This article, published in early November 2005, focuses on the fiscal woes of the large media companies. Even though many of them were not hemorrhaging money, their stocks had been seriously underperforming: since August, most stock prices were down between 6 to 17 percent at a time when the major indexes had lost only a handful of percentage points. The main argument is that even though the major media companies (including the conglomerates such as Viacom and the more focused newspaper companies such as Knight Ridder) had been shaking up and revitalizing their business models to prove that they were ready to capture new markets in the evolving economy, many institutional investors were not warning up to their actions and plans. Indeed, you could even say that there are some corporate civil wars going on in board rooms. The article specifically mentions that a large shareholder of Knight Ridder wants the company to put itself up for sale, and it makes a reference to Carl Icahn’s efforts to get Time Warner to divest itself of some of its assets to begin a large stock buyback program (since the publication of this article, Carl Icahn has become even more confrontation when dealing with Time Warner’s current board of directors and management). The writer does not mean to say that all media companies are having trouble, for Google and Apple have been steadily increasing for quite some time (the continue to do so). Rather investors are not feeling the least bit sanguine when it comes to traditional ‘big’ media companies. Perhaps they are all just dinosaurs waiting to be extinct.
Here are two interesting and important quotes from the article:
”Beyond those concerns, they worry that with slower advertising growth, the profitability of media properties like television and radio stations could be affected. And even if the ad market were to become robust again, just how many of those dollars might flow to the Internet and away from traditional media is an open question.”
''There is a buyers' strike,'' said Dennis Leibowitz, general partner at Act II Partners, a media hedge fund. ''People are afraid to touch the old media. No matter how cheap they have gotten, people are fleeing. The environment is scaring them, and they can't figure it out.''