MediaFile

Google wins game that already played out

Google’s victory in the closely-watched lawsuit launched by Viacom alleging the Internet giant let users upload copyrighted videos including “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” to YouTube represents a win in a game that played out long ago.

The impact of the three-year old case,  some legal experts reckon,  occurred well before a U.S. District Court in Manhattan threw out Viacom’s $1 billion suit.   (Viacom said it is appealing the case.)

As these things tend to go, the case exhibits how technology outpaces the legal system by miles.

“I think to a certain extent the [media] industry has moved on,” said Kimberley Isbell, a staff attorney with the Citizen Media Law Project based at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University. “I think many of the studios have come around to the idea YouTube and Hulu and other sites like this can be a good promotional tool.”

Indeed, months after Viacom, home to MTV and Paramount Studios, filed the lawsuit against Goggle and YouTube  in the early part of 2007 several media and tech/Internet companies partnered up and agreed on a set of principles to lock down on copyright infringement while encouraging viewership.

Hizzoner Roasts Murdoch

Rupert MurdochLast night, The Wall Street Journal held a party at Gotham Hall for a slew of  media, advertisers, bigwigs (Barry Diller, the cast of In the Heights!) to introduce Greater New York, a souped up metro section that debuted on Monday. Perhaps you have heard of it.

Usually at events like these, Mayor Michael Bloomberg is roped into saying some words about how great the Big Apple is followed by a note of thanks for creating new jobs for the city.  Last night was no exception.

What made Bloomberg’s speech   – really a roast of News Corp Chief Rupert Murdoch – kind of cringe-worthy was the fact that Bloomberg News is a huge competitor of Dow Jones. It’s not entirely clear if Bloomberg was joking when he said that his company had considered purchasing Dow Jones before he held up a mock-up of the Greater New York edition showing the audience how Bloomberg would have gone about things.

Viacom digs up more YouTube documents for court case

EricSchmidt1Viacom’s ongoing legal fisticuffs with Google over alleged piracy on YouTube rages on. The MTV and Nickelodeon owner on Thursday put out nine additional exhibits in addition to the hundreds of pages that were  put out last month including transcripted deposition from Google CEO Eric Schmidt.  Viacom, which extended CEO Philippe Dauman’s contract today, said the exhibits “make clear one of our core claims in the case: that Google made a deliberate, calculated business decision not only to profit from copyright infringement, but also to use the threat of copyright infringement to try to coerce rights owners like Viacom into licensing their content on Google’s terms.”

Viacom is making that claim based on various statements from Google senior employees while management was considering buying YouTube. 

As for Schmidt’s deposition from May 2009 it’s not particularly controversial, with perhaps the most interesting statement being that he owns 30 computers and claims it has been his practice for 30 years to not retain his emails unless asked specifically.

Happy Monday, Sumner Redstone

It was a very pleasant start to the week for Sumner Redstone’s Viacom, owner of  BET, MTV, Nickelodeon and the Paramount movie studio. A flattering Barron’s story, analyst upgrades… What more can a media company want these days?

Start with Barron’s. The financial weekly writes, “After a long dry spell, investors are doing a double take when it comes to the entertainment company controlled by its executive chairman and founder, the savvy and tenacious media mogul Sumner Redstone.” Why? That’s simple. The stock is cheap.

Indeed, that’s the theme of two analyst reports that landed today — one from Miller Tabak and the other from Bernstein — both of which increased their Viacom’s price target to $39 a share. That’s about 16 percent above the current price. Not shabby for a stock that’s already up about 81 percent in the past year.

Viacom: Don’t look to us for major dealmaking

After Comcast-NBC Universal, investment bankers are clearly drooling at the thought of some big money wheeling and dealing in the media business. Probably best not to count too heavily on Viacom being a player.

Viacom Chief Executive Philippe Dauman, speaking at the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference, was asked about his company’s interest in acquisitions. His response was less than inspiring if you’re thinking about blockbuster deals:  “I’ll tell you the kind of acquisition we like. We recent bought the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for $60 million.”

While Dauman said Viacom would also consider looking at some independent cable networks in the U.S. or overseas, he made it know that “we are not interested in making the big splashy acquisition out there.”

Time Warner Cable ready to fight high program costs

Time Warner Cable, the normally placid No.2 U.S. cable operator, is getting ready for a fight with its programming partners at the cable networks and broadcasters over rising affiliate fees. In truth, TWC has always been ready for a fight with the programmers. This time, it wants to make the first move and get its 14 million subscribers behind it.

The New York cable operator is launching an ad campaign “on behalf of its customers” to target what it sees as unfair price demands by programmers. It argues that these price demands, which usually come around this time of year at the end of programming contracts, can sometimes be as much as 300 percent increases. TWC says programmers make the demands “secure in the knowledge that video distributors are the ones who have to pass those costs along to customers and take the blame.”

So what’s Time Warner Cable going to do about it? They’re going to launch a website — yes, a website with the catchy URL: www.rolloverorgettough.com. News Corp, Sinclair Broadcasting and cable networks must be quaking in their collective fee-hiking boots.

Media, tech moguls meet in New York (You are NOT invited)

Media and technology executives are meeting Wednesday and Thursday in New York City at a conference hosted by private equity firm Quadrangle. Note the word private.

When they meet at the Plaza, they will talk about a ton of different things that their customers, their investors and other readers want to know. I have to apologize for them because they’re not letting in any riff-raff. And that includes reporters who get paid to spend all day figuring out how these people decide what kind of entertainment you want, what kind of technology you pay them for and what deals they pursue with the money that you give them when you buy their stock. This event always excludes press, but that’s no reason not to highlight what you probably are missing because of this. After all, who wants to wait for the 8-K filing?

Some press will be allowed, but it will be an assortment of celebrity journalists who will moderate panels and, according to Peter Kafka, author of “MediaMemo” at News Corp’s AllThingsD blog, will not write about the event (I’m talking about Maria Bartiromo and David Faber of CNBC, The New Yorker’s Ken Auletta, etc).

Media merger mania? Viacom’s Dauman doesn’t see it either

Just about everyone who covers media is talking about whether a potential Comcast-GE deal for NBC Universal will kick off a round of consolidation in media.******One executive — one very smart executive — who doesn’t think we’re in for a tidal wave of mergers is Viacom’s Philippe Dauman. (Word is Dauman earned a perfect score on the SAT — at the age of 13). After a speech at Executives’ Club of Chicago on Tuesday, we asked Dauman about consolidation.******”As far as we’re concerned, we ‘re focused on growing our brands, growing our business. We have tremendous brands with a lot of room for growth both in the U.S. and internationally. It’s a big opportunity for us.******”We’ve been involved involved in a lot of consolidation in our corporate history. The record of success in media consolidation has not been all that great for the most part so for ourselves we think the better strategy is to grow organically.”******But what does Dauman think about about the rest of the industry? To that question, he noted that “all of us in the traditional media business have seen the pitfalls” of big mergers, but Comcast may decide to chase a deal because of its unique circumstances. He didn’t elaborate, but we all know that Comcast has longed for more content for quite some time. The structure of the deal reportedly under consideration may work in Comcast’s favor since it doesn’t have to issue any equity.******Dauman isn’t the only smart guy in the media industry of course. Time Warner chief Jeff Bewkes made similar though slightly more cutting comments about the prospect of the Comcast-NBC deal last week and about what it said about success of previous big media mergers.******Dauman was more diplomatic.******”There’s a unique set of circumstances here that won’t necessarily in and of itself trigger a wave of other activity,” Dauman said.

from Commentaries:

Gut feeling: How Google CEO valued YouTube deal

Eric Schmidt, Chairman and CEO of Google, sits for an interview at the Newseum in Washington on Oct. 2, 2009Let the second-guessing, the mock horror, the disbelief, the crowing begin.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt has acknowledged he realized upfront that he was overpaying to acquire YouTube, to the tune of $1 billion, judged by any conventional measures.

The many critics of Google's $1.65 billion deal to acquire the video-sharing site three years ago will claim this confirms everything they have always said about the deal. Not quite.

In fact, not really at all.

Schmidt came clean in a deposition by lawyers in the Viacom copyright lawsuit that there was very little revenue coming into YouTube to justify the price his company paid.

Is Comcast on the prowl for Big Media ?

Comcast made a bold $54 billion bid for Walt Disney Co. in 2004. It failed — but there are those who wonder today if the cable provider might be considering a play for another media giant.

Reuters’ Yinka Adegoke takes a look at this idea in a story that recounts the speculation about Comcast’s desire to be a major player in Big Media.

Stockholders, who have watched the value of Comcast shares shrink to historical lows, might not be so thrilled about such a move.