Sunday, January 8, 2012

Old media partners with its conquerers

I was surprised not to find any discussion of the brand/image implications of NBC partnering with Facebook to host this morning’s presidential debate in New Hampshire.

NBC, after all, is a once-reputable international news organization, home of Meet the Press, and former home of Tom Brokaw, Huntley and Brinkley. (It’s now owned by a cable TV conpany). Facebook is an 8-year-old website where people share pictures and post ads for Farmville.

With a little investigation, it turns out the NBC-Facebook pairing is not the only partnership of old and new media. According to a website on “social TV” called, Fox is partnering with Google, ABC is partnering with Yahoo and the Washington Post is leveraging Twitter. (Apparently CBS, CNN and the New York Times feel they don’t need a social media partner). NBC also has the 15-year-old partnership with Microsoft called “MSNBC.”

NBC doesn’t mention the Facebook partnership on its main Facebook page, but apparently that’s part of the strict separation between news and entertainment (with reserved for the latter).

The debate is prominently mentioned on the Facebook page for Meet the Press, but not that many people go there. The Meet the Press page is liked by 80,000 members while the main NBC page warrants 215,000. However, this compares to 2.5 million for the Green Bay Packers, 27 million for Starbucks and 37 million for Katy Perry. Even my hapless San Diego Chargers have a million fans.

By partnering with the new social media, the old media are facilitating the shift to the new social media. Does NBC hope that it will legitimate itself with a lost generation by partnering with Facebook? Is there any evidence this has ever worked before?

Of the five major US news networks — ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox and NBC — only CBS is a standalone company (valued at $18 billion). CNN can be bought with its parent Time Warner (TWX) for $37 billion, versus $67 billion for NBC/Comcast and $72 billion for ABC/Disney (DIS).

However, the shift has already taken place. Despite its problems, analysts speculate that Facebook will be worth $100+ billion in its long-rumored 2012 IPO.

The Facebook market cap may reflect an optimistic growth multiple that eventually disappears (ala Netflix, Cisco, Microsoft, etc.) Or the company may continue to chase Google ($210b) in market cap. Either way, it’s hard to see a case where old media will threaten it in public influence (or market capital) any time in the foreseeable future.

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