Archive for Viacom

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 October 20, 2008 by Dave Liu

Microsoft’s Role In GOOG-YHOO Delay: Outlobbying — So how did Google move from promising to start its deal with Yahoo with or without the regulators to postponing it all within a matter of weeks? Chief among other factors, Microsoft played the DC chess match more deftly, applying its expensive tutoring to starting—and staying—a few moves ahead of Google and Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO). One excellent illustration from the NYT’s look at the lobbying that has Google on the defensive: Microsoft launched its protest site July 15, while Google waited more than three months after announcing the deal to put up its own explanation. Another example underscores Google’s traditional public self-confidence and how that can chafe the folks with power in Washington. Schmidt promised reporters on Sept. 17 that the partnership would kick in this month with or without Justice approval, while admitting they hadn’t explained it well enough. But a tech lobbyist tells the Times: “I watched that with some amusement because policy makers don’t like to be told that they’re irrelevant, and what that announcement amounted to was they were told they are irrelevant. … Well, they just found out how relevant policy makers are.”

Yahoo Planning Major Job Cuts; Could Be Above Thousand — Various reports are pointing to an inevitable move by Yahoo to cut a good number of jobs, as many as above thousand. This comes as the company is set to announce its Q3 earnings on Tuesday and the picture may not be pretty. Besides these layoffs, many other cost cutting measures will be announced, reports WSJ. Yahoo managers have been asked to cut operating budgets by 15 percent, and the company has recently let go of two to three dozen external recruiters, WSJ says, citing sources. The company fired about 1,000 workers in January this year. The company had about 14,300 employees worldwide at the end of June. With the economy being in the shape it is, some of this is the usual belt tightening, but for Yahoo, the issues are more dire. With the fallen MSFT deal, the Google (NSDQ: GOOG) search deal stuck in regulatory issues, competitive pressure increasing from all sides, and major slowdown in display advertising online, Yahoo’s time is running out on multiple fronts.

Doomsayers Turn To Online Ads; Space Is Still Resilient, But Affiliate Deals Could Help — When the economy really started heading downhill last year, the thinking was that the migration of ad budgets from traditional to digital would accelerate. Now, with pessimism settling in after another turbulent week in the financial markets, the doomsayers are turning to online. AdAge looks at the prospects of online publishers to sustain themselves on advertising alone and concludes that most will not. It also revisits the outlook for the 400-plus remnant ad networks and finds that consolidation is likely to begin happening sooner rather than later.

NBC Universal Calling For $500 Million Budget Cuts Next Year; Layoffs At Telemundo — Now onto the big media side of retrenchments and belt tightening, NBC Universal (NYSE: GE) CEO Jeff Zucker is asking for $500 million of budget cuts next year, which is about 3 percent of the company’s total budget. He outlined this to staffers in a memo late today, reports B&C. From the memo: “While each business leader has flexibility in how to meet this goal, we have asked them to focus on three areas: reductions in promotion expenses; in discretionary spending, such as travel and entertainment and outside consultants; and in staffing costs.”

Facebook Wants Music, But Doesn’t Want To Tangle With Labels — Buoyed perhaps by the frenzy surrounding the launch of MySpace Music last month, Facebook is revealing more details about its musical ambitions, the New York Post reports. We have heard about this a few times before, but the project is not as much a “me too” play as was previously thought. Differences: Facebook doesn’t want to give away equity: MySpace Music traded equity in exchange for securing licenses to various tracks from its four partners: Universal Music Group, Sony BMG, Warner Music Group and EMI. Facebook doesn’t even want to deal with the hassle of acquiring those licenses, let alone offering up equity in exchange. Still Zuckerberg and other execs have continued to meet with label execs to broker some kind of deal. Facebook doesn’t want to build a whole new site: The network doesn’t want to “bog itself down” with the development of an additional property, seeking instead to integrate more deeply with existing music partners like Rhapsody.com, iMeem.com, iLike.com, and Lala.com.

Nielsen To Shutter “Hey Nielsen” Social Network/Market Research Hybrid — Nielsen is shutting down its social network-market research hybrid “Hey! Nielsen,” Mediapost reports. Seems like it was only a matter of time. The community, which officially launched in conjunction with Superbowl XLI in January, was sort of an odd play for the media ratings and research giant. Designed to be both a tool to gauge feedback about various Nielsen products and services, as well as a way for the company to understand the evolution of social media as a whole, it attracted mostly rabid entertainment junkies and media industry insiders—not exactly a representative sample.

News Corp Annual Meeting: Questions About Bailouts; A Deal With Redstone? Murdoch: No, And No — Rupert Murdoch began the News Corp (NYSE: NWS). shareholder meeting going through details of the terms of the company’s board of director elections (all were re-elected). The meeting is in progress now at the Hudson Theater just off of Times Square. Over the course of the meeting, Murdoch showed traces of annoyance and amusement with some of the shareholders’ wide-ranging questions, as did much of the audience. During his presentation, he sought to boast of News Corp.’s success in cable, broadcast and even newspapers—mostly outside the U.S. except for WSJ— as a bulwark against an economic storm that looks to be increasingly grim and protracted.

Articles of the Day

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

Google, Yahoo In Talks To Fend Off Antitrust Action: Report — Google (NSDQ: GOOG) and Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) are in talks with the Justice Department over their proposed ad deal, in an effort to head off an antitrust challenge, reports WSJ, citing sources. While the regulatory investigators are building their case to block this deal, settlement talks are also in an early stage. The drumbeat against the deal has been steadily growing louder over the last month or so, as rival companies and associations have come out against the search ad deal. In settlement talks, the two companies are considering some concessions, including lowering the volume of queries on Yahoo on which Google’s ads would be shown, and that Yahoo would continue to be a search ad player and not abandon it. Also, a reporting mechanism that would ensure compliance (and also monitor ad pricing) is also being considered, the story says.

NBCU Local Sites Look Beyond TV — NBC Universal (NYSE: GE) is widening the purview of its local TV stations’ sites, even as it tries to downplay the sites’ identities as broadcast extensions. The sites, which are being relaunched around station sites in nine cites, are being encouraged to develop their individuality and not have a uniform look and feel. And to achieve that, the sites will go beyond the 6- and 11 p.m. newscasts to begin aggregating content from outside bloggers and news sites. From an ad standpoint, John Wallace, president of NBC Local Media, said that this is all an effort to attract a more narrow group of “influencers” to the sites. The announcement is seen as part of a gradual move to establish the TV station sites as hyperlocal hubs in cities such as LA, Chicago, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Washington DC, and New York.

Joost Launches Flash Version For Browsers: Easier But No Hulu — Online video site Joost is finally, officially easier to use. The Flash-based, download-free version for browsers can be accessed now but the full-featured version is supposed to launch at midnight. Joost boasts of having the “largest online library of legal video programming.” The company says it has doubled the number of videos in the past 10 months to more than 46,000 with a 50 percent increase in hours for a total of more than 8,000 hours. Content partners include investors CBS (NYSE: CBS) and Viacom; Sony (NYSE: SNE) Pictures Television; Warner Bros. Television Group; the NBA; PBS and a number of international providers.

Yahoo Faces Another Seach Ad Challenger: YouTube — While the search ad pact between Google (NSDQ: GOOG) and Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) has been placed on hold until the Department of Justice determines whether to block it or not, YouTube has quietly moved into the number two search ad driver—a spot Yahoo had held since the rise of Google, according to comScore figures. AdAge shows how Google hopes that its latest strategy to prompt YouTube into an important revenue driver involves taking a page from its own successful formula. The move comes on the heels of YouTube’s other recent ad plans, including adding affiliate sales links to its videos.

Nielsen Online Launches Chinese Venture — Nielsen Online has formed a joint venture with the parent of ChinaRank, which publishes Web site rankings in China, to track Internet use in the country. The new venture, CR-Nielsen, will be the first company to provide standard Internet measures such as traffic figures in China. “With more than 250 million Internet users, China represents a significant opportunity for our clients, and there has been a loud call to support this expanding market with high-quality, independent online measurement services,” said Itzhak Fisher, executive chairman of Nielsen Online, in a statement.

Articles of the Day

Posted in Digital Media, News with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 13, 2008 by Dave Liu

Newspapers Cope With Ad Slowdown: Hold Back On Inventory And Ad Nets — The NYT weighs in on newspapers’ struggles amid the online ad slowdown and surveys a number of different strategies being employed. McClatchy, for one, says they are decidedly reducing the number of online ad units in invetory. “It is a case where yeah, you could probably sell another advertiser by creating another ad space,” but that would tend to depress overall revenue, says Christian Hendricks, VP for interactive media at McClatchy. The publisher’s Q2 internet revs climbed 12.5 percent, which represents about 11.8 percent of its total ad revs from that period.

MySpace Expands Self-Serve MyAds Display Ad Service — MySpace’s hyping up its expanded self-serve ad service like the second coming of, well, Google AdWords. After being in test for almost a year, the company is launching its MySpace MyAds product in open beta tonight. The social network has been using what it calls hypertargeting to allow its brand advertisers capability to micro-target users with ads. But this expanded MyAds platform will allow anyone to create an account, choose from among 1100 niche categories, upload/choose creatives and start an ad campaign, targeting the 76 million U.S. MySpace users. This is a display ad system, unlike Google’s text based ad system (at least on its own site), but like Google and others, is a CPC system. Also, like Google, it has build an analytics tool for the self-serve users…from the screenshot I saw, it does look a lot like Google Analytics. It hypertargeting service allows advertisers to target ads based on the interest that MySpace users display on their profile pages. The new MyAds service allows targeting parameters such as age, sex, geographical location, combining it with user interest categories including specific keywords within each category. For example, within the ‘videogame’ enthusiast category, a further targeting keyword or phrase might include ‘Call of Duty 5’ if relevant to an advertiser’s campaign, the company explains.

Small Yahoo Investor Asks MSFT To Rebid At $22; Asking For Asia Spinoff; Shares Below $12 — At the rate it is going, $15 per share might sound enticing to Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) after a while. A small Yahoo investor Mithras Capital has put out a proposal asking MSFT to rebid for the company at $22 a share, reports Reuters. As part of a proposed deal, Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) would unload Yahoo’s Asian assets and non-search businesses, extract $3 billion worth of cost savings and receive $2.8 billion of tax benefits, which means MSFT will pay $10.3 billion for Yahoo’s search business (about $2 billion less than it was willing to pay earlier in the summer for search portion). It also calls for Yahoo to drop its poison pill, while valuing Yahoo’s Asian assets at $7.2 billion and its non-search business at $4.5 billion. Earlier this year Mithras backed Carl Icahn’s stake in the company. Yahoo’s shares hit a five year low yesterday, and today is down about 2 percent today to trade below $13. The Yahoo-Google (NSDQ: GOOG) ad deal is certainly going to be mired in regulatory issues in a while, and any Yahoo-AOL (NYSE: TWX) combination would also face somewhat similar regulatory issues.

Earnings: GE Q3 Earnings Meet Lowered Expectations; NBCU Profit Up 10 Percent — Late last month, General Electric chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt lowered the company’s Q3 guidance dramatically and today it met those expectations. We’ll see if the inoculation—and the subsequent infusion from Warren Buffett—helped when the market opens. In the meantime, a quick look at the results: Earnings from continuing operations dropped 12 percent to $4.5 billion from $5.1 billion on Q307, with a corresponding 10 percent decrease in earnings per share to 45 cents from 50 cents. (Including all operations, earning dropped 22 percent.) Revenues from continuing operations were $47.2 billion, up 11 percent over $42.5 billion in the same quarter last year. Growth in infrastructure and media were countered by a sharp decline in financial services.

RBI Sale At Risk Of Falling Through As Bidding Price Drops To $1.7 billion — Reed Elsevier’s troubled attempt to sell-off its UK B2B division Reed Business Information appears to be in big trouble with the news that bids for the company since August have fallen about a half-million dollars, according to Bloomberg. Two unidentified sources close to the deal told the news service the bids have dropped to about $1.7 billion (£97 million) from $2.3 billion (£1.3 billion). The company has struggled to attract the financing needed to seal the deal since the sale was announced in February. Merrill Lynch analyst Paul Sullivan said in a note that the risk of the sale “being delayed or falling through has clearly increased”. The markets were unimpressed and shares in Reed Elsevier dipped 6.4 percent to 468.25 pence at 1.34pm in London trading today, its lowest value since February 2004.

Time CEO Anne Moore Rules Out IPC Media Sale; Announces Two-Year Plan to Counter Downturn — She might run the biggest magazine company in the world in a time of falling advertising revenue and dwindling sales, but Time Inc’s (NYSE:TWX) CEO and Chairman Anne Moore doesn’t sound too concerned. She tells The Times of a two-year strategy to get her company, owner of consumer UK magazine publisher IPC Media, through the downturn—which will look to address its nine percent Q208 drop in ad revenue. Digital revenues grew 73 percent in 2007 and now make up 15 percent of the group’s total ad revenue. Moore considers Time not a magazine publisher but a “content company” But as The Times’s Dan Sabbagh writes: “Nevertheless, print magazine advertising is heading south this year, and digital growth in 2008 will miss the previous 53 per cent target”.

Economic Meltdown Strikes Viacom, CBS Corp.; Both Warn Investors On Lowered Outlook — It looks to be a brutal Q3 reporting season: Both Viacom (NYSE: VIA) and CBS (NYSE: CBS) Corp have cut their respective outlooks, warning investors that they have been taking a hit on the ad slowdown and the wider economic pain touching all businesses right now. Reuters: Viacom’s Q3 earnings will come in at least 10 percent short of Wall Street estimates. The company pinned the decline on the worsening ad revenue picture. That news quickly shot Viacom’s stock down 20 percent. Viacom Chief Executive Officer Philippe Dauman issued a statement saying the media giant, which owns MTV Networks and Paramount, was “moderating our near-term targets” in light of the dismal economy. In its Q2 earnings report, Viacom pointed to both retail and automotives categories as the reason for lower than expected revenues at its cable TV properties. While they held back on strong prediction for Q3, it’s clear they couldn’t foresee how bad things have gotten. Neither have financial analysts, who keep revising their forecasts downward. In a statement, the company is forecasting a 2 percent drop in global ad revenues, with a decrease of roughly 3 percent in the U.S. and an 8 percent gain internationally. The company will release its full Q3 results on Nov. 3.

Articles of the Day

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

Blinkx Drops Bid For Search Marketing Firm Miva — Online video search firm Blinkx, which is publicly traded on the AIM market, has dropped its public bid to acquire pay-per-click ad network MIVA. The London- and San Francisco-based Blinkx had offered $1.20 per share, valuing Miva at $41.13 million, a 54 percent premium over its early August stock price…Miva board rejected it outright then, saying the bid wasn’t up to the mark. This morning, in a statement, Blinkx explained its decision to withdraw: “The large premium blinkx offered in our initial proposal is even more significant today in light of MIVA’s second quarter earnings miss, subsequent downward revision of annual guidance, and public disclosure related to restructuring of the Media EU business. By choosing not to engage in substantive discussions in any material respect and an agreement with blinkx, MIVA Board and management in our view have failed to give due consideration to a transaction that had a uniquely attractive opportunity for MIVA shareholders, particularly in light of several challenges MIVA faces in the near term.”

AOL-Yahoo Merger Details Emerge; Deal Could Happen This Month — Yahoo is continuing its marathon merger discussions with AOL, sources close to the negotiations have whispered to us, and a deal could happen as early as this month. Is this just a rehash of the reported discussions in February and then again in April? Yes and no. It’s clear that AOL’s parent company, Time Warner, wants this deal more than ever. What isn’t clear is whether AOL’s assets will fix any of Yahoo’s problems. The deal structure that is currently being discussed is Yahoo’s acquisition of AOL (content, services and advertising), minus their subscription dial up business. That plus a couple of billion dollars in cash from Time Warner gets them approximately a third of the combined entity. Time Warner’s AOL headache is gone, and they have a stake in the world’s most valuable chess piece in the Google/Microsoft search and advertising war.

Viacom-YouTube Update: VCs Will Have To File With Court On Decisions To Back YouTube, Sell To Google — YouTube’s VC backers are being asked to explain to a federal court why they invested in the video venture—and why they sold to Google. As part of the $1 billion lawsuit Viacom (NYSE: VIA) filed against YouTube and Google in early 2007, MarketWatch reports, Viacom wants documents from Sequoia Capital, Artis Capital Management and TriplePoint Capital “related to the firms’ “actual and potential” investment in YouTube, Google’s acquisition of the startup and a “proposed indemnification for copyright infringement relating to this merger.” The documents are due Oct. 27, although there have been a lot of delays in this case all along so who knows. The companies reaped significant rewards in Google stock in the $1.65 billion 2006 sale: Sequoia, $504 million; Artis, $83 million; TriplePoint, $6.4 million. MKTW sees the notion of having VCs explain themselves as unusual but Google senior litigation counsel Catherine Lacavera says it is “not out of the ordinary.”

Google Begins Wider Testing In-Game AdSense System — Google is hoping to take advantage of in-game ads’ strong growth with its new AdSense for Games system, the company announced in a post on its blog. Citing comScore data, Google says over 25 percent of web users play online games every week, representing over 200 million global users. Google began offering the system on a limited basis back in November. It started off using pre-roll and mid-roll inserts with gaming startup Bunchball Games. With this wider beta test, AdSense for Games will let marketers place video ads, image ads, or text ads within developers’ games. The system is based on technology from Adscape, which Google bought for $23 million in February 2007.The AdWords sales team will sell company’s in-game ad placements directly to advertisers. Google is also promising text and image ads that are targeted by demo and location. To be eligible for the program, publishers must have a minimum of 500,000 game plays and have 80 percent of their traffic from the U.S. or the U.K.

Yahoo’s Yang May Have Missed Sales Opportunity In Asia — Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang has made clear his intention to sell off Asian assets such as Alibaba.com Corp. and Gmarket Inc. But thanks to the global financial crisis, it looks like he may have missed his chance to get top dollar. Such holdings have shrunk about $2.2 billion–that’s 23%–since Yahoo assessed them in July. The value of the holdings has been depressed thanks to investor fears that the deepening crisis will hurt the Internet advertising market. And even if a buyer were interested at this point, raising the capital to make the purchase would likely prove difficult now that banks are hoarding cash.

IAC/InterActiveCorp CEO Acknowledges Business Is Being Scrutinized For Divestments; Declines To Name Potential Disposals — IAC/InterActiveCorp boss Barry Diller declined to name potential disposals being considered by the listed Internet conglomerate. In the course of a Wall Street Journal interview, Diller was asked to identify areas of operation which might be divested; he replied that the decision had not yet been made so he would not be specific. He added that the New York-based group’s businesses were being analyzed in relation to size and markets to see if they were worth bothering with, the report said. When asked whether the credit crunch might hamper any efforts to sell, Diller said Internet companies had not so far suffered too much but added that it was possible the sector might freeze in the future. IAC/InterActiveCorp was broken up by Diller several weeks ago in a move towards streamlining the company, the report noted. It added that Diller said any acquisitions made with the proceeds of the USD 1.3bn break-up are most likely to be in the Internet advertising sphere with which IAC is familiar. Source: WSJ.

Articles of the Day

Posted in Digital Media, News with tags , , , , on September 16, 2008 by Dave Liu

McClatchy Eliminates Another 1,150 Jobs Or 10 Percent Of Workforce; Sees $100 Million Cost Savings — McClatchy (NYSE: MNI), whose shares have fallen from around $21 to about $3 in the last year, has announced its second big job elimination of the year: The newspaper publisher is cutting 1,150 jobs, or about 10 percent of its workforce. About half will come from “voluntary programs and managed attrition.” Excluding $20 million in severance costs, the company expects the move will save it $100 million over the next year; that represents about 6 percent of trailing twelve month expenses for the company. In June, McClatchy said it was eliminating 1,400 positions (which then also represented 10 percent of its workforce). There had been some hope that further layoffs might be avoided following a wage fr*eeze announced last month. The announcement doesn’t offer a breakdown between editorial and non-editorial eliminations, though CEO Gary Pruitt mentioned efforts to “sustain editorial quality and meet its public service journalism obligations despite some staff reductions.”

Wall St. Turmoil Not Likely To Touch Online Ad Spend; WPP’s Sorrell: Too Soon To Tell — Today’s news about the fall of Lehman Brothers, Bank of America’s planned rescue of Merrill Lynch and insurer AIG’s debt problems isn’t going to have any immediate affect on online ad spending, though residual impact could eventually cause advertisers to pullback somewhat. But for the moment, online ad expenditures are expected to remain stable, since the industry has already been bracing itself for a wider economic retrenchment that started in earnest last year when the mortgage lending crisis first hit ground. For the moment, most agencies are pretty reticent about reacting, opting for the wait and see approach. Responding to a question for what the impact of all this news is likely to have on spending, WPP Group CEO Sir Martin Sorrell said via email: “Far too early to assess, but expect continuation of current trends.”

Time Inc’s Maghound Service Launches Under the Radar; Some Majors Missing — Time Inc has quietly launched its much delayed and much-anticipated online magazine subscription website Maghound. The service, in beta, borrows concepts heavily from Netflix, in that it allows users to choose up to 15 magazines from a broad range of titles for one set monthly fee, with the ability to switch titles at any time. At launch, it has 240 titles, about 40 less that what Time Inc said at a trade show in June, Folio notes. In addition to all Time inc titles, of course, it has titles from Conde Nast (not all), Rodale, and others. Notably missing is any magazine from the Hearst stable, including Esquire, Cosmopolitan and others. Some of the other notables I checked on which are missing are The Atlantic, Business Week, Wired, The Economist, Reader’s Digest, and National Geographic .

MTVN Aims For ‘Tribes’ With Online Ad Net For Its Cable Channels — MTV Networks is readying Tribes, an online ad network tied to its various cable channels, Mediaweek reports. Tribes will pull in outside sites to establish ad sales and content syndication for MTV, VH1, Spike TV and CMT over the next several weeks. At some point after the new year, Comedy Central will get the Tribes treatment as well. Tribes is modeled on the ParentsConnect ad net, which MTVN’s Nickelodeon set up in February, with less than a dozen blogs and sites related to children’s entertainment. The company tells Mediaweek that ParentsConnect now has 46 sites, with more to come. At launch, Tribes is connected with Echo, which is comprised of several fan sites focusing on particular artists like Alicia Keys and Kanye West.

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.