MediaFile

Step aside, here comes Google

Google just keeps on truckin’. The Internet powerhouse posted results yesterday that show advertisers haven’t completely cut their spending — at least not on search.

Excluding one-time charges, profit was $5.10 a share, beating the average analyst forecast of $4.95 according to Reuters Estimates.

Revenue rose 18 percent to $5.7 billion — a shadow of the 50 percent growth levels that Google used to enjoy, but considered by analysts to be a robust performance given the weak economy and corporate cutbacks in advertising spending.

But CEO Eric Schmidt also took pains to keep investors, analysts and the press realistic about the world today: “Now clearly we’re in a worldwide recession as everybody knows, rising unemployment, foreclosures, that sort of thing,” he said on a conference call. “But we don’t know how long this period will last. We obviously hope it will be short.”

Shares of Google were up more than 4 percent in early trade, and analysts offered mostly upbeat responses to the earnings despite Schmidt’s caution.

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.

Television ratings in deep freeze

Since we’re coming up on year’s end, it’s worth a quick review of the television season so far. It has stunk. There. That’s about all you need to know.

Don’t take our word for it, look at the weekly Nielsen numbers that came out yesterday. The lone exception is CBS, which continues to hold up relatively well in the face of all the challenges facing the TV market.

Here’s the Hollywood Reporter’s roundup:

Following its 12th consecutive weekly victory in total viewers, CBS became the first major broadcast network this season to move into positive year-to-year territory since premiere week.

Jobs cuts hit hard in media, communications

As the U.S. Labor Department reported a 6.7 percent unemployment rate for November and the largest number of job cuts since 1974, the media and telecom industries are definitely not immune.

As Viacom said it planned to lay off 850 people, or 7 percent of its workforce, NBC revealed layoffs of 500 employees including several longtime news correspondents, according to the New York Times.

RealNetworks also announced 130 layoffs, reducing its headcount by 7.5 percent. AT&T, which is trying its hand at competing against cable providers with its own TV service, on Thursday announced layoffs of 12,000, or 4 percent of its workforce, as the company struggles with declining traditional telephone sales and customers switching to wireless.

Desperately seeking hits: MPG

Are people going to watch more TV because they’ve no money to go out? According to media buying and planning agency MPG — a subsidiary of Havas, the world’s sixth-largest ad firm — the answer is no, unless the TV networks come up with better shows.

“That’s inventory for us, that’s our supply,” MPG Chief Operating Officer Steve Lanzano told the Reuters Media Summit in New York. “The thing is, there are no hit shows out there on the big networks,” he added. “And if there’s no supply in the marketplace, that just makes it harder and harder for us.”

With the economy seizing up and people seeking more stay-at-home entertainment, this could be the perfect time for the big networks to hook people on to some new shows and boost ratings. That would bring in advertising revenue at a time when many advertisers are scaling back spending.

Multi-vehicle pile-up on Madison Avenue

Dimming prospects for an auto bailout spell trouble for the folks on Madison Avenue. Already, sources say that General Motors is taking a hard look at all of its advertising contracts – held by Interpublic and Publicis — to see if they should be renewed as they come up.

That’s a pretty big deal, given that GM forked out about $1 billion in ad spending for the first six months of the year. And overall, domestic automakers spent about $2.8 billion on advertising in the first six months of 2008, down 17 percent, but was still one of the 10 largest U.S. advertising categories.

If you want to know how dependent the advertising industry is on the auto industry, take a look at Advertising Age, which has a in-depth feature on it. The upshot:

What you watched on TV last week…

First President-Elect Barack Obama sparked a run on newspapers, and now his appearance on 60 Minutes helped deliver CBS the largest weekly audience of any network this season. The news program, featuring Obama’s first post-election interview, drew more than 25 million viewers, the biggest number since January 1999.

Not surprisingly, that helped CBS win the week in total viewers and in the 18-49 year-old category.  Season-to-date, CBS is tops in total viewers, and essentially tied with ABC for the 18-49 crowd. Here are the Nielsen figures for the week ending Nov 16::

Total Viewers (’000, change from 2007-08)

CBS 12,314, +3 percent

ABC, 10,467, +1 percent

NBC, 7,742, -6 percent

Fox, 6,782, -21 percent

Adults 18-49 (ratings, change from 2007-08)

CBS, 3.3, no change

ABC, 3.1, -9 percent

NBC, 2.9, -6 percent

Fox, 2.7, -21 percent

Week’s Top shows for Adults 18-49 (network, rating)

Sunday Night Football, NBC, 7.4

60 Minutes, CBS, 6.3

Desperate Housewives, ABC, 6.2

Grey’s Anatomy, ABC, 5.7

House, Fox, 5.5

CSI, CBS, 5.1

CMA Awards, ABC, 5.0

Two And A Half Men, CBS, 4.9

Sunday Night NFL Pre-Kick, NBC, 4.6

Dancing With the Stars, ABC, 4.2

Family Guy, Fox, 4.2

How I Met Your Mother, CBS, 4.2

(Photo: Reuters)

Hulu would love to expand — you know, sometime

Hulu is going global. Maybe.

The video website owned by News Corp and NBC Universal is apparently thinking of expanding to Britain, France, Germany and Japan. But don’t get too excited. Peter Smith, president of NBC Universal International, told a conference that while Hulu would love to push out its boundaries, there aren’t yet any concrete plans.

He didn’t say this, but it seems that given what’s happening with the global economy, this may not be the best time to expand a service that depends on advertising revenue. Speaking of which…

The Financial Times has a story out today that suggests Hulu could match Google’s YouTube in US revenue next year. The article cites Screen Digest, and certainly other researchers may disagree. Still, it’s interesting that Screen Digest figures both online video cites will bring in about $180 million. Should we interpret this as a Hulu success? Or a YouTube failure?

Et tu, Google?

Lots of eyes will be on Google, after its shares yesterday dropped below $300 for the first time since late 2005. What will today bring? In early trade, it was down 3 percent, adding to the 6.5 percent drop yesterday.

At the moment, it seems like every analyst is putting out a negative note on Google. Already today, another analyst today cut its price target and lowered its earnings estimates for the Web search company.

“Lack of consumer confidence has affected the online traffic growth. Traffic should be growing around this season as consumers begin to look for gift ideas,” Jefferies and Co said in a note to clients.

What you watched on TV last week…

What you — and everyone else –  watched on TV was the election, apparently. More than 71 million Americans tuned in to see the end of the presidential campaign, and coverage on ABC and NBC ranked among the top 10 shows during primetime last week, according to the latest Nielsen numbers.

Election night, combined with Sunday night football, left little room in the top 10 shows for regularly scheduled dramas and comedies. But it should be noted that ABC managed to squeeze in the top two rated dramas among 18 to 49 year-olds, Grey’s Anatomy and Desperate Housewives. ABC and NBC shared honors for the highest ratings among the 18-49 crowd for the week.

Total Viewers (’000)

CBS 11,040

ABC 10,400

NBC 8,900

Fox 5,870

Adults 18-49 (ratings)

ABC 3.2

NBC 3.2

CBS 3.0

Fox 2.3

Week’s Top Shows for Adults 18-49 (network, rating)

Sunday Night Football, NBC, 6.7

Grey’s Anatomy, ABC, 6.0

Desperate Housewives, ABC 5.9

SNL Presidential Bash ’08, NBC 5.6

CSI, CBS 5.1

Vote 2008, ABC 4.9

Two and a Half Men, CBS 4.6

Decision ’08, NBC, 4.5

Sunday Night NFL Pre-Kick, NBC, 4.3

The Office, NBC, 4.3