Barnes & Noble shares are up more than 70% in pre-market trading following the announcement. The computer software giant will own 17.6% of the Nook subsidiary, valuing it at $1.7B, and provide a Nook application in its new Windows 8 operating system, the companies said this morning. Barnes & Noble will own the remaining 82.4% of the venture. The agreement also settles the patent infringement complaint that Barnes & Noble raised against Microsoft last year. The bookseller and its Nook subsidiary “will have a royalty-bearing license under Microsoft’s patents for its NOOK eReader and Tablet products,” the companies said. Barnes & Noble is throwing its College books business into the subsidiary. Its Nook Study software “will provide students and educators the preeminent technology platform for the distribution and management of digital education materials in the market.” Barnes & Noble CEO William Lynch says that Microsoft’s investment will help “bring world-class digital reading technologies and content to the Windows platform and its hundreds of millions of users, (and) will allow us to significantly expand the business.” Barnes & Noble said in January that it was considering a spin off of its Nook business. The book chain says in an SEC filing that Microsoft will pay the Nook subsidiary $60M a year in the first three years after it launches Windows 8, as well as $25M a year for five years to help the enterprise acquire digital reading content and develop technology.
Investors seemed to like what they heard at today’s annual confab for John Malone’s Liberty Media. Shares of the hodge-podge of companies it either owns or controls were up on a day when the market was shaken by new fears that the European debt crisis will widen. Liberty Starz ended the day +1% and Liberty Capital was +0.5% after their parent said it will combine the two tracking stocks into a single asset-based security. But Live Nation was +6.7%, Barnes & Noble was +5%, and Sirius XM was +4.8% following CEO presentations to the Street.
Malone was more subdued than usual. But the executive who became a billionaire on the back of his devilishly complex deals — often to help him avoid paying taxes — got a chuckle in his response to a question about whether the changes in his tracking stocks will make their businesses confusing for investors. “We’ll get as complicated as we need to get to highlight value.” he said.
Sirius XM’s Mel Karmazin won the biggest laughs, though, with
Amazon stoked the hype around its new Kindle Fire tablet by shipping it a day ahead of schedule, the company announced today. That’s a smart move: In addition to the extra PR and customer goodwill it generates, the decision gives the online retailer one more day to sell videos, music, and books that will “offset the weaker margins (or even losses)” it may see this quarter by selling the tablet below cost, Caris & Co analyst Scott Tilghman says. Research firm iSuppli estimates that Amazon spends about $210 to make each Kindle Fire that it sells for $199. No wonder the promotion machine is in high gear: Hulu Plus — which is available on the iPad and Barnes & Noble’s new Nook Tablet — today joined the parade of content companies crowing about their Kindle Fire apps. A Hulu Plus subscription costs $7.99 a month, and can be used on any device that accommodates it. Hulu’s “never-ending mission is to bring you the world’s premium content when, where and how you want,” senior product manager Lonn Lee says in a blog post.
It’s “more likely than not” that new online video streaming providers such as Amazon will offer some programming on a premium tier — a contrast with Netflix’s single-price package – Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei said this morning at the Goldman Sachs Communicopia conference. He broadly hinted that his company’s desire to charge extra for Starz was a big reason why the premium channel recently ended negotiations to extend its carriage deal with Netflix. The current arrangement, he says, is “inconsistent” with the way consumers receive Starz on pay TV.
More broadly, Maffei says that Liberty is on track to split off its Liberty Capital and Liberty Starz tracking stocks by tomorrow now that it has beat back a court challenge by bondholders. The deal transfers some assets to the spun-off companies, violating some bond agreements. But the Delaware Supreme Court yesterday upheld a lower court decision that said the split-off is OK because it isn’t part of what it called an “overall scheme” to hurt bondholders. That likely won’t change the overall strategy for the company that’s controlled by the famously tax-averse former cable titan John Malone — and that some analysts say is little more than a portfolio of stock holdings. “Finding things to buy at attractive prices is the biggest chalenge we have today,” Maffei says.
In May, John Malone’s Liberty offered to buy all of Barnes & Noble for $1B. But the offer stalled and the book retailer said Thursday that the takeover talks had been ditched in light of the $204M investment agreement. …
UPDATE, 2 PM: The market deteriorated as the day wore on, continuing the worst market slump since 2008. The Dow Jones U.S. Broadcasting and Entertainment Index closed down 7.3% — exceeding the 5.6% decline in the Dow Jones Industrial Average, 6.7% drop in the Standard & Poor’s 500, and 6.9% fall at NASDAQ. CBS’ -10.3% slide made it the leading loser among media’s Big Guns. It was followed by News Corp (-7.7%), Viacom (-7.1%), Comcast (-6.6%), Sony (-6.4%), Disney (-6.1%), and Time Warner (-5.8%).
Double-digit losers include AMC Networks (-12.8%), LIN TV (-12.7%), Sirius XM (-12.7%), RealD (-12.6%), Cumulus Media (-11.9%), TiVo (-11.4%), Entercom (-10.9%), Westwood One (-10.8%), and E.W. Scripps (-10.3%). Those losing at least 9% include National CineMedia, Dish Network, Arbitron, Sinclair Broadcasting, Rovi, Outdoor Channel, Crown Media, Electronic Arts, Cablevision, and Coinstar.