ABC‘s World News With Diane Sawyer posted a video touting the fact it hit 1 million Facebook “likes” and is the only broadcast network newscast that’s grown this season to date in the news demo. NBC Nightly News With Brian Williams is up 5% season to date among ages 18-49 while remaining flat in the older 25-54 news demo. Conversely, Sawyer’s newscast is up 4% in the news demo and flat among 18-49ers. CBS Evening News With Scott Pelley is up 7% in overall viewers but down 5 % in the news demo and 3% with the younger group. Williams newscast is up 8% in total viewers and Sawyer’s is up 3%. Yes, counterintuitively, more people are watching broadcasts evening news this TV season, including an average of 9.52 million watching Williams, 8.34 million watching Sawyer, and 7.27 million watching Pelley. In the news demo, Williams remains the front-runner, standing firm at 2.4 million 25- to 54-year-old viewers; Sawyer’s now up to 2.19 million and Pelley is clocking 1.81, season to date.
MENLO PARK, Calif., March 25, 2014 — Facebook today announced that it has reached a definitive agreement to acquire Oculus VR, Inc., the leader in immersive virtual reality technology, for a total of approximately $2 billion. This includes $400 million in cash and 23.1 million shares of Facebook common stock (valued at $1.6 billion based on the average closing price of the 20 trading days preceding March 21, 2014 of $69.35 per share). The agreement also provides for an additional $300 million earn-out in cash and stock based on the achievement of certain milestones.
If you want better privacy and security, you’d better pay for it instead of relying on ad-financed search, social media and other online companies most of us use, said a SXSW Interactive Conference panel featuring Edward Snowden, the former intelligence analyst making his first public video appearance since he blew the whistle on massive U.S. government surveillance. Snowden, still living in an undisclosed Russian location while he seeks asylum, took part in the panel long distance by way of a Google+ Hangout chat room. The irony of using such a free service while criticizing Google’s data security was not lost on Snowden or the ACLU specialists who joined him on the panel. The event has been criticized by politicians including Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. He wrote a letter to SXSW last week urging the fest to uninvite Snowden, saying his inclusion rewarded him and “undermines the very fairness and freedom that SXSW and the ACLU purport to foster.” The appearance went off without a hitch.
Snowden — perhaps predictably for a long-time computer specialist — focused his remarks today on the technical and legal tools that could protect an average user from mass surveillance. Snowden said putting those protections in place, both in how government oversight works and in how we use our favorite online services, is essential to the Internet’s long-term viability. ”This is a global issue,” Snowden said. “(The U.S. mass-surveillance efforts are) setting fire to the future of the Internet. And the people in this room now, you’re all the firefighters. Changes in technical standards can make mass surveillance more expensive and less practical.”
In this week’s podcast, Deadline’s Executive Editor David Lieberman and host David Bloom examine whether Facebook paid too much with its $19 billion purchase of messaging service WhatsApp, ponder whether anyone should pay for the maker of blockbuster mobile game Candy Crush Saga now that it’s filed for an IPO, consider the impact of the FCC’s replacement net-neutrality rules and look at the real motivations behind the clamor for Google Fiber.
That’s the question investors are struggling to answer this morning as they recover from the shocking news last night that Facebook agreed to pay $16B (or $19B if you include some restricted stock) for WhatsApp. Analysts like the broad appeal of the messaging service which uses the Internet, as opposed to phone networks, to easily work with different platforms at a low cost — it can take the place of Apple’s iMessage, Google Hangouts, and Blackberry BBM. An average of 450M people used WhatsApp in December, and the number is growing at a rate of 1M a day. (It’s free for the first year, and costs 99 cents a year after that.) But the service would have to generate $1B a year in cash flow to justify the price tag, and “few data-points to support such an assumption were provided by the company, as evidently few are available,” Pivotal Research Group’s Brian Wieser says. It’s not clear how much cash it can generate: Execs said last night that they won’t sell ads on WhatsApp. As a result, “it is not hard to come up with plausible assumptions that suggest the price is 50% too high…or too low,” says Bernstein Research’s Carlos Kirjner. While he says it was strategically sound for Facebook to take the gamble, the deal also suggests a potentially worrisome degree of self-doubt — that the company didn’t think it could replicate WhatsApp’s success for less than $19B. Others who feel warmer about the acquisition say that other metrics justify the high price.
Facebook shares are down in after-hours trading after it announced the startling stock and cash deal for the mobile messaging service — the biggest acquisition it has ever made. The companies say that the combo will help them “bring more connectivity and utility to the world by delivering core internet services efficiently and affordably.” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says WhatsApp “is on a path to connect 1 billion people. The services that reach that milestone are all incredibly valuable.” Facebook plans to keep WhatsApp’s “core messaging product” and Facebook’s Messenger separate for now. “Here’s what will change for you, our users: nothing,” WhatsApp says in a blog post. Facebook also will maintain WhatsApp’s brand and keep its headquarters in Mountain View, CA. Co-founder and CEO Jan Koum will join Facebook’s board. The companies expect the deal to close later this year. If it doesn’t, then Facebook will have to pay a break-up fee of $1B in cash, and give WhatsApp $1B worth of its stock. The $16B price suggests that What’sApp is just $1.5B less valuable than Sony, based on its market cap, and more than twice as valuable as Gannett or Pandora. The purchase price consists of $4B in cash and $12B in Facebook shares. In addition, Facebook has agreed to give $3B in restricted stock units to WhatsApp’s founders and employees. They will vest over four years after the deal closes. This is believed to be the biggest deal yet for a start-up backed by a venture capital firm, Sequoia Capital. It says on a blog post that “WhatsApp has tapped into our insatiable appetite for personal communication. It is part of a chain that over the past 150 years reaches from the Pony Express, Telegraph and airmail letter to the telephone and email.” The messaging firm has just 32 engineers, and has an uptime of more than 99.9% “so users can rely on WhatsApp the way they depend on a dial-tone.”
Here’s the release:
Skeptics who believe that teens are starting to abandon Facebook should find another day to make that argument. The results in the just-released Q4 report look good — contributing to a 7% jump in the post-market share price. The social network company generated $520M in net income in the last three months of 2013, up 717% vs the period last year, on revenues of $2.59B, +63.1%. The top line beat the $2.34B that analysts expected. Adjusted earnings per share, at 31 cents, also topped predictions for 27 cents. Ad sales were up 76% to $2.34B, with 53% of the total coming from mobile ads — a big jump from last year when they accounted for 23% of the total. The number of daily active users was up 22% to 757M vs the end of 2012. The growing company also had growing expenses: They amounted to $1.5B in Q4, +37% which the company attributes to the rising headcount and infrastructure expenses. All told “it was a great end to the year for Facebook,” CEO Mark Zuckerberg says. “We’re looking forward to our next decade and to helping connect the rest of the world.”
Here’s how the results look:
After several delays, the social media company formally introduced its potentially controversial video ad plan this morning — which helped Facebook shares rise about 2% in early trading, touching a new high of $55.18. “Without having to click or tap play, videos come to life in News Feed and start playing without sound,” Facebook says. The initiative, officially billed as a test, will start with promos for Lionsgate’s upcoming film, Divergent. Facebook says that people who aren’t interested can scroll past the ad while those who click on it will see the video play in a full screen with sound. When it’s over, viewers will see a carousel with access to two additional videos. Facebook says that mobile users don’t have to worry that the ads will eat into their data usage: They’ll be downloaded in advance when the smartphone or tablet has a WiFi connection. This still a work in progress. The company will “continue to refine this new way for brands to tell stories on Facebook to ensure the best experience for people and marketers.”
Here’s a news item some Facebook users won’t like: The social networking giant has frozen an unspecified number of accounts until those users to change their passwords and answer a few security questions. The lockout affects …
The stock’s up 14%+ in initial post-market trading after the social media company surprised the Street with its basic Q3 financials — revenues and profits — and with strong results in mobile use and ad sales. Facebook reported Q3 …
Forrester Research’s Nate Elliott makes that explosive charge in a new report and open letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg that has rattled the company and many of its investors ahead of its Q3 earnings report tomorrow. Shares are down about 4% over the last two days after Elliott said that “while lots of marketers spend lots of money on Facebook today, relatively few find success.” The problem: The social media giant “has quietly become almost entirely reliant upon Web 1.0-style display ads and simplistic targeting.” He reached his conclusion after looking at the opinions of 395 interactive marketers and eBusiness pros who Forrester surveyed in August. “Facebook creates less business value than any other digital marketing opportunity” including word-of-mouth marketing, branded blogs, online display ads, LinkedIn, YouTube, Google+, and Twitter, Elliott says. The company “teases marketers with the promise that it will better connect them to their customers.” But Facebook only shows a company’s ads to 16% of the people who click the “like” button on the brand’s Facebook page. What’s more, fewer than 15% of ads on Facebook are targeted to relevant audiences. Elliott urged Facebook to stop “littering the right side of its pages with dating site or malpractice lawyer ads” and let users choose favorite brands. Facebook “should be more concerned about death by a thousand cuts,” he says. “Smart brands will realize, campaign by campaign, that there are better ways to spend their money.”
This was the quarter when Facebook left behind memories of its troubled IPO last year: As it reassured investors that it has a strategy to sell ads on mobile platforms, its shares closed Q3 at $50.23 — a 101.9% gain since the end of June. That’s the biggest jump …
Listen to (and share) episode 44 of our audio podcast Deadline Big Media With David Lieberman. Deadline’s financial editor talks with host David Bloom about Time Warner Cable’s week all over the news; Yahoo’s billion-dollar buyback from Daniel Loeb; Amazon‘s skyrocketing content costs; and Facebook‘s skyrocketing share prices.