MediaFile

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.

Bewkes agreed with suggestions that Comcast might be doing this for a share in the growing cable business. 

“They may have concerns about their future in cable and they may want to hedge into what they think is a better long-term business, which is the branded content business. It’s a good business, it’s one that everybody should want to get in. We’re in it, we’re very nicely placed in it.”

Tuesday media wrapup

News about the media industry:

Google Makes a Case That It Isn’t So Big (NYT)
“Google has begun this public-relations offensive because it is in the midst of a treacherous rite of passage for powerful technology companies — regulators are intensely scrutinizing its every move, as they once did with AT&T, I.B.M., Intel and Microsoft,” writes Miguel Helft.
> Graphic about Google share of all ads and online ads (Lost Remote)

Media and cable now the riskiest sector (Reuters)
“Default risk for the media and cable sector has risen from its already high levels a year ago, CreditSights said. Rising leverage, along with a protracted decline in advertising revenues that was accelerated by the U.S. recession, are behind the higher risk,” writes Dena Aubin.

Sun-Times seeks more time to reorganize (Crain’s)
“Lawyers for Sun-Times Media are asking for three more months to come up with an exit strategy, a request they considered “neither surprising nor remarkable.” The publisher currently has until July 29 to submit a reorganization plan,” writes Lorene Yue.

Media Wrapup

Here is a selection of the day’s stories about the media industry:

US TV prepares for $2bn ad shortfall (FT)

“Digital video recorders that allow viewers to skip through commercials have knocked confidence in broadcast and cable advertising while younger, tech-savvy audiences are deserting their TV sets to spend more time online,” writes the Financial Times.

Smartphones, social networks to boost mobile advertising (Reuters)

Reuters reports: “As more consumers embrace new technologies and devices such as smartphones, personified by Apple’s iPhone, mobile advertising is seen growing at an annual average of 45 percent to reach $28.8 billion within 5 years from a current $3.1 billion, according to Ineum Consulting.”

Journalism Rules Are Bent in News Coverage From Iran (NYT)

Brian Stelter writes: “In a news vacuum, amateur videos and eyewitness accounts became the de facto source for information. In fact, the symbol of the protests, the image of a young woman named Neda bleeding to death on a Tehran street, was filmed by two people holding camera phones.”

New Internet ad technique can warn of emergencies

Location, Location, Location.

The World Wide Web has never had it, because there was no ordinary way for advertisers to know where someone was sitting as they surfed. That has made it impossible for the local hardware store to advertise to its neighborhood, or for national advertisers to target their ads geographically. It has also meant that cities did not have the means to warn residents surfing the web of a broken water main, an approaching storm, a forest fire, or a flash flood.  That may be about to change.

Feeva, a Silicon Valley start-up, has invented a way for advertisers to pay for “geo-demographic” placement. In effect, that means advertisers can choose their own zip or postal code — just as they do for mailers.

“What you get in your mail is all based on zip code,” said Miten Sampat, Feeva’s chief architect. “Zip code defines your income level, whether you have kids, how urban your environment is. But you can’t do this on the web, because geography is tough to guess.”

Dear advertiser, please come home

Nobody likes to be wrong, including the people who run media companies. That’s why you haven’t heard them say things like, “We think the advertising market is recovering!” At a time when every day might bring a fresh descent into financial hell as financial companies and automakers totter, media companies reeling from ad revenue declines are hesitant to say that they’ve hit a bottom.

But consider some of the comments that Viacom executives made during their conference call with Wall Street bean counters this morning to discuss quarterly financial results. Here they are as they appeared in the alerts we sent out on the wire:

    08:12 30Apr2009 RTRS-VIACOM INC’S <VIAb.N> CEO SAYS NOT SEEING ANY FURTHER DETERIORATION IN THE ADVERTISING MARKET 08:33 30Apr2009 RTRS-VIACOM INC’S <VIAb.N> CEO SAYS CUSTOMERS ARE STARTING TO FEEL MORE CONFIDENT ABOUT A RECOVERY EMERGING LATER IN THE YEAR AND GOING INTO NEXT YEAR 08:34 30Apr2009 RTRS-VIACOM INC’S <VIAb.N> CEO SAYS “WE’RE FEELING CONSIDERABLY BETTER” THAN TWO OR THREE MONTHS AGO

That sounds suspiciously like optimism. It also fits in with some of the comments that we’ve heard from newspaper publishers such as USA Today owner Gannett Co Inc. Magazine publisher and local TV station owner Meredith Corp had similar thoughts about the ad outlook.

Lifetime, Scripps pitch advertisers

How do you sell TV advertising in this environment? If you’re Scripps Networks, you trumpet the product integration available in your make-over and do-it-yourself programs. You also make no bones about how difficult things are for advertisers and consumers.

At Tuesday’s Scripps upfront presentation (held at Cipriani 42nd Street), executives talked about these “very difficult and challenging times” and described viewers as “disillusioned,” “anxious,” and “frustrated.”

“There has never been a more important time than right now to reach out to viewers about their homes” said one Scripps executive.

Verizon launches interactive ads on FiOS

Looking to expand its options for video content,  Verizon has quietly started to emulate DVD video technology in its FiOS television system. This means that its on-demand video offerings will eventually include interactive options such as extra chapters, subtitles or files with information about the actors in a show, just like movie DVDs have offered for years.

It’s also a way for the company to offer interactive advertising, currently on display under the marketplace option in its FiOS TV service menu. So if you like a car ad, you could click on a option to see more before you buy.

And because the adverts can be made in the DVD format it means “advertising sooner, easier and cheaper,” according to Joseph Ambeault, consumer video product development director of Verizon.

Microsoft, Gates master the art of product placement

There is no better way to learn about the art of product placement than to learn from the masters. Today, that means Microsoft Corp and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, both of which were the subject of articles about how they’re delivering their messages like little pills wrapped in the sugar coating of the entertainment you consume.

Ad Age:

Can Microsoft market its way out of the search basement? Probably not, but it’s going to try, entrusting [ad] agency JWT to craft a campaign for its new search engine, alternately dubbed Kumo or Project Kiev or Live Search, depending on who’s talking about it. … The service is being tested and is expected to make its debut in the summer. … Industry executives expect JWT, part of WPP, to unveil an estimated $80 million to $100 million push for the new search engine in June, with online, TV, print and radio executions. Microsoft spent $361 million on U.S. measured media in 2008, the bulk of it devoted to brand advertising and smaller chunks to other Microsoft brands such as Xbox and MSN, according to TNS Media Intelligence data.

The New York Times:

The huge [Gates] foundation, brimming with billions of dollars from Mr. Gates and Warren Buffett, is well known for its myriad projects around the world to promote health and education. It is less well known as a behind-the-scenes influencer of public attitudes toward these issues by helping to shape story lines and insert messages into popular entertainment like the television shows “ER,” “Law & Order: SVU” and “Private Practice.” The foundation’s messages on H.I.V. prevention, surgical safety and the spread of infectious diseases have found their way into these shows.

Now showing: The cable show

The big story in the media for the rest of the week is the annual National Cable Telecommunications Association Show, or “the cable show,” as its commonly called.

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.

Here is our own take on the show from the Reuters wire:

Both sets of companies will be brainstorming on how to cope with or benefit from disintermediation: consumers can now watch decent-quality video online whenever they want, and often for free.

Charter: The start of the end, or a new start?

Paul Allen’s Charter Communications has officially filed for bankruptcy, citing $24.2 billion in debt and $13.1 billion in assets.

The move has been expected for months. Still, it makes you wonder: Is this a good or bad thing for the company? For the industry?

That depends on who you are. As far as the company is concerned, the action gets its a $3 billion injection from investors.