EARNINGS TIME: The cold war between Apple and magazine publishers over a workable subscription model for iPad apps has shown a few signs of easing in recent months. Time Warner Inc. chief executive officer Jeffrey Bewkes seems to think the prospect of rival e-readers could end it for good. The company’s publishing wing, Time Inc., scored a small victory in the standoff earlier this year when it was able to offer People magazine subscribers a complementary subscription to the title’s iPad app. On the company’s third-quarter earnings call on Wednesday, Bewkes said the company will soon have more such agreements in place, and implied they would help level the playing field.
“In the near future, we expect to announce deals with other tablet makers that offer our readers flexible ways to access all our electronic titles,” Bewkes told analysts. “We’re confident that as the competition increases in that space, every tablet manufacturer will want to give its consumers the same range of choices and the same value.”
Bewkes has reason to get the company’s digital magazines in front of as many eyeballs as possible. Elsewhere on the call, he reported a more than 20 percent gain in digital advertising dollars in the quarter. Overall, the unit posted a 5 percent gain in ad sales. Total revenues at Time Inc., however, fell 1 percent to $901 million, due in part to declines in subscription revenues. The company attributed the drop-off to unfavorable foreign exchange rates at British subsidiary IPC as well as a slide in subscriptions and newsstand pickup Stateside. Time Inc.’s operating income for the quarter grew 45 percent to $141 million thanks to trims in operational expenses such as lower pension costs.
— Matthew Lynch
THREE AMIGOS: The conglomerate formed by Pierre Bergé, Xavier Niel and Matthieu Pigasse has completed its takeover of embattled French daily newspaper Le Monde, but not without a final twist to the tale. With hours to go before the official deadline, Spanish media group Prisa, which owns a 15 percent stake in Le Monde SA, declared it wanted to become the fourth partner in the group. Lawyers for both sides finally reached an agreement, which gives Prisa the option of taking a 20 percent stake in Le Monde Libre (LML), the holding company formed by the three investors. Prisa had been part of a rejected bid by a rival consortium, alongside France Telecom and Claude Perdriel, whose media holdings include the weekly magazine Le Nouvel Observateur. Under the terms approved by shareholders’ assemblies late on Tuesday, LML will invest 110 million euros, or $153.6 million at current exchange, giving it a 64.5 percent stake in Le Monde SA, which owns the daily and other publications including weekly magazine Télérama. This will eventually be brought down to around 60 percent, with other shareholders, including the paper’s staff, controlling around 34 percent. In an editorial published on Wednesday, Bergé, Niel and Pigasse said it was vital for Le Monde to return to profitability, as this was key to guaranteeing its editorial independence. “We will have to think about publication cycles, structures and complementarities,” they said. One of the changes the trio is reportedly mulling is switching publication of the paper to late morning from early afternoon.
— Joelle Diderich