Advance Publications' Conde Nast underwent some cost-cutting measures after the 2008-09 economic meltdown. It's now looking to maximize the value of its portfolio in countless ways. But while the company has gotten a lot of press for the creation and launch of the Conde Nast Entertainment Group, another smaller deal caught my attention. According to the New York Post, "the American City Business Journals subsidiary of Advance recently spun off The Sporting News, which it only acquired in 2006, into a new joint venture with publicly traded London-based digital sports video company Perform Group." Conde Nast will only own 35% of the new venture, christened Perform Sporting News Ltd. The Sporting News went all digital recently. If this deal can help salvage what's left of the once-venerable brand, then it could signal a strategy for other print companies to follow.
While television companies have strong balance sheets, they too look for partners in print instead of go-it-alone strategies. In a more visible move, Comcast's NBCUniversal is partnering with Hearst's Esquire in a licensing deal that will create a cable network for men. Across the board, print companies are turning over every rock in house to generate new revenue streams and unlock value. Whether or not these deals create any gains remains to be seen, but credit them all for trying.
This got me thinking: Why stop there? Here are a few more combinations.
NYT/CNN With Jeff Zucker running the show now, CNN is experimenting with new hosts and shows. But why not go for a much larger experiment and combine its strength in television with the New York Times' strengths in publishing? By cross-promoting CNN's clips on the Times' pages, and in turn adding the Times’ massive archives on CNN video pages, the result would be better SEO, increased RPMs and thus more traffic and revenue. The joined entity would also have a far more diversified revenue streams.
Finally, while the Times is a national brand that is leveraging the Web to become more international, CNN has global reach. The Times’ foreign correspondents are a natural fit for CNN's offices around the world.
FOX / SI Time Warner just spun Time Inc. into a new separate entity. Whereas competitor Meredith had shown some interest in People and the other women's oriented titles, Time Inc' three most venerable brands (Fortune, Time and Sports Illustrated) remained standing when the music seemed to stop. While it's somewhat inconceivable for Time Inc to sell just one brand, it's not impossible for them to consider putting the assets into a new venture with deep-pocketed print aficionado Rupert Murdoch, who is launching a new sports network to rival ESPN, the very same company that over time leveraged the television medium to steal SI's thunder.
As a result of the cable juggernaut, the SI brand has played second fiddle to ESPN, so why not combine its journalists, archives and brand with FOX's resources in their new sports network? That would give FOX's sports network immediate credibility and a much stronger foundation to scale from.
Obviously these combinations are long shots -- there are always sticky issues of control and culture -- but the fact remains, print brands have an opportunity to recreate themselves by thinking out of their pre-existing organizational box.