MediaFile

Tech wrap: Liberty Media eyes Nook e-reader

Some see e-readers as the poor cousin to more glamorous tablets, but that may soon be about to change. Billionaire media mogul John Malone, whose Liberty Media owns DirecTV Group and the QVC shopping channel, may be interested in buying the Barnes & Noble chain specifically for its Nook e-reader, according to a person familiar with the company’s thinking behind the deal.

The Nook is now the second biggest e-book seller, behind Amazon, which only yesterday announced is now selling more e-books than print books. With Liberty as a backer, Barnes & Noble and the Nook may be well positioned to compete against Amazon and Apple.

Hackers set their sights on Sony – again, this time hacking into the company’s Internet service provider So-Net, stealing virtual points worth $1,225 from account holders. This after Japan’s Kyodo news agency reported that Sony was considering re-starting its U.S. based online games service on Tuesday, after shutting it down last month when the company discovered hackers had accessed the accounts of more than 100 million users.

An explosion at a Foxconn factory in China shook Apple shares slightly, sending them one percent lower after local news media said the factory was involved in the production of the iPad2.

And the Reuters Global Technology Summit wrapped up with word that American consumers can soon expect to swipe their cellphones to pay for things as companies will soon begin to roll out their “virtual wallet” technology.

Sun Valley: Jane Goodall and the primary primates

John MaloneIt’s day three of the Sun Valley media conference and the event has started to feel like a Jane Goodall documentary, in which we’re Jane and the moguls are the apes who have become comfortable letting us observe and record their movements. Several media executives groggily making their way to the morning’s first session (scheduled to kick off at 7:30), stopped to chat with the throng of press waiting to greet them.

Liberty Media Chairman John Malone voiced concerns about the economy for nearly 10 minutes while NBC’s Jeff Zucker, who once warned of the risks to media companies of trading analog dollars for digital pennies and later upped the exchange rate to dimes, posited the idea that the media industry was now within reach of collecting digital quarters. It’s change we can believe in.

Later on Thursday, Google’s chief executive Eric Schmidt (who for reasons unknown has been toting a camera with a beefy zoom lens throughout the event, even after-hours at the bar on Wednesday evening) will hold his traditional Sun Valley press roundtable, possibly with co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, who are here.

CORRECTED-Sun Valley: YouTube’s most valuable customer

Corrects blog post to show Buffett was talking about YouTube, not Facebook.

Attention YouTube: Warren Buffett wants to give you money.

That’s the word from Liberty Media Chairman John Malone, who sat on a panel about digital media at the Allen & Co confab in Sun Valley on Tuesday.

Malone told reporters on the sidelines of the event that billionaire investor Buffet, aka the Oracle of Omaha, had told him privately that he would be willing to pay $5 a month to use YouTube, the popular video site owned by Google.

YouTube, of course, is a free Web service which makes its money through advertising. But other popular social media like Twitter have yet to generate revenue, and monetizing social networks is a big topic of discussion among the media and tech executives gathered for the conference.

Sun Valley: Ken Auletta paints it, black

Allen & Co’s Sun Valley media and technology conference forbids journalists from attending the morning sessions that executives and other media power players attend before they go out to play and talk about deals in the afternoon. That means the last, best hope they have is to get the low-down from a journalist who was invited.

There’s no pride in it, but at least you hear what happened from a reliable source.

In this case, that’s Ken Auletta, New Yorker media writer and author of several books about the media business. He moderated a panel about surviving in the digital age.

Sun Valley: A Who’s Who in pictures

Nearly every powerful media and technology executive you can think of will be camping out in the idyllic and affluent ski resort town of Sun Valley this week. Here are just a few…

Robert Kotick, CEO of Activision Blizzard, Michael Larson of Cascade Investments and Ron Meyer, president and COO Universal Studios arrive at the Sun Valley Inn.

Fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg and her husband Barry Diller, chairman and CEO of IAC/InterActivecorp, arrive at the Sun Valley Inn with Eric Eisner.

Sun Valley: The stars align

Allen & Co’s 27th Sun Valley media and technology conference starts on July 7 and ends on July 12. In the meantime, expect media writers to breathlessly report, blog, tweet, photograph and record the event. Why the fuss? There are literally hundreds of people coming who are known to do nothing else than run the universe when it comes to TV shows, movies, telecoms, the Internet and all sorts of other electronic communications. We have lists of all the people who bankroll them as well, along with a list of other interesting people you will find there.

Here, meanwhile, are the big men and women of media and technology who justify the travel budgets that increasingly hard-up news organizations have to put out for your favorite folks in the press corps to hide behind the hedges and hope for a handout that will break news, move markets and excite our editors. Keep in mind: this list is not a guarantee that these people are showing up; it’s just an invitation list (arranged alphabetically by company). We’ll update it as we learn more. (Our boldface names indicate some general viewpoint that they’re the stars of the stars.)

    James McCann, CEO, 1-800-flowers.com. Bobby Kotick, CEO, Activision Blizzard Inc. Also Brian Kelly, co-chairman. Jeff Bezos, CEO, Amazon.com Inc. Tim Armstrong, chairman and CEO, AOL Michael Ovitz, AMSEF LLC, former uber-talent agent at Creative Artists Agency and former Walt Disney Co executive. Gerhard Zeiler, CEO, RTL Group, Bertelsmann AG. Bill and Melinda Gates, of the foundation of the same name. Bill, of course, co-founded Microsoft Corp. Mark Vadon, executive chairman, Blue Nile Inc. James Dolan, president, CEO, Cablevision Systems Corp. Leslie Moonves, president, CEO, CBS Corp. Also Neil Ashe, president, CBS Interactive. Also Quincy Smith, CEO, CBS Interactive. (And a former Allen & Co man.) Charlie Rose, interviewer and anchor on the Charlie Rose Show Anthony Bloom, Cineworld plc Richard Parsons, chairman, Citigroup Inc. Former CEO, Time Warner Inc. Lowry Mays, chairman, Clear Channel Communications Inc. Ralph Roberts, founder, chairman emeritus, Comcast Corp. Also Stephen Burke, president and COO, Comcast Cable. Patrick Condo, president, CEO, Convera Corp. Jimmy Hayes, CEO, Cox Enterprises Inc. Richard Lovett, president, Creative Artists Agency Inc. Also Bryan Lourd, managing partner. Michael Dell, chairman and CEO, Dell Inc. Richard Rosenblatt, chairman and CEO, Demand Media. He used to work at MySpace’s parent company before News Corp bought it. Chase Carey, former DirecTV CEO and Rupert Murdoch’s new No. 2 man at News Corp. John Hendricks, founder and chairman, Discovery Communications. Also president and CEO David Zaslav. Jeffrey Katzenberg, CEO, DreamWorks Animation SKG. John Donahoe, president and CEO, eBay Inc. Dara Khosrowshahi, president and CEO, Expedia Inc. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. (We’ve heard conflicting reports about whether he’ll show. Either way, he’s still on our list.) Tom Freston, principal, Firefly3 LLC. Former Viacom executive. Martin Varsavsky, CEO, FON Jeff Immelt, chairman and CEO, General Electric Co. Jeff Zucker, CEO, NBC Universal. (GE) Ronald Meyer, president and COO, Universal Studios. (GE) Eric Schmidt, chairman and CEO, Google. Also co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page. Juan Luis Cebrian, CEO, Grupo Prisa. Also Ignacio Polanco, chairman. Emilio Azcarraga, chairman and president, Grupo Televisa. Also Alfonso de Angoitia, executive vp. Christopher Schroeder, CEO, HealthCentral. Also former CEO of Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive. Cathleen Black, president, Hearst Magazines. R. Todd Bradley, executive vp, personal systems group, Hewlett-Packard Co. Also CEO Mark Hurd. Barry Diller, chairman, CEO, IAC/InterActiveCorp. Also chairman, Expedia Inc. Also Victor Kaufman, vice chairman, IAC/InterActiveCorp. Lachlan Murdoch, executive chairman, Illyria Pty Ltd. Son of News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch. Craig Barrett, former CEO, chairman, Intel Corp. Also Sean Maloney, executive vp, chief sales and marketing officer. Jeffrey Berg, chairman and CEO, International Creative Management. Also president Christopher Silbermann. Michael Volpi, formerly of Cisco Systems Inc and Joost. Eric Eisner, L+E Pictures. Son of former Walt Disney Co. CEO Michael Eisner. Kevin Reilly, CEO, Lamar Advertising Co. Michael Fries, president and CEO, Liberty Global Inc. John Malone, chairman, Liberty Media Corp. Also Greg Maffei, president and CEO. Reid Hoffman, chairman, president of products, LinkedIn Corp. Sam Altman, co-founder and CEO, Loopt Inc. Craig Mundie, chief research and strategy officer, advanced strategies and policy, Microsoft Corp. Also Robbie Bach, president of the entertainment and devices division, and Henry Vigil, senior vp, strategy and partnership. Rupert Murdoch, CEO, News Corp. Also with him is his second son, James Murdoch, chairman and CEO of News Corp’s Europe and Asia operations. Also Jonathan Miller, News Corp’s chairman and CEO for its digital media group. Former president and COO Peter Chernin, whose last day was June 30, is coming along too, in tow with CFO David DeVoe and new MySpace CEO Owen Van Natta. Gina Bianchini, CEO, Ning Inc. Jorma Ollila, chairman, Nokia Corp. Greg Wyler, founder, O3B Networks Ltd. Jeffrey Jordan, president and CEO, OpenTable Inc. Jeffery Boyd, president and CEO, priceline.com Inc. Maurice Levy, chairman and CEO, Publicis Groupe. Paul Jacobs, chairman and CEO, Qualcomm Inc. Robert Johnson, founder and chairman, the RLJ Companies. Jay Y. Lee, Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. Kenneth Lowe, chairman, president and CEO. Scripps Networks Interactive. Mel Karmazin, CEO, Sirius XM Radio Inc. Max Levchin, CEO, Slide Inc. Sir Howard Stringer, chairman and CEO, Sony Corp. Also Kazuo Hirai, president of networked products and services group; Robert Wiesenthal, executive vp and CFO, Sony Corporation of America; Michael Lynton, chairman and CEO, Sony Pictures Entertainment; Hiroshi Yoshioka, executive deputy president, president of consumer products and devices group; and Nicole Seligman, top lawyer. Nick Grouf, CEO, Spot Runner Inc. Thomas Glocer, CEO, Thomson Reuters Corp, along with Niall FitzGerald, deputy chairman. Michael Eisner, the Tornante Company LLC. Former Walt Disney Co CEO. Lars Buttler, CEO, Trion World Network Inc. Evan Williams, co-founder and chairman, Twitter Inc. David Levin, CEO, United Business Media plc. James Berkus, chairman, United Talent Agency. Brad Grey, chairman and CEO, Paramount Pictures Corp (Viacom). Sumner Redstone, chairman, Viacom. Also Philippe Dauman, president and CEO. Jean-Bernard Levy, CEO, Vivendi. Robert Iger, president and CEO, Walt Disney Co. Also Thomas Staggs, CFO. Edgar Bronfman Jr, chairman and CEO, Warner Music Group. Donald Graham, chairman, CEO, The Washington Post Co. Casey Wasserman, chairman and CEO, Wasserman Media Group LLC. Harvey Weinstein, co-chairman, The Weinstein Co. Shelby Bonnie, CEO, Whiskey Media LLC. Jim Wiatt, William Morris Endeavor. Terry Semel, chairman and CEO, Windsor Media. Former Yahoo CEO. Martin Sorrell, CEO, WPP. Anne Mulcahy, chairman, Xerox Corp. Jerry Yang, chief Yahoo. Mark Pincus, founder, CEO, Zynga Inc.

Liberty: Stern is safe — for now

So after two weeks of following all the twists and turns of Sirius XM’s attempts to avoid bankruptcy, CEO Mel Karmazin decided on John Malone, founder of Liberty Media, to come in as Sirius XM’s white knight with a $530 million loan . The loan will cover the satellite radio provider’s looming debt and help it avoid bankruptcy. As part of the deal Liberty will eventually take a 40 percent stake in Sirius’ equity.

But does this mean the big money deals that Karmazin signed with the likes of Howard Stern, Oprah Winfrey and Major League Baseball will get re-worked at a more favorable rate for the company now that there’s a new major stakeholder?

No, says Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei in an interview with Reuters.

You can look and say some of these content deals were cut at a time when there were two guys (Sirius and XM) bidding against each other in a relative frenzy. Having said that, a lot of these content relationships like Howard Stern are very valuable to this company, have been important in building the company, and are likely to be important in sustaining it.

Sirius XM shares are — wait for it — higher!

Sirius XM shareholders have seen a lot of dark days — face it, we’re talking about a stock that dropped to 15 cents a share. But today isn’t one of them. At least so far.

Indeed, shares of the satellite radio company jumped 100 percent after Liberty Media Corp agreed to lend it $530 million, allowing Sirius XM and its leader, Mel Karmazin, to sidestep a debt crisis.

The deal comes after a breathless week during which Sirius XM came under threat from EchoStar Corp and its top man Charles Ergen, a longtime rival of Karmazin, and looked very close to bankruptcy.

Karmazin, Ergen and Malone: paper tigers?

When media moguls duke it out, what’s their battleground? Newspapers, evidently.

For the past week, EchoStar boss Charlie Ergen and Sirius XM radio’s CEO Mel Karmazin have been doing battle on the pages of two venerable dailies, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. The Journal had a head start on the story, reporting how Ergen had started buying up Sirius debt in an attempt to force the satellite radio company into a deal. Then, it revealed how Ergen had actually made an offer to buy Sirius, which Karmazin rejected.

While the rest of the media was digesting all this, out came the Times with a story that said Sirius was preparing for a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing, which could come within days. It had even hired bankruptcy experts, the Times wrote. The Journal quickly swatted that idea down, saying:

New York Times needs more than cash

Cash is king for the New York Times right now.

The media world has been swirling with talk about the company looking to sell The Boston Globe and its stake in the Red Sox. Now comes news that the company has told securities regulators that it may sell shares or other securities to raise cash.

Remember, the New York Times has a $400 million credit line due next May. It also is borrowing $225 million against its Manhattan headquarters. The company has made other moves to conserve cash, including cutting its dividend by nearly 75 percent.

But raising cash isn’t all that easy in this environment. Yesterday two Boston businessmen denied they were interested in buying The Boston Globe or the Red Sox stake, and selling shares would only put more pressure on an already depressed stock price. Besides, while cash will buy the New York Times some breathing space, it hardly solves the long-term problems that are crushing the newspaper business.