Posts Tagged ‘Time warner’

Comcast’s $45 Billion Purchase Of Time Warner Cable Is Trouble For Apple TV

Jay Yarow


Mike Nudelman/Business Insider

Apple May Have Just Acquired The Final Piece It Needs To Make A Killer Apple TV

A funny thing happened this week.
After years of rumors, speculation, and wishing, we got two solid reports that said Apple was really ready to launch a full-on TV product.

Both the Wall Street Journal, and Bloomberg said Apple was planning to release an Apple TV this year. Bloomberg predicted an April reveal, and the WSJ predicted a June reveal.

These reports followed Mark Gurman at 9to5Mac saying a new Apple TV was coming in the first half of the year. All three said Apple was revamping its little hockey puck TV box, not releasing a big screen TV.

The Journal and Bloomberg both said Apple was partnering with Time Warner Cable to deliver video content to users. Apple TV would add a nice layer of user interface to Time Warner’s video stream.

However, just hours after the reports broke, a much bigger story involving the TV industry hit. Comcast was planning to buy Time Warner Cable for $45 billion in an all-stock deal.

We don’t know what this means for Apple’s TV plans, but it sure looks like whatever Apple was planning will be thrown into flux.

The Comcast-Time Warner Cable deal won’t close for a while and Comcast shouldn’t have influence over Time Warner’s plans until the deal is officially closed. But who knows if Time Warner will want to dive into something as big as a partnership with Apple at the same time that it’s getting acquired.

Our guess is that in the short term whatever Apple was working on with Time Warner Cable should be safe. Time Warner has been in play for a while, so Apple must have been aware this could happen.

In the long run, things get a little fuzzier.

On the day that news broke that Apple was working with Time Warner Cable, UBS analyst Steven Milunovich put out a note on the news titled, “Attempt to Preempt Comcast in Set-Top Box.”

Milunovich says Comcast has an agreement with Cox to use its set-top platform. Presumably, when it owns Time Warner Cable, it’s going to push those customers to use its platform. That would mean the three biggest cable companies, or ~35 million subscribers, will be using Comcast’s set top box.

Milunovich says that Comcast has been aggressively investing in its own set-top box platform, called “X1”:

“Today’s X1 features include voice-based navigation and search, personalized recommendations, a collection of customizable widgets, and access to third-party apps such as Facebook, Twitter, and Pandora. Internally referred to as X2, Comcast is in the midst of migrating its X1 users to a next-gen cloud-based device. This upgrade provides cloud-based DVR, mobile device synchronization, and app airplay capabilities.”

This makes it sound like Comcast would not want to hand over its video signal to Apple. It sounds like it thinks it can build a better TV experience.

It’s possible Apple makes something so great Comcast decides to drop its own platform, but we doubt it. It looks like when Comcast buys Time Warner Cable, Apple will have one less partner for trying to crack the TV market.

And this is the problem for Apple. Breaking into the TV market is tough because it’s a messy industry. It’s fractured, but the power is still in a few hands.

As Steve Jobs said in 2010, you can give consumers a box, but then it’s just another box on top of a box. “You end up with a table full of remotes, cluster full of boxes, bunch of UIs.”

Here’s the full quote from Jobs in 2010, which remains the best explanation of why Apple has struggled to crack TV:

“The problem with innovation in the television industry is the go to market strategy.

The television industry fundamentally has a subsidized business model that gives everybody a set top box for free, or for $10 a month. And that pretty much squashes innovation because no one is willing to buy a set top box.

Ask TiVo. Ask Replay TV. Ask Roku, ask Vudu, ask us, ask Google in a few months. Sony’s tried, Panasonic’s tried, we’ve all tried. So, all you can do is add a box onto the TV system.

You can say … I’ll add another little box with another one. You end up with a table full of remotes, cluster full of boxes, bunch of UIs.

The only way that’s ever gonna change is if you really go back toy square one and you tear up the set top box and design it with a consistent UI and deliver it to the customer in a way they’re willing to pay for it.

Right now there’s no way to do that. So that’s the problem with the TV market.

We decided, do we want a better tv or a better phone? The phone won out because there was no way to get it to market. What do we want more? A better tablet or a better tv? Well, probably a better tablet. But it doesn’t matter because there’s no way to get a tv to market. The TV is going to lose until there is a viable go to market strategy, otherwise you’re just making another TiVo.

That make sense?

It’s not a problem of technology, it’s not a problem of vision, it’s a fundamental go-to-market problem.

There isn’t a cable operator that’s national, there’s a bunch of operators. And it’s not like there’s GSM, where you build a phone and it works in all these other countries. No every single country has different standards. It’s very ‘tower of babble-is’, not that’s not the right word. Balkanized. I’m sure smarter people than us will figure this out. But when we say Apple TV is a hobby, that’s why we use that phrase. ”

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/apple-tv-comcast-time-warner-2014-2#ixzz2tbLU2M89

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Article from NYTimes.

MENLO PARK, Calif. — New York, London and Hong Kong are common addresses for blue-chip multinationals. Now Silicon Valley is, too.

From downtown San Francisco to Palo Alto, companies like American Express and Ford are opening offices and investing millions of dollars in local start-ups. This year, American Express opened a venture capital office in Facebook’s old headquarters in downtown Palo Alto. Less than three miles away, General Motors’ research lab houses full-time investment professionals, recent transplants from Detroit.

“American Express is a 162-year-old company, and this is a moment of transformation,” said Harshul Sanghi, a managing partner at American Express Ventures, the venture capital arm of the financial company. “We’re here to be a part of the fabric of innovation.”

The companies are raising their profiles in Silicon Valley at a shaky time for the broader venture capital industry. While top players like Andreessen Horowitz and Accel Partners have grown bigger, most venture capital firms are struggling with anemic returns.

The market for start-ups has also dimmed, in the wake of the sharp stock declines of Facebook, Zynga and Groupon, the once high-flying threesome that was supposed to lead the next Internet boom.

But unlike traditional venture capitalists, multinationals are less interested in profits. They are here to buy innovation — or at least get a peek at the next wave of emerging technologies.

In August, Starbucks invested $25 million in Square, the mobile payments company based in San Francisco, which will be used in the coffee chain’s stores. This year, Citi Ventures, a unit of Citigroup, invested in Plastic Jungle, an online exchange for gift cards, and Jumio, an online credit card scanner.

Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria, the large Spanish banking group, opened an office in San Francisco last year. The team, which has about $100 million to fund local start-ups, is looking for consumer applications that will help the bank create new businesses and better understand its customers.

“We are in one of the most regulated and risk-averse industries in the world, so innovation doesn’t come naturally to us,” said Jay Reinemann, the head of the BBVA office. “We want to avoid the video-rental model. We want to evolve alongside our consumers.”

The companies are hoping to tap into the entrepreneurial mind-set. Multinationals, with their huge payrolls and sprawling operations, are not as nimble as the younger upstarts. While they are rich in resources, big companies tend to be more gun-shy and usually require more time to bring a product to market.

“Companies cannot innovate as fast as start-ups; increasingly they realize they have to look outside,” said Gerald Brady, a managing director at Silicon Valley Bank, who previously led the early-stage venture arm of Siemens. “We think it’s happening a lot more than people recognize or acknowledge.”

Of the 750 corporate venture units, roughly 200 were established in the last two years, according to Global Corporate Venturing, a publication that tracks the market. In the last year, corporations participated in more than $20 billion of start-up investments.

Big business has played the role of venture capitalist before, with limited success. During the waning days of the dot-com boom, financial, media and telecommunications companies sank billions of dollars into start-ups.

The collapse was devastating. Although some managed to make money, far more burned through their cash. In 2002, Accenture, the consulting firm, scrapped its venture capital unit after taking more than $200 million in write-downs. The previous year, Wells Fargo reported $1.6 billion in losses on its venture capital investments. Dell, the computer maker, closed its venture arm in 2004 and sold its portfolio to an investment firm. (It resurrected the unit last year).

Companies say they are taking a different approach this time. Rather than making big bets across the Internet sector, investments are smaller and more selective.

“We invest with the idea that we’re a potential customer for a company,” Jon Lauckner, G.M.’s chief technology officer said. “We’re not looking to make several $5 million investments and make $10 million on each. That would be nice, but it’s not important.”

As they try to find the right start-ups, some are forging tight bonds with local firms. BBVA, for example, is an investor in 500 Startups, a venture firm that specializes in early-stage start-ups and is run by Dave McClure, a former PayPal executive.

Unilever and PepsiCo are limited partners in Physic Ventures, a venture capital firm designed to help corporate investors build commercial partnerships with portfolio companies. Both Unilever and PepsiCo have installed full-time employees in Physic’s downtown San Francisco offices.

American Express has stacked its investment team with technology veterans. Mr. Sanghi, the head of the office, has spent roughly three decades in Silicon Valley and formerly led Motorola Mobility’s venture arm. Through its network of relationships, the office has met with roughly 300 start-ups in the last six months.

The connections have started to pay off. Vinod Khosla, the head of Khosla Ventures and a co-founder of Sun Microsystems, introduced the American Express team to the executives at Ness Computing, a mobile start-up. In August, American Express partnered with Singtel, the Singapore wireless company, to invest $15 million in Ness.

Mr. Sanghi says Ness is a logical investment and a potential partner. The start-up’s application connects users to local businesses through customized search results.

“It’s trying to bring consumers and merchants together in meaningful ways,” he said. “And we’re always trying to find new ways to build value for our merchant and consumer network.”

For start-ups, a big corporate benefactor can bring resources and an established platform to promote and distribute products. Envia Systems, an electric car battery maker, picked General Motors to lead its last financing round because it wanted to have a close relationship with a major automaker, its “absolute end customer,” said Atul Kapadia, Envia’s chief executive.

Although the company received higher offers from other potential corporate investors, Envia wanted G.M.’s advice on how to build the battery so that one day it could be a standard in the company’s electric cars. After the investment, G.M. offered the start-up access to its experts and facilities in Detroit, which Envia is using.

“You want to listen to your end customer because they will help you figure out what specifications you need to get into the final product,” said Mr. Kapadia.

A marriage with corporate investors can be complicated. Besides G.M., Asahi Kasei and Asahi Glass, the Japanese auto-part makers, are also investors in Envia. They both build rival battery products for Japanese car companies.

Mr. Kapadia, who prizes their insights into Japan’s market, says his company is careful about what intellectual property information it shares with its investors. At board meetings, confidential data about Envia’s customers is discussed only at the end, so that conflicted corporate investors can easily excuse themselves.

“In our marriage, there has not been a single ethics concern, because all the expectations were hashed out in the beginning,” Mr. Kapadia said. “But I can see how this could be a land mine.”

For the big corporations, start-up investing is fraught with the same risk as traditional venture investing. Their bets might be modest, but blowups can be embarrassing and can rankle shareholders, who may see venture investing as a distraction from the core business.

OnLive, an online gaming service, offers a recent reminder.

The company was once a darling of corporate investors, with financing from the likes of Time Warner, AutoDesk, HTC and AT&T. At one point, it was valued north of $1 billion.

Despite its early promise, the start-up crashed in August, taking many in Silicon Valley by surprise. The company laid off its employees, announced a reorganization and in the process slashed the value of the shares to zero.

“It can be painful when a deal goes sour,” James Mawson, the founder of Global Corporate Venturing, said.

Read more here.

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Article from SF Gate.

“AOL Inc. bolstered its strategy to reinvent itself as a major source of online content Tuesday by buying San Francisco’s TechCrunch Inc., which operates a popular and influential network of technology news blogs.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Bloomberg News, citing two sources who were familiar with the terms, said AOL agreed to pay $25 million.

TechCrunch founder and co-editor Michael Arrington, a lawyer who has become an influential technology writer, agreed to remain with the company for at least three years as his company joins an AOL stable that includes the popular consumer electronics blog Engadget.

AOL Chief Executive Officer Tim Armstrong joined Arrington onstage during the second day of TechCrunch’s Disrupt conference at the San Francisco Design Center to publicly announce the deal Tuesday.

“I flew out here because the company I’m most interested in is TechCrunch,” Armstrong said in a tongue-in-cheek exchange with Arrington. “I’d love it if you let me partner TechCrunch with AOL to see if we can build a very substantial company together.”

“Yes is the answer,” Arrington replied before he and other TechCrunch executives signed the acquisition papers as the audience watched.

TechCrunch becomes part of AOL’s overall strategy to recover from its failed corporate marriage to Time Warner by reinventing itself as a major source of online news, information and entertainment and to make that content available on all Web-connected devices.

AOL already includes online sites and services such as FanHouse, Joystiq, Switched, MapQuest and Moviefone. The New York firm cut another deal earlier Tuesday to buy video distribution services 5min Media, which has a library of 200,000 fashion, cooking and fitness videos.

Seeking future brands

AOL also is investing in a network of hyperlocal news sites through its Patch Media subsidiary, which already covers about 150 communities. Last week, AOL launched Patch U, a network of partnerships between Patch publications and leading journalism departments at universities including Stanford, UC Berkeley, University of Southern California, Northwestern and Missouri.

“There is one thing that remains constant across all of the major platforms on the Web, and that’s content,” Armstrong said last week at a business conference sponsored by Goldman Sachs & Co. “So our specific strategy for content is to invest in the future brands for the digital space for mobile, for the Internet, for the plasma screen, and you’re going to see us continue to make more moves down that pathway.”

Many consumers may still think of AOL as being America Online, the company that rose to prominence selling dial-up access to the Internet. America Online eventually merged with media conglomerate Time Warner but spun off in December.

“Today’s news has kind of reminded people that AOL is actually not dead and buried,” said Eric Talley, co-director of the Berkeley Center for Law, Business and the Economy.

Database of investors

The acquisition of TechCrunch, which has about 40 employees, contractors and contributors, “is not a gigantic deal,” but it does give AOL a well-known brand within the tech community, Talley said. AOL also gains the potentially valuable CrunchBase online database of company and investor information.

“That data could be the source of all types of future services that AOL is interested in getting into,” Talley said.

TechCrunch becomes part of the AOL Technology Network with Engadget, which according to online measurement service comScore was the top tech blog in August with about 7.3 million unique visitors.”

Read more here

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As AOL prepares to spin off from Time Warner in an IPO, it wants to gussy itself up so that it looks as appealing as possible tp ublic investors. Today, AOL disclosed that it plans yet another restructuring which could cost as much as $200 million. The biggest cost savings from any restructuring is usually through layoffs, and the latest round has already started at AOL, with 100 let go this week and as many as 1,000 of its 6,000 jobs at risk of being eliminated.

Despite new leadership under CEO Tim Armstrong, AOL has yet to turn around financially.  Last quarter, revenues sank 23 percent to $777 million.  The biggest drop came from subscription revenues to its legacy Internet access business, down 29 percent, but advertising revenues also took a hit, down 18 percent.  AOL depends on display advertising, which has not yet rebounded like search advertising appears to be doing.

By cleaning up house and removing as many costs as possible before the IPO, Armstrong is trying to make AOL as lean as possible. But eliminating salaries and benefits can only go so far. He has to show that his new content strategy can create actual growth as well.

Article @TechCrunch

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WASHINGTON — The U.S. economy continues to hemorrhage jobs at monthly rates not seen in six decades, a government report showed, signaling that there’s still no end in sight to the severe recession that has already cost the U.S. over four million jobs.

The report suggests that households, already seeing the value of their homes and investments plunge, face added headwinds from the labor market, which could put more pressure on consumer spending in coming months.

Nonfarm payrolls, which are calculated by a survey of companies, fell 651,000 in February, the U.S. Labor Department said Friday, in line with economist expectations. However, December and January were revised to show much steeper declines. In the case of December, the revision was to a drop of 681,000, the most since 1949 when a huge strike affected half a million workers. However, the labor force was smaller then than it is now.

The economy has shed 4.4 million jobs since the recession began in December 2007, with almost half of those losses occurring in the last three months alone. And unemployment is lasting much longer. As of last month, 2.9 million people were unemployed more than six months, up from just 1.3 million at the start of the recession.

“The sharp and widespread contraction in the labor market continued in February,” said Keith Hall, Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Layoffs announcements continued last month across industries including Macy’s Inc., Time Warner Cable Inc., Estee Lauder Cos., Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. and General Motors Corp.

The unemployment rate, which is calculated using a survey of households, jumped 0.5 percentage point to 8.1%, the highest since December 1983 and slightly above expectations for an 8% rate. Some economists think it could hit 10% by the end of next year. For many industries including manufacturing, construction, business services and leisure, the jobless rate is already in double digits.

Read the full article by Brian Blackstone here.

Other comments can be found here: Flowing data, AFL-CIO, 8Pac

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