Clear Channel Privitization Closing in on Approval

Patience is a virtue, especially in private equity.  Since November 2006, Bain Capital and Thomas Lee Partners have been trying to buy and privatize outdoor advertiser and radio station operator Clear Channel.   The $19.5b leveraged buyout offered was approved by shareholders ($39.20/a share) but it’s been stuck in regulatory limbo. 

Recently, there’s been an increase in speculation the deal was close to falling apart. The skepticism has hurt the stock price. The stock is trading near $35, a significant discount to the $39.20 buyout price. Now there may be a positive shift.

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Sony Shortcomings: Dear Howard, What about the Customers?

listenAsk a politician and they’ll tell you, consistency in policy and staying on point is essential. Stick to the Message.  If you flip flop from pro to con, then con to pro, credibility will disappear.  Without credibility, there’s little trust.  Without trust there’s won’t be a favorable vote.    In retail, similar maxims apply.  There’s the famous “the customer is always right.” There’s also the old “K.I.S.S.” principle: “keep it simple.”  You can confuse your customer with too many changes, or too many choices.  That’s bad marketing.  Better practice is to offer them value, offer them what they ask for; what they want or need.  Do that and they’ll probably purchase your product.  Don’t and the sale is going to be difficult to close.   

Lately, it seems more and more like Sony (especially the gaming division) has gotten off point, or keeps forgetting the message.  Since launching the PS3 gaming platform in November 2006, they’ve made multiple marketing mistakes and repeatedly juggled their lineup and pricing models to adjust.  I can recall at least three changes in the console’s first year on the market.  Now they’re at it again.

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Game Publisher Outspark Raises $11m in Series B

outspark fundedSan Francisco based Outspark, a publisher of online community driven games announced the closing of sizable $11m Series B Financing Thursday.  China’s largest Internet portal and instant messaging operator Tencent Holdings led the round. Series A investors DCM (formerly Doll Capital Management) and Altos Ventures also participated. DCM has invested in other gaming co’s recently, including Trion World Network.

Outspark was founded in 2006 by CEO Susan Choe.  Choe was formerly COO of NHN USA and also International Director of Yahoo Games.  Outspark’s studio services are run by Nick Foster, former CTO of Starz Media and former head of global FX at DreamWorks Animation.

Outspark is purely a publisher and game operator.  They do not develop games themselves.  Their model is centered on licensing launched games from international markets (currently China and Korea) and localizing them for redistribution in western markets.

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HD DVD: prognosis from bad to worse

Bluray partyFriday, Warner Brother’s crashed HD DVD’s CES party with the shocking last-minute announcement that they’d throw their support behind the rival Blu Ray DVD format.  It was bad news for Toshiba and their HD DVD technology, really bad news.  It was like being told they had six months to live.  Prognosis: terminal. 

Warner’s decision meant 5 out of 7 major Hollywood movie studios were supporting the Sony developed next generation DVD format.  Short of a miraculous comeback, Warner Brother’s ended the format war.  Now, added revelations are suggesting Sony may be able to add insult to injury and claim a landslide, possibly even, a unanimous victory in the Blu Ray vs HD DVD battle by June (when the Warner’s decision will go into effect).

Universal and Paramount are the two studios not yet in Sony’s pocket.  Wednesday, Daily Variety confirmed that Universal’s agreement to back HD DVD has ended. That frees the studio to change camps at any time should they choose.  Click to Read More

Comcast’s 2008 Vision: On Demand Video is King

Microsoft opened the Consumer Electronics Show with the boast that their Xbox Live on-demand platform would soon offer more than double the number of titles available on demand from Cable and Satellite providers.  Not to be out done, Comcast, the nation’s largest cable TV provider (and 2nd largest broadband service provider) used the trade show stage as opportunity to issue a reply.

During another keynote, CEO Brian Roberts unveiled several content initiatives Comcast has planned for 2008. Click to Read More

The Return of Terry Semel? Windsor Media

TS returnTerry Semel remains Yahoo’s chairman but since ceding (or relinquishing) executive control to Jerry Yang in June, he’s been largely out of the public eye and off the radar.  In 2008, that may change, albeit in a lower profile way that is unrelated to Yahoo.

Paid Content is reporting Terry’s set to relaunch a “revamped version” of Windsor Media, an investment firm he started in 1999 but abandoned to take on the leadership position at Yahoo in 2001.  So far nobody involved directly has issued any statements but the reports say Drew Buckley, former GM of Yahoo Originals, Jeff Karish, former head of media strategy at Yahoo, and Jimmy Yaffe, managing partner of Endeavor Marketing Solutions are all involved.

Speculation is that Windsor, in its new form, may be similar to Click to Read More

Congress Investigating FCC. FCC Investigating Comcast

bandwidth investigationIt’s an election year, so it comes as no surprise that political issues large and small are getting extra attention.   Tuesday, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin used a CES panel discussion as an opportunity to address the regulatory commission’s stance on the bandwidth throttling complaints that put the nation’s second largest broadband provider, Comcast, into a boiling cauldron of bad PR in October and November.

In no uncertain terms, Martin told the audience, “Sure, we’re going to investigate and make sure that no consumer is going to be blocked.”

At issue is a debate over the policy concept: Network Neutrality. The issues date back to the 1996 Telecommunications Act. Click to Read More

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