Yahoo, Microsoft may want to check with Icahn

yahoo.jpgSo Microsoft is now proposing a new deal: This one could be some sort of partnership or joint venture for search-related advertising to take on Google Inc, the New York Times reports.

Just one problem. Carl Icahn doesn’t appear to be hot on the idea. Reuters, citing a person familiar his with the financier’s thinking, reports that this latest talk about an partial Microsoft-Yahoo alliance could prompt the billionaire investor to press Yahoo to further pursue a deal with Google.

“Microsoft is trying to get the milk without buying the cow, and if you look at Icahn’s history, he has never been used that way,” said this person. “He does not want to see Yahoo pushed into some joint venture with Microsoft and is not going to be used to push Yahoo into it.”

Icahn launched a proxy campaign last week to replace Yahoo’s board, saying it acted irrationally in refusing Microsoft’s $47.5 billion bid.

Icahn’s presence further complicates the Yahoo situation. He’s accumulated 59 million shares and options in Yahoo and has the support of Paulson & Co, a $30 billion hedge fund that has amassed a 3.4 percent stake in Yahoo, and other investors upset by the board’s handling of negotiations with Microsoft.

At Fox, two new dramas; half as many commercials

peter.jpgTired of all those commercials? Don’t have a DVR? Fox reckons it has something for you. Forget the name (they’re calling it Remote Free TV) and concentrate on the concept: a big tentpole drama with half the normal commercials and promotional time.

Fox will first try out this idea with “Fringe,” an FBI, mystery, science-fiction, thriller, supernatural drama from J.J. Abrams that’s rolling out this fall.  Come midseason, it will do the commercial shrinking thing with ”Dollhouse” from Joss Whedon, who was behind teen supernatural hit “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”

Fox Entertainment Chairman Peter Liguori — after calling his network scrappy and populist — told advertisers at the upfront that he refused to let things get boring. “We’re the number one network. We’re the rebel innovators.”

The Upfronts are dead, long live the Upfronts

upfront2.jpgFor years we have interviewed media analyst/newsletter editor/industry maven Jack Myers about the television upfronts. We have tried to track him down at upfront parties, cocktail napkin in hand, to get his initial reaction on the new shows trotted out by the networks while he talks to the most senior executives. We have written up his forecasts and predictions on how many billions of advertising dollars the nets will say they have booked.

And now, in what may be the most definitive sign that more than 50 years of upfront fanfare has come to an end, Myers says he will no longer prognosticate on their outcome, according to an e-mail newsletter sent round today:

This year, I am not offering predictions nor will I report after-the-fact on network Upfront revenues. The Upfront is no longer a representative indicator of network performance and the information released by the networks is, at best, questionable. If a network ever actually reports poor performance in the Upfront, then we can be assured it was a disaster.

Flying blind into the upfronts?

drone.jpgOne thing you can bank on next week is that the TV networks won’t be showing off dazzling pilots of new shows at the upfronts, as we highlighted in a preview.

Executives have made no secret of the fact that pilots are costly, and, it seems, not all that useful. Already, NBC previewed their season with little more than a few very, very short clips. CBS, ABC and Fox aren’t expected to offer a whole lot more.

So what do advertising buyers think of this brave new world without pilots? Are they and their clients comfortable shelling out big bucks without seeing a full episode of a new comedy or drama.