Commentary

Report Says Yahoo Pursued HGTV, Food Network, Maybe CNN

I can’t imagine 2014 was a year Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer was sorry to see end, but the new year has begun with just as much vinegar.

Nicholas Carlson, author of Marissa Mayer And The Fight to Save Yahoo! on Thursday reported on BusinessInsider.com ,M eyer had toyed with the idea of acquiring Scripps Network Interactive, using some of the billions Yahoo earned from the Alibaba IPO.

Scripps Interactive includes HGTV and DIY, the Food Network, the Cooking Channel and the Travel Channel.  And Carlson says, there were also  “pretty active rumors” last summer that Yahoo looked into acquiring CNN. He also pointed to speculation from The Insider that Yahoo and CNN will merge sometime this year.

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I would bet that sometime in my lifetime, somebody will buy Scripps Interactive because it seems somebody is always trying. In its current form, or in its pre-breakup version, Scripps always seems to be a hot property, and that’s because if you look around the cable television landscape, it’s about the only (relatively) little very lucrative player left out there. It has incredibly brand-friendly channels and it produces all of its own programs. Cable’s small handful owners are their own country club and Scripps is the nice piece of property right next door. 

(And to put it another way, it’s a small island of well-run properties that someday will be bulldozed by the indiscriminate MBA architects of a media chain store.)

The online parts of Scripps now have a huge pile of content at its Web sites, though not much of an international presence. Yahoo could afford Scripps, Carlson says, but adds it now appears Yahoo’s largest shareholders would rather rein Yahoo and Mayer in rather than jump into another line of business, and rain some of that Alibaba money back on investors, who are otherwise putting their money into a company that isn’t doing a lot well.  

As Carlson makes clear in his newly-published book, a lot of people are baffled by what she’s doing. Though she took over a mess of a company a couple of years ago, it doesn’t seem to have turned around much. In the media, she gets the kind of rough handling once zinged at CNN’s Jeff Zucker when he ran NBC.

Yahoo should combine with AOL, some people suggest -- combining two online legacy brands into one would probably work, since it appears AOL has gotten its act together while Yahoo seems perpetually broken. (Carlson reports that for years, Yahoo overpaid its employees just to be able to stop them from leaving.)  In 2015, it would seem likely, push will come to shove, somehow.

pj@mediapost.com

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