Archive for TNS

Digital Media M&A

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

eBay Pays $945M For Bill Me Later; Buys Two Danish Sites For $390M; Cutting Staff By 10 Percent — eBay (NSDQ: EBAY) announced two acquisitions—spending over $1.3 billion altogether—this morning designed to shore up its other parts of its business in the face of declining profits and stagnant traffic at its primary online auction site. The company also finally addressed layoff rumors and said that it is indeed cutting 10 percent of its 15,000-person workforce. The company said about 1,000 full-time jobs will be affected, in addition to several hundred temporary workers and the elimination of open positions. The two acquisitions and the layoffs were summarized in a single release, with two others containing additional details.

Local Online Research Firm Kelsey Group Bought By BIA Financial Network — Kelsey Group, a Princeton-based provider of research and consultancy services in the local media space, including online (we have quoted their work many times over the years), has been acquired by Chantilly, VA-based BIA Financial Network, the financial and strategic consultancy firm for media and communications industries. Financial terms were not disclosed. Kelsey will operate under the newly formed subsidiary BIA Advisory Services, which will also include BIA Consulting and BIA Research. John Kelsey, who founded the group in 1986 with his wife Pam, will oversee conference planning and execution. More details in release.

Aegis Buys Environmental Marketing Company — Media buying and planning firm Aegis Group’s latest acquisition is a little off the beaten path. It has bought fellow London-based company Clownfish, which helps advise marketers on crafting more eco-friendly, “sustainable” initiatives. The acquisition’s terms weren’t detailed, though Aegis said Clownfish has $880,000 (£500,000) in gross assets. While the purchase would seem to have little to do with digital media, Aegis insists that it does. Clownfish will be folded into Aegis’ Isobar search ad network, as the company says it sees a clear relationship between the online and environmentally sound business practices. Overall, Aegis has been stepping up its buying activities lately. Last month it bought U.S.-based search engine marketer Range Online Media for Isobar, its sixth acquisition this year.

VeriSign Exits Mobile Content; Sells Remaining Stake In JV To News Corp For $200 Million — VeriSign’s effort to capitalize on mobile content through its acquisition of Jamba is officially over. VeriSign tried to keep skin in the game through a JV with News Corp (NYSE: NWS). selling 51 percent in May 2007 for $187.5 million and a merger with Fox Mobile Entertainment. Today, the two companies said VeriSign has sold its remaining 49 percent to News Corp for approximately $200 million, suggesting that the value of the JV, which has struggled with leadership and strategic issues, has been static at best. VeriSign’s sale has been expected for months given the company’s switch to a core focus on internet infrastructure. VeriSign acquired German mobile content company Jamba in 2004 for $273 million.

Monster Acquires Remaining 55 Percent Of ChinaHR For $174 Million — Monster.com has full ownership now of major Chinese recruitment site ChinaHR.com, spending $178 million on the 55 percent it did not already own. Monster acquired 40 percent in 2005 for $50 million with a promise that it could get the remainder if ChinaHR failed to do an IPO within three years, according to TradingMarkets.com. As recently as mid-September, ChinaHR president Zhang Jianguo held out hope that the company would finish its IPO plan before year’s end. The acquisition gives Monster a major presence in online recruiting in Asia as well as China. Monster moved quickly to put its stamp on the company, appointing Edward Lo, EVP, Monster Greater China, as interim CEO of ChinaHR; he’ll keep his Monster regional duties as well. But it’s far from a slam dunk. As TradingMarkets.com notes, China’s growth is slowing and the sites face challenges from smaller companies, more localized companies with less overhead.

TNS’ Saga Nears Its Close, As WPP Declares Victory — WPP Group says it’s ready to close the deal for its $2 billion (£1.14 billion) takeover of TNS Media Intelligence, having received the support of 82 percent of the audience researcher’s shareholders, Reuters reports. The is now unconditional, though the extended offer period for further acceptances is open until Oct. 22. WPP will no longer offer the option to mix and match the share to cash ratio, however. As more shareholders shifted their support to WPP over the past week, TNS finally dropped its opposition to the deal on Monday, though it continued to maintain the WPP’s bid undervalued the company. Executives at the UK media measurement firm said they were in an untenable position, as continued attempts to block the takeover would have left TNS investors holding on to a minority interest in an unlisted company.

Articles of the Day

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

Microsoft Raises Stakes With Search Perks — Microsoft continues to offer incentives to searchers to boost usage (and eventually market share) of its Live Search engine, the latest of which is called Search Perks. Some detractors call it bribery, and others say that it’s yet another desperate attempt to attract users– but according to stats from Hitwise, if Search Perks performs as well as Cashback, then the promotion should actually be called a success. The software giant launched Cashback, which gives shoppers money back for every product they search for (and eventually buy) through Live Search in late May. Although the program boosted search volume by 15% a month later (per comScore), the question has been whether it would cause Microsoft’s search share to continue to rise.

TV Guide Network Being Sold Separately From Mag; Book Finally Out — Macrovision (NSDQ: MVSN) has finally put the book out for the formal sale of TV Guide Network, according to Variety. The channel includes its flagship TV scrolling IPG, distributed in about 80 million homes in U.S., and the much-smaller TVG Horse Race Network, and the story says could fetch a relatively-small $400 million for the sale due to the financial market and economy turmoil. TVGN had total revenues of about $129 million last year. Among the companies considering the channel are Constellation Ventures, the NYC-based media focused VC firm, the story says. Not much interest from the usual suspects Time Warner (NYSE: TWX), News Corp (NYSE: NWS). and Disney (NYSE: DIS). UBS is running the process for Macrovision.

Depressing Movies: Netflix Cuts Q4 Outlook; Shares Down — So maybe people aren’t watching that many movies during these depressing times, or at least not joining a new service in droves: Netflix (NSDQ: NFLX) has cut its Q4 subscriber outlook, and also said that Q3 ended with fewer subscribers than it anticipated. CFO Barry McCarthy said that net subscriber growth in July was “in line with expectations but August was unusually weak…In September, the business regained momentum with results slightly below original expectations, likely due to the economic climate.” Netflix ended Q3 with about 8.672 million subscribers, just below the low end of its previous guidance of 8.675 million to 8.875 million subscribers. Subscribers grew 23 percent year-over-year and 3 percent sequentially. For Q408, it expects subscribers between 8.95 million to 9.25 million, down from 9.1 million to 9.7 million. Revenues are expected between $353 million and $359 million for the quarter, down from its earlier projection of $357 million to $367 million.

TNS Surrenders To WPP Group, Tells Shareholders To Accept The $2 Billion Deal — After months of repeatedly rebuffing WPP Group’s $2 billion (£1.14 billion) takeover bid, media measurement firm TNS is now telling its shareholders to approve the deal, Reuters reports. WPP made the offer back in July, two months after TNS and its German rival, media audience monitor GfK, announced plans to merge, creating the world’s second largest audience measurement firm after Nielsen. But when WPP muscled in with its offer for TNS, GfK began to get cold feet. GfK began trying to come up with a cash offer for TNS, but those efforts quickly failed, leaving nothing but TNS’ continued rejections of WPP and the ad giant’s unflagging desire to buy it.

Name Change Didn’t Help: Jellycloud Defunct; $50M In Funding Down The Drain, 36 Staffers Out — Adware purveyor turned ad network Jellycloud has had two other aliases during the past eight years, but now you might as well call it dead and buried. Last weekend, the company (fka Gator and, subsequently, Claria) closed up shop and had its furniture repossessed, Valleywag first reported, citing an unidentified tipster. The news was confirmed today by Venturebeat, which cited an unidentified source within the company. Repeated calls to Jellycloud were not returned. About 36 employees lost their jobs. Last month, Scott Vandevelde, Jellycloud’s CEO, was comparing the company’s offerings to both traditional ad nets like AOL’s Advertising.com and the Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) ad exchange Right Media.

Sugar Expands E-Commerce, Opens ShopStyle API, Launches New Sites — Blog network Sugar Inc. is opening its ShopStyle API to anyone interested in building apps based on the shopping technology and plans to follow that up with something called ShopSense, which will allow users to share in Sugar’s retailer revenue. CEO Brian Sugar bills it as a way for publishers to make money, especially during the upcoming holiday season. Sites already using ShopStyle, acquired last year, for their e-commerce include Glamour, Elle UK, Bravo and InStyle. Of course, this doesn’t instantly translate into revenue for anyone outside Sugar. That kind of proof will have to come in the form of payments.

Jivox Unveils New Online Video Ad Platform — Jivox is expected to announce today a new version of its DIY online video ad platform that helps connect small and medium-sized businesses reach local customers via viral and local search campaigns. While big brands are seeking to capitalize on short-form video content and the transition of traditional media to the internet, San Mateo, Calif.-based Jivox aims to help small advertisers find online video success with local video on established Web properties that are proven to reach customers at a local level via Jivox AdSlate 3.0.

Articles of the Day

Posted in Digital Media, News with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 1, 2008 by Dave Liu

AOL Television Thinks ‘Outside The Box’ — AOL Television today is expected to launch a new free on-demand Web series named “Outside the Box.” In it, cast members from television’s most popular programs interview one another using fan-submitted questions. It will be supported by AOL’s digital ad business, Platform-A, which will be expected to identify opportunities for advertisers and provide relevant display advertising and content-targeted links on the sites.

WPP Could Win The Battle For TNS By Week’s End: Report — WPP Group CEO Sir Martin Sorrell’s persistence could finally pay off this week. After months of having its offers rejected again and again by audience monitor TNS Media Intelligence, the ad giant could finally prevail in its bid to take over the company, Ad Age reports. TNS executives have continued to urge shareholders to reject WPP’s 264.2 pence-per-share offer—which values the media researcher at £1.158 billion (about $2 billion). The company says WPP’s offer undervalues it. However, given the calamity in the financial markets, it appears that some shareholders feel that view might not be as true these days. WPP says it has managed to sway the company’s investors to its side, claiming the support of 42.7 percent of TNS shareholders as of Monday.

With Demand For Financial News Surging, Bloomberg Brings Its Online Video To AOL — Just in time for the financial market’s wild ups and downs this week, Bloomberg Television is making a tentative step toward syndicating its videos outside of its own website in a deal with AOL (NYSE: TWX). The business news network will run about 20 videos a day on the AOL Money and Finance channel. The Bloomberg videos will have its own distinct, branded broadband site on AOL’s portal as well. Bloomberg television hasn’t been too active on the online side, but that could be changing. The unit just struck a deal with Google (NSDQ: GOOG) TV Ads, involving audience measurement and targeted ads through satellite company EchoStar’s (NSDQ: DISH) set-top boxes. While that partnership doesn’t have any online applications at the moment, it does represent the beginning of a formal relationship between Bloomberg and the search giant.

Apple Threatens To Shut Down iTunes Store (Really) If Forced To Pay Higher Rates — While we’re on the subject of music royalty rates… Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) says it might pull the plug on its uber-popular iTunes store if the Copyright Royalty Board jacks up the amount it owes per track that it sells. Yep, the company made the “don’t come near me or I’ll jump” threat in a statement submitted to the board last year, now being reported by Fortune’s David Leonard. He notes that the CRB is set to resolve a price dispute between online music retailers and the National Music Publishers Association, which wants to collect 15 cents per track, up from 9 cents, currently. Apple, represented by the Digital Media Association, would actually like the rate lowered to 4.6 cents or 6 percent of “applicable revenue.”

Articles of the Day

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

Yahoo Hires Bain To Help ‘Streamline Processes’; Layoffs To Come? — And to think what they could’ve gotten from Microsoft… Yahoo, whose stock continues to languish, has hired Bain & Co. to help it “(explore) ways to streamline our processes and bring new agility and efficiency to how we work as an organization.” in the words of spokesman Brad Williams, who spoke to Bloomberg. He says it was premature to speculate on whether the company would in fact have layoffs, but that’s often what the word “streamline” means. Valleywag has a copy of a letter sent out by Jerry Yang, in which he talks about the “great progress” the company has made, the challenges it faces in light of the economy, and the need to “get fit.” Kara Swisher has also reported that top brass is telling employees about likely layoffs. So barring some massive misreading of the tea leaves, it looks like Yahoo will soon face cutbacks. The news comes just as the board reportedly authorized merger talks with AOL (NYSE: TWX). While such a combination would likely be talked about using some lofty rhetoric about strategic synergies and whatnot—but a big part of the appeal would have to be the chance to cut costs through redundancies.

Discovery Expands Partnership With YouTube; Creating New International Channels — I recently observed firsthand how well Discovery (NSDQ: DISAB) Channel content works internationally… Now the network is expanding its use of YouTube to reach global viewers. The network (which recently became fully public), will launch a series of localized channels on YouTube to promote popular shows, like MythBusters. Meanwhile, Discovery plans to use tonight’s episode to promote the YouTube channel, where fans can submit myths they’d like to see busted. As Discovery’s current channel notes, the network has been on YouTube since 2006.

Display Ads’ Growth Rate Was Cut in Half In H108; Category Gained 8 Percent In First Six Months — Another sign of display ad spending’s travails this year… This time, TNS Media Intelligence says display grew 8 percent in H108 over the same period last year. At that time, display ads were up 17.7 percent in the first six months of ‘07 to $5.52 billion, accounting for 7.6 percent of all media ad expenditures, according to TNS. No word from the researcher as to what the share of display was from January through June this year. Still, it could be worse, as TNS points out that total ad spending during H108 fell 1.6 percent and media expenditures in Q208 was off 3.7 percent versus last year, the steepest quarterly drop since 2001.

MSN-Hearst’s JV Food Site Delish.com Launched — MSN, which has decided to go the AOL way in launching standalone site, has launched its previously announced food site, the rather curiously British-named Delish.com. MSN is only the distributor…the main project has been executed by Hearst: Hearst Magazines Digital Media is in charge of the design, development and editorial content. MSN is responsible for ad sales and syndication of the site’s content through the MSN network. The content comes from Hearst brands CountryLiving.com, GoodHousekeeping.com, QuickandSimple.com and Redbookmag.com, plus non-Hearst brands such as EatingWell, Food & Wine, and Sterling Books. Some more details in the Hearst-owned paper Seattle PI, here. Tons of competition in the space from the likes of Scripps, CondeNast and other independent and specialized food site, so remains to be seen how Delish scales up.

NBCU’s Digital Health Net Strikes Video Deal With Six Distributors; Google TV Ads Signs Up Bloomberg — Two fledgling digital projects have struck agreements designed to give them legs: NBCU’s Digital Health adds six sites: NBC Universal’s Digital Health Network, a video-heavy ad net that was launched last spring, has added six new sites to its distribution stream. The addition of more partners come as the network is also unveiling a new video portal called HealthVideo.com. Aside from content sites like the general science and tech focused redOrbit and Wellsphere, which offers answers to a range of health questions, the new additions include organizations like the American Cancer Society, library services company EBSCO Publishing, marketing firm StayHealthy and digital signage company Windstone Communications. By tying up with entities that offer more than just website placement, NBCU hopes to expand the Digital Health Network to more of a general offline audience. Bloomberg TV to use Google TV Ads: Since exiting from beta this summer, Google TV Ads has been trying to make the case for its self-serve, targeted ads to pay TV networks and marketers.

Gmarket/eBay deal gets conditional approval from FTC — Korea’s Fair Trade Commission (FTC), granted conditional approval for eBay’s bid to buy Nasdaq-listed Korean online retailer Gmarket yesterday, according to a FTC statement released on its website. The terms of FTC stated that ebay will be prohibited from increasing its commission from sales for the next three years after the acquisition and is required to restrict fee increases for registration and advertising to rates lower than the local inflation rate. Ebay, the US listed online auction company is in discussions with Interpark, the listed online Korean retailer to buy 36% stake in Gmarket. Interpark, the parent of Gmarket, said last month it had filed for approval with FTC, said a previous report. Source: mergermarket.

Yahoo Opens R&D In Grenoble; UK Too Expensive, Too Few Engineers? — Yahoo yesterday opened an R&D facility in Grenoble, France, claiming the region is becoming the “Silicon Valley of Europe” with a big pool of engineers. The new site will work on what Yahoo called its “key strategic priorities” – internationalizing Yahoo Answers and developing search, specifically semantic search. It’s also thought Yahoo’s Kelkoo shopping comparison site will be developed from there, though we know Kelkoo had a development centre in Grenoble at least as far back as 2004.

Articles of the Day

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

Microsoft’s InPrivate Could Make Ad Prospects More Private — Tech publishers and bloggers are buzzing about the impending release of a new version of Microsoft’s popular Internet Explorer browser – still the dominant tool used to access the Web – that has new privacy features that could more readily delete the browsing history and cookies of individual Internet users, making it more difficult for advertisers and publishers to track and serve ads to them. Consumer privacy experts are hailing the forthcoming release of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 8 (IE8), and its so-called “InPrivate” blocking feature, but industry analysts say it could be an anathema for targeting and serving online ads.

Rumored Google, Verizon Search/Mobile Deal Signals Major Shift In Attitudes — News of Google’s potential mobile search deal with Verizon Wireless comes as no surprise to analysts who monitor the mobile search and advertising space. In fact, according to Mike Boland, senior analyst at The Kelsey Group, the deal is indicative of a huge shift in the way that mobile service carriers are starting to view technology companies, paved in part by AT&T’s groundbreaking deal with Apple for the iPhone. The deal would essentially make Google search the “on deck” option on Verizon mobile devices, and they would split any ensuing ad revenue.

NYTCo: June Numbers Signal Another Tough Quarter; Revs Fall Sharply; Internet Growth Slow — Q3 is getting off to a rough start at NYTCo… the publisher came out with July numbers showing total revenue fell 10.1 percent to $235.9 million. Ad revenue, which fell 16.2 percent, was weak across all categories. The internet, normally a “bright spot” is rapidly losing its luster: Internet ad revs at the News Media Group were up just .9 percent, hurt by weakness in online recruitment. NYTCo says growth in the current month is up in the “low double digits” helped by improved display advertising on NYTimes.com.

GfK Ends Bid For TNS—All Clear For WPP Takeover? — German audience measurement firm GfK appears to be withdrawing its bid for British research company Taylor Nelson Sofres, according to Reuters, which cited a story in Germany’s Manager magazine based on unidentified sources. GfK is said to be dropping its bid because Apax, the PE firm that agreed to help back it in the deal, began making demands for extensive control over the merger. The German company started to get cold feet last month, when UK ad holding company WPP Group began maneuvering for a hostile takeover of TNS. WPP had sent TNS a formal offer for a 264.2p-per-share offer that values TNS at £1.158 billion ($2.1 billion) – a 55 percent premium from April 28, when TNS said it would merge with GfK.

Greenfield Online Spurns Quadrangle For Higher Offer; Will Pay $5 Million Breakup Fee — Greenfield Online, a provider of online market research, says it’s nixing its sale to media PE firm Quadrangle. The company had already indicated that it received a potentially higher offer than the $426 million or $15.50 per share it was set to get from Quadrangle. The new buyer, an un-named Fortune 100 firm, will pay $17.50 for the company. Per the original agreement announced in early June, Quadrangle will get a $5 million fee for its troubles. Quadrangle could still increase its offer if it acts before August, 29. Full story —

Carat Lowers Overall Ad Outlook, Boosts Online’s — Carat has revised its global and U.S. ad spending outlooks for 2008 downward, but has slightly increased its projections for online ad spending in 2008 and 2009. In a new forecast released early this morning, Carat said it now expects the global advertising marketplace to expand only 4.9%, and U.S. ad spending to rise by 2.1% in 2008. In its preliminary forecast released in March, Carat had projected worldwide ad spending would grow 6.0% and the U.S. would rise 3.8% this year.