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.
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.”
UPDATE: I’m told that there’s less than meets the eye to the ballyhooed “access” Yahoo says it will offer to “all of NBCOlympics.com’s exclusive digital video rights.” That simply means Yahoo will have links to the NBC site — not streams of the programming itself.
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Katie Couric officially is heading online with a Yahoo deal that had been rumored for months. The Web giant announced this morning the Couric will serve as global anchor beginning in 2014, working with “a growing team of global correspondents who will report on live world events, anchor groundbreaking interviews with major newsmakers and thought leaders, and much more.” Said Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, “Katie’s depth of experience, her intellectual curiosity, and her charisma make her the perfect choice to anchor Yahoo News and the whole Yahoo Network.” Couric and Yahoo executives are still in the early stages of developing ideas for what the scope of her presence will be, with town hall meetings among a number of interactive possibilities. Why taking on an Internet gig? “I’ve done pretty much everything else in television up until now — I hosted the Today show, I anchored the CBS Evening News and I’ve done a syndicated show,” Couric told Deadline. “If you look at the next frontier where content is going and how people are consuming it, it is in the digital space.” Couric is not new to the space, having launched the @KatieCouric online interview show while at CBS News and utilizing Twitter and Facebook questions on her syndicated show. “I like the idea of unlimited real estate, doing interviews that are interesting to a global audience.”
By signing with Yahoo, Couric ended a few months early her agreement with ABC News, which was part of the Disney-ABC package for her syndicated talk show. Couric, who has done little for ABC News in the past year while working on her show, is not severing ties completely. “It is still a very symbiotic relationship,” she said. “As ABC News has said, it wouldn’t be surprising if they would utilize my content on their platform.” (ABC News has an online partnership with Yahoo.) A partnership that is not in the cards, at least for now — with CNN and Couric’s former producer Jeff Zucker.
ABC News and Katie Couric are breaking up. Couric, meanwhile, is close to a deal with Yahoo which would include doing an interview show for the Internet giant. Yahoo, ironically, has a news-sharing contract with ABC News.
ABC News was on the hook for a much smaller portion of Couric’s reported $20 million paycheck with the company than is the syndication operation, with which she has a deal for her daytime talk show Katie. The ABC News gig was seen by some as a vanity thing tacked to her talk show by those who have noted she’s not done much for ABC News in the past year. Anyway, it’s no longer the case that ABC News will be paying part of her paycheck.
“Katie is an incredible journalist and this was an opportunity that she couldn’t pass up. Thanks to the powerful association between ABC News and Yahoo we know that Katie will continue to work closely with us and welcome her on our air anytime,” an ABC News exec with knowledge of the situation told Deadline. Yes, it sounded pretty don’t-let-the-door-hit-you-on-the-way-out to us too.
Couric’s talk show is now in its second — and, it’s been widely speculated for some time, final — season, though syndication axes don’t generally fall until after all November sweep stats are in. The show has been plagued with exec producer changes and shifts in direction since its initial good launch, and station execs are not happy with the product. Most expect the show to end its run after fulfilling its two-year commitment with the ABC Stations in May. There had been speculation that ABC might try to get another year at a lower price while preparing a replacement, but that does not appear likely.
Shares are up 1.6% in after-market trading following the announcement. Yahoo disclosed the additional repurchase authorization as part of a larger finance plan that includes the raising of $1B in debt. The company says that it will privately sell …
Everyone in the nexus of the world where consumer electronics and media meet seems to have an opinion about this following the announcement on Monday that The Times’ gadget critic is headed to Yahoo to create a splashy new consumer tech site. …
This is a coup for Yahoo. David Pogue has spent 13 years critiquing gadgets for the Gray Lady, becoming one of its brand-name writers. In the process he also has become a familiar presence on CBS Sunday Morning and the host of PBS’ NOVA ScienceNow. Yahoo says that he will now “lead a major expansion of consumer tech coverage on Yahoo and will publish columns, blog posts, video stories and more, starting later this year.” CEO Marissa Mayer weighed in, saying that her company is “in a unique position to bring to life great editorial about the technology consumers are using every day.” Pogue says in a blog post that in addition to his writing he’ll continue “making my goofy videos. But my team and I have much bigger plans, too, for all kinds of online and real-world creations.” While he characterizes Yahoo as an “underdog,” he now believes that the company is “young, revitalized, aggressive — and, under Marissa Mayer’s leadership, razor-focused, for the first time in years….She’s overseen brilliant overhauls of several Yahoo sites and apps, and had the courage to shut down the derelict ones.” The New York Times circulated an internal memo that wishes him well in his new gig.
The stock price initially popped more than 4% in post-market trading as investors took a first look at Q3 results that were down from last year — but not as bad as some anticipated. Yet those gains quickly evaporated as they saw the details about the company’s generally anemic performance. Profit comparisons are skewed by last year’s $2.8B gain from the sale of shares in Alibaba Group. With that included, net income fell 91% to $297M on revenues of $1.13B, -5%. The revenue figure topped the $1.08B that analysts expected — and would match it if you take out traffic acquisition costs. Adjusted earnings at 34 cents a share slightly beat the 33 cents consensus forecast. Investors who hoped to see improvement in sales of display ads may be disappointed. Not including traffic acquisition costs, display revenues fell 7% to $421M following a 10.6% drop in Q2 and 11.4% decline in Q1. The number of ads sold in Q3 increased 1% vs the period last year while the price per ad fell 7%. The search business ended up generating $426M not including traffic acquisition costs, +3%, with paid clicks +21% but price-per-click -4%.