Monday, September 12, 2011

Bollore sells

The news that Bollore was selling his two TV channels to Canal Plus, on September 8, stunned everybody. It was a coup for Bernard Meheut, the CEO of Canal. Thanks to this costly operation, 465 million euros, he is now able to offer his public, two free channels using all the programs broadcast through Canal pay TV. It is a nice complement to an already very successful broadcaster which has five million subscribers.

For Bollore, the outcome is much less obvious. Due to this sale, the media empire he was slowly building up is falling apart. The Breton tycoon keeps only Direct Matin, a free sheet that loses 10 million euros a year and a local TV on the Riviera. He also pulls the carpet under his son Yannick's feet. It was a common asumption that his heir was to be the boss of a growing media group. Now his fate is not clear anymore.
So, what is the answer to this enigma? Bollore is no fool. he certainly has a long term design. Some people think he could now try to get hold of TF1, a much more exciting prize than Direct Plus and Direct Star. Others wonder if he is aiming at Vivendi, the owner of Canal Plus. After all, he agreed to be paid not in cash but with shares of Vivendi a huge and prosperous media group.

One thing is sure the sale was a first step of a long term project. Wait for the end of the Bollore saga.

Monday, September 5, 2011


On Thursday, Sept. 1st, Bill Nichols, the editor in chief of Politico delivered the opening lecture of the school of Journalism of Sciences-Po. His message was, for me at least, the first ray of hope in the waste land of the news. It is a fact that Politico is a big success story. It started 4 years ago as a web site based in Washington and fully devoted to political news. It employed then 12 people. Now it has a staff of 200, including 150 journalists, it has 4 million unique visitors and it has started a very successful print supplement delivered for free in various spots of Washington. With its advertising receipts and the sale of a high level supplement called Politico Pro, the company breaks even and intends to keep going with new contents.

What is the recipe of Politico ? First, its managers are old hands of journalism, coming from USA Today like Bill or from the Washington Post or other first class newspapers. From the start, their credibility was very high. Also, they adopted very quickly a well adjusted style, taking into account the necessity for speed and easy reading. As Bill Nichols says, it is a kind or tabloidism of political news. The journalists must react at once to any piece of news, put it immediately on the web with further connexions to video and the print. This way, the news hungry public of DC gets all the time, all the news, without waiting for the cumbersome edition of next day Times or WP.

This behaviour does not prevent the staff to think and enlarge the stories. As a recent exemple, Bill mentioned a large debate in the newsroom on Dick Perry, the would be candidate to the Republican nomination. The topic was:"Is Perry dumb?"or is he just a cunning demagogue, using the right sound bites to seduce the Tea party? Several papers were published in Politico to clarify this interesting enigma.

Asked about some new developments, Bill Nichols stressed the interest of a kind of Politico on world news but considered it was too big an investment, due to the cost of foreign correspondants. He also insisted on the necessity to stay in the Washington area; any extension, for instance in New York would be too costly.

So, if Politico is a major acomplishment in the information world, it is not easy to build up alternatives.