Archive for Sony

Digital Media M&A

Posted in Deals, Digital Media, News with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 3, 2008 by Dave Liu

Revolution Health, Waterfront Media Plan Merger To Compete With WebMD — Reports of this possibility first surfaced last month and now it’s done … Steve Case’s ambitious Revolution Health Network will merge with Waterfront Media in a deal the parties value at $300 million, according to the New York Times. Revolution’s sites will be absorbed into Waterfront’s Everyday Health Network but RevolutionHealth.com will remain. Case will join the board while Benjamin Wolin remains CEO of Waterfront Media, with Revolution as a “major investor” in the expanded Waterfront Media and its 24 sites. Case will continue to head parent company Revolution LLC “and will continue to be involved with health companies.”

Sony Has It All Now: Acquisition Of Bertelsmann’s 50 Percent Stake In Sony BMG Done, BMG Dropped — The second-largest record company in the world is now all Sony’s. As announced in August, Bertelsmann’s 50 percent stake in Sony BMG has been acquired by Sony Corp (NYSE: SNE). The former joint venture is now being renamed Sony Music Entertainment – a wholly owned subsidiary of Sony Corp. of America. The purchase values the company at nearly $1.8 billion, according to WSJ. Record labels Arista, Columbia, Epic, J, Jive and RCA all fall under the Sony umbrella, which holds contracts with artists such as Celine Dion, Alicia Keys, Bruce Springsteen, Justin Timberlake and Usher.

Morningstar Biz News Site Buying Investors Database For $19 Million — Investment research firm Morningstar is buying Fundamental Data Limited, a UK provider of online information about so-called “closed-end funds”, a type of of investment scheme, for £11 million. Fundamental’s products include the web-based dashboard FundWeb and info feeds, offered to investment banks, brokers etc. Morningstar, whose CEO Joe Mansueto later bought Inc and Fast Company magazines, also publishes information to financial professionals, tracking 280,000 investments; its UK site has a tenth of that plus company and executive biographies.

Washington Post Company Buys Foreign Policy Magazine — The Washington Post Company isn’t just an for-profit education company, as it’s still making moves to bolster the media side. Today it announced the acquisition of Foreign Policy magazine, along with its website Foreignpolicy.com. The bi-monthly glossy, which was originally founded in 1970, will become part of the Slate group, and the plan is for former WaPo foreign affairs editor Susan Glasser to edit the magazine. The magazine claims circulation of 100,000 and it notes that its website is “fast growing,” though no numbers were given out. Terms of the deal weren’t announced, and it’s not clear what Foreign Policy’s financials look like. But it might be a good guess that highbrow, almost-academic, long-form writing on foreign policy might be less exposed to some of the brutal forces impacting the magazine industry.

Articles of the Day

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

Is Yahoo Trying To Sell Yahoo Answers? — Part of Yahoo’s survival strategy beyond merging with AOL may be to sell of what they consider to be non-core assets for cash. We heard from a source that Yahoo may be quietly reaching out to a couple of potential buyers to see if they’d be interested in their Yahoo Answers property. We filed the rumor away under “ridiculous” until today, when we confirmed with a different source at a major Internet company that they were in fact approached, in a very informal way and through an intermediary, about a possible acquisition. Yahoo Answers, which was launched in late 2005, is a staggeringly huge site. Recent Comscore stats say the service attracts nearly 150 million monthly visitors worldwide and generates 1.3 billion monthly page views. That’s 67% unique visitor growth in the last year. Yahoo as a whole, though, has nearly 100 billion monthly page views, so it isn’t a material percentage of total Yahoo traffic.

MySpace Launches Ad Service — MySpace is rolling out a new advertising product called the Self-Serve Ad Service that makes it easy for anyone to promote their product or service on the social network. Users can upload ads they’ve created or make new ones using the MySpace system. To create new ads, users choose from a list of templates and upload an image to place in the ad. They can then target their audience by gender, age, region, city/state and interests. The system allows for such hypertargeting as women aged 27-52 who live in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. and love the book “Brave New World.” After setting your target, you select the amount you’re willing to spend on the overall campaign ($25 minimum) and how much you’re willing to spend per click ($0.25 minimum). Then, you simply give them your credit card info. How MySpace calculates the value for the placements was not disclosed.

Consoles Gain In Popularity, May Steal Ad Dollars — Worldwide revenues from connected consoles–or gaming systems that are connected to the Internet via broadband–are set to top $4 billion in just two years, according to new data from Parks Associates. Companies like Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo will increasingly compete with cable providers and set-top box makers for user and advertiser dollars as they reach those projections.

NHL.Com Puck Drop: New Look; Subscription Video Live, Any Market; Yahoo Fantasy Hockey With Video — Usually the new-look focus at the start of a hockey season is on the teams—or in some cases, the owners. This year, NHL.com, the National Hockey League’s online headquarters, gets in on the action with the Wednesday launch of a public beta version, live subscription game video viewable from any U.S. market and a new co-branded premium fantasy game with Yahoo Sports. The changes and additions fit into the overall strategy of the NHL as media company. They also represent a mix of fr*ee info, live games and archived video and features that probably are more than enough for the average fan and premium projects for the most avid.

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 17, 2008 by Dave Liu

There’s Us Too: AOL Intensifies Talks With Microsoft and Yahoo On Possible Sale — AOL, feeling a bit left out in the last few weeks as things turned really ugly in the Yahoo , Microsoft and Carl Icahn ménage à trois, is now accelerating its own sale talks. Its reluctant parent Time Warner has been talking to Microsoft and Yahoo separately, and has intensified deals talks ahead of Yahoo’s crucial Aug 1 shareholders meeting, reports Reuters. Some scenarios: a deal with Yahoo would likely involve merging it with AOL, with Time Warner taking a minority stake in the combined company. A deal with Microsoft would likely be an outright sale of AOL to the software giant. AOL is already splitting off its ISP business and focusing on its content/apps online services, as well as its sprawling online ad services under Platform-A. Yahoo’s merger with AOL is one way it could show its shareholders that it could grow without Microsoft.

Amazon.com’s Streaming Service To Launch in Limited Beta Tomorrow; Links With Sony Bravia — Amazon.com is launching its new streaming online movie and video service tomorrow…the new service is called, surprise surprise, Amazon Video on Demand. Some details of the service were inadvertently pre-announced by CEO Jeff Bezos at the D conference in May. It will be available at Amazon.com/VOD when it launches…well, not yet fully. Turns out it is only launching in beta now, and will be accessible to a limited number of invited Amazon.com customers on Thursday before it opens more broadly to other users later this summer. The service will be separate from its Unbox download service, though one would assume they would be merged down the line.

Gannett Q2 Revenue Down 9.9 Percent; Income Down 19.7 Percent; Stock Crushed — Gannett is still assessing its big writedown announced last month, so technically its quarterly numbers are preliminary… The USA Today parent reported Q2 revenue of $1.79 billion, down 9.9 percent from $1.91 billion in the year-ago quarter. Income from continuing operations fell 19.7 percent to $232.7 million ($1.02 per share) from $289.8 million ($1.24 per share). Ad revenue at the core publishing business was down 13.5 percent to $1.1 billion. The classifieds category, not surprisingly, was hit the hardest, dropping 18.7 percent. On digital, the company offers a couple data points: Online broadcast revenue was up 17.1 percent, though it doesn’t give a baseline, nor does it give an equivalent number for publishing. It says in June it had 23.1 million unique visitors across its network of sites. We’ll see if they offer more on the call. As for the goodwill writedown, its expecting after-tax charges somewhere in the $2.4-$2.7 billion range. One other note: Gannett says it purchased 581,000 of its own shares in the quarter and 2.1 million year-to-date.

eBay Q2 Revs Up 20 Percent; Income Up 22 Percent; Skype Up 51 Percent — Online auctioneer eBay announced Q2 revenue of $2.19 billion, up 20 percent from $1.83 billion in the year-ago quarter. The top-line figure slightly exceeded estimates of $2.17 billion. Adjusted net income grew 20 percent to $568 million ($.43 per share) from $471 million ($.34 per share) a year ago—again, this was slightly ahead of estimates. Core marketplace revenue (ebay, Shopping.com, StubHub, and Kijiji) was up 13 percent, while ad revenue within this unit was up 183 percent (no dollar amounts were given). At the communications business (Skype), which is constantly at the center of strategic speculation, revenue was up 51 percent to $136 million. Skype ended the quarter with 338 million users, adding 29 million in the period. PayPal continues to grow briskly, with revenue up 33 percent to $602 million. On the conference call, the company announced the retirement of Marketplaces chief Rajiv Dutta, who will be replaced by Lori Norrington, formerly the CEO of Shopping.com. Dutta will stay around for the transition.

Lionsgate Brings Movie Clips To YouTube; Rev Share; YouTube on Tivo — This could represent an easing of tensions between Google and the Hollywood studios. Lionsgate has a deal with YouTube to run ad-supported video clips from the film company’s movies. Google CEO Eric Schmidt heralded the news at an Ad Age/William Morris Agency conference, Reuters reported. Unlike Viacom, which is continuing with its $1 billion copyright infringement suit again YouTube, Lionsgate Vice Chair Mike Burns felt it was time to call a truce—and about time to get paid for the scenes of Dirty Dancing, Saw, Crash and other titles from the studio that invariably get posted on the site, albeit without authorization. Lionsgate’s branded YouTube channel is expected to be up quickly. Terms of the ad-sharing deal weren’t disclosed. In the meantime, Google said it is talking to other studios about constructing a similar arrangement to the Lionsgate deal.

Articles of the Day

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

Yahoo Spells Out Latest Rejection; Icahn Goes Back To Proxy Fight, Says Yahoo Misled Investors — In a new slideshow filed with the SEC, Yahoo has put out the exact details of the fresh offer from Microsoft and Icahn, with an explanation of why it was inadequate. The basic details: Microsoft would pay $1 billion upfront for Yahoo’s search assets. That’s the same as before, and Yahoo says it would be too complex to separate these assets, and beyond that, the money is taxable. Microsoft and Yahoo would enter into an exclusive search ad agreement guaranteed for the next five years. It would pay Yahoo at least $2.3 billion. TAC (traffic acquisition costs) for the first three years would be 85 percent, dropping to 70 percent for the two years following. Yahoo still says this is below its own revenue estimates and that TAC is below market. After the first five years are up, Microsoft could renew for another five years at 70 percent TAC if it’s willing to guarantee at least $3 billion in annual revenue. Yahoo has the right to renew for five more years, but with a guarantee of just $1.6 billion.

NBC And Online Olympic Ad Sales: 85 Percent Sold Out — NBC Universal says advertising inventory for the roughly 2,200 hours of online Olympics coverage next month is about 85 percent sold out, according to tells Mediaweek. Although many popular events—like swimming (Gold Medal finals), volleyball, boxing, track and field and gymnastics —won’t be streamed live, Zach Chapman, director, digital sales for NBC Sports and Olympics, is convinced that office workers will be glued to NBCOlympics.com, its dedicated site for showing the Beijing games, which begins on August 8th.

Netflix Without the DVD: Now Integrated Within XBox; Also NBCU Shows on XBox — After its Roku box integration, which received critical acclaim for ease of use, Netflix (NSDQ: NFLX) is continuing on its digital service integration within others: it has just announced a deal with Microsoft, where Xbox 360 will be able to stream thousands (well 10K, compared to its DVD collection of over 100K) of movies/videos onto their TV sets…The service will be free to Xbox Live Gold members who are also Netflix subscribers. Xbox had its own movie collection for streaming and download, but not as many. This surely gives it another boost on its fierce competition with Sony’s PS3. XBox has about 12 million users, so this also give Netflix a big user base, though of course with some duplications. Then of course there’s Apple TV, which competes with these combo services. As an aside, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings is a member of Microsoft’s board, so that helps.

Online Ad Prices Fall For Third Consecutive Month — The average price of online advertising inventory dipped slightly between May and June, marking the third consecutive month that online ad prices have fallen. While June’s decline was modest — just a penny per ad — the downward trend signals that the online medium may be suffering from the same economic malaise as the overall media economy. The latest data from PubMatic’s AdPrice Index shows that overall online ad pricing made a less than 1% change, moving from $0.37 to $0.36, but there were a few surprises. Small Web sites (those with less than 1 million page views per month) in June dropped a significant $0.32 from May, landing at an average CPM of $0.81, down from $1.13. Medium Web sites (those with 1 million to 100 million page views per month), however, made a moderate $0.13 jump from $0.33 in May to $0.46 in June. Large Web sites (those with 100 million-plus page views per moth) also rose, but only slightly, moving from May’s $0.21 to June’s $0.23.

AdTech Strikes Deal With Gannett For Online Ad Service — Significantly increasing its U.S. presence, AOL’s AdTech has won the right to manage online advertising for the Gannett Co.’s entire network of Web assets. The rollout ultimately will include all of Gannett’s local newspaper Web sites, the digital properties for its 19 local broadcast markets, and USAToday.com, along with various targeted-media properties, such as Gannett’s network of mom’s sites. Apart from Gannett’s properties, AdTech is presently delivering about 15 billion monthly ad impressions stateside, and 85 billion worldwide.

Glam Media Launches Daily Email Platform — E-publisher and ad network Glam Media on Monday announced the launch of Glam Today, a daily email newsletter and platform. Glam Today, a part of Glam Publisher Media Services, curates and distills the more than 5,000 articles created daily by its network of some 500 sites, including Bag Snob, Simplyrecipes.com, Shake Your Beauty, Glam.com, to name a few.

Articles of the Day

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

Bill Gates Resigns To Focus On Philantrophy — Microsoft chairman Bill Gates has resigned to dedicate himself to the Gates Foundation. Gates, who co-founded Microsoft, has been gradually handing over power since 2000, when he appointed Steve Ballmer as CEO. In 2006, he relinquished the position of chief software architect, replacing himself with Ray Ozzie while promoting Craig Mundie to chief research and strategy officer.

Dailymotion Sees No Sale In Short-Term — French video-sharing site Dailymotion is not looking to sell itself, the firm’s CEO told StrategyEye, dampening recent speculation of an imminent sale. Mark Zaleski says Dailymotion, the most visited video site in France and one of the most popular in Europe, is developing a business model that will enable it to stay independent. This is based on agreements with content providers, such as Viacom and Time Warner, as well as cross-platform expansion, says Zaleski citing the launch of a mobile service in France in partnership with Vodafone and Neuf. 

Yahoo’s Latest Reorg Is Official: Three New Teams Reporting To Decker With Schneider Heading U.S. — As had been anticipated, Yahoo has announced yet another reorganization. In a move designed to “leverage”, “accelerate”, “monetize” and “enhance” (all Jerry Yang’s words), the company is centralizing consumer product development, establishing a US-focused unit designed to bring products to market faster, and formed an “insights strategy team.” It also announced a slew of new titles, necessary since there’s been so much turnover. The company denies that this is some knee-jerk response to any sudden turmoil, real or perceived. Sue Decker’s statement: “We have planned these changes deliberately over the past several months to clarify responsibilities and to capitalize on the scale advantages while allowing for fine tuning to meet local market needs.” 

Sony Offers Morsels On New Video Platform; Announces Investment Plan For Coming Years — Sony, which is always on the hunt for a new strategy or direction, has offered up its latest growth plan across its various myriad business lines. As described by a Thomson wire report, the company will focus more on organic investment—$16.7 billion through 2011—than on cost cutting, as it’s done in the past. In particular, it wants to invest more in the BRIC countries. In terms of digital media, Sony says it’s rolling out its long awaited and much rumored new multi-platform video service this summer in the US. Still nothing meaty in terms of usable details, except that it will work with its Bravia TVs, Playstations and handheld devices.  

$300 Million Goodwill Writedown At IAC’s Cornerstone Unit — This might bolster the claim that IAC (NSDQ: IACI) needs to break up to improve management focus… in a filing the company says its Cornerstone Brands unit, a catalog distributor, will take a $300 million goodwill writedown. Cornerstone is part of HSNi, which will be its own fr*eestanding company. The writedown is attributed to economic conditions exacerbated by “execution issues and turnover of management.”  

High-End Auctions Debuts eBay Alternative — High-End Auctions is launching an online auction website designed to serve as an alternative to eBay and other mass-marketing internet auctions. The site only accepts items worth USD500 or more. The company says its venture was prompted, in part, by recent changes in eBay’s feedback and bidder identification policies. The startup says its site requires feedback information for both buyers and sellers. In a move designed to further protect auction integrity, the site also identifies all auction participants.