Archive for Disney

Digital Media M&A

Posted in Deals, Digital Media, News with tags , , , , , , , on November 27, 2008 by Dave Liu

Yahoo Sells Off European Comparison Shopping Site Kelkoo To PE Firm — Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO), which has been trying to sell off its European comparison shopping service Kelkoo for a while now, has finally found a buyer, according to a report: it has been sold to a little-known UK-based private equity firm called Jamplant, for something less than euro 100 million ($126 million). Yahoo bought the service in 2004 for a price then of about 475 million euros (now $598 million).  

Disney Sold Movies.com To Comcast For $17 Million — Earlier this year in June, Fandango, the online movie tickets service that is part of Comcast (NSDQ: CMCSA), bought out movies-info site Movies.com from Disney (NYSE: DIS), for a then-undisclosed sum. Now the amount has come out, in Disney’s latest annual 10-K filing with the SEC: The movies.com business was sold for $17 million on June 18, 2008, resulting in a pre-tax gain of $14 million.

Articles of the Day

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

Obama Begins Transition; Advisors Are Named For Tech And Communications Issues — A day after the election, names are already being floated as to who will likely be on the president-elect’s transition team, including advisors on issues involving technology and communications. Barack Obama is expected to appoint Washington, D.C. lawyer Henry Rivera to head the team focused on the FCC, reports Multichannel News, quoting informed sources. Rivera, who is a Democrat, is a partner at Wiley, Rein, and served at the FCC from 1981 to 1985. Current FCC chairman Kevin Martin also worked at Wiley. Rivera declined to comment.

IAC: Which Emerging Businesses Will It Sell or Close? — In the Q3 earnings call, Barry Diller dropped multiple hints about closing down or selling some of what IAC (NSDQ: IACI) calls its “emerging businesses”. And he said that it would happen within the next month. On the call: “No businesses in the emerging sectors are carrying any big investments. It is an area we not going to emphasize in the future: we think that is ditsy focusing. We don’t think emerging businesses are the tomorrow of our business. Some of the things within our emerging businesses: we will sell off and shut down, and we will do that next month.” The emerging unit is heavily skewed towards its digital media companies, some bought and some incubated within the company. This also includes its IAC Programming unit headed by Michael Jackson, and where MTVN (NYSE: VIA) vet Nicholas Lehman joined as COO last year. Tina Brown’s newly launched DailyBeast site is part of the programming unit.

Time Warner Q3 Profit Dips On Flat Rev; $100M Charge For Time Cuts; AOL Ads Drop 6 Percent — Time Warner managed to keep its net income from slipping much during Q3 but, with revenue “essentially flat” and a $100-125 million charge for Time Inc. layoffs on the way, followed other media companies by trimming its 2008 outlook today. Between New Line, Time Inc and some other restructuring, the company says the total charges by the end of 2008 could top $300 million. (That would seem to suggest the major cuts are done and that AOL won’t take a big hit in Q4 but this economy doesn’t offer much in the way of guarantees.).

Murdoch: WSJ.com Making Over $100 Million From Ads, ‘Probably’ $100 Million In Subscription Fees — WSJ.com is making more than $200 million from advertising and subscription, News Corp Chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch told analysts during the company’s earnings call. He said the site is making “probably $100 million in subscriptions and certainly over $100 million in advertising.” This time last year, Murdoch was still testing waters on freeing WSJ.com; now safe to say he’s a subscription evangelist. WSJ.com is the “one web site … people are happy to pay for.” Print subscribers—and probably online, although he didn’t specify—are looking at rate increases over the next three years. Those increases will take a while to show up in revenues. Murdoch: “It takes time to work its way through. Advertising is not down a lot. It is certainly a bit below what we budgeted. … Today and tomorrow it’s on target.” He said to expect “even more emphasis than normal on international expansion” and that the big hope in Asia “certainly is putting our web site on mobile.”

FIM Revenues Soft As News Corp. Falls 22% — News Corp. fell 22% in Wednesday trading after the media empire cut its 2009 forecast primarily due to shrinking ad sales at its broadcasting and publishing properties. The traditional media giant finished the day down $3.02 to $12.88, posting its biggest one-day drop since December 1990. News Corp.’s third quarter earnings certainly weren’t boosted much by revenue growth from Fox Interactive Media, the online division which includes the social network MySpace. The division saw a revenue increase of 17%. In call with reporters, News Corp. executives conceded that MySpace display advertising was “softening.”

Disney Disappoints With 14 Percent Profit Drop; Revs Up 6 Percent — The Walt Disney Company has been playing the role of Wall Street darling but not today. The company still turned a profit but not what analysts were expecting—although it did beat revenue estimates with $9.4 billion for the quarter ending Sept. 27, up 6 percent from $8.9 billion year over year. The profit of $760 million was down 14 percent from $883 million in FYQ407, for earnings per share of $.40, down from $.44 last year. Excluding special items, it would have been $.43 per share. The company was hit by the fall of Lehman, taking a $91 million bad debt charge. Via Marketwatch, the FactSet Research analyst estimate was a profit of 49 cents a share on sales of $9.31 billion. We’ll have more color as the call gets underway but the overarching theme so far matches the rest of the media universe as the economic downtown takes its toll.

Ballmer: Yahoo Buyout Is Not Gonna Happen — Sorry, Jerry, a buyout’s not gonna happen. That’s the message MSFT CEO Steve Ballmer made clear at a business luncheon in Sydney, Reuters says. “We made an offer, we made another offer … We moved on,” Ballmer said. “We tried at one point to do a partnership around search … and that didn’t work either, and we moved on and they moved on. We are not interested in going back and re-looking at an acquisition. I don’t know why they would be either, frankly.” But he did leave the door open for a potential search deal, something some analysts say Yahoo will have to consider if it wants to stay alive despite the demise of its search partnership with Google. Ballmer’s definitive statement came after Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang suggested that MSFT buy Yahoo during the Web 2.0 conference yesterday.

NBA Launches International Video Subscription Via Broadband — The latest NBA expansion covers two growth areas for the league: international and broadband. NBA League Pass Broadband International is now available in 19 countries. The subscription includes access to 40-plus live games a week with play-by-play in English and VOD for 24 hours after they air. Some live games will be blacked out. Pay options include full season ($85 through Nov. 11; $100 after), monthly and daily. The international version follows a new U.S. option with NBA League Pass Broadband; before this season, broadband packages were available only as an extension part of the cable or satellite out-of-market package. Speaking of promos, EA NBA Live is sponsoring a fr*ee preview of the U.S. broadband service through Nov. 11.

Digital Media M&A

Posted in Deals, Digital Media, News with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 8, 2008 by Dave Liu

Comcast Interactive Media Acquires DailyCandy For $125 Million — This time the rumors were true, at least when it comes to the sale if not the price: e-mail service DailyCandy, the equivalent of an all-day sucker when it comes to the length of time on the block, finally has been sold to Comcast Interactive Media for an undisclosed sum. SAI, which shares an investor with DailyCandy in Pilot Group, has a source that puts the figure at $125 million, also being reported by WSJ. Viacom was among those talking to Pilot but dropped out of the bidding weeks ago before the final round, according to a source familiar with the discussions. (Update: Just talked to a Viacom spokesperson, who confirmed that the company looked but dropped out of the process in early June and never made “any kind of a bid.”).

Sony Buys Bertelsmann’s 50 Percent Stake In Sony BMG For $1.2 Billion — As expected, Sony Corp. and Bertelsmann AG have reached an agreement that has Sony buying Bertelsmann’s 50 percent stake in Sony BMG for $1.2 billion. The music company will be called Sony Music Entertainment Inc. and will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Sony Corporation of America. Sony and Bertelsmann AG originally created the Sony BMG joint venture in August 2004. Details about the financials are here (PDF). Bertelsmann had been seeking $1.5 billion for its stake, though it was expected with only $1.2 or $1.3 billion at most. Under the deal’s terms, the two have also agreed to continue to share the company’s manufacturing and distribution requirements between Sony’s manufacturing unit, Sony DADC, and Bertelsmann’s services company, Arvato Digital Services GmbH, by extending the agreements with Arvato for additional terms of up to six years. In addition, Bertelsmann will be taking over selected European music catalog assets from Sony BMG.

ESPN Buys Motorsport’s Racing-Live.com, Disney Bags RaisingKids.co.uk — ESPN is buying Racing-Live.com, an independent motorsports site founded way back in 1995. Racing-Live.com claims three million monthly uniques and has four sites – F1-Live.com, Moto-Live.com, Rally-Live.com and Raid-Live.com – covering F1, Moto GP, superbikes, rally, sports cars and karting. It was started by Montpellier-based racing fan Michel Marvie – who first began publishing motorsport news to France’s Minitel in the 80s – and has grown to offer live race updates and news in English, French, Japanese, Italian, German and Spanish.

Google Sells Performics SEM Unit To Publicis — After Google completed its acquisition of DoubleClick earlier this year, it announced plans to divest itself of Performics, the search marketing firm that came with the package. That Google wouldn’t want to be in the SEM game was pretty easy to comprehend. Today the company has announced that the unit will be sold to advertising firm Publicis for an undisclosed sum. The Paris-based ad holding company says it will combine the unit with its existing SEM practice and that it will strengthen its VivaKi Nerve Center. Performics has 200 employees around the globe who will report to Vivaki head Curt Hecht. The deal is expected to close this quarter.

Internet Brands Buys 12 Websites, Expands Careers And Shopping Verticals — Internet Brands buys in bulk. In April, the internet holding company announced it was buying five sites. In February it bought nine. Today it’s picking up 12, as it expands two major verticals: shopping and careers. No terms on the deals were disclosed. Shopping: The four sites acquired were Bargainist.com (lists good deals), Boddit.com (again, bargain hunting), Deallocker.com (user-submitted deals) and Ultimatecoupons.com. Obviously, the common thread is that they all appeal to people looking for a bargain—probably a smart approach in this economy. Careers: The other side of the economic coin: people are concerned about jobs. Hence a massive expansion of its careers category. Here are the 10 sites listed in the category, each of which should be self explanatory: AirlinePilotCentral.com, AviationEmployment.com, ClassADrivers.com, HospitalJobsOnline.com, ifr*eelance.com, ModelMayhem.com, NursingJobs.org, PPRuNe.org (The Professional Pilots Rumour Network), RealPolice.net, WAHM.com (Work At Home Moms). PPRuNe.org isn’t a new acquisition—it was just in a different category—and it seems that one other of these sites was also not a buy, though it doesn’t say which one. The point is: the company now has a vertical in careers comprising of ten sites.

Time Inc. Strange Buy: Acquiring Reader’s Digest School Funding Raising Unit QSP For $110 Million — Time Inc. has bought out QSP, a school and youth groups fundraising company that was part of Reader’s Digest Association, for $110 million in cash. RD is owned by PE firm Ripplewood Holdings. For Time Inc, the fit is, well, I’ll let them describe it: “It sees fundraising as a growing area for subscriptions across the magazine publishing industry and envisions benefits to operating QSP’s large direct-selling force in North America.” In other words, it will focus QSP on selling magazine subscriptions as a way to raise funds, something the company was already doing in addition to other incentives/gifts such as food items.

Articles of the Day

Posted in Digital Media, News with tags , , , , , , , , on July 30, 2008 by Dave Liu

EarthLink To Aggressively Pursue AOL Dial-Up Merger; Other M&A Hopes — EarthLink, which earlier today reported its Q2 earnings, said that it wants to facilitate consolidation in the dial-up ISP space, including going after AOL’s dial-up business, which parent Time Warner has already said it is looking to sell off. CEO Rolla Huff: “We believe we’re best-positioned to be the consolidator in this industry…When an industry reaches a point of maturation and growth stops, it simply makes good economic sense to consolidate into one cost platform.” In a separate interview with WSJ, Huff expanded on this: he said merging the two would create cost savings and better service, benefiting customers as well as shareholders of both companies. “We think it’s worth aggressively pursuing,” he said.

ESPN To Launch Online Action Sports Network; Morphing EXPN Into It — Right on cue around the X Games, ESPN has announced plans to launch an online action sports network, imaginatively called ESPN Action Sports Network. The online channel, slated for a fall launch, will have a slew of sites, each focused on action sports such as surfing, skateboarding, motocross and snowboarding. This will expand on its X Games franchise that it created more than a decade ago. The network also developed the EXPN.com website about a year ago to start offering daily content of different extreme sports, but that will now become ESPN Action Sports Network, the company says.

Marchex Relaunches Local Ad Platform — Local online advertising company Marchex today will relaunch its local ad platform with the integration of its online and call-based ad services. “We fundamentally believe that phone calls are the currency that local businesses operate under,” said Leigh McMillan, SVP of marketing and communications at Marchex. Marchex Connect 2.0 represents the proverbial fruit from the company’s acquisition of call-based ad unit VoiceStar last year for $28 million. That deal also added more than 100 local advertiser aggregators including Comcast, The Cobalt Group, R.H. Donnelley/Dex, and YellowBook USA to Marchex’s roster of partners.

Collective Media Launches Video Ad Network — Online ad network and technology provider Collective Media is launching its own video ad network. The network, supported by Collective’s proprietary AMP platform, provides advertisers with video content from publishers within the Collective Network, along with a suite of in-stream ad units, including pre-roll and overlay video formats.

Google Working On a Formal VC Arm — Google has done a number of strategic investments over the years, and usually big amounts in big-issue-tackling companies, like powerline internet, WiMax, and others. It even has a non-profit Google.org foundation to invest in global challenges. Now it wants to start a formal venture capital arm, a la Intel Capital, Time Warner investment, Steamboat (Disney’s (NYSE: DIS) venture arm) or BlueRun Ventures (formerly part of Nokia), reports WSJ, citing sources. The group will be lead by David Drummond, Google’s SVP of corp dev, chief legal officer, and it has also hired William Maris, a 33-year-old former entrepreneur who has worked as an investor, to help set up the venture.

Articles of the Day

Posted in Digital Media, News with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 23, 2008 by Dave Liu

Yahoo Q2 Weak; Revenue, Income Below Estimates — Maybe the bar was still too high… Here’s the quick read on Yahoo’s just-released Q2 numbers. Revenue ex-TAC came in at $1.34 billion, up 8 percent from last year, but a little behind analyst estimates of $1.37 billion. Adjusted net income was $139 million, just shy of the $140 million analysts had been expecting. It’s also down from $163 million in the year-ago quarter. Revenue on Yahoo’s O&O network was up 14 percent to $1.01 billion, again, a little shy of the 15 percent some analysts had been anticipating. Why the miss? Not totally clear yet. CFO Blake Jorgensen touted the company’s “solid results” despite the weak economy.

Netflix Backs Off Original Content Investment; Closes Red Envelope Unit — This falls into the Casablanca category as in the police captain being “shocked” to find gambling going on at Rick’s … Netflix is closing its nascent Red Envelope Entertainment unit because it competes with the studios it relies on for its main business. Red Envelope invested in more than 100 films and had four employees who are leaving the company as a result of the closure, according to a spokesman, who said the original staff count published by Bloomberg and others was wrong. The departures include Liesl Copland, who joined as head of acquisitions in 2006.

Omnicom Group Says It’s Finally In Buying Mode — After reporting that Omnicom Group’s Q2 net income and worldwide revenue both rose 11 percent, the ad holding company’s CEO John Wren told listeners to the company’s earnings call that the company was finally ready to get serious about acquisitions. As Omnicom expects to do more deals, its rivals’ acquisitive streak has weakened their balance sheets because they “aggressively paid, in our opinion, uneconomic prices.” Therefore, they will be hard-pressed to challenge the company for the independents that are still left.

ESPN Rolls Out New Search Platform This Week; Foundation Of Forthcoming Site Redesign — ESPN.com is planning a major site revamp, but first, it wants to get search right and will then build around some of its new functions. On Thursday, the Disney-owned sports news franchise will begin beta testing its ESPN Sports Search. The platform was about a year in the making. Those with an ESPN Insider account, which includes a magazine subscription and access to special online content, will be invited to begin testing the new search features on Thursday. ESPN wouldn’t say how many “insiders” there are—only that they number in the “hundreds of thousands.” A wider beta test is planned sometime in August.

BSkyB, Universal Form JV To Launch Subscription Music Service — Pretty soon, everybody will be offering a subscription music service. Latest is UK satcaster and ISP BSkyB, 39 percent owned by News Corp. it’s secured Universal’s Total Music repertoire (which includes Amy Winehouse) for a new launch that will allow unlimited MP3 downloading and on-demand streaming for a monthly subscription in the UK and Ireland. And it’s starting a new joint venture company for the purpose, in which it will be the majority partner. Universal is becoming a shareholder.

Comcast Unit Cuts Web Deals To Handle Online Video — The Seattle-based subsidiary of Comcast, thePlatform, has reached deals to deliver video to Web sites aimed at subscribers to the high-speed Internet services of Time Warner Cable Inc., Cablevision Systems Corp. and Cox Communications Inc. Cable operators are increasingly seeking to become destinations for online video, as consumers spend more time watching television shows, movies and other clips that they download from Apple Inc.’s iTunes, Google Inc.’s YouTube and other Internet sources. ThePlatform provides a service that functions as a management system for converting TV shows into the latest online-video formats, inserting promotions from online-advertising networks and transmitting the content to distribution networks that speed up the delivery of Web video to consumers. The company earns money like a utility, charging clients an undisclosed fee for the amount of video they store online and a usage fee every time a user clicks on the clients’ videos.

AOL’s Propeller News Site Launches 2.0 Today — Propeller , AOL’s Digg-like news site, launches version 2.0 later this morning. The site sports a new design and logo and now has a mascot. But the biggest feature change is the removal of a pure Digg-like vote count. In its place is an algorithm based popularity ranking of 1-10, which takes into account “many more aspects of participation” when determining popularity.

TiVo And Amazon Team Up — TiVo will introduce a “product purchase” feature today in partnership with the Internet retailer Amazon.com. Owners of TiVo video recorders will see, in TiVo’s various onscreen menus, links to buy products like CDs, DVDs and books that guests are promoting on talk shows like “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” “The Late Show With David Letterman” and “The Daily Show.”

Digital Media M&A

Posted in Deals, Digital Media, News with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 27, 2008 by Dave Liu

Amazon Acquires Fabric.com — US retail giant, Amazon, has acquired online fabric store Fabric.com in a bid to further its range of products. The deal, which was closed for undisclosed terms, will see Amazon expand its current selection of sewing, craft and hobby items in the US with patterns, fabrics and sewing accessories. “Over the years, we’ve seen a growing interest in this segment from our customers,” says the VP of Amazon.com’s home and garden division, Chris Nielsen, speaking about the acquisition. Fabric.com CEO, Stephen Friedman adds: “We now have the opportunity to significantly expand our breadth of inventory, as well as benefit from the technology, fulfillment and customer service expertise of Amazon.com.”

Microsoft Acquiring Semantic Searcher Powerset For $100 Million: Report — Well if it can’t get Yahoo’s search business… Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) will acquire semantic search engine Powerset for more than $100 million, according to Matt Marshall at VentureBeat. His exact language is that the company “has agreed to acquire” the company and that it will be announced next month. SF-based Powerset has been something of a media darling, despite the fact that it hasn’t taken off yet. In 2006 it raised a $12.5 million first round from Foundation Capital and The Founders Fund, as well as various angels, including Esther Dyson and PayPal founder Luke Nosek. Despite years of interest in “semantic” or “natural language” search, this area is a long way from proving that it works much better than current search technology. VentureBeat also reports that its first round valued the company at $42.5 million, so this wouldn’t be a huge win for the investors. But given the uncertainty of this area, and the cash requirements of an independent search engine, this might’ve looked like a pretty attractive outcome.

Microsoft To Buy Portuguese Mobile App Firm, MobiComp — Microsoft has agreed to buy Portuguese mobile app developer MobiComp for an undisclosed sum, marking its latest push into the mobile software industry. Founded in Braga, Portugal, in 2000, MobiComp develops mobile applications, including a backup service and tools to create and share content. The 40-strong private company claims to be profitable and counts Vodafone, MTN and Nokia among its clients. 

eBay Acquires Media-Sharing Firm VUVOX — eBay has quietly acquired media-sharing and mash-up firm, VUVOX. The deal – which was closed for undisclosed terms – will see VUVOX integrated into eBay, allowing users to embed VUVOX media tools into their personal listings. VUVOX’s staff will join eBay’s design and development teams in California, says eBay employee Richard Brewer-Hay on the auction site’s official blog eBay Ink.

Nokia Buys Location-Based Social Network Plazes — Nokia is acquiring location-based social network Plazes for an undisclosed sum, pursuing its expansion into the mobile services and location sector. Plazes will remain in Berlin and join Nokia’s services unit which includes staff from gate5, a navigation firm that Nokia acquired two years ago. The acquisition follows Nokia’s announcement last month that it expects to sell 35m GPS-enabled phones this year.

Liberty Media Acquires Party Site Celebrate Express For $31 Million — Another e-commerce buy for Liberty Media… this time it is buying out small, publicly traded Celebrate Express, a party supply retailer, for $31 million. At $3.90 per share, the deal represents a 69 percent premium over the company’s $2.30 closing price. Celebrate Express, which traded in the $20s just a few years ago, operates under such brands as Birthday Express and 1st Wishes. The new company will be attributed to the Liberty Interactive Group, and it will be combined with Liberty’s BUYSEASONS business, which operates in the same area. Liberty has made a number of deals for e-commerce companies, including its taking a major stake in BodyBuilding.com and outdoor retailer BackCountry.

Providence And Carlyle Confirm Takeover Talks With Informa — UK publisher Informa is negotiating an all-cash sale to a consortium led by Providence Equity Partners and the Carlyle Group and including Hellman & Friedman. Based on Informa’s stock value on Fri (20 Jun), the firm is worth GBP1.85bn (USD3.65bn), which would make the takeover one of the largest deals in the history of UK publishing industry. However, the bidders say talks are “at an early stage” and there is “no certainty” that they will eventually make an offer.

The Orchard Buys TVT Records Out of Bankruptcy — The Orchard, the digital music label, has bought out TVT Records after a New York bankruptcy court declared its bid the winner on Thursday. The company will gain control of TVT’s catalog, artist contracts and physical record distribution infrastructure, but will not receive holdings in its music publishing subsidiary.

Getty Images Shareholders Approve PE Buyout — Getty Images, the Seattle based images and multimedia giant, has a shareholder approval on its $2.1 billion sale to private equity firm Hellman & Friedman. About 75 percent of the shares represented at the shareholder meeting were in favor of the deal, representing 96 percent of the votes cast.

Fandango acquires Movies.com from Walt Disney — Fandango, the nation’s leading moviegoer destination, today announced that it acquired Movies.com, a leading movie content site previously owned by the Walt Disney Internet Group, a unit of The Walt Disney Company. The synergy of these two well-established and popular movie sites, both launched in 2000, will create new opportunities for exhibitors, studios, advertisers and other partners to reach the movie-going audience, and will provide additional information and entertainment for moviegoers. Fandango’s advertising sales force will represent both sites with a wide variety of advertisers.

IPC Media To Acquire Mousebreaker Website — IPC Media, the UK magazine publishing arm of Time Warner, is to buy Mousebreaker, a gaming website, the Financial Times reported. IPC declined to comment on the deal size, according to the newspaper. The item appeared alongside an article about Yell Group. The deal could take place today (24 June), the report said. The deal size is believed to be in the in the range of GBP 1m (EUR 1.27m) to GBP 10m, according to the report.

Travel Social Network WAYN Admits To Takeover Talks — Travel social network WAYN has held talks with unnamed suitors over a possible takeover, the firm’s chief executive tells StrategyEye. CEO Peter Ward reveals he has met a number of interested parties, but says WAYN wants to grow its business further before selling itself. “We have had a lot of inbound interest and we have met with many other companies,” says Ward. “We believe that to maintain our positioning and grow the business from now holds a lot more value for us than to sell.” However, he acknowledges that selling the platform is definitely part of the firm’s long term strategy, without disclosing a timescale.

Social Media Ad Firm ViTrue Buys Rival UGENmedia — ViTrue, the social media ad firm backed by Comcast and Turner Broadcasting, has acquired competitor UGENmedia for an undisclosed sum. Founded in 2006 by former DoubleClick executives, UGENmedia helps clients develop, deploy and distribute social media marketing programs. Atlanta-based ViTrue says the deal will enhance its ability to offer turnkey social media solutions while providing a strategic New York presence.