Venture Capital for Talent Agents?

caa vcGlobal venture capital investments are at a six year high and technology continues to encroach on the domain of entertainment and media.  We have net radio, TV and print news increasingly available online.   Even actors and movie industry veterans have moved to create both their own online distribution outlets, and their own brands of online content.  Think Will Ferrel’s Funny or Die, the Coen brothers with 60 Frames Entertainment, or Jerry Zucker (of Airplane fame) with National Banana.   It makes sense, given all this to see Hollywood jumping deeper into venture capital, private equity and early stage investment.

Earlier this week, PaidContent discovered the latest entry will come from Hollywood’s elite talent agencies.  Creative Artists (CAA), the biggest of the bunch, is reportedly raising $150m to $200m for venture investment in digital entertainment. They are seeking funds from traditional limited partners like pension funds and being advised by experienced Silicon Valley VC’s.

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Netflix Postal Woes? No Worries

netflix mailBlockbuster hasn’t been able to derail Netflix but could the U.S. Post Office? That was a question that popped up earlier today after results of a November audit by the Postal Inspector General began to circulate in the wider press, and more narrowly from a blog posting on Wired that sounded an alarm but left out important details.  The details tell a different story. Fear not.

The audit report in question was from early November (See PDF link Below).  It was focused on First Class Permit Reply Mail, the category of mail used by popular movie rental services as well as Game Fly and some audiobook services.   

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Hulu heads to HD: new Flash player powers HD Streams

hulu flash hdEarlier today Adobe announced the availability of the latest update for their popular browser video player software.  This latest version of Flash, previously codenamed Moviestar, had been in Beta since August.  Now available, it brings to market full support for high definition video.  Hulu, NBCU and Newscorp’s high profile video site wasted now time in taking advantage and supporting the upgrade.

Logging into Hulu’s beta moments ago, I was able to watch HD quality content streamed over the web. Available content was limited.  There were approximately a dozen movie trailers. I watched three; the previews for the now playing film, Hitman, Angelina Jolie’s upcoming movie, Wanted, and the soon to be released Charlie Wilson’s War trailer. I was impressed. Click to Read More

LA Times Links with Mixx for Web 2.0

mixxLots of people know of news aggregator services like Digg.  Fewer are familiar with Mixx, a competitor launched in October.  That may soon begin to change.  Today, the LA Times Media Group struck a content and marketing partnership with the Web 2.0 news site.  The Times also made a small equity investment, the size of which was not disclosed.

Mixx is based in McLean Virginia and owned by Recommended Reading, Inc.  Like social news sites Digg, Propeller or Thoof, Mixx is built around users submitting links to web content and voting on those links.  It is entirely “crowd sourced.”  There are no editors. More popular submissions get higher profile displays.

The strength of Mixx is their user interface. Compared to other sites, there is a greater opportunity and more intuitive tools to customize the look and feel of your landing page as a subscriber.   It’s more a cross with a personalized home page and a news aggregator than competitors.

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Vivendi Games and Activision: Inside the Merger

activision vivendiLast week at the Reuters Media Summit someone asked EA’s CEO John Riccitiello his thoughts about M&A prospects for the gaming industry moving forward.  It was a fair question, as head of EA he’s a qualified expert on the gaming industry, as a former partner at private equity firm Elevation Partners, he’s well educated and informed about M&A mechanics.  Part of John’s  measured answer was “Is it ripe (for mergers), or has it already been picked? I would argue that it’s been largely picked."

Those remarks underscore just how surprising Sunday’s announcement that Activision and Vivendi Games intend to merge was.  When the two companies said they’d merge to form an $18.9b company, a gaming company with a market cap even bigger than EA (approx. $17.4b) some jaws were definitely hanging slack.

This morning, Vivendi and Activision provided more details which opened a window on the structure and presumed opportunity.

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Blockbuster Going Mobile? Why?

questionThere’s no such thing as corporate Darwin Awards or business Razzie’s but when it comes to bad executive decisions or business "say what’s?" it seems there ought be something.

In fairness, there are lots of gambles that don’t pay off, decisions that look much worse in hindsight than they did on the drafting table. As the cliches go: Nothing ventured nothing gained. You’ve got to gamble sometimes. Take some risks. Bad decisions and mistakes, of course, happen all the time. I’m not talking about those. What I’m thinking about are those decisions that fall easily in to the "should have known better"category. Choices that seem to violate common sense. It seems there should be some sort of trophy to acknowledge those kinds of mental lapses in the executive wing. A decision that leaves people scratching their heads and going "watchoo talking about Willis."…that deserves a special Lucite block on the mantle.

Looking back over last weeks events, I’ve got to wonder if management at Blockbuster might be inline for such a nomination. Click to Read More

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