Archive for Liberty Media

Articles of the Week

Posted in Digital Media, News with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 26, 2008 by Dave Liu

YouTube’s Plan To Gain The Upper Hand With Music Labels — Record labels like Universal Music Group are using YouTube to rake in millions of dollars from their music videos, and yesterday we raised the question of whether Google was making much money from these deals. Well, sources tell MediaMemo’s Peter Kafka that the answer is a big, fat no. In fact, the music clips are costing Google (NSDQ: GOOG) money, even though YouTube is running ads on them. But that is about to change, Kafka says. Currently, YouTube pays the labels either a per-stream fee or a portion of the ad revenue (if there’s an ad on the video) every time a user clicks on one of their music clips; but since YouTube hasn’t saturated the site with ads (yet), most of the time it’s stuck with the per-stream fee. YouTube is in the midst of negotiating new deals with the labels (UMG, EMI, Sony (NYSE: SNE) and Warner Music Group) on very different terms, and Kafka’s sources say the new terms will not add nearly as much cash to the labels’ coffers. The current deals expire over the course of 2009.  

Newspapers Suddenly Adapt To Social Media; Nearly 60 Percent Offer User-Gen Content — Newspapers’ tough times appear to have spurred the industry to adopt the kind of social media habits that have led so many readers away from the traditional news format. In The Bivings Group’s annual look at how newspapers use the internet, the researcher found that 58 percent of dailies offered some form of user-generated content this past year. That’s more than double the 24 percent of papers that had user-gen features in 2007. Other finding’s from Bivings’ report (PDF): The number of papers who opened up stories to user comments also more than doubled in the last year to 75 percent in 2007 versus just 33 percent the year before.

Facebook Continues Torrid Growth — Facebook is growing faster than ever, especially overseas. Active users on the social network have hit 140 million, according to new data released by the company this week. That total is up from the 130 million Facebook reached earlier this month, putting its current growth rate at more than 600,000 users a day, by the estimation of Inside Facebook blogger Justin Smith. It crossed 100 million users in August. Most of that growth–about 70%–continues to be outside the U.S. Inside Facebook pointed out that growth has been especially explosive in Italy, where users have jumped from 572,000 in July to 4.9 million now.  

Warner Pulls Videos From YouTube As Contract Talks Break Down — In another setback for Google’s popular video sharing site, Warner Music Group over the weekend ordered YouTube to remove all music videos by its artists after contractual negotiations broke down. According to Reuters, Warner’s decision could affect hundreds of thousands of video clips. Talks broke down early Saturday because Warner wanted a bigger share of ad revenues. “We simply cannot accept terms that fail to appropriately and fairly compensate recording artists, songwriters, labels and publishers for the value they provide,” Warner said in a statement. According to comScore, YouTube had more than 100 million viewers in the U.S. in October, making it the most popular destination for online video by a massive margin. Warner became the first major media company to negotiate a deal with YouTube in 2006. As part of that deal, Warner, Universal Music Group and Sony Music each took small stakes in the online video giant prior to Google’s acquisition in 2006, profiting from its close.

NeoEdge Takes On comScore — NeoEdge Networks will announce today a service to collect survey data to support some of the advertising technologies and online games it develops and supports. The NeoEdge survey, dubbed “NeoMom,” takes on comScore and focuses on females ages 25 and 54. The survey topics are geared toward consumer products. Gathering survey data for the first report begins in January.  

Redstone Gets Reprieve To Restructure $800 Million In Debt — No financial Armageddon today for Sumner Redstone, who gets an indefinite reprieve on either paying—not gonna happen—or restructuring some $800 million in debt coming due for National Amusements. The total debt is about $1.6 billion. Redstone owns 80 percent of the company, which owns movie theaters and controls Viacom (NYSE: VIA) and CBS (NYSE: CBS). (Redstone is chairman of both media company boards.) The reason for the extension: National Amusements is gaining time to finesse a plan that’s already been presented to creditors, it’s current on payments and the deadline was more of a target than anything.  

Study: Almost 10% On Social Networks Via Mobile — The proportion of U.S. mobile subscribers who access social networks on their cell phones nearly tripled to almost 10% over a year ago, according to a consumer study by The Kelsey Group and ConStat spotlighted Monday by eMarketer. Specifically, 9.6% of mobile users were connecting to a social network as of October 2008, compared to 3.4% in September 2007. The rapid growth is due in part to the small base of people who are social networking on mobile. 

Fanscape Projects 15% Revenue Increase In ’09 — At best, next year represents uncertainty for most advertising and agencies. Social-centric media shops, however, continue to wax optimistic over their prospects for growth. Take Los Angeles-based Fanscape, a digital-engagement marketing agency that works with clients to better understand and influence niche audiences online. “The jury’s still out, but I believe that revenue is going to grow by 15% next year,” said Terry Dry, president and co-founder of Fanscape. 

Warner Overplays YouTube Hand — CNet’s Greg Sandoval claims that it was YouTube that actually began removing Warner Music Group’s videos from its site after Warner came to Google with an “11th-hour demand” for better financial terms. Warner over the weekend said that it began asking that YouTube remove its videos after talks to renegotiate its licensing deal broke down, but two sources close to the situation claim that YouTube actually walked away from the deal first. According to the sources, managers at YouTube considered Warner’s demand, only to begin pulling Warner music videos as its answer. YouTube also first notified the public of the split by posting a note on its blog. Warner responded by saying the music labels were building a YouTube competitor, and that YouTube didn’t drive much revenue for them, anyway, and that Warner’s departure was a bad sign for the Google video site.

Friendfinder Networks files to go public, may make acquisitions — Friendfinder Networks, the Boca Raton, Florida-based social networking company, has filed for an initial public offering and anticipates USD 460m in proceeds. The Internet-based company said in an S-1 filing on 23 December 2008 with the US Securities and Exchange Commission that Renaissance Capital is the underwriter. “To access technologies and provide products that are necessary for us to remain competitive, we may make future acquisitions and investments and may enter into strategic partnerships with other companies. Such investments may require a commitment of significant capital and human and other resources,” stated the company in its SEC filing. Source: mergermarket.

WaPo Digital-Print Integration: The Fast Track — Reading through some clips in the wake of the news that Jim Brady is leaving WashingtonPost.com, I was struck by the rapid shift from separate but cooperating news operations to Russian nesting dolls following Katharine Weymouth’s promotion to Washington Post (NYSE: WPO) publisher and CEO of the Media Group: Feb. 7, 2008: From the Washington Post: “Washington Post Media is designed to forge a closer relationship between the business functions of The Post newspaper and washingtonpost.com, while maintaining separate newsrooms and editorial decision-making.” 

Online Display Ad Spending Dips 6% Through Q3 — A 27% plunge in spending by financial services marketers led to an overall 6% drop in the online display ad market in the first nine months of 2008, compared to the same period a year ago. The percentage declines in both instances mirrored results from the first six months of the year, according to data released by Nielsen Online. Other sectors downsizing display ad budgets included Web media, down 15% to $1.1 billion; travel, falling 7% to $304 million; and retail goods and services, slipping 4% to $833 million. The declines were offset partly by surging ad dollars in the automotive and entertainment categories, which jumped 32% and 29%, respectively. The continued growth in auto advertising online contrasts sharply with the 8% spending fall-off in the category offline. 

Ad-Revenue Sharing Model For Publishers Emerges In 2009 — Advertising networks will begin sharing ad revenue with publishers in 2009. Attributor, which published a study on the ad-serving market this week, will soon offer a service that lets customers monetize content. Rich Pearson, VP of marketing at Attributor, said the Redwood City, Calif. company will rely on technology to automate the process. “We are working with Politico, but it hasn’t been formally launched,” he said. Last week, Reuters–a division of global information company Thomson Reuters–said it will incorporate government and political news from Politico, a unit of Capital News, into its newswire service in a revenue-sharing deal. The group will allow Politico to sell online advertising on their sites. Ad code attached to the media content will determine the revenue-sharing agreement.  

Google, Microsoft, Yahoo Rattle SEO In 2009 — Rival search engines and marketers will continue to fret over Google’s market gains regardless of how the “large actor” acts. Microsoft will “dance and flounder” until cutting a deal with Yahoo toward the end of 2009. The Sunnyvale, Calif. company will need to first find a CEO–which Danny Sullivan, Search Engine Land founder, predicts could happen by February. Whether Yahoo cuts a deal with Microsoft or breaks off and sells the search business remains up in the air. “Yahoo’s CEO will first need to learn the landscape, rather than immediately cut a deal with Microsoft,” Sullivan said. “If a deal happens, it will need to go through a review, which would take two months. By this time you’re in the middle of 2009.” Aside from who’s doing what at search engines, tech-related trends will move beyond Web search results and page content, and into video SEO, local search engine rankings and analytics. Marketers will look for ways to dominate local search results based on demographics. Perhaps local listings will appear at the top, video in the middle and blog search results on the bottom, all on one page. 

NYT Online Ad Revenues Decline In November — It appears that even online advertising–long a growth engine–has started sputtering for the beleaguered New York Times Co. The company said Wednesday that Internet ad revenues across its Internet properties dropped 3.8% in November, compared to a 4.6% gain in October. It marks the first monthly decline in online ad revenue the Times Co. has reported to date. 

MySpace’s Berman: More Ad Products To Come — MySpace has introduced a flurry of new applications and services as it transforms into an advertising-supported social portal, chasing the big bucks spent on Yahoo and Google’s YouTube. It is aggressively leveraging its 75 million active monthly users, each with about 111 friends and spending an average four hours monthly in ways that Madison Avenue and Hollywood cannot ignore. When you can claim nearly 12% of all Internet minutes in the U.S., people will listen. Jeff Berman, MySpace president of sales and marketing, discussed future plans with MediaPost. 

Liberty Media Could Sell Shares Of IAC/InterActiveCorp Until April 2010 — IAC/InterActiveCorp. (NASDAQ:IACI), the New York Internet company, could have Liberty Media (NASDAQ:LINTA) sell shares until April of 2010, reported the Wall Street Journal. The unsourced report in the Heard on the Street column, said the rate at which Liberty Media is going in selling shares of IAC, the company could continue stock sales until April of 2010. According to the report, to avoid the pain of Liberty Media slowly selling its stake IAC could issue a dividend or a buyback of shares. IAC has a market capitalization of USD 2.2bn. Source: mergermarket.

Articles of the Day

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

Liberty Media To Split Off Majority Of Liberty Entertainment; Assets Include DirecTV, Sports Nets — In typical Liberty Media (NSDQ: LINTA) fashion, the company founded by John Malone has just filed a complicated business plan with the SEC on a Friday night. It’s also a relatively rare move—a split-off that will give holders of the Liberty Entertainment group tracking stock shares in a new subsidiary that will hold the majority of the group’s businesses, assets and liabilities in exchange for some of their tracking stock shares. The announcement follows CEO Greg Maffei’s assurance this week at the UBS Global Media and Communications conference that the company is looking for a structure that benefits shareholders better than the current tracking stocks. If it gets the usual regulatory and IRS approval—as is generally the case with Liberty, the goal is a tax-fr*ee transaction—holders of the tracking stock will have stock in two investments. Release. The details: The new Liberty Entertainment will be a publicly traded company—not a tracking stock—called Liberty Entertainment, Inc. That company would include roughly 52 percent of The DirecTV Group (NYSE: DTV), Inc., 50 percent of GSN, LLC, 100 percent of FUN Technologies and 100 percent of Liberty Sports Holdings, LLC (three regional sports nets.) It also will be responsible for $2 billion in debt incurred when Liberty acquired its majority interest in DirecTV last spring.

New NYT.com GM Denise Warren: Tip-toeing Into Aggregation With Guarded Optimism — As if heading advertising for the New York Times (NYSE: NYT) Media Group wasn’t tough enough in this climate, Denise Warren is taking on the role of GM of NYTimes.com as the site fends off increased challenges from competitors and the economy. Warren has been chief advertising officer of the NYT Media Group for three years and has been with The New York Times Company for 20 years. As she settles into the GM job vacated by Vivian Schiller, who exited after being named CEO of NPR, Warren tells paidContent that she has been able to maintain her optimism. For example, despite the temptation to suspend new initiatives and wait until a more supportive ad market returns, Warren has faith the NYTimes.com’s new experiments with aggregation will deliver. In particular, she’ll be taking a close look at recently unveiled Times Extra feature and the current beta test of Times Widgets, which lets readers create custom apps for RSS feeds from various news sections. While the NYTCo has a lot more plans along those lines, Warren concedes that the economy will likely force the company to scale other experiments back a bit. “One of the unfortunate things about this downturn is that you can’t do all the things you’d like to, whether it’s your personal life or your professional life,” Warren says. “You have to watch that budget. You can only do the things that are really important. But in a way, these constraints that we’re operating under can help focus you.

Google Quietly Tries Brokering Deals With ISPs To Get Priority Access — Congress has failed to pass legislation regarding so-called “Net Neutrality,” and now the issue is again top of mind as Internet providers seeking preferential treatment; network operators considering a tiered approach, and once-staunch defenders beginning to soften their stance on the matter. This time, it appears Google (NSDQ: GOOG), which has been traditional a huge advocate of network equality and openness, is working behind the scenes with major cable and phone companies to get its Internet traffic prioritized, according to documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

CBS Relaunching TV.com; Hoping Finally To Become A Video Player; Aiming Beyond Hulu, Not At It — CBS Interactive is relaunching TV.com, hoping to transform the well-named site known for its TV-related community and user-generated content into a serious video destination, paidContent has learned. The full-scale relaunch with new content partners is slated for January but the cosmetic changes will start this week with a new look and logo, according to sources familiar with the plans. TV.com is among the assets CBS (NYSE: CBS) picked up with its $1.8 billion acquisition of CNET last summer. (The other notable non-brand domains: News.com, MP3. com and Radio.com). Despite having the ultimate url and folding in some video through agreements first with CBS and then with Hulu, CNET missed multiple opportunities to grab early advantage. Now it’s playing catchup with a number of competitors, including Hulu and newest challenger Sling.com.

Lycos Europe Opts For Liquidation, $66 Million Paid Back To Shareholders — Lycos Europe shareholders voted to liquidate the business at an extraordinary general meeting at a hotel in Amsterdam this morning. They also nodded through management’s strategy to sell its domain registration business, shopping portal and Danish website as going concerns. Shareholders will get €50 million ($66.72 million) returned to them on December 19 – not a bad Christmas present, but the price per share of €0.1605 ($0.21) is vastly less than its opening high of about €24 (now $32) in 2000.

Facebook Opens Paris Sales Office As Part of European Expansion — What does Facebook want for Christmas? A greater foothold on the European ad market by the looks of things: the social network is set to open a sales office in Paris as part of plans to grow across Europe, according to Mad.co.uk. The site’s commercial director for EMEA Blake Chandlee has unveiled the office’s first employee Damien Vincent who has defected from MySpace France where he was head of sales. Facebook claims to have 6.1 million users in France and to have just reached the one million mark in Switzerland, adding to its 130 million users worldwide. Facebook translated the site into French in April and saw an immediate traffic boost, but it still trails in France to the Skyrock social net, which has more than 12 million users. In August Chandlee was behind moves to double the site’s UK sales and marketing staff to about 40. There are more than eight million UK users but according to Nielsen Online suffered a slight dip at the start of 2007 from a peak of 8.5 million.

Articles of the Day

Posted in Digital Media, News with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 31, 2008 by Dave Liu

Google And Yahoo Appear Ready To Abandon Talks On Pact — While the Google-Yahoo search ad pact seems increasingly headed for rocks, the two sides have continued to insist that they’re talking with the Department of Justice about crafting an agreement that passes regulatory muster. Until now, it seems. Citing unidentified sources, the WSJ says those talks have not moved the ball an inch and suggests that Google (NSDQ: GOOG) and Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) may abandon the pact completely. The decision to drop the planned deal could come as soon as next week, the WSJ says—although hedging its bets, the paper adds the two could go the other way and announce a last-minute save. What makes next week so important and why does it seem like such a toss-up? It could have something to do with Tuesday’s presidential election. The thinking could be that an Obama win—which would be at least personally supported by Google CEO Eric Schmidt, an avowed Obama supporter—would probably signal a more jaundiced view of what constitutes anti-competitive partnerships. And a McCain win could mean that antitrust regulation would remain fairly loose.

CBS Swings To Loss On 12.5 Billion Write-Down; Q3 Revs Rise 3 Percent — True to its warnings about lower earnings earlier this month, CBS (NYSE: CBS) Q3 net earnings from continuing operations came in with a loss of $12.46 billion, or a loss of $18.58 per diluted share, versus earnings of $340.2 million, or $.48 per diluted share, for the same prior-year period. The earnings report also highlighted a $56.4 million write-down on items associated with “other-than-temporary declines in the market value” CBS’ investments. Revenues, meanwhile, were up 3 percent to $3.38 billion in Q3, which were driven by the addition of CNET and domestic cable sales of CSI: New York, though offset by lower ad sales. As Les Moonves, president and CEO of CBS Corp., said during the earnings call, “any increase in revenue is welcome in this difficult environment.”

ValueClick Net Income Plummets 88 Percent — Online ad firm ValueClick (NSDQ: VCLK) had previously warned investors that Q3 would be rough and its earnings report on Wednesday clearly bore that out: the company’s GAAP net income was $2 million ($0.02 per diluted common share), down 88.1 from $16.8 million ($0.17 per diluted common share) in Q307. Net income was affected by the completion of an offer to purchase up to 4.9 million stock options with exercise prices ranging from $25.66 to $29.73 per share. It was also impacted by tax adjustments. Excluding those two items, Q3 net income per diluted common share would have been $0.15, ValueClick said. Revenue was down 2.5 percent to $152.9 million compared to $156.9 million for the third quarter of 2007.

Liberty Media’s Interactive Group Income Falls 14 Percent — Liberty Media’s Interactive Group posted slim revenue gains of 2 percent, while adjusted operating income fell 14 percent in Q3. The increase in revenue was primarily driven by the impact of the Bodybuilding.com purchase last December and growth at the other e-commerce companies. The decrease in adjusted OIBDA was due to the results at shopping channel QVC, which is the largest part of the group and has been hurt by the economic downturn. In keeping with the unsteadiness of the market, Greg Maffei, Liberty President and CEO, said the company would concentrate on bringing down its debt. Earlier this month, the company drew down on its QVC bank facilities and retired 87 percent of its senior notes that mature in mid-2009. The company repurchased 13.6 million Liberty Capital shares from Aug. 1 through Oct. 29. Also, Liberty has instituted a hiring fr*eeze, company-wide. Given the uncertainty in the economy, the company is withdrawing its guidance for Q4.

TheStreet.com’s Weak Q3 Forces Boardroom Shuffle — Wall Street’s losses have turned partly into TheStreet.com’s gains, as traffic surged to an all-time high over the course of Q3—and ad revenue tracked upward accordingly. But the company wasn’t completely immune to the market downturn, as it missed analysts’ EPS and revenue expectations (via Tech Trader Daily), and posted a $1.1 million loss in net income. TheStreet.com (NSDQ: TSCM) shook up its boardroom as a result, making Jim Cramer Chairman so that former Chairman (and current CEO) Thomas Clarke can focus on navigating the even tougher times ahead.

WPP Sales Up In Third Quarter; Expects ‘Very Tough 2009’ — Ad holding company WPP Group reported a 16 percent rise in sales in the third quarter, boosted by the stronger dollar and euro against the pound. Revenues came in at £1.72 billion ($2.8 billion), compared to £1.48 billion ($2.42 billion) a year ago. Adjusting for inflation, revenue was six percent higher; on a like-for-like basis–stripping out acquisitions and currency fluctuations–growth was three percent. As rivals Publicis, Interpublic and Aegis reported earlier this week, WPP expects that the “disintegration in the financial markets” will continue to have a “significant negative effect” on consumer and corporate confidence, with 2009 shaping up to be “a very tough year.” CEO Martin Sorrell told Bloomberg that the “real recovery” will come in 2010, when events such as football’s World Cup and the Winter Olympics games should boost sales.

Conde Nast Scales Back Portfolio, Men’s Vogue; Layoffs Are Coming — The print publishing cuts just keep coming. Condé Nast plans to cut budgets company-wide by 5 percent, including scaling back the number of Portfolio and Men’s Vogue issues it publishes and laying off some staff, NYT (FRB: 066570) reports. Men’s Vogue is taking the biggest hit, shifting to bi-annual production from 10 issues per year, and business-industry last-year-darling Portfolio will go from 12 issues to 10. Most of Men’s Vogue‘s operations will be folded into Vogue, while some of Portfolio’s online components, including ad sales, will be bundled with Wired magazine. While the layoffs will hit various titles, the NYT cites unidentified sources saying that the two aforementioned titles will absorb most of the job cuts. At our FOBM conference Tuesday, Condé Nast group president David Carey was adamant that Portfolio was healthy and wouldn’t be whittled down to a “digital only” publication, and was quite bullish on the magazine’s digital revenue generation potential earlier this year. Condé Nast launched Portfolio amidst much fanfare in April 2007. The news comes just days after Time Inc. and Gannett (NYSE: GCI) both said they were resorting to mass layoffs, and the Christian Science Monitor announced it will shift to printing its paper edition weekly instead of daily.

AOL Opens Up Site To Social Networks — As part of its open strategy, AOL today unveiled a new feature allowing users to access social networks including MySpace, Facebook and Bebo directly from the Web portal’s redesigned home page. The “My Networks” feature lets AOL visitors post status updates to multiple social networks at once, as well as provide profile activity information such as new friend requests and mail notifications from third-party social sites. The move follows AOL’s step last month to offer direct access to outside e-mail services including Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo Mail via prominent links on its home page.

Marchex Adhere Adds 23 Publishers To Roster — Pushing to give media buyers more options as budgets tighten, Marchex Adhere has signed on 23 publishers in the past 90 days, upping the lineup to more than 200. Marchex Adhere for Publishers is a white-label ad platform that publishers use to run their own performance-based advertising marketplaces. The expanded roster gives advertisers a method to target a specific audience, said Sloan Seymour, VP of Seattle-based Marchex.

Netflix and TiVo to Partner on Movies — Netflix will place its Watch Instantly streaming-movie service on TiVo’s HD-compatible set-top boxes, furthering the technology industry’s goal of sending television shows and movies over the Internet — instead of over traditional cable and satellite networks — to ordinary TVs. Netflix, based in Los Gatos, Calif., is more widely known for its DVD subscription service that mails discs in familiar red envelopes. But it has lately been expanding its digital offerings, and now has 12,000 movies and television shows that subscribers can view instantly over the Web on their PCs without charge. Netflix and TiVo said they would begin testing the service on Thursday and expected to make it available to all owners of TiVo set-top boxes in December. There will be no extra charge for TiVo subscribers who also have one of Netflix’s unlimited subscription plans, which start at $8.99 a month.

Gorilla Nation Lands Reuters Canada — Los Angeles-based publisher rep firm Gorilla Nation has been selected to represent advertising inventory for all traffic coming from Canada to Reuters.com (www.reuters.com) and Reuters.ca (www.reuters.ca). GN also recently signed the Economic Times (www.economictimes.com) and the Times of India (www.timesofindia.com). These properties will also contribute to an aggregated market of business professionals for the company’s new financial vertical market offering, in addition to its current 35 vertical markets.

Articles of the Day

Posted in Digital Media, News with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 29, 2008 by Dave Liu

Liberty’s Malone: We’ve Held Limited Talks To Get AOL Access — Talk of a Yahoo-AOL combo has once again heated up, but what becomes of the access business? Its final home could still be Liberty Media. CEO John Malone told the FT that his company and Time Warner have had “limited talks” to swap the declining (but profitable) dial-up business in exchange for Liberty’s stake in Time Warner (NYSE: TWX). Of course, as Malone notes: “Time Warner still needs to divide the business.” Yeah, the process of splitting access and portal isn’t exactly “done” yet. The other party that’s clearly interested in AOL access is EarthLink, which has had some success in improving dial-up profits by cutting costs.

McClatchy Loan Deal Wins It Flexibility—With Costs — The McClatchy Company, like just about every other newspaper publisher, has found itself even more squeezed by the current economic convulsions. On Friday, the Sacramento company announced it has renegotiated $1.175 billion of debt, which includes banks loans and available lines of credit. While the company insisted it was in no danger of default, it needed to amend its debt agreements to alleviate the pressure from falling ad revenues, particularly in its California and Florida markets. But as the company’s SacBee points out, McClatchy will be faced with higher interest rates—about 25 percent extra—and the amount of credit it can access has been reduced. Ultimately, McClatchy’s borrowing costs could increase by $11 million annually, treasurer Elaine Lintecum told SacBee.

Glam Media Readies Male Version; Tries 7 Percent Solution, Cutting Workforce By 14 Jobs — Glam Media, the women’s fashion and entertainment ad net, has had a lot of activity lately. It’s now prepping a men’s channel and ad net with the working title CodeBlue, Venturebeat reports. The content will be comprised of in-house posts and videos in addition to bringing material from outside. The channel is being readied for a November launch under a different name—CodeBlue. NBC/*News Corp.’s* Hulu, Sony Music and MTV are rumored to be signed up as content partners and Glam is said to be talking with other media companies as well. Venturebeat is uncertain as to whether Glam will own CodeBlue completely or if this is to be part of a joint venture. This comes as Glam is cutting 14 jobs, or 7 percent of its 200-person workforce.

Auto Site Autobytel Cuts Staff; Puts Up a For Sale Sign — Online auto site Autobytel, based in Irvine, CA, has laid off about 75 employees under a cost-cutting plan it began last year, it said, citing, as usual, the economy. These represent about 35 percent of its work force. It has also hired RBC Capital Markets to explore a possible sale of the company. “We believe our current stock price as well as overall market conditions are conducive to, and have driven, increased interest in Autobytel from various third parties,” Autobytel CEO Jim Riesenbach said in a statement. The company will record $2.2 million during Q3-Q4 related to severance and other employee-related costs. It expects to save about $10 million each year as the result. In Q2, the company reported revenues of around $19 million, down from $21.6 million in the year-ago quarter.

Health Sites Aim To Stave Off Economic Ills — Health information sites have continued to show growth even as more and more players crowd into the category. Data released earlier this month by comScore showed that traffic in the segment increased 21% in the last year, four times the growth rate of the U.S. Internet audience. But as the wider economic weakness spreads to online advertising, will health sites be immune to the downturn? Driving that surge have been newer properties such as Revolution Health Network–launched by former AOL chairman Steve Case, which nearly tripled traffic to 11.3 million as of July, the rebranded AOL Health, almost doubling to 11 million, and Everyday Health Network, jumping 63% to 14.7 million. Longtime category leader WebMD grew only 3%, but was still comfortably on top with a monthly audience of 17.2 million. The site also boasted the biggest share of views for display advertising, at 18.6%–compared to almost 13% for Revolution Health, 12% for AOL Health, and about 10% for Everyday Health.

Articles of the Day

Posted in Digital Media, News with tags , , , , , , , , on September 18, 2008 by Dave Liu

Yahoo Starts Limited Beta Of New Front Page — A week after AOL unveiled its new-look front page with lifestreaming and e-mail aggregation, Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) is starting limited random beta tests of new home pages—and we mean limited—to less than one percent of users in the U.S., UK, France and India. The beta emphasizes apps from Yahoo and from third parties, including a dashboard with a way to view email from multiple providers similar to that launched last week by AOL (NYSE: TWX). Unlike AOL, though, Yahoo plans more customization and personalization of the home-page experience. Kara Swisher calls it My Yahoo lite. Tapan Bhat, the SVP responsible for the Front Door, explained the changes and the testing on Yodel Anecdotal, the company’s official blog.

Murdoch: WSJ.com Sub Revs Could Increase by $300 Million in Next Few Years — Rupert Murdoch could never be faulted for not being ambitious: at Goldman Sach’s Communacopia conference today, he said that WSJ.com’s online subscription revenue will increase by $300 million per year over the next several years. The site just relaunched this week, and even though exact revenue figures are not available, estimates on sub revenues are around $80 million per year. This means it would have to increase current prices (which Murdoch has previously said they would) and also bring in lotsa new subscribers into the fold. He also has big hopes on ad revenues from the site even though it remains a hybrid site: he said WSJ.com could generate $100 million annually in advertising revenue, and that the company is charging $100K a day for advertisers on its home page. As for MySpace revenues, he said advertisers are charged an average of $500K per day for space on its home page, and up to $1 million.

Discovery Shareholders Approve Plan To Go Fully Public; CEO Zaslav Sees Deals — Any entity with Liberty Media (NSDQ: LINTA) DNA takes some time to unpack, but Discovery should now get a bit simpler… Wednesday shareholders of Discovery Holdings officially approved a plan to create a singular Discovery Communications (NSDQ: DISCA) Inc, owning both Discovery and Animal Planet. The shareholder approval marks a formal conclusion to a plan hatchedlast December between Discovery Holdings and Advance/Newhouse. See more in the release and further explanation from WSJ. So what’s next for the network? CEO David Zaslav told Bloomberg that the new arrangement gives Discovery a “chance to make opportunistic acquisitions.” Specifically, the company is looking for complementary businesses (in the past, it has acquired Treehugger.com and HowStuffWorks) and more growth overseas. A pure Discovery currency could also help with matters of employee retention and compensation—a pretty common justification for these type of arrangements.

Newspapers Still Dominate Local, But TV And Radio Growth Rates Zoom Ahead: Borrell — Local newspapers sites still generate the highest ad revenues, at an estimated $3.7 billion, but local radio and TV sites’ growth rates are double, a report from local media analyst Borrell Associates, with help from BIA Financial, predicts. Aside from the worsening economy and chaos on Wall St., newspapers’ growth is hindered by its limited diet of display ads and the usual pool of marketers they tend to rely on for the print side. But the report also shows that newspapers, along with local TV and radio, are still relatively strong versus internet companies not tied to traditional media. That said, the rise of TV and radio will continue to cut into newpapers’ local dominance.

Earnings: Adobe Quarterly Revs Up 4 Percent: Net Income Up 11 Percent; Company Thanks Online Video — Adobe (NSDQ: ADBE), the company behind the widely used Flash technology, reported revenue of $887 million for the quarter ended August 29, representing a 4.2 increase from $851.7 million in the year-ago quarter. Adjusted EPS grew 11 percent to $.50 per share, compared to $.45 a year ago. The top line slightly edge past the company’s own (wide) forecasted range of $855 to $885 million. Shares in the company, which attributed its growth to its Acrobat and Livecycle Products, are ticking up mildly in early trading. On the company’s quarterly conference call, management talked up the company’s strong position in online video, rattling off various stats about the extent of Flash-based video on the web and various customer wins—China’s CCTV used Adobe Flash and Flex to deliver Olympics coverage during the recent games. What’s interesting in reading through the transcript, is that while analysts understand that Adobe is behind Flash, they still don’t understand how the money is made. Said CEO Shantanu Narayen: “I do want to clarify again, when you see a lot of the video on the web that’s being streamed, it is being streamed through the usage of a Flash video streaming server that Adobe providers, or a Flash Media Server, and the way we monetize it is—think of it as megabytes served, so as the volume of Flash video increases, we have a direct correlation to driving revenue for Adobe.” Narayen also explained how the company would make money on AIR, its internet apps technology—he explained that it would drive usage of the Creative Suite technology, as well as its ability to push usage of the Flash server.

Articles of the Day

Posted in Digital Media, News with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 4, 2008 by Dave Liu

Yahoo Reups Verizon Portal Deal; Change in Rev Share Terms — There was a time in 2005 and 2000 where Yahoo was signing up various broadband providers to make itself the default portals for the Internet access subscribers: Verizon, SBC (now AT&T) and Bellsouth, among others. Not much was heard on these deals since 2006 (barring that AT&T deal restructuring early this year), but now Yahoo has re-upped its deal with Verizon, along the same lines as before: users will be able to select a start page of a cobranded Verizon-Yahoo with Yahoo services, of course. Users can also choose to use services from Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) or AOL (NYSE: TWX), but Yahoo will be the first option on the list under the new agreement, reports WSJ. Verizon said Yahoo earned the top position, previously held by Microsoft, based on the revenue it generated and shared with Verizon.

Sun May Set Soon On New York Sun If It Doesn’t Find New Funding — New York Sun, the small-but-influential NY area newspaper which launched among much hype in 2002, may be forced to close after this month if it does not find new investors. According to NYP, the paper is losing money at the rate of $1 million a month for total losses surpassing $70 million. The paper was backed by deep-pocketed investors to being with, including Roger Hertog, the former vice chairman of AllianceBernstein, and became known for its coverage of New York City government and the arts and for its conservative political bent, reports WSJ. As of 2007 the paper claims a readership of 150K, supposedly among a slice of “New York elite.”

Liberty Media Details Plans To Split-Off Liberty Entertainment — Liberty Media’s board has approved a plan to fully split Liberty Entertainment, currently a tracking stock, off into a separate public company. After the split, Liberty Entertainment would still retain the name. If the plan goes through, the new Liberty Entertainment would be made up of roughly 50 percent of The DirecTV Group (NYSE: DTV), and all holdings belonging Starz Entertainment, FUN Technologies, and Liberty Sports Holdings. It would also include 50 percent of GSN and 37 percent of WildBlue Communications. Liberty Entertainment would also assume the $2 billion in debt that was incurred to acquire 78.3 million DirecTV shares in April 2008. The parent company said it expected the executive officers of Liberty Media to also hold those positions at Liberty Entertainment, which also means media mogul John Malone.

Microsoft and Others To Take Stake in Japanese Broadcaster NHK; Streaming Online As Well — Microsoft, NTT and Itochu Corp, together with 10 other companies are taking a stake in Japan’s first 24-hour English-language broadcasting service, which local public broadcaster NHK which is due to launch in February, reports Nikkei, citing sources and picked up by Thomson Financial. NHK will issue about $1.8 million in new shares through private placements with these 13 investors, the paper said. Once the new shares are issued, NHK’s interest in the unit will drop to around 60 percent, and each of the 13 companies will have stakes of less than 5 percent each. Both MSFT and NTT, which have expertise in digital media, plan to which broadcast the network online as well. This is the first such channel in Japan, and expects to reach 110 million households in North America, Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, Southeast Asia, and other areas of the world.

CNBC-LinkedIn Link Up On Content, Networking — Another media partnership for LinkedIn, which is striving to be more than a place to check contacts. This time it’s CNBC and the business social net in a “significant strategic alliance” that may actually live up to the billing if executed as described: CNBC becomes LinkedIn’s preferred business media provider with text, articles and blogs, financial data, and video content. LinkedIn networking and functionality will be integrated into CNBC.com while LinkedIn content will be used on CNBC the network. Less clear is what the two have to gain financially beyond exposure to each other’s domestic and international audiences: VC-backed LinkedIn has 27-plus million registered users; CNBC hovers around 250,000-265,000 U.S. viewers for total business day viewers but its actual reach is hard to measure because so much of the viewing is out of home.

Articles of the Day

Posted in Digital Media, News with tags , , , , , , , on August 12, 2008 by Dave Liu

Analysts Question Google’s Strategy — Following Google’s announcement last week that its stake in AOL had significantly lost value, analysts were left pondering Google’s strategy beyond search. In an SEC filing, Google acknowledged that AOL was probably worth closer to $10 billion than the $20 billion valuation the search giant placed on the Time Warner company when it bought a five percent stake in 2005. Trip Chowdhry of Global Equities Research said Google has shown a knack for overpaying for its investments, citing the Web giant’s AOL stake, its YouTube purchase, and the recent acquisition of DoubleClick. Meanwhile, Chowdhry noted that internal projects like green energy, space exploration, and a new mobile operating system have also failed to bear fruit. “Other than search, what has Google done right? They have 1,001 products in beta, but what’s been successful?” Chowdhry asked. “There has been a sequence of missteps and failures, and this is not the end. They miscalculated the valuation of AOL, and this is the first time they’re admitting to it.”

Buyers Not Supporting Google-Yahoo Deal — In the next month, the Department of Justice will decide whether to block the search advertising deal Google struck with Yahoo in June. If everything goes according to plan, Google will begin selling ads on Yahoo Search in early October. In the meantime, the DoJ is soliciting input on what the deal would mean for the ad industry, and while Microsoft’s stance is well-known, it’s more notable-and perhaps, more surprising-that many big advertisers do not support the deal, either. “We’re concerned about the Yahoo! deal,” said Rob Norman, CEO of WPP-owned GroupM North America. “For advertisers to prosper, they need competitive markets. We think Google is a fantastic company. Our sense is that if the transaction with Yahoo! proceeds, there’s the potential the development of Panama and other competing systems will atrophy over time.”

Olympics Fuels Ad Spend Boom In China — Thanks to the Beijing Olympics and the growing strength of Chinese consumers, ad spending in China is expected to grow more than 20% this year to $35 billion, according to a new study from GroupM. The Internet–which is expected to command 7.3% of ad investment this year, and 8.5% next year–is China’s fastest-growing medium, and is on track to become the second-largest ad medium after TV within a few years, according to the study.

IAC Spinoff Set For Next Week; Five Companies As Of Aug. 21 — IAC finally has set the date for its long-awaited split into five separate companies to take place: Aug. 21. Before that, the “when-issued” trading period in the common stock of HSN, Inc., Interval Leisure Group, Inc., Ticketmaster and Tree.com, Inc. and IAC will happen Tuesday, Aug. 12. The trading will occur on a post-distribution basis and, in the case of IAC, a Board approved post-one-for-two reverse stock split, basis, under the symbols “HSNIV,” “IILGV,” “TKTMV,” “TREEV” and “IACIV,” respectively. The “when-issued” trading period comes following the SEC declaring the S-1 registration statements for each of the spincos effective, and will continue up until the spin-offs. Shares of IAC common stock will also trade on a regular way basis during the period under its existing symbol, “IACI.”

Earnings: Liberty Interactive Q2 Revs Climb 9 Percent; Open To Deal For AOL Access — Liberty Media president and CEO Greg Maffei said that the company sought to “take advantage of market weakness” in Q2 and so repurchased 18.1 million shares of Liberty Capital, reducing outstanding shares by 14 percent. In terms of the company’s Q2 performance, the Interactive group’s revenue increased 9 percent as adjusted OIBDA increased 4 percent. The company cited growth at QVC and Provide Commerce. The acquisitions of Backcountry.com and Bodybuilding.com in June 2007 and December 2007, respectively, also provided a year-over-year boost. Other highlights from the quarter included: Starz Entertainment revenue was up 8 percent to $275 million and adjusted OIBDA increased 24 percent to $68 million. The unit’s operating expenses increased 4 percent due to increased SG&A expenses associated with a new Starz branding campaign. Liberty Capital group’s revenue increased 33 percent to $174 million. Through the DirecTV (NYSE: DTV) share buyback, Liberty’s ownership of DirecTV increased to over 49 percent, though voting control remains at 48 percent per a standstill agreement.

Napster Q2 Revs Fall; Paid Subs Drop Sharply — Struggling online music player Napster has reported Q2 revenue of $30.3 million, a decline of 5.9 percent from $32.2 million a year ago. Net loss was fairly flat at $4.3 million ($.10 per share) compare to a loss of $4.2 million ($.10 per share) a year ago. The company said it had 708,000 paid subs at the end of the quarter, a decline from 760,000 at the end of Q1. The company also touts good results from its new MP3 store, but it’s hard to get a grip on what these numbers actually mean: ”The introduction of MP3’s into our line-up has created positive trends for Napster with increases to visitation and user engagement. In addition, track sales per subscriber were up 10% in July, month over month, with total track sales up 5% during the same period.” For the coming quarter, the company sees revenue of about $30 million again. In its 10-Q filed along with the release, the company explains the declining subscriber rolls (sort of): “Paid subscribers at June 30, 2008 were approximately 708,000 compared to 761,000 at March 31, 2008. This decrease occurred because new added subscribers were not sufficient to offset our normal cancellations during the period.”