Bianna Golodryga Departs ABC News For Yahoo, Paula Faris Joins ‘Good Morning America’ Weekend Anchor Team
UPDATE: The relief over the Alibaba news didn’t last long. Yahoo shares are now down 2.4% following management’s call with analysts who mostly focused on the company’s lousy Q2 results — and execs ratcheted back their Q3 guidance. CEO Marissa Mayer said it will take “multiple years” to turn things around, although she called the Q2 numbers a “short term set back.” CFO Ken Goldman says that “clear we need to operate with a greater sense of urgency” as he projected that Q3 numbers will look a lot like Q2′s.
PREVIOUS, 1:16 PM: Yahoo only has to sell 140M of its Alibaba shares after the Chinese e-retailer goes public, down from their previous agreement that required Yahoo to unload 208M shares. That led to a 2.5% jump in Yahoo’s stock price in early post market trading — not bad considering what looks at first glance to be tepid financial results in Q2. Yahoo generated $272.6M in net income, -18.6% vs the period last year, on revenues of $1.04B (not including traffic acquisition costs), -2.9%. The top line is a hair lower than analysts expected. Net earnings at 37 cents a share were a penny light of the consensus forecast.
The Q2 results will do little to assuage investors who are wondering when CEO Marissa Mayer — who’s been at the company for two years — will show solid improvements at Yahoo’s core ad-supported businesses. The stock is down nearly 12% so far in 2014 as people lose patience, and fear what will happen now that it has to reduce its 24% stake in Alibaba, which is seen as a success.
EXCLUSIVE: Having just revived NBC’s Community, Yahoo might be looking to do the same with another recently cancelled cult broadcast comedy series, Fox‘s Enlisted. I hear talks are under way between the online giant and Enlisted producer 20th Century Fox TV for a second season of the military series, created by Kevin Biegel, on Yahoo’s streaming service Yahoo Screen. Sources cautioned that the conversations are preliminary and it’s unclear whether they would result in a deal.
Much like Community, Enlisted has a passionate and loyal following, something that is attractive to digital platforms which crave core groups of passionate fans. Interestingly, following the news of Yahoo’s deal for another season of Community, Enlisted fans targeted Yahoo Screen with a major save-our-show campaign, pitching the service a Community/Enlisted double feature.
Community has done it, beating the odds and overcoming a cancellation to score a sixth-season order. After a couple of weeks of negotiations, series producer Sony Pictures TV has closed a deal with Yahoo for 13 new episodes to air this fall on Yahoo Screen. Talks went down to the wire as the options on the cast were set to expire today. Ever since NBC canceled Community last month, there had been interest from multiple outlets in continuing the cult comedy. I hear the list of possible suitors also included rebranded cable network Esquire; streaming service Hulu, which already has off-network rights to the series; and the Sony-owned Crackle.
Dan Harmon created Community and is returning as executive producer with Russ Krasnoff, Gary Foster and Chris McKenna. “I am very pleased that Community will be returning for its predestined sixth season on Yahoo,” Harmon said in the announcement of the deal. “I look forward to bringing our beloved NBC sitcom to a larger audience by moving it online. I vow to dominate our new competition. Rest easy, Big Bang Theory. Look out, Bang Bus!”
With its devoted following by a core group of passionate fans, Community is the type of show digital platforms crave. Complicating the series’ options was the fact that it has a digital syndication deal in place with Hulu, in addition to a cable off-network pact with Comedy Central.
Alibaba, China’s e-commerce giant, filed paperwork today (read it here) to publicly offer stock in the U.S., a move that will likely attract many billions of dollars in investor capital and also finally let owners of Yahoo stock know how much that company’s 24% stake in the company is actually worth. Alibaba is considered the world’s largest e-commerce site, both online and on mobile, operating a series of marketplaces — all for third-party partners that run their own online stores there. The company also runs Alibaba.com, AliExpress and provides cloud-computing services. Its closest U.S. analog is Amazon, only bigger.
For media watchers, however, the more interesting issue behind Alibaba’s filing will be what it means for Yahoo. Despite all of Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer’s efforts to revive and reshape her lumbering U.S. online giant, it has been the company’s Alibaba stake that has buoyed Yahoo’s shares in recent months to reasonable levels. The IPO itself will likely far exceed the placeholder $1 billion amount in Alibaba’s paperwork, and is widely expected to come in at a level that would exceed the year’s biggest stock offering so far, of $15 billion. But speculators have invested in Yahoo as basically a tracking stock in the Chinese company ahead of the IPO. Now that the IPO is more than just a rumor, that value will be fully realized, and Mayer …
Execs didn’t use the word but their Newfront presentation to advertisers in NYC left little doubt that Yahoo sees itself as a classy, Conde Nast-like alternative to others on the web who shoot for the lowest common denominator. CEO Marissa Mayer says she’s focusing on mobile, social, native, and video ads. Regarding the future of video “we’re positioned to influence and sometimes invent it….at scale, across devices, every single day,” Yahoo CMO Kathy Savitt told advertisers.
Producer Mike Tollin (Smallville and Arliss) kicked off Yahoo originals introductions by teaming with Minnesota Timberwolves’ Kevin Love to pitch Sin City Saints, a series with eight half-hour episodes about a basketball team based in Las Vegas. Director Bryan Gordon (Curb Your Enthusiasm and The Office) will help out with what Tollin called a “behind the scenes comedy“ shot with a single camera. Hilarity ensues when a Silicon Valley tech tycoon who wants to own a basketball team buys one, but doesn’t know what to do with it. “The Saints are not good…you could say they’re in a rebuilding mode.” Paul Feig (creator of Freaks And Geeks, and director of Bridesmaids and The Heat) appeared in a video to pitch a futuristic sci-fi comedy Other Space, which also will run for eight, half-hour episodes. Savitt says that Yahoo will introduce other shows later.
The company is launching its first longform projects, ordering eight episodes each of the comedies Other Space and Sin City Saints. The news hurls Yahoo, which made the announcement today during its NewFront presentation in NYC, into the original-content streaming business alongside the like of Netflix, Hulu and Amazon. Freaks And Geeks creator Paul Feig is behind Other Space, a galactic adventure set in the early 22nd century, when the human race has mapped most of the known universe, failed to find alien life, and frankly gotten a little tired of the whole thing. A spaceship on a routine collection mission stumbles into the greatest discovery in history: an alternate universe, far stranger and way more dangerous than ours. Now the ship’s crew — a collection of over-matched rookies, feuding siblings, burned-out veterans and obsolete robots — has to explore this new universe to try and find a way back home alive. Sin City Saints, from EP Mike Tollin (One Tree Hill, Smallville, Varsity Blues) and director Bryan Gordon (Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Office) is an off-beat comedy set in the front office of a fictional pro basketball expansion team. It centers on Jake Tullus, a Silicon Valley tycoon whose lifelong dream was to buy a pro basketball team but quickly finds he’s in over his head. The group he assembled to run Las Vegas’ first pro sports team won’t be much help.
It would have been obscene if Yahoo had matched the $35M in stock awards it gave Marissa Mayer in 2012 to woo her over from Google. So her total compensation was down for 2013 the company’s latest proxy shows, even though all of the components aside from stock awards were up in a year when Yahoo shares appreciated 103%. Her package: $1M salary, $2,250 bonus (only because she’s a co-inventor on some pending patents), $8.3M in stock awards, $13.8M in option awards, $1.7M in non equity incentives, and $73,863 in other compensation. The “other” category includes $50,000 for security (not including the protection she receives at work and on business travel), and $18,248 to reimburse for attorney fees. Yahoo says that twice last year family members and guests joined Mayer on the company plane during a business trip. It didn’t include that in her compensation “because we leased the entire aircraft and were not charged based on the number of passengers.” The board said that Mayer “revitalized the Company’s employee base, continued to build her leadership team, increased the pace of product innovation and refreshes, spearheaded the acquisition of Tumblr, and attracted new customers and increased traffic.” Former COO Henrique de Castro, who was bounced in January, didn’t receive a bonus “because the Compensation Committee believed that he did not meet the performance standards necessary to receive an annual bonus for 2013,” the proxy says. Still, Mayer’s former pal was …
UPDATE, 3:15 PM: Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer was bullish on the sales gains and talked up the company’s results in four key investment businesses: mobile, video, native and social, with 98% ad growth year over year. (Mayer said mobile was the most important of those pillars, by the way.) Alibaba, meanwhile, remained a hot topic after the Chinese e-commerce company reported 66% sales growth — a major catalyst on the sales side but still a bit of a mystery to U.S. investors who will get more of a peek under the hood once it starts trading on the NYSE. An institutional investor asked what Yahoo expects to do with the potential $12B windfall from an Alibaba IPO, and Mayer answered that the company would remain a “good steward of our capital.” No word on further original content deals, other than Mayer saying expect more of the same mix of deals between tuck-in and outright acquisitions.
PREVIOUS, 1:55 PM: Yahoo shares bumped up in after-hours trading after the Web giant reported its first sales gains in more than a year. The news comes as the company reported revenue of $1.09B during the quarter, better than the $1.08B analysts expected and up from $1.07B a year ago. Net income was $311.6M, down from $390.3M year-over-year. Profit came in at 38 cents a share, a penny better than estimates. The big reason for optimism though were the sales gains: the company said it …
This little item popped up in the Friday data dump of filings at the SEC. The Tribune CEO told Yahoo that he won’t seek re-election at the next annual meeting, when his term expires. Peter Liguori, formerly a honcho at Fox and Discovery, joined the board in 2012. Yahoo had hoped that the appointment of an independent director would help to derail a planned proxy fight by Third Point’s Daniel Loeb who said, among other things, that the company was underperforming in part because directors were too closely aligned with management. That plan didn’t work, though the company and Loeb finally made peace after it hired Marissa Mayer to be CEO. (Loeb is an investor in Variety with Deadline’s parent company, PMC.) Last year, Liguori also left the MGM board.
This would be an interesting move for Yahoo if what The Wall Street Journal refers to as “preliminary talks” to buy NDN bear fruit. NDN syndicates videos from TV stations and other producers to online services for newspapers and news services including the Associated Press, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Daily News, and Bloomberg. NDN says it’s the No. 5 online video platform, with more than 49M unique monthly viewers. Backers include Google Chairman Eric Schmidt’s TomorrowVentures, actor Bill Murray and baseball legend Reggie Jackson. On the surface, it looks like a perfect puzzle piece for Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer in her effort to turn her company into an online video power, drawing ad revenues from TV among other sources. But will a deal take place? The paper includes the usual caveats that talks are “still early and a deal may not be reached for several weeks or may fall apart.” Still, it must be confident about its information, attributed to “two people who have been briefed on the matter and asked to not be named.” It quotes an NDN rep who straight-out denies talks are taking place.
Yahoo owns about 24% of the Chinese e-commerce company, and its shares are up more than 4.5% to $39.24 in mid-day trading following Alibaba‘s plan to list on the New York Stock Exchange — possibly raising as much as $15B. “This will make us a more global company and enhance the company’s transparency, as well as allow the company to continue to pursue our long-term vision and ideals,” Alibaba said yesterday. Yahoo has a lot at stake. Assuming that Alibaba is worth about $190B, Bernstein Research’s Carlos Kirjner estimated in January that Yahoo’s holding accounts for about $24 of the value for each of its shares. But investors know relatively little about Alibaba’s financial performance, and some fear that it’s been too slow to take advantage of sales made via smartphones and tablets in China. Those concerns were exacerbated recently when the government there refused to approve its mobile phone payment process. With revenue growth slowing, and profit margins slipping slightly, BGC Financial’s Colin Gillis warned in January that “the Alibaba metrics may dampen some of the fervor surrounding” Yahoo. Alibaba would have to disclose a lot more information following an IPO in the U.S., and that may mean it feels confident that investors will like what they see.
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 catch up on the many highlights from earnings season announcements, beginning with those by possible dance partners Comcast and Time Warner Cable and what their news might mean for Comcast’s takeover bid. They also take the market temperature on Viacom and tech giants led by Google — which sold off its Motorola Mobility unit after owning it just two years — and Facebook, Apple, Yahoo and Amazon. They also look at exhibitors’ demands for shorter movie trailers and whether studios will play along.
There’s something in the filing that’s making investors anxious. Yahoo shares are down more than 4% in post-market trading even though, on its face, the company’s Q4 results either matched or exceeded the Street’s expectations. On an as-reported basis, net income came in at $351.7M, +87.1%, on revenues of $1.26B, -6%. Without traffic acquisition costs, revenue came in at $1.2B, -2%. Analysts expected revenues of $1.2B. Adjusted earnings at 46 cents a share topped forecasts for 38 cents. It’s clear why CEO Marissa Mayer recently dumped COO Henrique de Castro after seeing the anemic ad sales number for the quarter. Not including traffic acquisition costs, display ads fell 6%to $491M. Although the number of ads sold increased 3% vs the same period last year, the price per ad fell 7%. Search revenue was up 8% to $461M with a 17% increase in paid clicks somewhat offset by a 3% drop in the price per click. “I’m encouraged by Yahoo’s performance in Q4 and 2013 overall,” Mayer says. “We saw continued stability in the business, and our investments allowed us to bring beautiful products to our users and establish a strong foundation for revenue growth.”
Here’s how the results look:
In this week’s podcast, Deadline’s executive editor David Lieberman and host David Bloom take up Charter Communications’ $61.3 billion bid for Time Warner Cable; the potential impacts of an appeals court ruling throwing out FCC net neutrality rules; a stalling home-entertainment industry and Best Buy’s bad holiday. They also look at the surprising shakeup at the top of Yahoo, coming as it does just a week after the company’s big CES shindig. Now at least one much ballyhooed hire departs 15 months later after arriving and there are reports that at least another top executive is out.
Henrique de Castro was a top ad guy for Google and, in October 2012, Marissa Mayer‘s first big hire after she became Yahoo’s CEO. But the relationship soured as Yahoo‘s ad sales failed to inspire — and the company says today in an SEC filing that he “will be leaving the Company effective January 16, 2014.” Yahoo reported disappointing ad sales in Q3, leading Bernstein Research’s Carlos Kirjner to observe that “the core remains challenged, particularly in its display advertising business.” Don’t cry for de Castro: With special sign-on incentives, his compensation package in 2012 totaled $39.2M, beating Mayer who made $36.6M. He’ll now collect much more in severance benefits.
In this week’s podcast, Deadline Executive Editor David Lieberman and host David Bloom download the highlights from this week’s massive Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
They look at Yahoo’s splashy preview of its new tech, news and food sites with a presentation that reminded David L. of a network advertising upfront; discuss highlights from David L.’s talk with TiVo CEO Tom Rogers on the current shortcomings and future opportunities in TV; grapple with the WWE’s move to online subscription video; and dial into T-Mobile’s highly entertaining and potentially transformative tactics that could re-arrange the mobile phone industry.
They also peer at the physical and likely fiscal limits of the latest savior for consumer electronics companies, the 4K Ultra HD TV; and prompt a review of Michael Bay’s rather sudden departure from the stage during a Samsung presentation.
Katie Couric, Summly founder Nick D’Aloisio, former New York Times tech writer David Pogue, SNL‘s Cecily Strong and Kenan Thompson, and musician John Legend joined the Yahoo CEO at her International CES keynote to tout the company’s info and entertainment offerings. “Media has long been one of Yahoo’s key strengths,” Marissa Mayer says. Couric — the recently named Global Anchor, who’s celebrating her birthday — lamented that in the digital age “at times accuracy has been a casualty of immediacy.” She vowed to uphold “core values of old-fashioned journalism” in her interviews with “anyone who we believe has an important and interesting story to tell.” D’Aloisio charted a slightly different course as he announced the Yahoo News Digest. The iPhone and iPod Touch app will provide users with two daily news summaries created from multiple sources that will be “comprehensive, effortless and complete.” Mayer also introduced Yahoo Digital Magazines, beginning with Yahoo Food promising ”immersive, bite-sized content” (was her word play intentional?) and Pogue’s Yahoo Tech. The gadget critic shouted through his presentation, during which he vowed to present tech news for ordinary people. The magazine will cover subjects that concern 85% of the population. “We have a language we’re going to speak and it’s called English” — he intends to dispense with jargon terms such as “form factor,” “price point,” and “content.”