Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Politico against local TV

Is Politico more valuable than Local télévision? It's what seems to think Robert Allbritton, owner of the group that bears his name and is based in Washington. He has just announced the sale of 8 television properties to Sinclair group, for 985 millions dollars. He intends to invest this huge amount of money in new services on the Web, including a development of his flagship news service, Politico which started from zero five years ago and is breaking even with a staff of 230 people.

Local TV is still a profitable business in the US but its audience is suffering from the competition with Internet and various news services on cable and satellite. For the moment, it is very much looked after by media groups.They try to increase their portfolio of this local media which still turns out big profits.

However, the future is hard to predict. The gamble of Allbritton group will be interesting to watch. A lot could be done with Politico: to set up an international service, to be present in other cities such as Naw York, Los Angeles or Chicago. It will cost a lot of money but the funds are available now.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

The end of TV Mags

The publishers don't believe any more in TV magazines. Last week, Springer announced it was selling its flagship weekly Horzu, which dominated the world of TV programs  in Germany, for half a century. A few years ago Murdoch sold the famous American TV Guide. In France, the circulation of Tele 7 jours, once the best selling weekly of Lagardère with close to 4 millions copies has gone down to less than 2 millions.

It seems that this family of magazines is in sharp decline for obvious reasons. There are too many channels which cannot fit properly in a paper magazine. Moreover, people use more and more catch up TV and video on demand and watch an infinity of programs on various supports .Internet provides all useful informations and usually for free. Even value added publications like Telerama are facing decreasing sales and un uncertain future.

The same thing happens with movies. Why should people consult the programs of their local movie theaters in their newspaper  when Allo Cine provides them with a very accurate information on what's happening all over France. Considering that, it's hard to understand why no French media group bought Allo Cine when it was on sale last June. Fimalac, a prosperous investment trust that belongs to Marc de Lacharrière was smart enough to acquire this very successful date base of movies.

Friday, July 26, 2013

The triumph of Netflix

Is Netflix about to kill the ordinary broadcasters? A recent article in the New York Times answers: yes, maybe. This highly successful distribution system which has more than 20 millions subscribers in the US is beginning to be a successful producer. Its first serie "House of Cards" is considered one of the best in recent years. It seems that after this successful attempt, Nestflix intends to work more and more with Hollywood and spread its programs all over the world.

And why not? The subscription to Netflix is rather cheap, around 10 dollars a month as compared to the high cost of cable subscriptions that can go up to 100 dollars.  The offer is attractive and varied. For the moment, Netflix is far ahead of Google, apple and Amazon who try to launch universal TV programs delivered through the Web but lag far behind.

What about France? For the moment Canal Plus has a kind of monopoly on pay TV and Netflix is still absent, a bit scared by French regulations. However, this is not going to last. The future of television relies upon video on information websites and fiction on low cost channels that can be watched on every support, computers, tablets or smartphones. A lot of food for thought for the big three: TF1, M6 and Canal Plus.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The regional newspapers crisis

French regional newspapers face their worst crisis in 50 years. Nobody knows in what shape they will finish a long year 2013.

It is a matter of both money and ownership. As far as money is concerned, the advertsing income is down by 10% from a 2012 year which was rather bad. Classified ads are vanishing, moving to Le Bon Coin or other dynamic pure players. The circulation is down by 2 or 3% but 2012 was not so bad thanks to the presidential and parliament elections.

The ownership problem is even more serious. Most of the owners are broke or not willing to invest. In the South, the divorce between Tapie and Hersant won't carry any proper solution. Tapie will not be able to invest in la Provence which badly needs a fresh amount of cash. He will probably be forced to sell. Same thing with Nice Matin and Hersant. The sale of the Riviera newspaper is bound to happen very soon. Some Monaco investors are interested.

Group Sud Ouest is also in trouble. The family owners cannot afford to pay back 70 millions of loans and finance a 150 employees buying out. They are starved of cash and looking for a benevolent investor. This fall, tough decisions will be taken.

Even Michel Lucas, the banker and owner of the eastern newspapers seems reluctant to invest more. His huge press group hardly breaks even.

Most dailies keep investing in a digital offer but the profits are scarce and don't make for, by far, the loss in advertising and circulation.

Friday, July 5, 2013

A paywall for the Guardian

Is the Guardian a success or a failure?  In the Washington Post of July 2, the question is asked. This independant British newspaper has managed to collect recently the most spectacular scoops. The lates is the publication of first hand informations on Prism, the secret system engineered by the Americans to collect e-mails and telephone calls from all over the world.

If the circulation of the paper version of the Guardian is lagging at 150000 copies, the website is a tremendous success. It raises to 41 millions unique visitors per month, the largest information site in English.

And yet, the finance of the newspaper goes deep in the red. In fact it loses about 1 million pounds a week. The future of the Guardian which belongs to a private foundation is threatened by what is turning into a permanent deficit.

The solution seems obvious to many observers: Why is the group so reluctant to accept a paywall and follow the exemple of its main competitor, the New York Times? Of course, its audience would go down but if you consider the scope and the quality of the information it provides, many people, all over the world, would be willing to pay. With 1 million subscribers paying 150 euros a year, the Guardian would be eminently profitable and could finance an enlarged staff.

As we look at the evolution of the media on the web, it appears that gratuity is a thing of the past.Lets hope that the Guardian will follow the major newspapers of the world.