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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Founder Jerry Yang Resigns From Yahoo

Jerry Yang - H - 2008
Jery Yang in 2008

The co-founder of the online firm says "the time has come for me to pursue other interests outside of Yahoo."

NEW YORK -- Yahoo's stock rose in after-hours after the online company said that co-founder Jerry Yang has resigned from its board and all other positions with the company, including that of "chief Yahoo," effective immediately.
He also resigned from the boards of Yahoo Japan and Alibaba Group Holding, the stakes in which analysts hope the company will sell.

Yang's departure comes after the recent appointment of former PayPal president Scott Thompson as CEO and at a time when the online giant continues to explore its strategic options. Among them are investments from private equity firms and the sale of its Asian assets. Some observers have seen Yang as an obstacle to a deal.

Yahoo shares were up around 3.5 percent at 5:15 p.m. ET.

Yang, whose net worth stood at $1.1 billion as of September, according to Forbes' annual billionaires list, co-founded Yahoo in 1995 with David Filo. He served as a member of the board since  March 1995. He was also the company's CEO from June 2007 to January 2009.

Yang wrote in a letter to the board: "My time at Yahoo, from its founding to the present, has encompassed some of the most exciting and rewarding experiences of my life. However, the time has come for me to pursue other interests outside of Yahoo. As I leave the company I co-founded nearly 17 years ago, I am enthusiastic about the appointment of Scott Thompson as Chief Executive Officer and his ability, along with the entire Yahoo leadership team, to guide Yahoo! into an exciting and successful future."

"I am grateful for the warm welcome and support Jerry provided me during my early days here," said Thompson in a statement. "Jerry leaves behind a legacy of innovation and customer focus for this iconic brand, having shaped our culture by fostering a spirit of innovation that began 17 years ago and continues to grow even stronger today."

From The Hollywood Reporter (click here)

Golden Globes Legal Fight. Clear Channel Seeks Multi-Media Empire. Can Great Gadsby Capture 3D.

A fight is brewing over the Golden Globes

Golden Globes take of Gloves for Bare Knuckle Legal Fight.  Forget the argument over whether Brad Pitt should have beaten George Clooney for best actor in Sunday's Golden Globes. The real fight is between the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), the owner of the event, and Dick Clark Productions (DCP), which produces it for television.

Next Tuesday, the two are scheduled to go to court over a 2010 television deal DCP signed with NBC to keep the show on the network through 2018. Soon after the agreement was reached, the HFPA filed a suit against DCP claiming it did not have the authority to sign a new accord with NBC without their approval. DCP has said the HFPA's suit is without merit. The agreement, which was supposed to go into effect in 2012, has been in limbo.

The non-jury trial may have some big-name witnesses, including DCP founder Dick Clark, who long ago sold the company but certainly knows all the history of the relationship with the HFPA.
For a preview of the legal battle and what's at stake, please see our story in Tuesday's Los Angeles Times.

Clear Channel to Expand beyond Radio and Concert venues. Media industry veteran John Sykes is joining radio giant Clear Channel as president of its newly created entertainment enterprise unit.
In his new role, Sykes will look to expand Clear Channel, which has 850 radio stations, into television, digital platforms and live entertainment.

In an interview, Sykes, who had stints as president of cable channel VH1 and CBS Radio, said he wants to use the “muscle and reach” of Clear Channel to turn it from “850 independent shops” to a “large-scale media company.”

The move to Clear Channel reunites Sykes with Bob Pittman, the chief executive of Clear Channel parent CC Media Holdings Inc. The two worked together on the launch of MTV in 1981 and have remained close since then.

Sykes' hire is part of CC Media’s plan under Pittman to reposition itself as more than a radio company. Last week, CC Media officially changed the name of Clear Channel Radio to Clear Channel Media & Entertainment.

Mark Wahlberg opened at top of box office

'Contraband' no fake at box office. Mark Wahlberg's new thriller "Contraband" took the top spot at the box office over the holiday weekend. The movie took in almost $30 million, making it Wahlberg's biggest debut. Coming in second was the 3-D reissue of "Beauty and the Beast," which made $23.5 million. "Joyful Noise" took in just S13.8 million. "The Devil Inside," which was No. 1 last week, fell off 76% in its second weekend. Box-office coverage from the Los Angeles Times and Variety.

3-D for adults. Baz Luhrmann, the director of "Moulin Rouge," is taking a big gamble by putting his movie version of F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby" in 3-D. So far the technology has primarily been used for action and animated movies, not sophisticated adult dramas. Still, Warner Bros. is liking what it's seeing so far. “You were immersed in the lifestyle of Gatsby,” Dan Fellman, head of domestic distribution for the studio, told the New York Times. “You were in his world, moving from room to room.”

Meger Mania for SAG/AFTRA. Hollywood's two main actors unions, the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, early Monday morning took a historic step toward combining their two unions. The Group for One Union, which is made up of leaders of SAG and AFTRA, hammered out an agreement to merge the unions after nine days of intensive talks -- held out of the public view at the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel. The plan will be unveiled Sunday with a vote a week from Saturday night (or early Sunday morning).

The Daily Dose: National Geographic, which last week unveiled plans for two new series, is opening up an office in Los Angeles as part of its plan to build closer ties to the programming community here and boost its content pipeline. So if you have ideas that both showcase the beauty of our world and have the action feel of a good episode of "Cops," start getting your pitch together.

Call the lawyers. Remember when Netflix stock was flying high then took a tumble after the entertainment company announced a new pricing plan for renting movies that had subscribers screaming? Well, now an investor group charges Netflix that hid negative trends about its subscription business as well as the state of relations with the companies it gets content from. Details from the Hollywood Reporter.

For sale? Now that production companies Lions Gate and Summit have finally announced their merger, it may be time for each to clean out their closets before moving in with each other. In the case of Lions Gate that could mean unloading the little-watched TV Guide cable channel. The New York Post reports that Lions Gate has already retained an investment bank to shop the network.

Miramax co-owner Colony Capital may not have ended up buying Summit Entertainment, but its effort demonstrates that the private equity fund has big plans for the film library it bought from Walt Disney Co.
Libraries are not quiet places. Miramax co-owner Colony Capital may not have ended up buying Summit Entertainment, but its effort demonstrates that the private equity fund has big plans for the film library it bought from Walt Disney Co. last year.

If it had succeeded in acquiring Summit, Colony had planned to merge it with Miramax, creating a studio with a library of 700 classic specialty titles, the "Twilight" franchise, a robust foreign sales operation and the ability to produce and distribute its own pictures, according to a knowledgeable person not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

Colony, working with the Qatari Investment Authority and other partners, was one of two final bidders for Summit, but ended up pulling out in late 2011 as Lions Gate began to finalize the agreement that closed last Friday.

The strong push for Summit shows that Miramax's owners want to build their own full-service studio, the knowledgeable person confirmed. Don't be surprised to see Colony and its partners go after another similar acquisition, or invest in Miramax to create those capabilities, the source said.

Not that Miramax has fared poorly as a library management company since it was sold by Disney in late 2010 to a consortium including Colony, the Qatari Investment Authority and billionaire Ron Tutor. Financial data shared by Miramax Chairman and Colony partner Richard Nanula in December shows the company has added $325 million of contracted cash flow since it went independent, including $190 million from deals with digital distributors including Netflix and Hulu and $120 million from new DVD and Blu-ray deals.

As television deals put in place by Disney before the sale expire over the next decade, Miramax will also have the ability to generate new revenue from TV distribution.
The company's improved financial situation allowed it to issue debt in a $500-million recapitalization this fall that, Nanula said, has already returned the majority of the new Miramax owners' invested capital.

Bench-clearing brawl. Many big cable networks, including ESPN, are cutting deals with cable and satellite operators that also include online distribution. Consumers will be able to watch cable programming content online provided they are subscribers to a multichannel video program distributor (MVPD). It's known in the industry as TV Everywhere. However, Major League Baseball offers consumers access to its content online without the necessity of an MVPD subscription. Such a delivery system is known as over-the-top and it is the biggest fear of MVPDs. Now a battle is brewing among the MVPDs, other sports networks who are embracing the TV Everywhere concept, and Major League Baseball. More on the spat from Sports Business Journal.

Believe the hype ... please. Zynga Inc., maker of the popular social networking game FarmVille, has been battling the perception that it is another over-hyped online company. Chief Executive Mark Pincus defends Zynga in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.

Inside the Los Angeles Times: James Rainey looks at how some companies -- including Wikipedia -- are trying to fight  anti-piracy legislation.

-- Joe Flint and others

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From the LA Times Company Town here for the latest entertainment news.

Clear Channel Drops Radio from It's Name

Dropping Radio
From Eric Rhoads, Radio Ink

Radio just got dropped by Clear Channel Radio: It's now Clear Channel Media and Entertainment.

I suspect the reaction from some will be negative. Some will say Clear Channel doesn't care about radio anymore. Others will say it signals that radio is dead. There will be a thousand opinions about this change, and I do think it is a significant signal.

First, I believe Clear Channel remains deeply committed to radio. Radio currently makes up a majority of the company's revenue, and anyone thinking they don't care any longer is foolish. I had lunch with CEO John Hogan just last week, and I have never seen him more engaged and more excited about the company and all the different initiatives they are touching. He seems truly engaged with the leadership of Bob Pittman and loves that the company is opening new doors in new areas.

This name change signals exactly what can be expected from Bob Pittman, who orchestrated the AOL merger and ran Time Warner -- a global giant with every form of media, including film and music. All my friends have been wondering why Pittman would put his own money into a radio company, with apparently no clear exit strategy to get a return on his investment. As I've said all along, Pittman never goes into an investment without knowing how he is going to get out of it. I think this name change is the first clue.

Clear Channel Radio proved something with the recent iHeartRadio Festival, pulling off what music maven Irving Azoff said was the biggest and best concert he had seen in his lifetime. Clear Channel used the power of radio to drive a lightning bolt of energy into iHeartRadio, which has been on fire since. Why bother? Just look at the market cap of Pandora, and that answers the question. Pandora's current valuation exceeds all publicly traded radio companies combined -- sans profit. If Clear Channel can build iHeartRadio to a similar valuation, it will do incredible things to the financial picture for Clear Channel.

And now, of course, Clear Channel is moving into the massive couponing world to compete against Groupon and Living Social, which have giant valuations and revenues -- but don't have the advantage of a local sales team and 800-plus radio stations to drive success. This leverage of radio, to drive other businesses, is the future of Clear Channel.

I think the Clear Channel we see today will look very different a year from now. Think about the conditions of the marketplace. We still have not resolved the music licensing issue, and people like me have been saying all along that no airplay will kill the music labels -- and radio should use that leverage and launch our own labels. Why not Clear Channel Media and Entertainment? Pittman already had many major artists working for him at Time Warner. He has the leverage of airplay. I think a label is the next logical step. Maybe that too will be a collaboration with Cumulus Media. Radio can drive airplay and sales. Online listening can not only drive it, but drive clickthroughs for a percentage of the sale.

Why not Clear Channel Films? Film companies buy radio to drive attendance. It's logical. Then why not own Web brands, like Huffington or Drudge. Pittman invested in and sold Daily Candy for $200 million. Online brands can be driven by radio and can be used as product placement in films. One media fuels the other.

If you're thinking this name change signals the death of radio, you're wrong. This is the chance radio needs to become an inflection point to drive other media. These are the moves all radio companies should be making in their own unique way. Your job really isn't to create radio and sell ads. Your job is to create loyal audiences and help move product. Change your perspective, and you end up changing how you look at your purpose.

At Radio Ink Forecast in December, WBEB/Philadelphia owner Jerry Lee acknowledged Bob Pittman as the best thing that could happen for radio. I agree. No other leadership in our industry has been able to gel the big media play for radio and to get away from this radio mindset. Though Pittman loves radio, his childhood sweetheart, he knows that we have to get beyond the limits we've placed on ourselves.

Bravo, Clear Channel Media and Entertainment.

Eric Rhoads

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