The 26th European Film Awards ceremony just concluded tonight in Berlin. Last year, on its road to a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar win and a Best Picture nomination, Michael Haneke’s Amour won four prizes including Best European Film. This year, Italy’s Oscar entry The Great Beauty was the big winner with nods for film, director, lead actor, and a previously announced prize for editing. Paolo Sorrentino’s love letter to Rome, as seen through the eyes of a 65-year-old man, was a Cannes competitor earlier this year. Sorrentino was not on hand at the ceremony. The movie had four nominations tonight, losing out only in the screenwriting category where the prize went to France’s François Ozon for In The House. The most-nominated film this evening was Felix van Groeningen’s Berlin and Tribeca prize-winner, The Broken Circle Breakdown. Out of five nominations, the Oscar entry from Belgium walked away with one, for actress Veerle Baetens. Other major winners announced tonight included Ari Folman’s best animated feature The Congress. In what was an overriding theme of the night – collaboration between film industries – the Israeli director pointed out that nine different nations and 270 animators had contributed to the movie.
Opening the show, German comedy star and host of the evening, Anke Engelke, joked it was the first time Michael Haneke “won’t go home with 26 prizes.” … Read More »
Optimists and pessimists will find evidence to justify their views of AOL in this morning’s earnings release. Net income attributable to AOL at $2.0M, is down 90.4% vs the period last year as the company took a $25.0M impairment charge on its beleaguered Patch local news web operation plus a $19M restructuring charge. But revenues at $561.3M are up 5.6%. The top line soundly beat expectations for $548.8M. Earnings per share were reported at 2 cents, but likely beat the Street’s prediction of 35 cents once you factor out one-time charges which the company says amounted to 53 cents. While there’s a lot of noise in the report, some of the fundamental numbers look OK. Global ad sales were up 13.5% to $386.0M helped by growth in sales from video. Display ads were +5% due to price increases while search was +3% which the company attributes to an increase in revenue per search. Per usual, AOL’s old Internet subscription service weighed down the results with revenues -7.5% to $204,5M as the number of domestic subscribers fell 13.3% to 2.5M. But there’s a silver lining here, too — last year subscription revenue fell 10%, which suggests the rate of decline is slowing. CEO Tim Armstrong says the numbers “highlight the strength of AOL’s strategy and the consistent execution of our team in delivering great consumer experiences and successful customer results.”
If you look at the Moviefone’s amateurish looking site, which AOL bought for $400M in 1999, you’ll see why it needs work. The company says today that it has enlisted BermanBraun “to reimagine Moviefone and give the iconic entertainment brand a new design and enhanced user experience.” Early next year the site will have “a fresh look and a more robust offering of entertainment news and content as well as a state of the art utility for consumers to find and watch premium content on all devices.” Susan Lyne, who’s CEO of the AOL Brand Group, worked with BermanBraun principal Lloyd Braun at ABC where they developed shows including Lost, Desperate Housewives, and Grey’s Anatomy. The Hollywood-based media company has helped AOL shape sites including Mandatory, Pawnation, and Skye. With that background “we are excited to partner with them to ensure Moviefone becomes a premiere, multiscreen destination for movie news and information,” Lyne says. Braun and his partner, Gail Berman, say they will “reimagine Moviefone as a vital and essential entertainment brand for the mobile generation.”
So much for all those inaccurate media reports that Arianna Huffington’s piece of the HuffPo-AOL deal was around $100 million. In fact, her share was less than 7% of the $315 million sales price. The Smoking Gun today posts a new court document stemming from an ongoing lawsuit. Marked ‘Confidential’ and ‘Attorney’s Eyes Only’ and dated February 2011, the memo prepared for AOL board members shows Arianna received about $21M. And $3.4M of that came in the form of stock options that would vest about 20 months after the deal closed and another $3M in stock options and restricted stock units. The document came to light because of a lawsuit by two consultants accusing Ariana and her business partner Kenneth Lerer of stealing the idea for HuffPo.
This was the shoe everyone was waiting to hear drop as AOL chief Tim Armstrong abandons his ambition to blanket the country with web sites offering hyper-local news. He told staffers at his Patch network of news destinations that 40% of them — about 480 people — will be laid off, media watchdog Jim Romenesko reports. AOL will continue to operate 60% of the sites. It will join partners to keep 20% open, and another 20% will either be consolidated or closed. “The people leaving Patch have played a significant role in making Patch an integral part of the communities it serves – and we thank them for their hard work and passion for Patch,” the company says. Today’s announcement comes about a week after Armstrong committed a colossal PR blunder by coldly firing Patch creative director Abel Lenz in the middle of a public meeting. The CEO later admitted it was a “mistake,” but excused his bullying as an “emotional response at the start of a difficult discussion dealing with many people’s careers and livelihood.” Armstrong helped to found Patch in 2007. Shortly after he became AOL’s chief executive in 2009, the company paid about $7M to acquire it. He also invested heavily in the operation, calling community-level advertising “one of the largest commercial opportunities online that have yet to be won.” As losses continued Patch shifted its focus away from journalism. Armstrong told analysts last … Read More »
AOL and other web video providers showed with their NewFront presentations — timed to coincide with the TV networks’ upfronts in May — that they’re serious about trying to siphon ad dollars that typically go to broadcast and cable networks. Now AOL’s Tim Armstrong says he wants to take the next step by introducing the AOL Networks Programmatic Upfront on September 23, designed to become an annual event. The term “programmatic” refers to display ads that companies including Google and Yahoo sell in auctions, typically handled just by computers. The problem: “The online advertising industry has created a fear and chaos-based environment filled with hundreds of small companies each pitching highly technical necessities” for advertisers to reach audiences, Armstrong says in a blog post this morning. “They can’t shift their budgets from TV until we — as an industry — demonstrate the true power of digital to unlock creativity.” AOL’s “Programmatic Upfront” will feature marketers and agency execs explaining why advertisers should “pre-allocate media budgets against large scale display inventory,” he says. This market is growing fast: Advertisers are expected to spend $3.36B this year on real-time bidding, and eMarketer forecasts that it will grow to $8.49B in 2017, accounting for 29% of digital display spending.
The revenue growth is modest, but it’s the second time in eight years that AOL has been able to boast that the gains from ad sales have outweighed the decline in its Internet subscription business. The company just reported Q1 net income of $25.6M, +21.9% vs the quarter last year, on revenues of $538.3M, +1.7%. Revenues beat analyst forecasts for $537.2M. But diluted earnings at 32 cents a share missed their target for 35 cents. AOL says that a 9% growth in global ad sales to $359.2M included an 8% increase in global display revenues — with domestic sales +6% — as well as a 10% pick up in third party network revenue and 9% rise in search revenue. The Brand Group — with online destinations including The Huffington Post, Patch and TechCrunch — saw a 14% pick up in sales to $189.6M while its cash flow loss was cut to $4.9M from $16.8M. About 112M different people visited AOL properties each month, up 3% from last year’s Q1 but -1% from the end of the year. The ad gains were somewhat offset by the Internet access business which ended the quarter with 2.7M domestic subscribers, -4.7% from the end of 2012. Revenues for that business fell 10% to $211.5M while adjusted cash flow fell 8% to $146.4M. Finally, the AOL Networks business services unit saw revenues increase 8% to $160.9M with an adjusted cash flow loss of … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Alex Winter’s documentary about about the rise and fall of Napster has a new online home. AOL will be making Downloaded available to visitors to its on.aol.com via streaming later this year. This is the portal’s first foray into longform streaming as a part of the distribution deal between the brand company and VH1, which is showing the film theatrically. Downloaded will be on AOL after its big-screen release this summer by the Viacom-owned broadcaster’s VH1 Rock Docs in partnership with Cinetic Media and Richard Abramowitz. The film on the legacy of file sharing pioneer premiered at this year’s SXSW Film Festival. Downloaded will also be on Cable VOD and iTunes later this year as well. “We sold the film to AOL at SXSW,” ,” Winter told me. “Cinetic’s John Sloss, VH1 and I made a deal with our partners that focused heavily on digital/streaming and still gives us room for theatrical and CVOD. It’s a new frontier for distributing movies, and the Internet is finally monetizing in a way that can work for everyone.” The film was directed and executive produced by Winter and executive produced by Maggie Malina. Executive producers for VH1 are Brad Abramson, Warren Cohen, Rick Krim, Bill Flanagan, Shelly Tatro, and Jeff Olde
A lot of people in the corporate communications community were eager to see who would win this high-profile gig. Peter Land will be an SVP, reporting to AOL chief Tim Armstrong in New York. The CEO says Land will “develop and oversee AOL’s global external and internal corporate communications strategies” and “work in concert with our investor relations, government affairs and public policy groups.” Land’s PR team at Pepsi won the Public Relations Society of America’s 2011 Public Relations Professional of the Year award for a project that encouraged people to offer ideas to enhance their communities that the company then helped to fund. Before joining Pepsi, Land worked at Edelman, the NBA, and Kraft Foods.
NEW YORK–(February 28, 2013)–Susan Lyne, Vice Chairman of Gilt and AOL board member, has been appointed to run AOL’s portfolio of brands that serve over 100 million consumers globally. Lyne will oversee all aspects of the Brand Group’s growth strategy, including increasing traffic across properties, maximizing partnerships with advertisers and publishers, and attracting top talent, with a particular focus on content, design, programming, and product. Lyne recently transitioned from her role as Chairman of Gilt to become Vice Chairman. She will continue in that role. Lyne’s appointment is part of AOL’s continued efforts to streamline its operations and give its business unit leaders more autonomy and accountability. AOL has three business units –The Membership Group, which consists of offerings that serve AOL account holders, AOL Networks, which consists of AOL’s offerings to publishers and advertisers utilizing AOL’s third-party advertising network, and the Brand Group, which consists of AOL’s portfolio of distinct and unique content brands. All three business units were overseen by AOL’s Chief Operating Officer, Arthur “Artie” Minson, who will stay with the company for a transition period.
Related: Susan Lyne To Run Content At AOL – But Not Huffington Post: AllThingsD
The former president and CEO of Martha Stewart Living Ominimedia and ABC Entertainment chief is close to joining AOL as CEO of its content brands, according to AllThingsD’s Kara Swisher. Susan Lyne would have oversight over brands like Engadget and TechCrunch but not The Huffington Post, whose group is headed by Arianna Huffington. Lyne has served on the AOL board of directors since 2009 and is also Vice Chairman of the Gilt Group after joining the online retailer as CEO in 2008. Before that she was president at MSLO. As ABC Entertainment’s boss she spearheaded series like Desperate Housewives and Grey’s Anatomy.
Shares are up about 7% in pre-market trading after AOL reported a milestone that investors have been waiting to see: Its revenues have finally picked up as gains from ad sales outpaced the declines from its ancient (in Internet terms) Web subscription business. The company says that in Q4 it generated $35.4M in net income, +55.3% vs the period last year, on revenues of $599.5M, +3.9%. The top line number is well ahead of the Street’s expectation for $573.7M. Earnings at 41 cents a share matched the consensus forecast. AOL says that global ad sales were up 13% while subscription revenues fell 10%. The company had 2.8M domestic Internet subscribers at year end, -15%. Revenues at the Brand Group — which includes some of AOL’s most popular Web destinations including the Huffington Post, Moviefone, and its Patch local news sites — were up 4% to $213.2M, but increasing expenses resulted in a 34% decline in cash flow to $8.8M. Read More »
Here’s a friendly suggestion for the execs at AOL. Lay off the jargon and industry gobbledygook when you announce a change that’s supposed to clarify what your business is all about. The release this morning about the rebranding of the Advertising.com Group — making it AOL Networks — is a case in point. We’re talking about the operation with ad sales business Advertising.com, video site AOL On Network, and other ad services including goviral, ADTECH, and Pictela. So the AOL Networks name is more all-encompassing than Advertising.com Group? I think so. But someone at the company apparently wanted the explanation to sound more, well, pompous. The release says the new AOL Networks name “should help all stakeholders better understand the rich stack of assets and robust technology it brings together” and ”clearly represents the recognized cross-screen offerings across premium, programatic and performance advertising.”
Got it? No? Perhaps the quotation from AOL Networks CEO Ned Brody can help: “AOL Networks will Read More »
The stock is up about 7% in early trading. AOL reported net income of $20.7M, up from a $2.6M loss in the quarter last year, on revenues of $531.7M, unchanged. That’s a bit of a surprise: Analysts expected revenues to slip to $521.6M. Earnings per share of 22 cents also beat the consensus forecast of 17 cents. The company says that global ad sales were up 7% to $248.2M, although domestic display was down 3% to $122.5M. AOL crows that traffic at its Patch local news service was up 19% in September vs the same month last year to 11.9M unique visitors. In addition it says that the AOL On Network “grew rapidly” and is now the No. 2 video network by views. Read More »
The name YouTube isn’t quite synonymous with online video the way, say, Band-Aid is to adhesive bandages. But it’s just a matter of time before that happens if a producer as big and popular as AOL decides it has to partner up with the Google-owned platform. The arrangement will provide YouTube with about 20,000 AOL videos — its entire library — on 22 new channels including TechCrunch, HuffPost Live, Moviefone, AOL On Style and AOL On Home. “AOL and YouTube are two of the biggest names in online video today, which makes this deal an important milestone, not just for us, but for the industry as a whole,” says AOL’s SVP of Video Ran Harnevo. AOL will sell ads for videos that run on YouTube, but share the revenues with Google.