M&A News Briefs: Sony BMG done, Take Two Done Shopping

proxyfights.jpgCrossing T’s and dotting I’s, this week there were a couple news briefs from the M&A front:

Sony BMG:  After months of rumors, Sony announced August 5th that they’d reached an agreement to buy partner, Bertelsmann’s, fifty percent stake in their joint Sony BMG music label.  Regulators in Europe approved the deal a few weeks ago and it’s now officially complete.  The world’s second largest record label, which includes famed imprints Columbia, Arista, Epic and RCA records, will now be called Sony Music Entertainment, Inc. and be a subsidiary of Sony Corporation of America.  Bertelsmann received $1.2b, including $300m in cash that was carried on Sony BMG’s books.

Take TwoEA walked from its hostile takeover attempt in August, and two weeks ago, walked from the prospect of a friendly deal too.  Now Take Two Interactive, will walk away from sales discussions Click to Read More

Meet MySpace Music

myspace music liveMySpace controls 67.5% of the social networking marketplace in the U.S. (Hitwise).  Thursday, the News Corp owned company moved to strengthen its position with the launch of a sweeping new music service.

First announced in April, the service is a joint venture built with the participation of all four of the major music labels (Sony BMG, Universal, Warner Music and late entry to the partnership, EMI).  It offers free, on-demand, ad-supported streamed songs from a massive musical catalog.   Listeners are able to pick and choose what they want to hear, when they want to hear it.   To encourage sharing and interaction, they can also create and share an unlimited number of playlists, each compiled with up to one hundred songs.  The service is live now.

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Musical Experiments: Meet Slot Music

slot musicEfforts by the major music labels to find new revenue sources that will replace eroding CD sales often have the feeling of things being thrown at the wall to see what sticks.  Today, the Big 4 (Sony BMG, Universal, Vivendi and Warner Music Group) threw a flash memory card with a little help from a hardware maker.

SanDisk, the world’s leading supplier of flash memory cards announced the new initiative to sell the tiny memory chips preloaded with full albums of MP3 music.  Plug the card into your MP3 capable phone, or portable player and it’s ready to go.  It’s near instantly accessible tunes in the palm of your hand. 

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Best Buy Opens Napsters Third Act

napster best buy

It would probably be entirely reasonable if all the financial news published on Monday focused solely on the banking world: the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, the sale of Merrill Lynch, the ongoing saga of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  Books will be written about these events.  Analysts and academics will probe the “why’s” and “where’s” of what happened and try to lay out a map of how to avoid repetition.  Policy makers may even push legislation to prevent recurrence (as was the case with Sarbanes-Oxley following the scandals at Enron, Tyco, Adelphia, Worldcom and others). 

Compared to these big headlines, the rest of Monday’s business news was small to the point of seeming irrelevance, still there was plenty going on of merit within other markets.  As one analyst’s comments suggested, the collapse of Lehman Brothers doesn’t stop Microsoft from selling software or consumers from shopping at Wal-mart.  Life, and business, will adjust and move forward.

One piece of interesting news in the media, entertainment and technology sector was an announcement by retail giant, Best Buy, that they were purchasing digital music service Napster (press release). Comparatively tiny, in scale and scope, the news could be more significant that it might otherwise appear.  

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Moving Vertical: Live Nations Increasingly Integrated Music Business

live nation bankSince being spun off from Clear Channel in 2005, Live Nation’s management has oriented the company toward a path of broad, vertical integration.  Instead of being just an event promoter, they’ve aimed to transform from a narrowly focused promotion business to a comprehensive music services company.  Non-essential (and non-music) assets have been divested.  Ticketing and fan membership services have been acquired.  People and assets have been shifted.  This week, two more steps were taken toward the fulfillment of those goals.

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Apples Fall Colors: New iPod Nano and upgraded Touch Revealed

new ipodsAs unpredictable as Apple can be, the marketing machine in Cupertino is also prone to keeping to a schedule. Since planting a flag claiming Tuesday’s as their own, every one since has been “iTunes Tuesday,”  Apple’s branded day for releasing new music.   Since 2005, Apple has also kept to a schedule with product upgrades.  On either the first Wednesday (2005 and 2007), or the second Tuesday (2006 and this year) in September, new iPod Nano’s are released.

Today, at the much hyped, and wildly anticipated Apple press event in San Francisco – Apple delivered on time.    As foreshadowed by early posters, and largely as predicted by the Apple -watching media:  Steve Jobs took the stage to reveal slate of evolutionary changes to the iPod lineup.

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Applevine: Save the date, Start the Speculation

applevineApple has as devoted, outspoken, and vigilant a fan base as any tech company.  People love the products that come out of Cupertino, and maybe just as much, they love to talk about them.  It’s: What they include, what’s inside, what’s missing and what’ll come next. It’s how they look, how they function and how they match up to competition.   Apple’s marketing staff, and ring leader Steve Jobs, are not only aware of the phenomenon, they cultivate it.  In each of the past two years, Apple’s tempted audiences at their July earnings calls with news of mysterious products shifts. They’ve then scheduled a September reveal.

Since this year’s announcement (“several more wonderful new products to launch in the coming months” was part of the official word), the Applevine has been alive with rumor, gossip and speculation.  Crystal ball toting fans have forecast new Macbooks, tea leave readers have seen signs for new iPods. There’s been talk of iTunes subscription services, even a second iPhone.

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