As posted here on the Jointblog in March, Viacom/MTVN wants their own MySpace-type social website...like yesterday. The Financial Times reports that MTV parent Viacom is considering a bid for social networking site Bebo.
This, of course, would mark the company's latest attempt to nip at the heels of Rupert Murdoch and News Corp., which beat out Sumner Redstone and company last year in a bidding war for MySpace parent Intermix for $580 million, back when it only had 20 million users. Some viewed it as folly and a pursuit of a faddish novelty but it sure has turned into a prescient purchase since MySpace's membership has more than doubled to 40 million users+.
Viacom's interest in the young social network comes a day after the media conglomerate announced a ground-breaking deal with Google to syndicate its content across its AdSense publisher network of niche Web sites and blogs.
And there is logic in bringing a successful Euro brand for American expansion instead of trying to rehabilitate a dying US brand (like Friendster) or re-brand an alternative (but smaller) success like Facebook. BeBo is fresh, it already has a success track record and it offers a point of difference from MySpace in style and membership base.
And BeBo already is partnered with free online phone VoIP Skype...creating a potentially lucrative partnership between Viacom/MTVN and Skype-owner eBay.
The success of that acquisition has prompted Viacom and other major media rivals to reexamine the value of sites that command so much of a young user's Web time. MTVN has dugg into gaming social sites (Xfire) and already has Neopets.com but it still hasn't found a comparitive MySpace platform. BeBo just might be it.
Bebo has 25 million registered users worldwide, compared with more than 90 million for MySpace. But it corners the social-network market in Ireland and the UK. Plans for a possible acquisition are at a very early stage, the Times reports, but Viacom is understood to have told its mergers and acquisitions team to look at the company. Of course, the talk of a deal may fall apart.
Bebo says it's in no big hurry to sell but has reportedly held recent talks with UK-based media companies like BT and ITV, from which valuations north of $600 million were discussed. Will Viacom let this one slip through Tom Freston's fingers and how will Wall Street react if it does or decides to grab it?
Media trend watchers would love to see a Viacom/News Corp battle of social networking sites. It's a story we'll follow...meanwhile, I'll just spend a little time getting to know the euro babes' BeBo profiles...
FT.com link here
posted by Chris Kennedy @ Tuesday, August 08, 2006,