uniques. While a lot of the focus is on Steve Case’s dramatic switch from building his own massive health network to holding equity in another company, it’s a big leap towards Waterfront CEO Ben Wolin’s goal of building a network that can topple WebMD (NSDQ: WBMD) from its long-held perch at the top of the category. Wolin and I spoke today about the merger that is transforming the company he will continue to lead. Funding: Waterfront raised $20 million in equity inv*stm*nt from current investors but the merger itself was a straight equity play with Revolution becoming a “big” shareholder. Wolin said Waterfront doesn’t assume any debt as part of the deal. He said he doesn’t know where the notion came from that Waterfront was having problems raising money, mentioned here earlier, and that the company had offers of funds from current and would-be investors. The $20 million fifth round —making a total of $57 million raised—adds cash to the balance sheet and provides some flexibility as Waterfront expands. So what is Waterfront worth now? Wolin: “As a private company, that is a hard question to answer.” He says the company was on track as a standalone to make close to $70 million this year and also be profitable. He expects the combined number to be “well north of $100 million” in 2009. More M&A: “We see more. We’re going to build a big company and some of that’s going to happen organically and we’re going to continue to go after very attractive assets.”

Articles of the Day

Posted in Digital Media, News with tags , , , , , , , on August 7, 2008 by Dave Liu

Google To Take On Baidu’s Music Site — Google, the worldwide leader in search, is taking on Baidu.com, the undisputed No.1 in China, by launching its own music search site — except this one only points users to music that’s legal to distribute. The site, which is only available to Chinese users, points to songs hosted by Top100.cn, a Chinese music site backed by NBA star Yao Ming. It will be ad-supported, with Top100.cn sharing the ad revenue with its music partners. Ars Technica says the move is a direct response to Baidu’s dominance of the music search market. The Chinese search leader has made a name for itself providing deep links to endless quantities of illegal music. Recently, the Music Copyright Society of China and the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) questioned Baidu for its MP3 deep-linking policies in lawsuits filed against the search engine for enabling copyright infringement. Three labels represented by the IFPI seek a maximum of $9 million in damages, though the organization claims Baidu could be forced to pay billions in reparations.

AOL Split On Track, But Options Open On Sale Of Access; Prudent Aquisitions — Time Warner is making good progress, says CEO Jeff Bewkes, on curating the proper portfolio of assets. Cable is obviously on track and the deal to spin it fully off should be done by the end of the year. On AOL: “We’ve now made key financial and strategic decisions that will enable us to operate the access and audience.” But it still sounds a tad murky: assets of the company has been divided into three categories: access, audience and something called shared services. TWX will pursue prudent acquisitions, but only ones that provide a meaningful financial return, and one that’s superior to other uses of cash. Given the low share price, it will be difficult to find acquisitions, says Bewkes, that will be superior to just buying back stock. That being said, given all the financial changes the company is undergoing, buybacks are currently on pause. Following the big one-time dividend from TWC? Same. Prudent acquisitions if possible, but expect more cash returned to shareholders.

WebMD Q2 Revs Up 15 Percent; Income Up 25 Percent; Pharma Ads Coming Back?— Health portal WebMD reported revenue of $89.2 million, a 15 percent increase from $77.3 million in the year-ago quarter. Net income from continuing ops of $6.4 million ($.11 per share) were up 25 percent from last year’s $5.1 million ($.09 per share). The company’s core segment, online services, had revenue of $84.6 million, up 16 percent from last year. That was mainly due to 19 percent growth in advertising and sponsorship revenue. Earlier this year the company lowered its outlook for the year due to advertiser hesitance and the business climate, but in the announcement the company simply maintains the forecast. As for the company’s merger with HLTH, it currently expects the deal to close in October.

Bebo Write Down Looms For Time Warner — AOL, which continues to weigh down Time Warner’s stock and may soon be sold, could be forced to write down its recent acquisition of Bebo, says Silicon Alley Insider’s Peter Kafka. In its most recent SEC filing, Time Warner reveals that $760 million of the $857 million it paid for Bebo price was attributable to goodwill, while another $86 million went to “specific amortizable intangible assets.” That leaves $11 million for the actual company. In other words, says Kafka, “there’s almost no there there.” Goodwill represents the premium AOL paid for the social network. It was almost all premium. Now, this may be standard practice in the Internet biz, but sometimes, when the asset doesn’t deliver as promised, the acquirer is forced to come back and tell investors that it paid way too much, then it gets to write down the loss. Time Warner had to do this with AOL in 2003. EBay had to do this with Skype in 2007.

CondéNet Integrates Ad Sales Teams; Staff Reorg Focuses On Verticals, Not Titles –Times are getting a little tougher for online ad revenues. And so with marketers’ demands for one-stop shopping across a company’s sites getting louder, CondéNet has decided to simplify its two ad sales teams into one. Up until now, there was one team handling ads for Style.com, Men.Style.com, and flip.com, and a separate sales team selling Epicurious.com, Concierge.com, NutritionData.com, HotelChatter.com and Jaunted.com. While categories like food, travel, fashion and teen, focus on different subjects, the reasoning is that the broad audience demos they attract make it more worthwhile to explore where visitors to those sites intersect. And so, sales staff will operate according to particular verticals, not titles.

Articles of the Day

Posted in Digital Media, News with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 14, 2008 by Dave Liu

Yahoo Rejects New Offer From Icahn And Microsoft; Says: Just Buy Us Already For $33 Per Share — An oddly timed announcement indeed… or not, given that the initial deal fell through on a Saturday evening. In a just-released statement, Yahoo says on Friday it received a partial offer from Carl Icahn and Microsoft, that would involve the sale of the search business to Microsoft, while handing over the rest of the company to Carl Icahn. The company claims it was given a less-than 24-hour ultimatum, which would explain the timing of this announcement. What the company clearly wants is a full sale. The sub-headline of the release is even: Yahoo! Suggests Microsoft Make A Proposal To Acquire Whole Company. Of course, Yahoo has said a few times lately that it’s now willing to sell at that $33 price, but that Microsoft won’t revisit that offer. Perhaps the most significant aspect of this announcement is that it’s the first time Carl Icahn has endorsed a plan that doesn’t start with the goal of an outright sale. In fact, as Yahoo points out in the release, Icahn previous trashed the idea of a partial search deal with Microsoft, calling it a poison pill that eliminated Microsoft’s need to buy the whole thing. It seems that Icahn has adjusted to a new reality.

Microsoft’ Latest Offer Detailed; Major Shareholder Legg Mason (Still) Unimpressed — Yahoo’s late-night Saturday rejection of a fresh offer from Microsoft was a bit jarring, since a) nobody knew that there had been a new offer and b) Yahoo was describing it as inadequate without explaining what it entailed. Today Reuters reported that the new offer was basically the same, structurally, as the old one, except a promised revenue guarantee was higher ($2.3 billion per annum) and guaranteed for five years. Kara Swisher offers up a different figure, saying the revenue guarantee was $20 billion over 10 years. Either way, as Yahoo even admitted, it was a better offer than the previous one—but still not get enough. So with Yahoo rejecting the deal, it all comes back to the Aug. 1 shareholder meeting. It doesn’t look like this latest tactic has done much to help Carl Icahn.

Murdoch On Yahoo: Microsoft Will Walk Away, Deal With Us Unlikely — In the background throughout Microsoft’s neverending Yahoo courtship has been the News Corp factor. Yahoo ran to Google to avoid an MS tie-up first time ‘round; could it also seek solace in Rupert Murdoch’s arms? It’s “very unlikely”, Rupe said (via Reuters) at Allen & Co’s Sun Valley shindig. So maybe Ballmer will triumph after all? Nope: ”There won’t be a deal. There’s bad personal feelings. In six months, (Microsoft) will walk away.” He should know; along the way, News Corp has held talks on both options – tying Yahoo to its MySpace, and helping Microsoft buy Yahoo. The CEOs aren’t the only ones with animosity; Murdoch said of Gordon Crawford, SVP of Capital Research which holds 11.4 percent of YHOO and six of MSFT: “He’s pissed he didn’t get $33. He would have taken it in a flash.” It may be an idyllic hillside retreat, but Jerry Yang (via Reuters) says he’s unlikely to kick back with Microsoft representatives in Sun Valley.

GE’s NBCU Q2 Revs Up 7 Percent; Income Up 1 Percent — Another underwhelming quarter for NBCU, unit of GE… network revenue was up 7 percent in Q2, to $3.88 billion from $3.62 billion, while income grew just 1 percent to $909 million $904 million. The company claimed that its cable business offset ongoing weakness at its local operations. It also touted the benefits of the upcoming Olympics, predicting more than $1 billion in advertising. As for the whole company, at least they didn’t miss this time (maybe Jack Welch’s tongue lashing did the trick on Jeff Immelt). Total revenue was up 11 percent to $46.9 billion, though excluding charges, net income was flat at $5.4 billion or $.54 per share. Meanwhile, the company continues to spin and sell off units, including its consumer and appliance divisions… but so far, there’s nothing official on the company shopping around NBCU, despite the constant speculation.

Big Chinese Funding: Online Jobs Site Zhaopin.com Gets $110 Million Funding — The days of huge Chinese fundings are not over yet, as online video and gaming sites and others in digital media keep getting stupendous amounts: Chinese online jobs site Zhaopin.com has received a big $110 million round of mezzanine funding. This is the largest ever investment in the online jobs sector in China in recent years. According to the company CEO Hao Liu, Zhaopin.com, this will be the company’s final round of financing before a planned IPO in 2010.

Veoh Launches Behavioral Targeting Technology — Veoh Networks today unveils a new behavioral targeting system that lets marketers match video and display ads with specific audiences based on their viewing habits. Still in beta, the technology draws on data collected on its users’ video watching, searching, browsing and other activities on Veoh.com to deliver targeted ads according to nine overall audience categories.

M&A Update: Ad Networks, Social Media Win, But Mobile Loses Out In 2008 — Social media companies and ad networks continue to curry favor with investors, according to the latest M&A report from Petsky Prunier. In the first half of 2008, VC firms and strategic investors pumped nearly $1.5 billion into social media companies and almost $760 million into ad networks and exchanges. Investments in the social media and user-generated content (UGC) space, which New York-based Petsky Prunier grouped in the Digital Media sector, nearly tripled from the first half of 2007. The deals ranged from double-digits, like the $35 million investment RockYou snagged from DCM, to the $850 million that AOL paid to snap up Bebo. And despite the oft-publicized struggles by social media leaders like Facebook and News Corp.’s MySpace to monetize their audiences, it’s likely that VC firms in particular will continue to fund development in the sector.