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FCC re-examines media consolidation rules

The Federal Communications Commission Sept. 13 made moves that could open the door to further media consolidation. In separate actions, the FCC opened one proceeding to re-evaluate its cross ownership rules that bar newspapers from buying broadcast stations in markets where they have newspapers and in another move it opened a proceeding to re-evaluate its current limits on cable ownership. The cable rules prevent cable owners from owning more than 30% of satellite systems, and prevent a cable operator from using more than 40% to 45% of its channels for its own programs. The Newspaper Association of America had asked the FCC to drop the limits on cross ownership, while a court acting on objections from AOL Time Warner told the FCC to review limits on cable operators.

Netcentives cuts 50 jobs, 28% of 180-member staff

Online loyalty company Netcentives, San Francisco, cut nearly 28% of its work force Sept. 13, laying off 50 of its 180 employees. Netcentives said it would not file an appeal to Nasdaq about being delisted; it dropped off the exchange on Sept. 13. The company said the staff reduction was outside its e-mail marketing division, which is for sale. In April, Netcentives laid off 120 people companywide and initiated other cost-cutting measures like reducing administrative and travel expenses, while reducing revenue expectations for the year. The stock closed Sept. 10 at 11 cents.

WPP releases details on $633 million Tempus bid

The takeover battle between WPP Group and Havas Advertising for London-based media specialist Tempus Group continued last week as WPP issued its bid document with details of the company's rival $633 million offer for Tempus and its CIA media planning and buying network. Havas Advertising, now the low bidder after making a $600 million offer for Tempus in July, is expected to respond with a higher bid.

Separately, Aegis Group reported Sept. 12 a 22% drop in pretax profit to $40 million for the first half of 2001, compared to the same period last year. The company also said it will cut 180 jobs, most of them in North America, to boost profits in 2002.

$100 million Sirius account moved to McCann-Erickson

Sirius Satellite Radio shifted its $100 million account to Interpublic Group of Cos.' McCann-Erickson WorldGroup, New York, from Omnicom Group's Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco, in an effort to consolidate all aspects of its marketing mix under the McCann umbrella. MRM Partners, New York, which has been working with Sirius on direct-response and relationship marketing, will be joined by sibling shops McCann-Erickson Worldwide, New York, for branding and advertising; Weber Shandwick Worldwide, New York, for public relations; and Momentum, New York, for event marketing.

Engage shedding assets, to close media operations

Online advertising company Engage, which is majority-owned by struggling Internet incubator CMGI, said it has sold its online advertising assets and will shut down its media operations by the end of the month. The company sold the intellectual property and customer lists from AdKnowledge to BlueStreak, an up-and-coming marketing technology company. AdKnowledge provides ad campaign management to advertisers and agencies. Terms were not disclosed. As part of the acquisition, BlueStreak said that 125 positions will either move to BlueStreak or be terminated. The company now plans to refocus its business on what it terms "content management solutions for multichannel marketing."

Publicis shows strong growth for first half

Publicis Groupe Sept. 13 reported its full financial results for the first half, showing strong growth thanks to acquisitions. Revenue grew 67% to $1.03 billion, but factoring out the 2000 acquisitions of Saatchi & Saatchi and Nelson Communications and the effects of currency, organic growth was 5.5%. Billings grew 65% to $6.77 billion, from $4.1 billion in 2000, but showed 6.3% organic growth.

Excite@Home sells BlueMountain.com

American Greetings Corp. said it has bought e-greetings company BlueMountain.com for $35 million in cash. When ISP Excite@Home bought the company in late 1999, it paid $780 million in a stock transaction. Excite@Home has been working to shed assets unrelated to its core business of providing broadband Internet access as it struggles to raise cash to continue operations. American Greetings has used the Internet slump to buy struggling online competitors. Earlier this year, it bought Egreetings.com for approximately $28 million.

FYI

As expected, Procter & Gamble Co. is relaunching bald home care icon Mr. Clean (or "Meister Proper") across Europe. Grey Global Group's Grey Worldwide, Brussels and Duesseldorf, has created a regional TV campaign for the new line of bathroom cleaning products. ... Most consumers have an unfavorable opinion of Ford Motor Co.'s Explorer and Bridgestone/Firestone tires, according to the results of a Gallup poll released last week. Sixty-four percent of consumers said they have an unfavorable opinion of Firestone tires, while 51% said the same about Ford's Explorer sport utility vehicle. The Gallup Organization surveyed more than 2,000 adults earlier this summer; the margin of error is plus or minus 3%.

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