Reuters blog archive
There's a strong sense of déjà vu about the U.S. entertainment industry. Six years after NBC and Vivendi merged their US media assets, the two companies are at the centre of renewed speculation.
Comcast is once again seen as a buyer of media businesses, a little more than five years after the cable giant abandoned its hostile bid for Walt Disney. Unlikely as it seems, it may just be possible to design a deal that suits all three parties.
Start with NBC Universal. From next month, Vivendi can trigger an option to offload its 20 percent stake in the venture, worth an estimated $4-6 billion. Though the French group remains coy about its intentions, its growing appetite for telecom acquisitions suggests it may want the cash out to spend elsewhere.
Selling the NBC Universal stake may also help remove the conglomerate discount that weighs on Vivendi's shares.
Attendees at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia conference in New York City asked both executives on Tuesday if they were interested in bidding for rights to broadcast the 2014 Winter Olympics and the 2016 Summer Olympics. Both answered the question in ways that sound different until you realize that they actually sound... the same.
Media companies report their quarterly results during the next few weeks, time that should help us determine the state of advertising. Has it stabilized? Is it growing? Or is spending still trending down?
Google, which kicked off earings yesterday, probably isn't a great bellwether. After all, it was held up better than almost any other media company during the recession. Still, the largest U.S. Internet search engine hasn't been completely immune. Revenue was up in the second quarter, but only by 3 percent.
That question has got louder and louder from investors and Wall Street analysts concerned that YouTube owner Google is racking huge profit-hindering costs to be the free online video platform for the world. It seems Google's top guys don't know the answer either -- or if they do, they're choosing not to share it with reporters on Thursday.
Google CEO Eric Schmidt told a media briefing at Sun Valley that he believes YouTube, which his company spent $1.65 billion to acquire three years ago, will come good thanks to its recent launch of new advertising formats such as pay-to-promote and pre-roll ads. "We're optimisic that YouTube will be a strong revenue business for us because of these products," he told reporters.
CBS Chief Executive Les Moonves doesn't sound particularly worried about NBC's decision to put Jay Leno in the 10:00 pm timeslot five nights a week. In fact, he sounds a bit giddy about the whole thing.
The way Moonves figures it, CBS could bank millions in additional revenue from the switch. Moonves described his thinking on a call with investors, using what he acknowledged were "ballpark" figures to make his point. Essentially he said that even if Leno does well the show simply will not attract the kind of advertising dollars of, say, "CSI". That means CBS will take an even bigger share of the advertising money in primetime.
Las Vegas should have a line on the upfront market, particularly this year. What's the over/under on total dollars? What are the odds the networks will hold back big chunks of inventory? How quickly will everything be decided?
Every year the networks' sales executives and the media buyers talk their books. Fair enough. But this year, many seem to be shrugging their shoulders when asked about the upfront market.
News broke this week that Anheuser-Busch has told NBC that the brewer will spend only about half as much on advertising packages during the upcoming 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games and 2012 Summer Games in London, compared to previous years.
Over at 30 Rock, they aren't too worried about it. NBC Universal Chief Executive Jeff Zucker, who won wide praise for the company's coverage of the Beijing Olympics, feels that there are plenty of advertisers ready to step in and replace any company that wants or needs to cut their spending on the sporting event.
Bravo unveiled its new TV lineup at its upfront breakfast on Tuesday-- and it's chock full of more of those grating characters and train-wreck scenarios that have proved so successful for the cable network.
At the breakfast in Manhattan's Russian Tea Room, executives played down the recession, played up a recent New York Times article and announced that a cable network known for its unscripted shows is developing two scripted dramas, "Blueprint" and "30 under 30."
This year's primary topic looks like it will be how the big, traditional operators in the business will adapt to an age when the Internet is giving people more options to watch shows, and not always in a way that feeds the bank.
Twitter is now free for all, but it may not be for much longer. According to co-founder Biz Stone, the micro-blogging site plans to offer commercial accounts for businesses to pay a fee to receive an enhanced version of Twitter starting some time this year.
The move is part of Twitter's accelerated plan to start seeking revenue in 2009, despite the economic downturn and cutbacks in advertising spending online. The company recently closed a round of venture capital financing pegged at $35 million by media reports, following two earlier funding rounds totaling $20 million. The recent round valued Twitter at $255 million, according to The Wall Street Journal.