NBC winning big in the games

swim.jpg NBC is putting up big numbers so far in the Olympics.

Start with the opening ceremony. While some complained that the event couldn’t be seen live in the United States, the move to delay the broadcast and run it during prime-time paid dividends. Some 34 million viewers tuned in, up about 35 percent since the last summer games.

Indeed, helped by the splashy opening ceremony and the star power of swimmer Michael Phelps, NBC is setting the stage for what could be record Olympic viewership in America.  Over the first two days of its coverage, NBC has attracted a record 114 million total viewers – 4 million more than Atlanta in 1996 and nearly 20 million more than Athens in 2004.

Those numbers suggest that Web coverage hasn’t taken away from NBC’s TV audience.

As the Wall Street Journal writes:

In the first two days of the games, 90% of viewers watched the Games on TV alone, with nearly 10% watching on TV and online, according to Alan Wurtzel, NBC’s president of research. Only 0.2% watched on the Internet alone, Mr. Wurtzel said.

“The streaming will not diminish the ratings,” said Neal Pilson, a sports-media consultant who advised the International Olympic Committee in negotiations for broadcast rights. “It encourages viewers and provides them with information. There will be no dilution or fragmentation of the national audience.”

Google’s investment in AOL heading down

toilet.jpgFive percent of AOL may not be what it used to be.

Many thought that was the case, but now even Google says so, conceding in a filing that its stake in Time Warner Inc’s AOL unit may be worth less than the $1 billion the Web company paid for it in 2006. “We believe our investment in AOL may be impaired,” Google said in its quarterly financial filing.

Here’s what people are saying about it.

Silicon Alley Insider:

Of course, we knew that already. The highest estimates of AOL’s value these days usually top out at around $10 billion ($15 billion if Microsoft goes into a testosterone-fueled bidding-war rage). This would put the value of Google’s 5% stake at, say, $500 million to $750 million.

What’s most interesting about Google’s AOL note, however, is that the company believes the impairment may be temporary (expressed below as not believing the impairment is other than temporary). This is a polite way of saying that Google is dreaming that AOL might actually recoup some of its vaporized value someday.

Gabelli to Cablevision: Stop teasing!

gabelli.jpgIs silver-haired media investor Mario Gabelli playing matchmaker?

In an interview, he says that it’s about time Cablevision get down to business and hook up with Time Warner Cable. Gabelli, who runs hedge fund Gamco Investors,  a top Cablevision shareholder, tells Bloomberg the family run cable operator and networks company should be “making love with Time Warner Cable.”

Gabelli’s proposal goes much further than the potential moves proposed by Cablevision CEO Jim Dolan. Not content with just a stock buyback or a dividend or even just spinning off some businesses, Gabelli suggests Cablevision should do nothing less than break up the company and hand over the cash to shareholders.

It’s no secret how Time Warner Cable has coveted Cablevision’s New York area cable systems. On more than several occasions over the past decade, Time Warner has held talks to varying degrees to snatch the systems.

No more free TVs ding FiOS growth

dennystrigl-verizoncoo.jpgVerizon’s new fiber optic (FiOS) TV service added fewer subscribers this quarter with just 176,000 compared with 263,000 in the first quarter. This  surprised some analysts who had expected FiOS to continue its same rapid pace of growth, backed by Verizon’s huge marketing spend and aggressive push.

But Verizon Chief Operating Officer Denny Strigl (pictured)  told analysts the slowdown in FiOS TV growth was explained by the end of Verizon’s popular promotion giving away free high definition television sets.

On the plus side, not giving away TV sets helped keep mounting subscriber acquisition costs under control thereby boosting its bottom line, the No. 2 U.S. phone company told Wall Street.

Madison Square Garden gets into the management game

jim-dolan.jpgMadison Square Garden, the storied New York City sports and entertainment venue owned by the Dolan family’s Cablevision Systems Corp, is getting further into the music business with a deal to take a minority stake in artist management company Front Line, it said on Wednesday.

Front Line’s backers seem to be the who’s who of New York media moguldom with stakeholders like Barry Diller’s IAC Interactive and Edgar Bronfman Jr’s Warner Music Group.

Front Line, led by Irving Azoff, is described as the world’s largest personal music management firm with artist clients including the Eagles, Jimmy Buffett, Neil Diamond and Christina Aguilera.

Cablevision sweet on Newsday; suitors circling

madison-square-garden.jpgWho says the newspaper business is doomed? Circulation and advertising may be in the dumps, sure, but judging from the bidders lining up to buy Newsday there are plenty of moguls still keen on newspapers.

The latest development: The Wall Street Journal reports that Cablevision is planning to bid as much as $650 million for the Long Island daily, which likely catapults it ahead of other bidders like News Corp, which owns the New York Post, and Mortimer Zuckerman, who owns the Daily News.

Cablevision’s bid could come within two days, the report said, adding that it was unclear whether whether Cablevision is working with New York Observer owner Jared Kushner in its offer. Beyond Cablevision’s cable assets, it owns the New York Knicks, the New York Rangers, Madison Square Garden and Radio City Music Hall.