Archive for Tribune

Articles of the Day

Posted in Digital Media, News with tags , , , , , , , on December 9, 2008 by Dave Liu

Tribune Files For Ch. 11 Bankruptcy Protection; Cubs Not Included In Filing — Tribune has filed for Chapter 11 protection this morning, in bankruptcy court in Wilmington, Delaware. This comes after the news yesterday that the debt-laden newspaper company and owner of LA Times and Chicago Tribune had hired inv*stm*nt bank Lazard and the law firm Sidley Austin to try and help in this process. From the company release about the filing: Total Debt: $12,972,541,148.00. The company will continue to operate its media businesses during the restructuring, including publishing its newspapers and running its television stations and interactive properties without interruption, and has sufficient cash to do so, it said. The Chicago Cubs franchise, including Wrigley Field, is not included in the Ch 11 filing. Efforts to “monetize the Cubs and its related assets will continue,” the company said.

Facebook Still Valued At $15 Billion? — Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg sits down with TechCrunch and reveals that the social networking giant is looking for more funding in the $15 billion valuation range, a price that was set when Microsoft purchased a 1.6% stake in the company for $240 million in the Fall of 2007. “We’re not actively going around trying to raise money from a lot of different people. It’s more just a follow on to that (previous round),” Zuckerberg said. However, the Silicon Alley Insider notes that Facebook had to recently cancel an employee stock sale program because it couldn’t find buyers for their shares at a $4 billion valuation, which makes CFO Gideon Yu’s mission to keep the $15 billion round open “ambitious if not downright quixotic”, says SAI’s Nicholas Carlson. That said, preferred shares like the ones Microsoft got are certainly on offer here, which means these investors would their money back first in the event of any sale.

Bain Close To Buying Reed Business; Parent May Keep a Stake — The sale process of Reed Business is in its final stages, as one of the two bidders left in the fray, Texas Pacific Group/DLJ combo, has dropped out of the bid, according to reports. This leaves Bain Capital as the only bidder and with a shot to buy it following due diligence. Sir Crispin Davis, the outgoing CEO of Reed Elsevier (NYSE: RUK), has invited the Apollo and Zelnick Media combo to bid again, even though it pulled out of the auction last month, and our sources say privately Strauss Zelnick still wants it. A decision likely will be reached by the end of this month, sources say. The sale price is now around $1 billion, down drastically from the starting asking price of around $2 billion when the process started in February. For Bain, the final thorn is that Reed Elsevier is unhappy with some of the complicated earnout conditions of its bid, a move that would effectively tie key executives to RBI for a number of years, says the Independent. RBI global CEO Gerard van de Aast left last month, leading to more speculation that the sale process hasn’t been the smoothest.

NYTCo Wants To Raise Up To $225 Million From Mortgage Or Sale-Lease Of Times HQ — Last month, The New York Times Company (NYSE: NYT) board cut the Sulzberger family take-home pay—and increased the flow of money to the company—by cutting dividends. This week, according to the NYT, it’s planning to mortgage or even work a sales-lease on the family “home”: up to $225 million on the 58 percent of the Times Tower owned by the company. CFO Jim Follo told the paper the company has hired Cushman & Wakefield to get the financing through either a mortgage—the NYTCo share of the mid-Manhattan tower is not mortgaged now—or possibly a sale that would include leasing back the space. Developer Forest City Ratner owns the rest of the building.

FOXSports.com Tackles SEO Video Search — FOXSports.com on MSN has tapped EveryZing’s technology to give sports fans the ability to search for specific keywords in video clips online. The Cambridge, Mass. video search company makes speech recordings searchable through its speech-to-text recognition software ezSEO that wraps audio from videos in metadata that Google, Yahoo and Microsoft search engines can index.

ZenithOptimedia Cuts ‘08 Online Forecast To 21.2 Percent Growth; Total Ad Spend Slipping 0.2 Percent –The recession’s squeeze has pushed ZenithOptimedia’s bullish outlook for online ad spending downward a bit, as the Publicis Groupe media shop is predicting global online ad revenues to rise 21.2 percent this year and about 18 percent in 2009. The company will present its forecast on a panel at the UBS Global Media and Communications (PDF) conference in New York this morning, on a panel with Interpublic Group’s Magna and WPP’s GroupM.

Articles of the Day

Posted in Digital Media, News with tags , , , , , , , on December 9, 2008 by Dave Liu

Tribune Hires Bankruptcy Advisers; May File Ch. 11 This Week — Tribune, the Sam Zell-owned newspaper chain, has hired bankruptcy advisers in an attempt to stave off potential bankruptcy filing, reports NYT, citing sources. It is using investment bank Lazard and the law firm Sidley Austin, to try and restructure its crippling debt and assess its options, the story says. WSJ says it could file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection as early as this week. Last month, the company reported a Q3 loss of $124 million, compared with earnings of $84 million for the same period last year. Publishing advertising revenues slid 19 percent ($111 million), and as part of that, interactive revenues dropped 7 percent ($4 million). The company has about $12 billion in borrowings, and stayed ahead of the interest payments as a result of asset sales, but the economy and resulting ad decline continues to hit it hard. The company doesn’t have enough cash to pay $1 billion in interest payments this year, and also owes a $512 million debt payment in June.

Why Can’t Google Invest in Hulu? Or At Least Do A Syndication Deal — As I have been playing around with Sling.com, the new video portal from Echostar-owned Sling Media, this thought came to mind: if Sling can make a deal with Hulu to essentially create a competitor to Hulu, then why can’t Google (NSDQ: GOOG) make a deal with the News Corp-NBCU JV? With YouTube, Google will continue having a tough time doing mainstream full-episode TV deals. I think even YouTube realizes it, as its head of content partnerships Jordan Hoffner hinted in his speech at B&C’s OnScreen Media Summit this week: “If people want to see the last episode of Ugly Betty they know they can go to ABC.com, but on the other side, we can compete by getting into everyone’s old favorite [TV shows] and feature films … Given the audience and how big it is, do we essentially become the museum of broadcasting? Do you start doing deals for libraries?” Pretty boring, if you ask me. The way YouTube is currently tooled and perceived, it will not be a lean-back experience for most users. Hoffner’s main message was: “YouTube is a great place for premium content … But we need to do a better job of creating areas where the user can go and know what they are going to get.” And that is the biggest dilemma for the company. Then Google has to deal with YouTube’s monetization head on, especially as the next year is going to be a tough slog for everyone.

Obama: ‘We’ll Renew Our Information Superhighway’ — A day after the dismal news that the United States lost 553,000 jobs in November, President-elect Barack Obama outlined some of his job creation and economic recovery plans—including a strong emphasis on improving broadband access. In his regular Saturday morning message, Obama promised “the single largest new inv*stm*nt in our national infrastructure since the creation of the federal highway system in the 1950s” and “the most sweeping effort to modernize and upgrade school buildings that this country has ever seen.” Then the president-elect—who made a point from the beginning of distributing his message online through YouTube as well as traditional radio—placed broadband alongside those efforts: “As we renew our schools and highways, we’ll also renew our information superhighway. It is unacceptable that the United States ranks 15th in the world in broadband adoption. Here, in the country that invented the internet, every child should have the chance to get online, and they’ll get that chance when I’m President – because that’s how we’ll strengthen America’s competitiveness in the world.”

Diller Looking For Buying Opportunities In Downturn; Offers The Pretzel Metaphor For IAC — Bring on the downturn! Barry Diller is still looking to buy websites, because the economy “tomorrow will present unknown opportunities.” The IAC (NSDQ: IACI) CEO told Reuters’ media summit in New York he expects a “‘cascade’ of acquisition opportunities at bargain prices,” Reuters reports. Acquisitions won’t come so much in search, where IAC already owns Ask.com, but: ”The interest would be on audience; we would acquire audience absolutely; we would acquire vertical audiences as we acquired with Dictionary.com, Thesauraus.com.” Rule out social media buys; they’re not good advertising plays, Diller said: “Think of the bimbo words this internet has created: ‘portal’, ‘social network’; I could riff on … ‘networking,’ horrible word too.”

TV Guide’s Print Buyer To Launch A New Site, Separate From TVGuide.com — TV Guide, the print magazine now under the ownership of LA-based private equity firm OpenGate Capital, plans to launch a new website (at TVGuidemagazine.com which it owns) to accompany the mag. The only problem is that TVGuide.com exists, and was not sold by Macrovision (NSDQ: MVSN) as part of the sale, so not sure how the PE firm will navigate around that confusion. The closest parallel I can think of was the Wired.com and Wired magazine situation (the online part was owned by Lycos US and print by Conde Nast) that existed for a few years until Conde Nast bought back the online part two years ago.

Articles of the Day

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

Yahoo’s Stock Below $13; Other Media Stock Down To New Lows — A bit hard to stay focused and keep writing about media, considering the scope of other things happening around. Anyway, in our own industry, even as analysts downgrade online ad revenues ahead of Q3 earnings period, Yahoo was down to below $13, the first time in more than five years. This is the lowest since the summer of 2003, when it was deep in the first post-bubble recession. It closes today down more than 8 percent to $12.65. The company reports its Q308 earnings on Oct 21, and analysts are expecting quarterly profits and sales to fall short of consensus estimates, due to the weakening display ad market. All kinds of rumors are surfacing now, including some major layoffs, serious merger talks between Yahoo and AOL, and other more wilder ones. And of course the Google-Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) ad partnership may be stuck in regulatory issues for a while now.

Analysts Lower Q3 Estimates For Online Ad Revenues; Offline Still Looks Worse — Given the continued downward spirals in the world’s financial markets, UBS internet analyst Ben Schachter says the firm is lowering price estimates for online ad revenues ahead of the Q3 earnings report period. Still, it may be at least a small consolation that offline looks worse and some web-based companies could benefit as more companies look to cheaper and more targeted online ads. In an analyst note (PDF, not online), Schachter said that while the first two months of Q3 “were decent,” September proved difficult.

AdGooroo: Search Advertisers Flocking To MSN — There were nearly 20% more advertisers actively running paid search campaigns on Microsoft’s Live Search in the third quarter of 2008 than in the second, according to new stats from AdGooroo. Meanwhile, there was a 3% increase in Google’s active advertiser base, and about a 3% drop in active advertisers for Yahoo. The online advertising technology and competitive intelligence firm released its “Search Engine Advertiser Update–Q308,” which also showed that all three of the big engines seemed to take economy-related hits in the middle of the quarter.

Prospective Buyers Line Up For San Diego U-T; But Just Looking For Now, Thanks — About four buyers are taking a serious look at The San Diego Union-Tribune, which put itself up for sale two months ago. Voice of San Diego identifies the prospective suitors: New York Times Company (NYSE: NYT), MediaNews Group, Tribune Company and Canadian newspaper publisher Black Press. But with the daily’s estimated value range of $200 million to $300 million—which VoSD attributes to Outsell’s Ken Doctor—it’s an open question whether any of those companies are prepared to pay that sort of price for a newspaper right now. And is the U-T, which is owned by privately-held Copley Press, actually worth that much? VoSD notes that circ has been slipping and the U-T has lost a lot of talent—two things that have been afflicting just about every newspaper to one degree or another.

Tech Not Excluded From Meltdown; Startups Told To Cut Back Spending — Now that we are weeks into a financial crisis, not only are the predictions starting to surface on how technology, and specifically wireless will be affected, but actions are starting to be taken. In one of the most alarming examples, GigaOm reports today, that Sequoia Capital, is telling its portfolio companies to buckle down, and illustrated the point by displaying an image of a grave stone with the message R.I.P.: Good Times.

Digital Media M&A

Posted in Deals, Digital Media, News with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 5, 2008 by Dave Liu

Viacom-Owned Paramount Buys Game Developer ScreenLife — Paramount Pictures, the Viacom-owned movie studio, has made its first gaming related acquisition: it has bought Seattle-based game developer ScreenLife, the creator of the popular DVD game “Scene It?”. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but last week SeattlePI first broke the story and mentioned that the deal is “for less than $100 million”. Screenlife will continue to operate as a standalone company, but will report into Paramount Digital Entertainment. Scene was launched in 2002 as a series of video-based trivia games..it has since sold about 15 million titles on the DVD, mobile, VOD and video game platforms. The company has over 25 DVD game titles on the market. Screenlife raised $7 million in angel financing in 2003, and a total of about $10 million.

Online Marketer AdEx Buys Lead Gen Company Bay Harbor Marketing — AdEx Media has bought the lead gen business of Bay Harbor Marketing, LLC, a California limited liability company. The terms were not disclosed. AdEx plans to absorb Bay Harbor Marketing’s software to round out its own affiliate marketing and lead gen business. This is Mountain View, CA.-based AdEx’s second purchase in less than a month. It bought Digital Instructor, a marketer of “how-to” courses on CD, in mid-August.

Gannett Pays Tribune $135 Million To Acquire Majority Stake In CareerBuilder –Gannett (NYSE: GCI) has acquired an additional 10 percent stake in CareerBuilder from the troubled Tribune for $135 million. That gives Gannett a 50.8 percent controlling interest in the online jobs site. Tribune, which has been trying to find ways to turn around its financial and debt woes, now owns 30.8 percent of CareerBuilder. The shared ownership doesn’t affect the other partners in CareerBuilder, which includes The McClatchy Company (NYSE: MNI), which continues to own 14.4 percent; and Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) continues to own 4 percent. Under the new ownership arrangement, Gannett has three seats on the six-seat CareerBuilder board. Tribune and McClatchy have one seat each and CareerBuilder CEO Matt Ferguson has one seat as part of his position. Sam Zell said in a statement that this deal helps “monetize some of the value CareerBuilder has built over the years…while enabling us to maintain a significant stake in a great online property.”

Publicis Looks Westward For Latest Acquisition, Seattle’s PBJS — Although WPP Group and its ad holding company rival Publicis Groupe have been concentrating more in Asia and other emerging markets for their digital acquisitions lately, it seems there are still a few independent targets to be found in the U.S. One of the remaining ones was Seattle’s PBJS, which was just picked up by Publicis. Terms weren’t disclosed. The five-year-old shop concentrates on on “multichannel events” and branded entertainment, including webcasting and video production. The main thing that drew Publicis to PBJS was access to the agency’s biggest client: Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT). That could bring more closeness between Microsoft and Publicis, which is working with the software giant, as well as Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO), Google (NSDQ: GOOG) and AOL (NYSE: TWX) on an open source ad network. The 26-person PBJS will continue to operate independently, though it will exist within Publicis Events Worldwide unit. Founder and CEO Bob Bejan will remain in that role, reporting to John Farrell, President & CEO of SAMS.

Ad Network Traffic Marketplace Buys Click-to-Chat Banner Provider Livemarkets — Online ad net Traffic Marketplace has acquired Livemarkets, a company that lets individuals strike up chat sessions with marketers within banner ads. Terms were not disclosed. The basic proposition behind Livemarkets, which was founded last year, is that consumers will click on an ad to chat with a customer service rep about the product featured in a banner. In one example on the company’s site, a consumer might click on a banner ad for a car to ask about a test drive. The “click-to-chat” function can work within any ad unit, Livemarkets says. As for Los Angeles-based Traffic Marketplace, the company bills itself as a “business-to-audience” ad net. It claims 30 billion ad impressions every month, delivering more than 20 million leads through its targeted display ads.

Articles of the Day

Posted in Digital Media, News with tags , , , , , , on August 14, 2008 by Dave Liu

Tribune Q2 Revs Fall 5.7 Percent; Takes Huge Loss On Writedown; Interactive Down — Privately held Tribune isn’t bucking any industry trends… The Sam Zell-owned company has reported Q2 revenue of $1.1 billion, down 5.7 percent from $1.17 billion in the year ago quarter. The company took a $3.8 billion, after-tax, non-cash charge, associated with the 2000 acquisition of Times Mirror—the charge is in keeping with writedowns across the industry, associated with acquisitions in the past few years. Op cash flow fell 2 percent to $221 million. Publishing revenue was particularly hard hit, falling 11 percent to $701 million. All the usual ad categories were hit hard, as were interactive revenues, which fell 4 percent, or $2 million (meaning a total of $48 million). Weakness in online classifieds contributed to the decline. The broadcasting business managed to hold up, growing 4 percent to $409 million—that’s pretty solid compared to the horrendous results at some broadcasters this quarter.

Aiming At BtoB, NYTimes.com Rolls Out Business, Tech Sub-sections; Handful Of Hires — NYTimes.com has been quietly rolling out a series of sub-sections this month, in hopes of attracting more B-to-B advertisers. By mid-September, new sub-sections will be added to the toolbars of both the Business and Technology channels, including Green Business and Enterprise Technology, respectively. Others will be added throughout the rest of the year. The rollout is also designed to blunt the challenge from WSJ, as the News Corp.-owned paper has expanded its coverage to go head-to-head with NYT on general news. I spoke with NYTimes.com GM Vivian Schiller about the new sub-sections and how they fit in with its goals to have more targeted content and ads during an increasingly difficult time for the newspaper business. To support the expansion, Schiller says the paper has hired a handful of reporters from WSJ, Dow Jones, WaPo, The Economist, Financial Times, and others, with more to come.

eBay Negotiating Minority Stake in South Korea’s GMarket — eBay is in talks to acquire a minority stake in GMarket, a South Korean online auctioneer. The talks are with Interpark Corp., the Korean portal that owns 37 percent of the company. A spokesperson from eBay told AP that there was no certainty a deal would be reached or that it would be approved by South Korean regulators—eBay already owns a South Korean competitor, the aptly named Internet Auction. No deal terms have been announced, although shares of NASDAQ-listed GMarket shot up over 14 percent on the news. In 2006, Yahoo took a 10 percent stake in GMarket, so they’re a beneficiary of this as well.

Google Shuts Feedburner Ad Net; Publishers Offered AdSense For Feeds Instead — RSS distributor FeedBurner has shut down its FeedBurner Ad Network, according to a report on Search Roundtable. Calls to Feedburner and Google, which bought the company for about $100 in June 2007, weren’t returned. A note attributed to Matt S. (possibly Matt Shobe, Feedburner’s co-founder and CDO) on the Feedburner Help Group said that no new applications for FAN publishers are being accepted. The note also encouraged publishers to seek similar options through AdSense, touting the new AdSense for Feeds product, which is powered by FeedBurner.