Film, TV Biz Gives Up on

Moves to divest print assets reflect desire to hunker down on core biz

So the new logic in media appears to be publishing and video content are like cattle and sheep.

They don’t mix.

News Corp. is spinning off its publishing assets. Tribune is contemplating offers for its newspapers, which would separate them from big-city TV stations in some of the same markets. And now Time Warner has opted to spin off Time Inc., mostly because a proposed deal with Meredith Corp. fell through.

So much for that big Wall Street Journal piece proclaiming Meredith “The New King of Magazines.”

Print journalists are perhaps to be forgiven for feeling like the kings of pain. About the only good news of late has been Warren Buffett’s endorsement of newspapers as a good investment.

The amazing part about Time Warner getting rid of its magazine division, though, is that they were in theory such a logical fit with its existing cable holdings. Time? A news magazine to go with CNN. Sports Illustrated? Perfect to service the baseball and basketball from Turner Sports. Entertainment Weekly? A potential feeder to entertainment-oriented syndicated shows, like “Extra.” And so on.

All these channels need content — not just for their air, but for websites. They need talking heads, to inexpensively fill time — something that plays to the strength of print journalists, who are regularly called upon to give people like Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly or MSNBC’s Chris Matthews someone to yell at.

Still, Time Warner never figured out how to make it work. Synergy didn’t add up to incremental benefits.

Have these companies been inept about pursuing such pairings, or was the whole concept flawed from the start?

Those questions are interesting, but at this point moot. Time Warner had all sorts of chances to figure out how to wring additional value out of its magazines in the current media world. And now it’s just plain out of Time.

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