MediaFile

Microsoft’s Mehdi sees Bing in the black

Microsoft’s Bing search engine hasn’t put a dent in Google’s mastery of the market yet, but executive Yusuf Mehdi thinks it could do so soon, once the search ad partnership with Yahoo is completed.

Bing might even make some money eventually, he suggested in an interview today, once advertisers start to see it as a creditable alternative to Google.

But how long does it have to achieve those goals? Microsoft has lost more than $5 billion in its online business in the last four years. The company keeps saying it is a long-term project, but surely it has to see results soon.

Mehdi’s answer to that question in the clip below, and his thoughts on the delayed relaunch of the MSN portal,  from an interview at Bing’s headquarters in Bellevue, Washington today.

from DealZone:

No longer just a dumb pipe

Comcast's deal to buy a majority stake in NBC Universal from General Electric should put to rest fears at the cable operator that King Content will kill its business. But even if it becomes a thoroughfare of programming genius, the new venture will still have to convince a skeptical marketplace. The train wreck of Time Warner-AOL threw the idea of new media into financial purgatory.

Just how the venture will wring savings from its disparate businesses and avoid suffocating regulatory scrutiny are issues that could also create Comcastic headaches.  Robert MacMillan points out on our Mediafile blog, with a sensible dose of skepticism, that the new venture is affirming its commitment to local news, in effect, promising to keep the garden hoses pumping even as it primes for a media gusher with big-ticket programming.

Still, while making a new media juggernaut could still turn out to be a pipe dream, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts (pictured above) cannot be faulted for allowing his company to get stuck in a dumb pipe nightmare.

from Summit Notebook:

What will the media company of the 21st Century look like?

In the run-up to the annual Reuters Media Summit, taking place in New York and London next week, we have been asking experts and executives how they think media companies should reinvent themselves for the 21st Century.

Will the big need to get bigger? See Comcast's bid for a controlling stake in NBC Universal.

Or will it be a question of being slimmer and more focused? Like Time Warner,  which is now essentially a pure content company after spinning off Time Warner Cable in March and AOL next week.

Google’s Brin clears the air (sort of) on Twitter

Before this week’s dueling Google and Microsoft search licensing deals with Twitter, a recurring rumor in Silicon Valley had Google trying to buy Twitter outright.

So when Google co-founder Sergey Brin made a surprise appearance at the Web 2.0 conference in San Francisco on Thursday, the stage was set to finally put the record straight.

Showing that ten years in the media spotlight have not been wasted on him however, Brin displayed a deft command of language to duck the question.

Time Warner’s Bewkes: ‘No no, after you Brian’

If you’ve ever listened to Time Warner chief executive Jeffrey Bewkes speak, you’ll be used to his breezy, languid style. But he sounded even more so than usual on Friday at a conference in Washington D.C.  when asked about the big media story of the year so far: Comcast’s bid to take control of NBC Universal.

Comcast’s bid, led by CEO Brian Roberts, is exactly the opposite of what Bewkes has been doing at Time Warner, where rather than buying he’s spun off the cable assets and hopes to do the same with AOL by the end of this year.  So Bewkes couldn’t resist a little jab at his rival and sometimes partner:

“I don’t want to say anything that would discourage Brian from continuing in this pursuit that he has,” Bewkes said to laughter from the audience.

Barry Diller’s take on Microsoft, Yahoo and more

Few in the media business know dealmaking better than Barry Diller.

So it comes as little surprise that the head of IAC/Interactive was asked about both the Microsoft-Yahoo deal and the AOL separation during an earnings conference call today. He sounded upbeat on both situations.

Here are some excepts:

Microsoft-Yahoo:

One significant thing that happened is we’re not going have to talk about whether or not it’s going to happen anymore [Ed -Amen to that!]. Look, Microsoft will be able to report a greater share in terms of search and get — at least in some minds of the talkers — into being up there in competing terms with Google. And Yahoo doesn’t have to spend anymore money on search. As far as being able to execute, that is very complicated.

For us, I think that the significance is we want, need, must have at least two competitive forces, big competitive forces… I want to have two players out there wanting to get our incremental business, which is, of course, of real value to the companies.

from DealZone:

AOL then and now

Anyone want to take a shot at what's behind Time Warner's repurchase of a 5 percent stake in AOL held by Google? Time Warner sold the stake in December 2005 for $1 billion. Now, it has bought it back for $238 million -- a nice job of selling high and buying low. Time Warner plans to spin off AOL by the end of the year.

The 2005 deal implied a chunky price tag of $20 billion for AOL. While it may not be exactly apples to apples, the repurchase implies a value of about $5.7 billion.

Brigantine Advisors analyst Colin Gillis said the implied $5.7 billion represents a "floor valuation " as AOL moves toward a spinoff. If that's true, then Google not only overpaid, but undersold.

AOL CEO: We still like TMZ and TMZ still likes us

AOL Chief Tim Armstrong has done several interviews with the press to mark the first 100 days in the role. In most of the articles he explains his focus on advertising primarily built around AOL’s collection of premium content brands.

No brand is more premium right now, in advertising terms, than TMZ.com, the Hollywood gossip website AOL jointly owns with Telepictures. Both AOL and Telepictures are units of Time Warner Inc.

TMZ is currently one of the hottest properties on the Web, especially after it was the first to break news of Michael Jackson’s death. In the Web advertising world it caused a bit of a stir by deciding to handle its own advertising sales rather than use the girth of AOL’s team.

With Apple, Microsoft ahead, this is no time for vacation

Get ready for another big week of earnings, with Apple, Microsoft and Yahoo the highlights (at least in our world).

Interestingly, talk about both Microsoft and Apple has been pretty positive ahead of their quarterly results, despite the rancid economy. When it comes to Apple, whose stock has been among the best performers in tech this year, the chatter is about the new iPhone, which it launched in June to big fanfare.

“I think the key is that core consumer demand is there,” Hudson Square Research analyst Daniel Ernst said in a recent Reuters story. “There are lines for $400 phones. Clearly they’re well positioned, and when the PC market comes back, we believe they’re going to take significant share.”

from Commentaries:

I am thinking of rebranding myself as Zing

Some tech links to start the week:

I am seriously considering changing my byline to Zing, what with all the media attention a certain search engine is getting.

Bing search for Eric Auchard

The New York Times looks at the ups and downs of turning brands into verbs. The jumping off point is Bing, Microsoft's effort at verbal one-upsmanship over Google, Twitter and over generic daily activities. The software giant must alter deeply ingrained computer habits to succeed. In the meantime, my original questions about Bing remain.

The more substantial news this week would be if Microsoft finally inks a search and advertising partnership with Yahoo Inc. It's not easy to overcome deal speculation fatigue -- it's been a year-and-a-half since Microsoft sought to acquire Yahoo outright, and a year since it dropped back to Plan B and sought out a more limited partnership deal. Boomtown reported Friday that Microsoft is down to a few short strokes away from signing.  Henry Blodget makes the point that Microsoft may have to pay up far more than the $1 billion it was offering a year back for such a deal.  Closing a deal now suggests renewed desperation on Microsoft's part after the paltry gain it received from Bing in June market share statistics for U.S. web search.