Cablevision sweet on Newsday; suitors circling

madison-square-garden.jpgWho says the newspaper business is doomed? Circulation and advertising may be in the dumps, sure, but judging from the bidders lining up to buy Newsday there are plenty of moguls still keen on newspapers.

The latest development: The Wall Street Journal reports that Cablevision is planning to bid as much as $650 million for the Long Island daily, which likely catapults it ahead of other bidders like News Corp, which owns the New York Post, and Mortimer Zuckerman, who owns the Daily News.

Cablevision’s bid could come within two days, the report said, adding that it was unclear whether whether Cablevision is working with New York Observer owner Jared Kushner in its offer. Beyond Cablevision’s cable assets, it owns the New York Knicks, the New York Rangers, Madison Square Garden and Radio City Music Hall.

The New York Times offered a different view. It, too, said Cablevision is preparing a bid, but it reported that the owners of the New York Observer have dropped out of the race.

Cablevision? Zuckerman? New York Observer? News Corp? What’s going on here?

Semel, Kotick pass the buck on Yahoo’s future

semel.jpgTalk about passing the buck.

During a panel discussion on media and entertainment at the Milken Institute Global Conference on Wednesday, former Yahoo! CEO Terry Semel swiftly deflected questions about the Internet company’s current pickle with Microsoft to his fellow panelist and Yahoo! board member Activision CEO Bobby Kotick.

Asked by moderator Dennis Kneale of CNBC how Yahoo had gotten itself in the position of being courted by Microsoft, Semel pointed to Kotick, who was sitting next to him.

“Ask the board member,” he said.

kotick.jpgBut Kotick wouldn’t bite. In fact, he said nothing at all.

Later on, Kneale tried again, asking another panelist, News Corp. President Peter Chernin, to tell Semel and Kotick what Yahoo! should do in response to Microsoft’s $44 billion bid.

WSJ’s Heard on the Street: Shrinking?

Rupert Murdoch has earned the disdain of many Wall Street Journal staffers by saying their stories often are too long , especially some of the front-page juggernauts that take their time getting started.

While the page-one woes got all the attention, it looks like he and his crew were doing some editing elsewhere in the paper as well. The Heard on the Street column, which contains all sorts of interesting analysis and tips about buzz in the financial world, seems to be nearly half its former size some days.

Friday’s feature, “Lehman Brothers Seen As Cheap Recovery Bet ” by Peter Eavis and David Reilly, measured 431 words. Compare that to the (now weirdly prescient) “A Microsoft, Yahoo Tie-Up? ” that Robert Guth and Kevin Delaney wrote for the May 3, 2006, edition, at 1,224 words.

Bancroft: WSJ editorial integrity group a ‘fantasy’

Although Marcus Brauchli’s decision to resign as the top editor at The Wall Street Journal — announced on Tuesday — did not require the approval of the paper’s editorial integrity committee, they will step in when it’s time to hire the next one. 

The committee was designed to safeguard editorial independence by approving or vetoing the hiring choices in case its new owner, News Corp’s Rupert Murdoch, attempts to use his candidate to evade a solemn promise to keep the newspaper’s editorial dignity intact. It was one of the few safeguards left behind by its previous owners, the Bancroft family, as a condition for agreeing to the Murdoch’s takeover.

How effective will the committee actually be? We asked former Dow Jones board member Christopher Bancroft on Tuesday.

Yahoo: No surprises there

jerry-1.jpgWe weren’t expecting huge surprises during Yahoo’s earnings conference call, but CEO Jerry Yang was spectacularly vague about the Internet company’s plans vis-a-vis Microsoft or any other potential tie-ups — with Google, Time Warner’s AOL or News Corp — that Yahoo has been working on.

At the very start of the call, Yang essentially said “Don’t go there” to analysts and investors, reminding them about the purpose of the call.

“I’d like to remind you that today’s call is about our Q1 results, so please direct your questions to the quarter if possible,” Yang said.

Good things come in threes for Murdoch

murdochfist1.jpgNews Corp’s Rupert Murdoch dominated headlines again on Tuesday as not one, but at least three news items rippled across the media world.

As shareholders of rival paper The New York Times assemble on Tuesday morning for its annual meeting held at the company’s glittering new headquarters near Times Square, Murdoch took steps to accelerate the remaking of the Wall Street Journal in his image. WSJ is set to announce today the resignation of its managing editor Marcus Brauchli, who is leaving 11 months into the job and just a few months following the closing of Murdoch’s $5 billion purchase of Dow Jones. Murdoch appointee and publisher Robert Thomson will take over the top editorial spot in the interim, according to news reports. 

Meanwhile, News Corp deal makers across town appear poised to reach a deal to relieve real estate magnate and Tribune Chief Sam Zell of his Newsday newspaper for about $580 million to create a joint venture to combine Murdoch’s New York Post and other assets with Tribune’s paper. The Newsday deal is expected to cut about $50 million in annual losses at the Post. 

Media giants mull Yahoo deals

The Time Square Yahoo sign is seen in New YorkWhat does the future hold for Yahoo? With so many media titans in the picture, it’s anyone’s guess how this merger mashup will end.

Just as it appears more likely that Yahoo’s days as an independent entity is drawing to a close, comes a possible deal that would lead to a bigger and better Yahoo.

News Corp is considering joining Microsoft in its bid, which would bring in MySpace and create a more formidable rival to Google.

MySpace Music: Any day now, actually today…

chrisdewolfe.jpgMySpace has sent out a ‘breaking news’ media advisory for a news conference featuring CEO Chris de Wolfe (left) at 11am ET, which we presume is about the launch of MySpace Music as Reuters reported yesterday to be coming in days.

Silicon Alley Insider reported later yesterday that Universal Music Group had settled with MySpace for $100 million, a figure we also confirmed from our source. The November 2006 lawsuit was the main sticking point for getting MySpace Music off to a flying start. With a third of the recorded music market under its thumb, Universal’s participation was seen as critical to the new service’s success.

MySpace’s parent News Corp. will own the majority stake of MySpace Music while Universal Music Group, Sony BMG Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group will each have a minority stake proportional to their market size, say our sources. The music companies also have an eye on a possible spin-off of the music company in the future, said one source.

Murdoch’s ‘battering ram’

murdoch-soccer-ball.jpgRupert Murdoch made his name dominating global entertainment and media by paying big for what he calls the battering ram — exclusive rights to air sports programming in the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom and Asia.

He’s now executing from the same playbook in Germany, Europe’s biggest television market, whose viewers are quite happy not paying for television unless it’s soccer.

Confirming a report in Der Spiegel, a source close the company tells us Murdoch’s News Corp aims to buy up to 23 percent of Germany’s biggest pay television provider Premiere AG to control a majority at the June 12 Premiere annual meeting. He previously held a 19.9 percent interest as of February and had stoked buyout speculation in January after an initial purchase of more than 14 percent in January.

Keeping the ‘Wall Street’ in WSJ

dow-jones.jpgSome Wall Street Journal staff have been grousing lately over the paper’s increasing devotion to political and general news because they worry that it will move business news off the front page — something that seems inimical to a paper with the name “Wall Street” in it.

Not to worry, says Dow Jones & Co Chief Executive Les Hinton, business news is still what the Journal is all about. Here’s what Hinton said in an interview in the March 27 edition of The Australian (also owned by Murdoch’s News Corp):

“Whatever happens to the design, the key thing is we will put more national news in it and more political news in it,” he said.