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.

from DealZone:

DirecTV adds to media merger excitement

With media titans GE and Vivendi still negotiating a deal to bring cable operator Comcast into a mega-media joint venture, a management move at DirecTV is giving dealwatchers a fresh programming alternative.

Yinka Adegoke and Sinead Carew report the appointment of PepsiCo veteran Michael White (pictured below), who has no experience in pay TV, as DirecTV CEO is being read as a sign the company's parent, Liberty Media, just wants a baby-sitter until its sells the operation in the next couple of years.

Telecom leaders Verizon and AT&T approached Liberty earlier this year, they report. Both have cross-marketing deals with DirecTV and would leapfrog the rest of the market with the addition of DirecTV's subscriber base. But fears of insurmountable regulatory resistance put those talks on ice.

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.

Dish’s Charlie Ergen: Me and Mel don’t have a beef

Ah the media, we love a ruckus. We really do. And when the two pugilists are characters as colorful and savvy as Dish Network’s founder Charlie Ergen (left) and Siriux XM Satellite Radio CEO Mel Karmazin (right) we do really get excited.

If you remember, Ergen was widely reported last month to have made a back door bid to take a stake in Sirius XM by quietly buying up some of the satellite radio company’s outstanding debt.  Analysts and experts came up with all kind of theories as to Ergen’s ambitions including taking complete control of Sirius on the cheap, combining various satellite assets, and kicking Mel out.

At the time Ergen ‘s official channels at Dish and EchoStar declined to comment on the matter. So today’s Dish earning call was the first time we heard from the man himself on the matter. Well, it turns out the press was right on most things connected with the Sirius bid, according to Ergen. Except for one thing: he does not have bad blood with Sirius CEO Karmazin.

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.

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.

AOL changes look, opens email, gets more social

aol_sept_mock_v5.jpgAOL has relaunched with a redesigned page. It has also unveiled a new ‘every email’ feature that allows consumers to access multiple email services and integrates access to social networking sites.

Effectively AOL is getting more ‘social’ by allowing users to access not just AOL and AIM email on their AOL page but also Yahoo, Gmail and Hotmail. Paid Content points out that Hotmail is not directly accessible through AOL.com, so AOL is providing a link that can be inserted in one of the module email slots and and a link to Microsoft feedback so people can ask for the feature.

 In addition to being more open, AOL hopes the email aggregation will help recapture some of the user attention it lost before people leaving the ISP were allowed to keep their AOL addressesPaid Content.