Ballmer Says it Again: Not Interested

Today, hundreds of Microsoft shareholders converged on Bellevue’s Meydenbauer Center to hear the state of their union.  Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates talked Azure while  shareholder votes for board seats were tallied.  Yahoo wasn’t  a subject on the annual meeting’s agenda, but the prospect of a new Microsoft bid for the struggling web giant was on the minds of many.

The very first question of the open Q&A put it out there:  “What’s happening with Yahoo?” Is Microsoft still interested?   Steve Ballmer answered assuredly.  Click to Read More

National Geographic Goes Gaming

nat geo games smallStarted in 1888.  Financial supporter for the first expedition to the North Pole.  Photographs from the first flight over the South.  Presence on the first orbital space flight.  Present on the moon -  from the Far East to the home front, from the icy north to the deepest ocean depths, in its first hundred years National Geographic was a pioneer of exploration.  It the last fifteen, it’s been a pioneer in the evolution of media.

Today, there are 31 local language editions of the National Geographic magazine reaching forty million people a month.   The TV shows, distributed on branded cable channels, beam to 250 million households in over 160 countries.  The website hosts more than ten million people a month.  National Geographic is available in Portuguese, Japanese, Russian, Hebrew, Chinese, Greek, Italian, Arabic, Spanish, even Serbian. 

In September, embracing technology, a Mobile division was launched.  In early October, the brand’s website National launched a portal for user-generated video.   Today, a gaming division was added to the expanding digital media mix.

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Jerry Yang to Step Down as Yahoo CEO

yhoo help smallJerry Yang took the helm of Yahoo a year and half ago with a plan to restore the then struggling company he co-founded to its former glory.  Amidst mounting pressure from major shareholders, he’ll step down with the task far from complete.

Yahoo announced Monday evening that executive search firm Heidrick and Struggles has been retained to help them find a new CEO.  Jerry Yang will stay in the roll until a replacement is found.  He’ll then revert to his role as “Chief Yahoo.”

koogle era semel era yang eraRunning Yahoo has never been an easy task.  As demonstrated in historical stock charts depicting the stewardship of each of Yahoo’s CEO’s (shown here split adjusted), despite the company’s amazing audience growth, there’s been a consistent ebb and flow to the valuation of the company since its public debut. All of the executives saw value erode in the later periods of their tenure.

Jerry Yang’s short term was particularly tempestuous.  From February 2008 until May, he went to head to head with Steve Ballmer and Microsoft. Through the spring and summer, he faced off with shareholder Carl Icahn over board seats and corporate strategy.    Into the fall, he’s faced defecting staff and an economic environment not before seen in the lifespan of the company.

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More MMOG’s in Ubisoft’s Future

ubisoft massiveIs there an Massive Multiplayer Online Game (MMOG) with a Hollywood connection in Ubisoft’s future plans?

The convergence of Hollywood with the video game industry is a recurring theme.  Traditional studios like Paramount and Disney have expanded their game offerings.  Publishers like EA, have signed up talent agents and sought out visual storytellers to partner with; striking development deals with luminaries like Spielberg and up and comers too.  French publisher Ubisoft is as much a part of this process as any studio. 

Arguable, Ubisoft may even be blazing part of the trail.   In the past couple years, the company has made significant strides to align itself with the movie (and TV) industry.   Click to Read More

NPD October: Gaming Sales Hold Up

THQ is trimming staff and focusing on a smaller slate of titlesEA announced layoffs too and forecast caution.   Activision showed results that were stellar.  Sony got crushed with currency issues.  Nintendo raised sales expectations for the Wii.   Depending on where you looked, this earnings season was filled with mixed messages from gaming companies. These, stacked on top of stalling retail foot traffic and surprisingly weak retail sales data in August and September, have made it very difficult to gauge the health of the gaming industry heading into the pivotal holiday shopping season. 

Is the industry recession resistant?  Are negative results merely the result of delayed purchases, or single company management choices?  Or is the industry feeling the weight of the greater economy?  It’s been so tough to tell.

Today, NPD Group released their U.S. sales data for October.  The new information adds some much needed additional perspective.

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Ubisoft Takes Massive Off Activision Blizzards Hands

When a couple moves in to live together, the old wagon-wheel coffee table or never worn clothes get tossed.  Some things just don’t fit together. Others have to go to make room for the new.   The same process applies to corporate mergers.  Overlapping jobs or assets that don’t match the new coupling get discarded.

Last July,  when Activision and Vivendi Games combined to form Activision Blizzard there was no doubt some Vivendi Games properties would meet this unpleasant end.  Reviews were already being conducted.  Staff “realignments” were in the works.  “Options being explored.”

The questions were what would go, when and, for the lucky few to find new homes – where.

Today, the fate of Vivendi’s Sweden based Massive Entertainment studio was finally revealed.  It will be let go, but saved. Subject to terms not disclosed, Ubisoft has agreed to buy the critically acclaimed studio.

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The Cost of a Premium Cable TV Channel?

total investedHow much does it cost to start up a premium cable channel assuming you already have a library of programming to show? Apparently $110m to $150m is a good start.

Last April, in a surprise announcement, Lions Gate, Viacom (Paramount) and MGM announced plans to launch their own premium cable channel.  Soon after, Business Week reported former Showtime exec Mark Greenberg was set to take the helm.  Besides those two tidbits of information, there’s been much speculation but limited detail.  A new SEC filing, however, adds a little bit more.

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