MediaFile

TV Content wars, blackouts could spur M+A

Dish customers: No 'Breaking Bad' for you! (Photo: Reuters)

 

Evercore analyst Bryan Kraft believes the prolonged blackout that has left DirecTV’s 20 million subscribers without MTV, Comedy Central or Nickelodeon for a week, could lead to some industry consolidation.

In a research note out late Wednesday night, the analyst said if content providers Viacom, as well as home of ‘Breaking Bad’,AMC, which was dropped from No. 2  satellite provider Dish Network in July, get the upper hand, it raises the chances of a merger between satellite companies and cable providers.

If DirecTV and Dish comes out the winners, he said, it encourages cable TV networks to merge, but only when their valuations fall. DirecTV has pushed backed against what it claims are exorbitant increases in Viacom’s programming fees that it says it does not want to pass on to customers.

And DirecTV viewers aren’t the only ones suffering. Kraft estimates that the dispute is making Viacom lose about $14 million a week. Meanwhile DirecTV would need to lose 1.15 million subscribers before its cash flow was impacted. Kraft said that if DirecTV expects to lose more than 1.15 million subscribers, it should pay up the $3 per subscriber fee Viacom is likely seeking.

As one of the most high profile blackouts stretches into its second week, time will tell whether the spat will be the one that changes the pay TV landscape for good or whether it just causes viewers to change the channel.

Twist – a new app for the punctuality-challenged

The minds of Silicon Valley have yet to find the cure for tardiness, but they have figured out a way to make being late less rude.

A new app call Twist notifies friends and colleagues when you’re running late, calculating the estimated time of arrival to your destination on-the-fly and zipping off text messages to the people waiting for you.

The free app, available on Wednesday for iOS devices, can be used for trips by car, bike, foot and public transportation in most major U.S. cities. In development for the past year, the app’s algorithms crunch through various data streams, such as the average speed you travel and real-time traffic patterns, to calculate ETAs that co-founder Mike Belshe says are 98 percent accurate.

Mayer can’t save Yahoo – because Yahoo can’t be saved

Yahoo eats CEOs. The perennially ailing company lures talented managers into the corner suite of its Silicon Valley headquarters, then it sucks their good reputations out of their veins and casts them aside. They inevitably pass through the revolving door an empty shell of their former selves.

Terry Semel, Jerry Yang, Carol Bartz, Scott Thompson. All took the CEO helm with visions of invigorating Yahoo into an Internet leader for the 21st century. Most became mired in Yahoo’s stubbornly byzantine culture. And all probably collected their severance checks wishing to themselves they’d never heard of the company with its stupid hillbilly name and its superfluous punctuation mark.*

Now it’s Marissa Mayer’s turn. Mayer – an early Google hire who instrumentally forged its successes in search, maps and online email – has become such a positive, likable presence in Silicon Valley that I actually felt sorry for her when I heard it was her time to be Yahoo’s help. A failed tenure as Yahoo’s CEO couldn’t happen to a better-qualified candidate.

Finally, a reason to exclaim Yahoo!

Forget the cloud wars, the tablet wars and whither Digg. The summer tech news doldrums just got a jolt. Now we have a real story.

One of Google’s earliest and most respected employees, the highly visible Marissa Mayer, has left the search giant to become the CEO of Yahoo. This kind of thing doesn’t happen all that often, since Google is still one of the top workplaces in Silicon Valley and, even with its stock price well off historical highs, still considered an ascendant company in the high-stakes, “live fast and die hard” high-tech industry.

But most interesting is why Mayer is moving on: Not to relive her youth at a startup and prove that she isn’t a one-hit wonder. No, Mayer has agreed to move not to the garage but to the corner office to fix one of the tech industry’s most infamous basket cases.

With Openbucks investment, Jerry Yang goes a little less Yahoo, a little more show-me-the-money

Let one Ms. Marissa Mayer worry about how to turn around Yahoo, the struggling Internet company he co-founded. Jerry Yang,  43, has focused his attention to an increasingly hot field: online payments.

Mountain View, Calif.-based Openbucks has reeled in Yang as its latest investor. He led a $4.8 million funding round for the company, joined by former Yahoo CEO Terry Semel, Greycroft Partners, SV Angel, and others.

Openbucks allows customers to purchase gift cards from companies such as Burger King, CVS and Subway. They can take those cards and use them to purchase things online beyond the products sold by the vendor of the gift card. Right now, that’s gaming services only, but Openbucks says the cash will help it expand to other services and stores.

African Web video service Iroko raises more funds, targets cable TV

A store in Nairobi, Kenya selling Nollywood movies (Photo: Reuters)

Iroko Partners, an online distributor of African movies and music, has raised another $2 million in its latest round of funding from a Swedish venture capital group as it seeks to take the service to cable and satellite TV partners in the U.S. and Europe.
The Lagos, Nigeria-based company raised the funds from Sweden’s Kinnevik, an early investor in Groupon Inc. Iroko previously raised $8 million from U.S.-based hedge fund Tiger Global in April as investors in emerging markets seek to tap into one of the fastest growing movie businesses in the world.

Kinnevik investments head, Henrik Persson, said his firm, which has invested in African telecoms, sees tremendous opportunity in African media and online services. “It has very low penetration and we see a really strong growth trend. He added: “A part of our investment philosophy is that we think that the perceived risk is higher than the real risk in this market..what people see as a lack of opportunity is a lack of supply.”

Iroko has focused on forming partnerships with most of Nigeria’s leading filmmakers for distribution on its own platform as well as with major partners like Google Inc’s YouTube.
Though the majority of Iroko’s operations are based in Lagos, it also has set up offices in London and New York.
Founder Jason Njoku said the majority of the company’s revenues come from users across the African Diaspora in the United States, Britain and Canada and other countries outside the continent.
The Nigerian movie industry is now widely acknowledged as the third largest after Hollywood and India’s Bollywood in terms of the number of movies produced. While so-called Nollywood movies are typically distributed within Nigeria and around the world on DVD or Video-CD discs, Njoku spotted a gap in the market to digitize the movies for online distribution. Most of the Web viewers have been in developed countries with fast-enough Internet traffic speeds to enable video streaming.
The company’s revenues are predominantly generated through advertising around the movies. But in July it launched a monthly subscription with the promise of earlier windows for fans to catch new films without advertising.
Since launching two weeks ago the subscription service Iroko TV has signed up just under 5,000 paying subscribers according to Njoku. It already had 560,000 registered users since the Iroko TV service launched in January.
“Our users have such an intense relationship with the content, they spend hours watching.”
Njoku said the new funding will focus primarily on helping expand operations outside Nigeria. He said the next stage for the company is to find ways of licensing its partners’ content to cable, satellite TV companies and international airlines.
“The Internet is one of the most poorly monetized platforms for content,” said Njoku. “Since we’re platform-agnostic it would be mad for us not to try and form relationships with TV.”
Iroko sees itself as a global business with pan-African roots so it is also looking to license more movies and other content from around Africa from countries like Ghana and Kenya among others.

Survey: VCs more confident investing domestically, in IT sectors

If every cloud has a silver lining, the silver lining for global venture capitalists during the current economic gloom appears to be cloud computing, according to results of a confidence survey from Deloitte and the National Venture Capital Association released Monday.

The first Global Venture Capital Confidence Survey measured the input of more than 440 venture capital, private equity and growth equity investors from around the world, revealing that global VCs have higher confidence investing domestically versus abroad and in information technology sectors like cloud computing and social media.

Venture capitalists favored Brazil, China and the United States for investing, showing the least confidence in France, Japan and South Africa. Cloud computing, software and new media/social networking held the most confidence by industry, with the lowest confidence in semiconductors, telecommunications and clean technologies.

50 shades of like

We are losing our faith in TV news as fast as those high-speed chases it’s so happy to show us. At the same time, we’re driving like maniacs on the social-media highway, letting it all hang out with the top down.

What do they have to do with each other? Both are advertiser-supported media. One prints money, the other not so much, at least not yet. And yet one is on the downswing, the other ascendant. What does this say about human nature and tapping into elusive and guilty pleasures?

In its annual poll, Gallup Politics found that only 21 percent of respondents expressed a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in TV news – less than half what it was when the poll was first conducted in 1993, but down only a point from last year.

Google’s Schmidt wants to put you in a self-driving car

Google executives never miss a chance to talk up the futuristic self-driving cars the company is developing.

Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt gave an update on Google’s automotive efforts during a chit-chat with reporters at the Allen & Co conference in Sun Valley on Thursday.

“We have had conversations with all of the manufacturers globally, when politicians come by we love to put them in the car and drive them around at full blast,” Schmidt said.

Ad startup SessionM nabs big clients, expands

Advertisers have long sought to grab the attention of the notoriously inattentive mobile user. And Lars Albright is seeking to provide just that by “gamifying” mobile ads.

The co-founder of Quattro Wireless, which was bought by mobile device giant Apple for $275 million in 2009, left Apple last year to start SessionM, which aims to engage mobile users by tempting them to play a game, watch a video, take a poll or share information with friends – all for “M” points.

The “M” points can then be redeemed for anything from gift cards to discounts to charitable donations.