Archive for Cablevision

Articles of the Day

Posted in Digital Media, News with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on August 25, 2008 by Dave Liu

Microsoft Considers Unloading aQuantive’s Avenue A/Razorfish To WPP; Possible Price: $800MM — Microsoft’s talks with WPP Group seem to be taking a more serious turn on the subject of the software giant selling off digital ad shop, Avenue A/Razorfish, AdAge reports. Microsoft acquired Avenue A/Razorfish when it bought parent aQuantive last August for about $6 billion. That purchase also included other aQuantive properties, among them ad network Atlas and digital marketing solutions provider DrivePM. Initially, Microsoft felt the online agency business represented by Avenue A/Razorfish was fairly ancillary to creating an online ad platform that would compete with Google and DoubleClick. But Brian McAndrews, at the time aQuantive’s CEO and now SVP for Microsoft’s Advertiser and Publisher Solutions Group, convinced Microsoft to accept the unit whole. Six months in, however, Microsoft began having a change of heart and looked for potential buyers who might be more interested in taking the agency business. So far, the main prospect has been WPP CEO Sir Martin Sorrell.

LA Times Group Joins In Launching Real Estate Auction Buiness and Site ZetaBid — As the print side keeps bleeding, the Los Angeles Times Media Group keeps trying to extend into other platforms, both offline and online: the parent of LAT newspaper has jointly launched ZetaBid, a business that will auction foreclosed homes and other properties…it also has a website where the properties could be viewed. The newspaper has nothing to do with the new business, reports the newspaper. The other partners are London-based GoIndustry-DoveBid, an auction specialist, and CataList Homes of Hermosa Beach, a real estate brokerage. The partners will share fees paid by the buyer on each home sold. Bob Bellack, who is president of digital media, classified and development for Times Media Group, will be chairman of the new enterprise. This is an innovative idea of expanding its commercial opportunities, and though the real estate market is on doldrums, the foreclosure market as a result is not.

Yahoo Seeks To Expand Yahoo News — Yahoo is aiming to turn Yahoo News into a major news organization, a la Reuters or The Associated Press. According to AFP, the Web giant is moving away from aggregating others’ news content and is instead cutting deals with wire services and investing heavily in its own roster of reporters. “We have been doing a lot of original reporting and we are going to be doing a lot more,” director of editorial programming Jessica Barron told AFP in an interview. Yahoo News already reaches about half a billion people worldwide. “Our aim is to reach these bigger names and use our reporting talent to break news,” Barron said. “We are really going for the kinds of questions that will make news.” For the Democratic and Republican party conventions, Yahoo is teaming with Politico reporters to cover the event; the team will field questions on behalf of Yahoo’s users and relay the answers online.

Harbinger & Co. Unlikely To Shake Things Up At Cablevision — Whoever said talk was cheap hasn’t been following the action at Cablevision: Shares of the Long Island-based cable operators have staged a strong rally in recent months, courtesy of the Dolan family’s jib-jabbing and jawboning alone. But don’t expect the fun to continue says Citi analyst Jason Bazinet, who downgraded the stock today. Despite the fact that activist Harbinger has taken an 8.1 percent stake in the company, class A shareholders (non-Dolans) don’t have the muscle to force anything, like an asset sale. Even though the top non-Dolan shareholders are consolidating their grip (besides Harbinger, top firms like Gamco and Clearbride have added to their stake), the Dolan’s control of the Class B shares ensures that they’ll retain 73 percent of the voting power.

Telemundo Unifies Digital Media Division; Blacker As SVP — Telemundo, the Hispanic language media company owned by NBC Universal, has unified all its digital media efforts and created a new unit called Digital Media and Emerging Businesses Division. This new unit will include Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) Telemundo, holamun2.com, its international digital media efforts and its emerging platforms unit (which included mobile and licensing and merchandising efforts). It will be headed by Peter Blacker as EVP, who was previously SVP. He joined NBCU after a stint as VP, Multicultural & International for AOL Media Networks. The mandate of the new unit is to develop custom branded entertainment, digital and mobile cross-platform solutions.

Articles of the Day

Posted in Digital Media, News with tags , , , , , , on August 15, 2008 by Dave Liu

Yahoo Confirms Appointment Of Biondi And Chapple To Board — As expected, Yahoo is filling its final two board seats with Frank J. Biondi and John H. Chapple. The appointments were part of the company’s settlement with Icahn that give him and his allies three seats on the company’s 11-member board. Earlier this week, multiple reports identified Biondi and Chapple as the likely names to emerge. From the prepared statement of Chairman Roy Bostock: “Frank’s extensive experience in the entertainment and media industries, combined with John’s deep management experience in telecommunications, will provide valuable perspectives to our already diverse board. We look forward to working with them as our board continues its ongoing efforts to enhance stockholder value.”

Facebook Tests Ads Packaging Video, Comments — In its latest experiment with social advertising, Facebook has launched new ads combining in-banner video with the ability for members to post comments visible to friends on the social network. The video ads occupy the new “sponsor” placement on the right side of the home page that Facebook introduced as part of the site’s recent redesign. Facebook declined to say what advertisers are testing the new ads, which are being shown only to a portion of users in the new site design. It also isn’t saying when, if at all, ads with the new user-generated functionality will be offered to advertisers widely. The social network has unveiled a variety of ad initiatives in the last year as it seeks the right formula for monetizing the myriad conversations and interactions among its 132 million members worldwide.

EMarketer Dramatically Lowers U.S. Ad Spend Forecast — EMarketer now expects domestic online ad spending to reach just $505 million this year–a dramatic downturn from the research firm’s $1.4 billion estimate in February. The revised spending projections are the result of changes in methodology, based on historical data from the Interactive Advertising Bureau, eMarketer’s benchmark source. eMarketer’s revised estimates are also much closer to those released by Interpublic’s Magna unit in July. Magna Director of Industry Analysis Brian Wieser projected online video advertising in the U.S. would reach $555 million in 2008, up 54% from 2007, and forecast it would grow another 45% to $805 million in 2009.

Gannett Laying Off 600 Staffers; 1,000 Posts Being Eliminated — In the latest round of newspaper job cuts, Gannett is laying off 600 employees and eliminating 1,000 positions, writes former Gannett editor Jim Hopkins on his Gannett Blog (via Romenesko). According to a memo attributed to Daily Times’ Publisher Rick Jensen that one of Hopkins’ readers sent him, the 1,000 staff positions will be taken from Gannett’s Community Publishing division, amounting to 3 percent of its workforce. The division has 84 papers and does not include Gannett flagship USA Today. A Gannett rep told paidContent that the memo had gone out across the division on Wednesday, saying that all papers need to rein in costs.

Cablevision Tells Investors ‘No More Acquisitions’; Harbinger Takes 4.9 Percent Stake — Cablevision management has been meeting with key investors as it explores various strategies for lifting its share price. The Long Island-based cable operator said earlier this month that it would consider a variety of options to this effect, including asset sales. While it hasn’t done anything definitive yet, it has promised investors that it would cool down on acquisitions, according to WSJ. This makes sense, as the company’s perceived fr*eespending ways contributed to its declining share price throughout much of the year. The company also claimed that the acquisitions of the Sundance Channel and Newsday arose from “special situations”, though it’s not clear what they meant by that. Either way, the new message is clearly getting across. Cablevision shares have been up over 50 percent just since July 14, when they hit a low below $20 per share. They closed yesterday at $30.96. Now the company just has to make good on the changes the market is now expecting.

Articles of the Day

Posted in Digital Media, News with tags , , , , , , on August 11, 2008 by Dave Liu

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.

Articles of the Day

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

Microsoft May Buy Back $20 Billion — A top-rated software analyst says that Microsoft is poised to buy back as much as $20 billion worth of company stock to make up for the 20% dip shares have taken since the software giant announced its intention to buy Yahoo. UBS AG analyst Heather Bellini said she expects Microsoft to complete the repurchase over the next three months. In other words, if you believe her, buy now. “They won’t announce it until it’s done,’ Bellini said, adding that a buyback of between $15 billion and $20 billion would lift earnings per share by as much as 10 cents annually. Bellini pegs Microsoft shares at $40 in the next year; shares are currently trading at around $26.

Cablevision Confirms It Will Explore Spin Offs To Lift Stock Price — Thwarted in its attempt to acquire the company outright, Cablevision management is getting serious about finding ways to lift the company’s sagging share price. CEO Jim Dolan indicated on last week’s conference call that it would explore stock buybacks and dividends as possible means of getting a lift. The company now says its board has officially authorized the company to explore a spin-off of one or more of its businesses. Although the core cable business continues to perform well, investors have punished the company for sticking its fingers into too many pies (Sundance Channel, Newsday). Similar to the longtime knock on Comcast, management is perceived as being spendthrift with shareholder cash (Comcast eventually instituted a dividend to help combat this perception).

News Corp. In Line; FIM Income Down On Higher Costs; TV Crushed — News Corp. has reported revenue of $8.59 billion for the quarter ended June 30, for 16.5 percent growth over the prior year’s quarter. Op income grew 21 percent to $1.48 billion. The company provides a net income figure of $1.12 billion ($.43 per share), well above last year’s net income of $890 million ($.25 per share), though the numbers aren’t comparable, as this quarter includes gains on the sale of Fox Sports Bay Area and Gemstar-TV Guide International. Like last quarter, the company isn’t providing an adjusted or non-GAAP figure, so the op income growth looks like the best bet for the moment. On a divisional breakdown, TV op income was hit hard, falling 28 percent to $279 million. Broadcast TV has been getting crushed across the board this quarter, as the company chalked up the decline to lower ratings and lower revenue. Things were much brighter on the cable side of the business, with op income up about 10 percent to $313 million.

Dow Jones’ Scarce Numbers; WSJ.com’s Subs Pass 1.1 MIllion; Integration With Other Brands — Now that Dow Jones is one small part of the News Corp empire, its reported numbers are also, well, tiny. In News Corp’s Q208 earnings today, little mention of DJ’s number, though some more details were given in the earnings call. DJ contributed operating income of $24 million in Q208 (down from $37.9 million in the year-ago quarter when DJ was independent) and $45 million for News Corp’s full fiscal year, net of $24 million and $47 million in acquisition related amortization, respectively.

United Online Revs Fall 7 Percent; But People Keep Joining Pay Social Net Classmates — Classmates, the subscription-based social net that United Online failed to take public continues to add subscribers… Paying accounts at the unit were up 41 percent from last year. Company-wide revenue still fell by 7 percent to $122.3 million, dragged down by the ISP business, which saw a 22 percent decline in revenue. Still, analysts had been looking for about $120 million. Unlike EarthLink, which has managed to grow ISP income despite the revenue fall (by slashing costs), op income on the ISP side fell to $21.1 million from $27.0 million. Back to Classmates—which the company would still love to take public one day—revenue grew by 19 percent to $57 million. The company added 288,000 paying subscribers in just this quarter. Op income grew by 29 percent in this unit to $6.1 million.

DoubleClick To Serve Ads In Microsoft’s Silverlight Player — Microsoft and Google have learned how to play nice–at least in the realm of online video advertising–as the companies announced a partnership to enable DoubleClick to serve ads in Silverlight 2, the second version of Microsoft’s streaming video player. Advertisers can tap into available Silverlight 2 inventory through DoubleClick’s In-Stream video advertising platform, which includes detailed analytics and forecasting tools. Silverlight 2 joins a host of online video players that DoubleClick can serve ads into, including FlashIn-Stream ads, including Real Media, Windows Media, and Adobe’s market leader, Flash.