This year, those companies were imperiled, struggling to survive like many other companies around the world. But as print media disputed declarations that its days were numbered, these once-great companies that made their money from print pubs were fighting hard to keep their heads above water. In order to do that they made some decisions — like bringing in new investors, closing publications and selling them off. It was in no way a big year for media deals, but there were a few. Below, our list of the biggest business stories to come out of the New York media world this year.
Comcast-owned DailyCandy had some bad news for its staffers yesterday. On the same day that daily online newsletter publisher’s parent company announced the acquisition of a stake in NBC Universal, DailyCandy’s GM Beth Ellard told staffers that six full-time editors covering various markets across the country had been let go, according to a memo acquired by Gawker.
We confirmed that market editors in Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Philadelphia, Seattle and Washington, D.C. had been let go. Miami is also losing its editor, Brooke Siegel, who is moving back to New York to work from DailyCandy HQ, along with promotions editor Dan Murphy. But that doesn’t mean the company is discontinuing distribution of its newsletters in those cities.
Starting next year, subscribers in these markets will receive “DailyCandy Everywhere” newsletters four times a week along with city-specific events-focused newsletters on Thursday — called “The Weekend Guide” — and Sunday. The Sunday letter will be a new addition to the DailyCandy family that we hear the company is close to announcing soon. To maintain this popular events coverage, DailyCandy will be maintaining contributing editors in these markets, which may end up being the editors who were just let go.
Meanwhile, newsletters in DailyCandy’s five other markets, New York, Chicago, London, Los Angeles and San Francisco, will continue to get city-focused newsletters five days a week as well as, presumably, the Sunday edition when it launches.
Well the big media deal that has been much talked about all fall has finally been officially announced.
This morning, Comcast and General Electric announced that they are entering a joint venture that will include NBC Universal — valued at $30 billion — as well as Comcast’s cable nets, including E!, Versus and the Golf Channel, and its regional sports networks, among other Comcast assets — with a value of $7.25 billion. Comcast will now own 51 percent of the new venture, after paying $6.5 billion to GE in cash.
Now, the deal heads to the regulators for approval, and all media watchers are looking forward to see how the government handles the first big media deal under the Obama administration. The New York Times has gotten its hands on a memo sent today from NBCU CEO Jeff Zucker to his staff. Zucker has been put in charge of the new venture, and he will be reporting to Comcast’s COO. Said Zucker:
“We expect regulatory approvals to take 9 to 12 months. So, for now, it remains business as usual. And in fact, I expect this will be the case for the vast majority of you even after the deal closes. NBC Universal will continue to be, first and foremost, a world-class content company.”
After the jump, GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt and Comcast CEO Brian Roberts in their first post-deal interview on CNBC this morning, in which they talk about their reasons behind seeking the deal, the future of their joint venture and what they think about the upcoming regulator approval process.
Several news outlets reported last night that General Electric had reached an agreement with Vivendi to buy the remaining stake in NBC Universal that it did not yet own. This long-expected agreement now paves the way for Comcast to step in and pick up a controlling interested in NBCU from GE.
Our sister blog TVNewser has a run down of some of the coverage on the deal. Among the highlights:
- GE will reportedly buy Vivendi’s 20 percent stake in NBCU for about $5.8 billion.
Connecticut Post: The Fairfield University independent student paper that published an offensive column earlier this year now faces harassment charges before the Connecticut school’s Student Conduct Board.
Video: Chef, restaurateur and iVillage Food contributor Donatella Arpaia prepares her quick Sunday ragu at the launch party for iVillage.com/food
Last night at the Culinary Loft in SoHo, iVillage celebrated the launch of its newly revamped food destination, iVillage.com/food, with basil-limoncello cocktails, Web site demos, and a veritable Italian feast prepared by New York restaurant fixture and iVillage contributor Donatella Arpaia.
On the heels of September’s entertainment site relaunch, which Lauren Zalaznick, president of NBC Universal‘s Women and Lifestyle Entertainment Networks, says spurred a spike in page views, membership, and message board activity, iVillage hopes to recreate that success with its latest makeover in the Food category.
“Almost three-fourths of all women who are on the Web rely on the Internet for meal planning and healthy eating,” said Zalaznick. “If we fill that gap… that’s how iVillage is going to win.”
Christina Bender, director of product development for iVillage, acknowledged, “We know competition’s stiff,” citing FoodNetwork.com, Delish.com, and MarthaStewartLiving.com as rivals. Bender said the new site’s secret weapon will be to “uncover what women are already saying” in the vibrant iVillage community of 20 million unique monthly visitors, bolstered by their unique access to NBC Universal’s “premier content,” which includes Bravo‘s explosively popular “Top Chef” brand.
“This is a community-centric site, not a user-generated site,” Zalaznick said. It’s “a big, rollicking portal that behaves like a series of niches.”
“You have to be able to adapt and keep up with the way women use media,” said chief content officer Angela Matusik, who says the revamp is meant to “modernize the message board” with new tools and ways to contribute to the conversation. Next up to go under the knife? The Astrology channel, followed by Health, Beauty and Family. And stay tuned, Matusik added, for a new iVillage social media community platform set to launch sometime in 2010.
Read on for a breakdown of the site’s features and fabulous food photos:
This morning, at the Media and Money Conference, hosted by Nielsen and Dow Jones, Carey spoke about a number of topics — from Comcast seeking majority ownership of NBC Universal to the future of network television to pay walls for online journalism.
Carey said he thought the NBCU deal “makes sense for Comcast,” adding that it is a “pretty smartly structured deal” for the company. He also seemed pretty excited about the fact that the deal would test the regulatory waters under the new administration, perhaps setting the stage for or heading off other deals in the future. “These are uncharted waters with major issues with two big companies,” he said.
Carey seemed positive that the major players involved would be left with “regulatory baggage” after the deal was completed, although he doubted any assets would have to be sold.
As for pay walls, which News Corp.-owned Wall Street Journal has excelled at and Murdoch has pushed to extend across all his brands, Carey emphasized consistency. He said he was interested in “creating a great experience around content itself,” adding that people will pay for value and a good experience. “Quality journalism has value,” he said.
Later, when a reporter quizzed him about Murdoch’s plans to take his sites off Google and the Journal‘s leaky wall, Carey said he wanted the pay wall to remain consistent — if only subscribers can access certain content on WSJ.com, then others shouldn’t get it for free. But, there is some content you can get for free on the site, Carey pointed out. He didn’t outline any plans for creating the consistency he championed.
More from the Media and Money Conference, after the jump
“Under the terms being discussed, Zucker will lead the new entity, with no clauses for him to leave after a specific period, the sources said on Tuesday…There has been a lot of speculation about who would head the new company, especially since Peter Chernin — the former president of News Corp. — has been advising Comcast.
The sources said Zucker would be chief executive, but no decisions had been made on what role Chernin might play, if any. Discussions about what the new board would look like are ongoing, the sources said.”
Comcast has been in talks to purchase a controlling interest in NBCU for a number of weeks, and a deal is expected to be announced soon. By keeping Zucker on, it looks like Comcast is putting its faith in him. But can NBC’s recent ratings challenges all be chalked up to the the recently departedBen Silverman?