The announcement of a joint venture between Time Warner and Advance Publications to create a cable TV network and Web site aimed at women came as a surprise to most of the top editors and publishers at the companies' magazine groups.
Those divisions, Time Inc. and Conde Nast Publications, respectively, are two of the biggest heavyweights in the magazine business and compete head-on in several categories.
"This was a high-concept deal driven by the Turner folks and those at the very top of Advance," said one Time Warner executive close to the deal. "Many of those at the publications on both sides were clueless that the two publishing companies would be partnering on this."
WIN NAME NOT AVAILABLE
Pat Mitchell, president of CNN Productions and Time Inc. Television, will be in charge of the new service. The network had used an internal working title of Women's Information Television, or WIN, but rights to the name are already taken.
"I would have loved to use that name," Ms. Mitchell said. If rights to the name aren't acquired, a new one will be chosen.
Turner Broadcasting System's development of a new women's channel headed by Ms. Mitchell was first reported in Advertising Age.
Some Time Inc. staffers were surprised by the fact Ann Moore's name wasn't mentioned in last week's announcement. Ms. Moore, president of People Group, is developing a business plan for a women's Web site that would use material from various Time Inc. titles. Ms. Mitchell said it hasn't yet been determined who will oversee the Web site for the new project. Ms. Moore didn't return phone calls.
"If this is supposed to be a partnership between Time and Conde Nast--who are both supposed to provide content for this effort--what does it say when right off the bat most of the editors and publishers on both sides don't know about the partnership?" asked one insider close to the deal.
Turner insiders said discussions with Advance executives, including Advance Newhouse Communications President Robert Miron, began about six months ago. Time Warner and Advance--a closely held media company owned by the Newhouse family--are already partners in the operation of various cable TV systems.
Michael Pepe, VP-e-commerce for Time Warner, said the latest venture won't change the competition between the publishing companies for readers and advertisers.
"We are actively working together at the corporate level on this project, but in other parts of the business it is very much business as usual," he said. "In other words, Conde Nast and Time Inc. are both out there every day trying to build their businesses and that will continue. We can work together on some larger operating framework and still be competitive in other arenas."
CHANNEL TO LAUNCH NEXT YEAR
Ms. Mitchell said much of the content on the cable channel, slated to launch in early 2000, will be based on the resources of the Time Inc. and Conde Nast magazines. Time Inc.'s titles include Time, People, Sports Illustrated and In Style; Conde Nast is parent to Vogue and Glamour, among others.
Ms. Mitchell said no deals had been made to carry the cable service; Time Warner has 12.9 million subscribers. She also said TV deals Time Inc. already has in place, such as People's deal with NBC's "Dateline," will continue.
The new cable service will compete with Lifetime Television, co-owned by Hearst Corp., a rival of Time and Conde Nast, and the upcoming Oxygen Media service.
Copyright June 1999, Crain Communications Inc.