Yahoo likely to be next in line to click

Analysts speculate on cyber takeovers

With the marriage of America Online and Time Warner under way, who’s next for a cyber takeover?

Analysts had a field day Monday, speculating on which old-media congloms were being eyed for new-media leadership. Debate on takeover rumors resurfaced en masse — a deal with AOL and Time Warner was a denied rumor only months ago.

The verdict: While fears are rampant that tech companies will soon dominate the entertainment decision-making space and may gobble up CBS, Disney and News Corp. among others this year, few dot-coms have grown large enough to ink a deal of AOL-Time Warner magnitude.

All eyes are on Yahoo to make the next move. The powerful portal (with a $115 billion market capitalization) has amassed a large following of Netizens and ad dollars to its services. It still operates without a major media partner but does own Netcaster Broadcast.com.

“They’ve really pulled ahead, along with AOL,” said Forrester Research analyst Charlene Li. “Consistently, deals are being done with AOL and Yahoo and not with the other portals.”

Rumors over the past few months have hinted that the company has sniffed around the Walt Disney Co. and is now interested in News Corp., but officials at the latter said no discussions are under way.

Software giant Microsoft has the financial backing to rival AOL and Time Warner but says it’s not interested in playing the content game.

“We think this demonstrates how differently people can view the market, and how divergent AOL and Microsoft’s paths have become,” said Tom Pilla, a Microsoft spokesman.

Microsoft has had a difficult time trying to turn its WebTV interactive personal TV service into a household name, watching subscribership hover below the million mark. Now that AOL TV gains distribution over Time Warner’s cable lines, WebTV could face an even bigger setback and force Microsoft to consider a larger media merger of its own to gain some foothold for its own Internet ventures.

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