MediaFile

NBC, News Corp practice Olympic hedging

Big media executives are developing a new Olympic sport — hedging. Two of the best contenders are NBC-Universal Chief Executive Jeff Zucker and News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch.

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.

Murdoch said “We haven’t thought about it” and concluded with “I wouldn’t think so.” Zucker said, “We’ll have to see what happens. We’re not going to make any decision that doesn’t make business sense. …. The Olympics are an important part of the company and something we’d would like to be involved with if it makes business sense.”

Murdoch pointed out what would make business sense for both companies: holding the summer games in Chicago. If the Windy City gets the spot, expect the executives to firm up their answers quickly, and come back saying “yes.” That would make a good advertising opportunity for whoever gets those broadcast rights.

However (there’s always a however), the International Olympics Committee doesn’t plan to award broadcast rights until it votes for the city that will host the games. That will be either Chicago, Rio de Janeiro, Tokyo or Madrid. No sane U.S. network executive is going to show how much they want the broadcast rights before that vote, because they don’t want to make Chicago-sized bids for a Madrid-sized spectacle. So until the IOC votes, expect to hear little more than tepid interest in the games.

BusinessWeek, where the action happens off-screen

McGraw-Hill set Tuesday as the due date for bids for the ailing BusinessWeek magazine, and at least as of 7:30 pm eastern time, nothing at all has happened. Since this is one of those stories where I’ve encountered absolutely no fruitful sources, I’ve relied on reading the reports of other people.

So what’s going to happen to the business news weekly? Let’s catch up with the latest:

It will not go to Lazard chief Bruce Wasserstein. The owner of New York magazine has enough to deal with in the slumping publishing world already, so he’s gone, reports BusinessWeek columnist Jon Fine.

New York Times, BusinessWeek: The autumn of their years

Publishing beat reporters should expect a flare-up in their carpal tunnel syndrome in the coming weeks. Here is why:

The New York Times Co will decide whether to sell The Boston Globe and Worcester Telegram & Gazette by “early fall,” the Worcester daily reported on Friday, citing Times Co Chief Executive Janet Robinson. Fall this year begins on September 22, less than two weeks from today. McGraw-Hill, meanwhile, set September 15 — next Tuesday — as the deadline for bids on BusinessWeek magazine (Bloomberg apparently has reentered the bidding process too).

Here is an excerpt from the Telegram & Gazette’s story:

“The New England Media Group is in better financial shape than it was at the beginning of the year,” Ms. Robinson said at an afternoon “town hall” meeting… “Our hand is not being forced to sell. We are not in a situation where we are absolutely being forced to sell the Globe and the T&G.”

Newspapers stay on message in tough times

It must be hard to churn out positive messages about the newspaper business when papers are losing their advertising revenue at alarming rates and the Internet is not yielding up any easy secrets for survival.

Don’t underestimate the Newspaper of Association of America’s ability to stay positive. Here’s part of a press release that it issued today:

Newspaper Web sites attracted more than 70.3 million unique visitors in June (35.9 percent of all Internet users), according to a custom analysis provided by Nielsen Online for the Newspaper Association of America. Newspaper Web site visitors generated 3.5 billion page views during the month, spending 2.7 billion minutes browsing the sites over more than 597 million total sessions.

Financial Times: Pay to play

I stumbled across this headline on Wednesday morning:

FT Bosses Launch PR Offensive For Paid-Content Model

I thought: “Launch? Don’t you mean ‘Launched’?” The Financial Times brass has been arguing for months that the only newspapers that will survive the tough times they have been through lately are those that stop giving away the news online, and can do it without sacrificing the advertising money they earn on the Web.

Here’s an excerpt from the blog that produced that headline, courtesy of digitalarmm:

Editor Lionel Barber tells Channel 4 in an interview that there is now “an inexorable momentum behind charging for content” and he urges other national papers only considering introducing paywalls — essentially all of them — to act now (See the video link inside the digtalarmm blog post)

Tribune: Slow train coming

Bankrupt publisher and TV broadcaster Tribune Co filed for bankruptcy last December, and it’s looking increasingly like next December might be the first time we see what the new company will look like. Here is what the company’s Chicago Tribune newspaper reported Tuesday morning:

The parent company of the Chicago Tribune is scheduled to deliver a plan Aug. 4 but wants to extend that deadline to Nov. 30.

Citing the complex nature of the case, Tribune said in a filing it needs more time to build consensus around a plan. It also said the outcome of the pending sale of the Chicago Cubs could have a “material impact” on the plan.

Sun Valley: Barred from the bar

Reporters who cover the annual Allen & Co media conference know that the bar at the Sun Valley Lodge is a great spot to sit with uber-execs from Rupert Murdoch to Google’s Eric Schmidt to get their deep thoughts on the state of media and technology.

That was true this year, at least on Tuesday night, when reporters like me got to sit with Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes, Time Warner shareholder Vivi Nevo, former Viacom CEO Tom Freston, Sirius XM CEO Mel Karmazin and others.

Someone complained, however, and tonight, reporters are not allowed to go to the bar.

Sun Valley: Ken Auletta paints it, black

Allen & Co’s Sun Valley media and technology conference forbids journalists from attending the morning sessions that executives and other media power players attend before they go out to play and talk about deals in the afternoon. That means the last, best hope they have is to get the low-down from a journalist who was invited.

There’s no pride in it, but at least you hear what happened from a reliable source.

In this case, that’s Ken Auletta, New Yorker media writer and author of several books about the media business. He moderated a panel about surviving in the digital age.

Sun Valley: David Carr’s advice for reporters

The Bald Mountain resort in Sun Valley offers moguls for advanced skiers all winter long. Media reporters show up every July for the other kind of mogul, who lands among the picturesque Idaho mountains on a private jet and has a name like “Rupert Murdoch” or “Barry Diller.”

Reporters are supposed to be part of the scenery — not part of the conference itself.* They must stand around and hope that one of the more than 200 invitees decides to speak to them, and hopefully dispense a few nuggets of news. Fortunately, this week’s weather is supposed to be sunny, dry and warm during the day, and comfortably chilly at night.

For a Sun Valley freshman like this Reuters reporter, it sounds scary terrifying, despite the clement weather forecast. I asked New York Times media columnist David Carr, who covered the conference in 2007, for some advice. Here are some excerpts from our phone conversation;

Sun Valley: Where the money is

Allen & Co’s Sun Valley media and technology conference have included tennis pro Mats Wilander, Chicago singer Peter Cetera, actors Clint Eastwood and Demi Moore and Egyptian billionaire Mohamed al-Fayed.

With so many rich and famous media and technology tycoons hanging out at the Idaho retreat, now in its 27th year, it’s natural that other friends of Herb Allen from the financial and deals world are showing up.

Here’s a list of expected attendees from the world of capitalism — including financial company executives, portfolio managers, venture capital investors and private equity chieftains, to name a few. Keep in mind that this list might not be complete.