MediaFile

Tech wrap: LinkedIn IPO values firm at over $3 billion

LinkedIn, the social site for business professionals which attracts professionals and job seekers with 100 million worldwide members, is hoping to cash in with a public debut valuing the company at more than $3 billion.

Last week’s trading debut of Renren, one of the biggest social networking companies in China, is another indicator of investor interest in social media companies. Renren’s stock surged 28.6 percent in its May 4 debut.

The tantalizing prospect of finding the next Facebook, Groupon or Twitter is driving the biggest rush of venture capital since dot-com mania first boomed and then fizzled more than a decade ago, writes Jenny Harris and Jennifer Rogers. But characteristics of the current boom do set it apart. Online advertising and e-commerce are accepted as reliable revenue sources and there are more profitable young companies today, Harris and Rogers argue.

Apple overtook Google as the world’s most valuable brand, ending a four-year reign by the Internet search leader, according to a new study by global brands agency Millward Brown. Apple’s brand is now worth $153 billion, almost half Apple’s market capitalization, says the annual BrandZ study of the world’s top 100 brands. “Apple is breaking the rules in terms of its pricing model,” Millward Brown’s Peter Walshe told Reuters. “It’s doing what luxury brands do, where the higher price the brand is, the more it seems to underpin and reinforce the desire.”

Apple and magazine publisher Conde Nast reached a deal to offer the New Yorker on the iPad in the latest sign that relationships are improving between the technology company and content owners. Conde Nast said iPad editions of other magazines will also be available by subscription through Apple’s In-App Purchase system on the popular App Store. Titles including Vanity Fair, Glamour, Golf Digest, Allure, Wired, Self and GQ will be available in coming weeks.

TodayInMusic: Live Nation snaps up rest of Front Line

Christina Aguilera and Irving Azoff, chairman of Live Nation (Photo:Reuters)

Christina Aguilera and Irving Azoff, chairman of Live Nation (Photo:Reuters)

Lots of medium-sized developments at Live Nation Entertainment today. 

Firstly, the world’s largest concert promoter and leading ticketing company has taken full control of Front Line Management after spending $116.2 milion to buy the remaining stake it did not already own.

That stake was held by Live Nation’s executive chairman Irving Azoff and Madison Square Garden. It means Azoff has an increased position in the company, as does MSG. Front Line was founded by Azoff and manages over 250 artists including The Eagles, Christina Aguilera and Neil Diamond.

Other important changes at Live Nation include interim non-executive chairman John Malone stepping down from the board. You might recall he became interim chair after fellow media mogul Barry Diller stepped down as chairman last fall after a boardroom power struggle.

Is Comcast really the Worst Company In America? Really?

Comcast-worstcompanyawardBrianRobsSo Comcast ‘won’ the Worst Company In America award from readers of The Consumerist blog, which as its tagline suggests, is the place where “shoppers bite back”. Yet we have to ask, is Comcast really the worst company in America or is it all relative?

The Consumerist’s readers are likely to have contact with Comcast through its customer service. They, like many, have likely been frustrated with waiting for hours for a technician (sleeping or awake). Or maybe it’s taken Comcast a day or two too long to fix their high-definition DVR boxes?

Fairly or unfairly, Comcast’s reputation had gotten so bad the company took the opportunity of a new product launch  to change its customer-facing name to Xfinity. But it’s not just customer service. Consumerist’s readers have also been ticked off by what they see as  above-inflation price rises, throttling Internet access, and Comcast’s plans to buy NBC Universal.

Fans still buying tickets, startup CEO says

So how’s the market for sports and concert tickets holding up, given the economic turmoil that has dominated the public imagination since last year? Better than you’d think, according to Mike Janes, the founder and CEO of FanSnap, a live-event ticket search engine that launched in March.

“People’s appetite for the shared experience of a game or show hasn’t changed. Their bank accounts may have changed, but not the desire,” Janes said.

The difficult economy has had the effect of bringing many ticket prices down, he said, meaning there are plenty of bargains out there. While there will always be insatiable demand for big-name performers or games (Springsteen; Yankees vs. Red Sox) keeping those ticket prices high, Janes said tix for your average major league baseball game can be had for below face value in some cases, as folks looking to resell tickets flood the market with supply. It’s a bit too early to see about NFL games, he said.

Your new friendly concert ticket seller/promoter

The proposed merger between Ticketmaster, the world’s largest ticketing firm, and Live Nation, the world’s largest concert promoter, met with huge uproar when it was announced back in February and is still being examined by federal regulators.

Most of the uproar was prompted by fears the combined company would have too much power and be able to control (read ‘raise’) concert ticket prices whenever they want. There were also separate complaints about Ticketmaster’s use of a secondary ticketing company (read: scalper) to sell tickets such as Bruce Springsteen’s at exorbitant prices.

Perhaps with one eye on getting the merger past regulators, both companies are this summer trying new ways to win over music fans. Live Nation, for instance, said it is expanding its “No Service Fee Wednesday” program to include every single ticket in each of its amphitheaters this summer.

Outlook grim for media and entertainment deals

Deal-making in the U.S. media and entertainment sectors is going to be down this year, says a new PricewaterhouseCoopers survey (request a copy here). Now, that’s not a new or startling conclusion given the state of the economy, but it’s just another piece of evidence that when consumers and advertisers get thrifty, deal makers can end up become benchwarmers as companies struggle with cost cuts and other exigencies.

Here are some industry trends for 2009 from the PWC survey:

    Declining consumer spending is hitting many media and entertainment companies. What’s more, these declines were exacerbated by technological convergence, as these firms adapt to and look for ways to make money off new Internet technologies. Overall U.S. advertising market is going to shrink as sponsors cut ad budgets across retail, consumer goods, automotive, financial and other sectors. Companies will continue to divest their non-core assets, but those that don’t get a good price will prefer to hold on rather than sell at bargain prices. Bolt-on deals will likely be popular for risk-averse companies, so deals below $1 billion — mostly small and mid-market companies — will be a rising trend. Private equity will remain quiet since the debt markets aren’t really healthy yet. Deal structures will change this year, given the difficulty of getting debt financing. The strategic rationale for doing a deal will be more important than getting a favorable capital structure.

But all hope is not lost, according to PWC’s Transaction Services Entertainment & Media Leader Thomas Rooney:

With M&A activity ingrained in the DNA of so many companies and the ever growing presence of private equity, E&M deal activity might not be as quiet as many expect in 2009… History has shown the E&M industry to be one of the more active M&A sectors irrespective of market and economic conditions.

Live Nation and Ticketmaster: “Don’t stop Believing”

Live Nation and Ticketmaster might have plenty of people out there who are not pleased with the idea of the two companies coming together but they have received support from several superstars in the run-up to a U.S. anti-trust hearing in Washington DC on Tuesday.

Names like Seal, Shakira, Journey, Van Halen and Billy Corgan (The Smashing Pumpkins) have all offered support to a merger some legislators, smaller rivals and fan groups worry will put too much power over the U.S. and global live music industry in the hands of just one company.

Some of the superstars have long-running relationships with Live Nation’s concert promotion business or are clients of Front Line Management, the artist management firm owned by Ticketmaster. Front Line has more than 200 acts under its wing giving it plenty of leverage in dealing with many promoters, venues and even record labels.

Checking out the Microsoft retail store

When it comes to Microsoft, you can count on one thing: Whatever they do will get plenty of scrutiny in on the wires, in newspapers, and across blogs. Think A-Rod or Brad and Angelina.

Last night, they announced plans to start opening retail stores, which generated a lot of attention (rightfully so, too). Here’s the plan, as Reuters put its:

The world’s largest software company, which also makes the Xbox video game console and the Zune digital music player, did not say how many stores it was looking to open, or when, or which of its products would be on sale.

For better or worse, here comes Ticketmaster/Live Nation

Will it survive? That’s the main question looming over today’s official news that Live Nation will indeed buy Tickemaster Entertainment, a deal that has been much in the news this week.

Already, Sen. Charles Schumer, a member of the Judiciary Committee and Democrat from New York, has called for a federal probe into Ticketmaster’s relationship with resale subsidiary TicketsNow (a relationship that was roundly criticized recently when fans tried to buy Bruce Springsteen tickets) and said a merger with Live Nation “must be viewed skeptically).

As the New York Times recently pointed out, the deal will mark “an early test of the Obama administration’s views on concentrated corporate power, particularly in an area with potentially stark implications for consumers.”

Kellogg drops Phelps after photos

We won’t be tempted by puns. Or any sort of lame wordplay.  We’ll play this straight. Seriously. Here goes: After all the bad publicity caused by a photo of Michael Phelps apparently taking a bong hit, Kellogg has decided to dump the superswimmer.

Okay, now that’s out of the way. Here’s the basics from Reuters:

The world’s largest cereal maker said on Thursday it would not extend a contract with Phelps, who charmed audiences in Beijing last year with a record-breaking, eight-gold medal haul, saying the photo of the swimmer was inconsistent with its public image.

Phelps, estimated to make millions of dollars annually from marketing deals, issued an apology this week after a British newspaper published a photograph purportedly showing him smoking marijuana during a student party at the University of South Carolina in November.