Thursday, January 26, 2006

Barry Diller: A Coming IAC-Time Warner Deal?


(image via jsonline)

Will AOL, in combination with Warner Bros., New Line Cinema, HBO and the Turner basic cable networks merge with IAC? Does the appointment of Michael Jackson mean that things are progressing in this direction?

Everyone in the media looks to Barry Diller's maneuverings in this space with baited breath. Diller's the big cat in the jungle; he's the far-seeing apex media predator, his every move affects everyone else's sense of wellbeing. The man's a genius; and, besides, he throws the jeeziest parties (breathtakingly Neroesque in scale).

So, his announcement today that he is appointing an A-List programmer to his internet company is seen as further proof that the dynamic universes of television and the web are coming, finally, to rest in each other. As well they should. According to Paidcontent:

"This will get some tongues wagging: Barry Diller's returning to programming, at least in some form. His Internet company IAC/InterActiveCorp has named veteran TV executive Michael Jackson to oversee its programming. Jackson, formerly the chairman of Universal Television Group as well as former CEO of UK's Channel 4, will oversee IAC's development, acquisition and distribution of programming, the company.

"As this story says, this marks a return of sorts for Diller to show business. Years ago he was the head of Fox and Paramount Pictures, and of course, with Universal/Vivendi . Diller said that that Jackson is the best person to 'grow multi-platform content businesses.' After Jackson quit Channel 4 in 2001, he joined Diller-owned USA Networks in 2001 and was named chairman of the Universal Television Group following the merger of USA with Vivendi Universal Entertainment (VUE). He exited with the merger with NBC in 2004."

According to Broadcast and Cable:

"Programming developed under Jackson�s watch at USA included Monk and The Dead Zone. Before that he was with the BBC and chief executive of Britain�s Channel Four, where he oversaw Queer as Folk, Trading Spaces and Da Ali G Show."

Now, this information is especially interesting because of the reports out of Fortune about the outspoken Carl Icahn's consideration-backing of some sort of deal with Diller's IAC :

"Icahn is also seeking to merge some of Time Warner's businesses--AOL, the TV networks, and the movie studio--with an Internet portal. A source says Icahn has had discussions with one or more portals about combining the businesses and then spinning off the publishing and cable operations. And other sources confirm there have been discussions between Icahn's camp and IAC, the Internet company run by Barry Diller. How could Icahn pry those businesses out of Time Warner using IAC, given that TWX is nine times bigger than IAC? That's unclear. It's possible that Diller, Icahn, and Wasserstein could come up with additional partners. Right now Diller says the discussions are neither hot nor ongoing."

Time Warner, as we saw this week, is not averse to a well-aspected media partnership. And, why not if it is digital, and -- quite possibly -- moves the stagnant stock price. Does Michael Jackson's ascent mean that IAC and Time Warner are in the throes of hammering out some sort of a deal?

We'll keep you posted.

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