In this week’s edition of Five on Friday, we share the latest update in the Lee Enterprises versus Alden Global Capital saga which is heating up as we speak, CBS rebrands and expands its news streaming network, and WWE makes a content deal with Disney+ Hotstar. Also, Spotify is on a spending spree again, acquiring Whooshkaa to add more tools and features to the streaming audio platform, and we’ve got some hot subscription jobs for you.
Lee Enterprises vs. Alden Global Capital: the next chapter
Last November, hedge fund Alden Global Capital made an unsolicited cash offer worth an estimated $141 million. The price offered was $24 per share, a 30% premium over the share price of $18.49 on November 19, 2021. Lee Enterprises didn’t waste any time rejecting the offer. Since then, the two companies have been battling, and we’ve got the latest updates, including several shared by Poynter’s Rick Edmonds earlier this week.
- In December, Alden sued Lee when Lee rejected three of its nominations to the company’s board of directors. Lee alleged that Alden didn’t follow the bylaws and, therefore, rejected the nominations. That case goes to court on Monday.
- In January, Lee sent an urgent plea to its shareholders, asking them to stop ‘vulture hedge fund’ Alden from a hostile takeover by voting by proxy for all of Lee’s nominated directors prior to the company’s March 10 annual shareholder meeting.
- In rebuttal, Alden, who owns 6.3% of Lee, fired back with a January 27 news release urging shareholders to elect their “highly qualified and fully independent director candidates” to replace two “extremely long-tenured and deeply entrenched” incumbents.
- Yesterday, Lee released its first quarter financials for fiscal year 2022. The company saw growth in digital-only subscribers, digital advertising revenue and total digital revenue, but the company’s stock dropped after the earnings release. At 4 PM Eastern yesterday, Lee Enterprises’s stock was valued at $34.06 per share, compared to $39.11 per share on February 2. Despite the stock dip, its value is still more than $10 higher than Alden’s offer.
As we said before, this is not Alden’s first rodeo. We expect this battle to get even uglier over the course of the next month. Alden rarely gives up. Its acquisition of Tribune Publishing in May 2021 is proof of that.
CBS rebrands and expands news streaming network
CBS rebranding and expanding their news streaming network. Axios reports that CBS has rebranded the service as the “CBS News Streaming Network,” and the company is hoping to make themselves stand out from other major networks by offering their network of both local and national news coverage for free. CBS News was one of the first major news networks to launch their own streaming service in 2014, called CBSN. At launch, it was free and ad-supported.
Currently, CBS is launching two streaming networks this year, in Miami and Detroit. These launches will bring CBS’s local news streaming networks total to fourteen. They are currently servicing major metropolitan areas like New York, Los Angeles, Boston, San Francisco, and many others.
Wendy McMahon, president and co-head of CBS News and CBS Television Stations, said of the launch, “The user experience is quite sophisticated in its ability to alert users to special coverage and big moments as they happen through a frictionless national to local experience. We’ll be able to seamlessly surface local stories to a national or even global audience.”
Deadline states that the news streaming network is bringing a new slate of programming to the table as well, including bringing more of the network’s talent along. The programming will include a Person to Person series with Norah O’Donnell and Gayle King, as well as shows from the CBS Morningslineup.
The announcement of expansion comes after a strong year for CBS. The Hollywood Reporter shared that CBS is planning to expand their number of live news hours from 30,000 to 45,000 by the end of 2022. CBS shared that their channels had one billion streams for the second year in a row in 2021.
Spotify continues spending spree with Whooshkaa expansion
Spotify has been aggressively acquiring new tools and technologies for podcasting in an all-hands-on-deck approach to gaining market share. In December, they announced their newest acquisition: Australian-based Whooshkaa. Whooshkaa is a podcast technology platform that gives creators, publishers, broadcasters, and brands a cost-effective way to host, distribute, monetize and track on-demand audio. The company also offers audio broadcasters a specialized tool to be able to turn their existing audio content into on-demand podcast content.
Whooshkaa expressed their excitement in a blog post, sharing that they have been working to expand Australian radio and bring it into the future since 2016. They have led the way in text-to-speech, speech-to-text, connecting home integration, ad technology, enterprise-grade private podcasting tools, and more. Now they have a chance to do even more.
Spotify announced in a Newsroom post that they would soon be integrating this technology into their Megaphone suite. With these additional features, Spotify could add radio to their platform and further expand their offerings to subscribers. Megaphone shared that streaming radio and podcasts are two formats that are seeing the most consistent growth, so this will give radio publishers a new way to reach people by taking advantage of the growing podcast industry, reaching new audiences, and earning more from their content.
TechCrunch reports that Spotify believes that the porting capabilities of Whooshkaa have the potential to bring more third-party content to the Spotify Audience Network. This would allow for wider reach for advertising partners and create opportunities for more meaningful advertisements. Currently, one in five Spotify advertisers is using and taking advantage of the Spotify Audience Network. With this, Megaphone podcast publishers have seen a double-digit increase in fill rates for their ads.
“We believe the worldwide growth potential for digital audio is still largely untapped. Through the addition of these new tools as well as the innovative team behind them, we are reinforcing our commitment to helping creators, publishers, and advertisers realize the value of this opportunity. With Whooshkaa, we will strengthen our efforts to help audio publishers of all kinds grow their podcast business and scale our ability to help advertisers reach their audiences,” said Dawn Ostroff, Spotify’s chief content & advertising business officer in a TechCrunch article.
WWE makes a content deal with Disney+ Hotstar
Of all of the entertainment networks to partner with WWE, you wouldn’t expect the House of Mouse to be getting cozy with WrestleMania. However, a deal has been struck. The sports entertainment company and the media giant announced that they would be bringing the WWE to the Disney+ Hotstar streaming service in Indonesia. The Royal Rumble in St. Louis will kick off the deal.
The Hollywood Reporter said this is a multi-year deal, and the programming will be included in the standard tier of service. Also included would be the WWE’s pay-per-view events, and its library of content. This is the fourth entertainment company to strike a deal with the WWE. Currently, their programming runs on Peacock, NBCU’s USA Network, and Fox.
The company also has a content deal with Netflix, with more content on the way. Deadline reported that the agreement between Disney and the WWE netted $1 billion, and executives have signaled plans to leverage streaming rights around the world. Having this ball in Disney’s court would help them with their goal of attracting 300 million to 350 million total streaming subscribers by the end of 2024.
This deal comes as the first standalone international distribution deal for the WWE, said Variety. This is also WWE’s first direct deal with Disney. Disney-controlled Hulu has rights for re-airings of Raw and SmackDown, but that contract is up at the end of 2022. Currently, Peacock hosts all of the WWE Network’s programming, in a deal that started in April of 2021. This is a multi-year deal, with the contract expiring in five years.
This could signal a further push into sports and sporting events for Disney, but we will have to see how that plays out.
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