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Disney Fans A-Twitter With Talk of Acquisition

If Walt Disney Co. emerges as the buyer for Twitter Inc., it will own another distribution platform for its sports programming. The Burbank entertainment and media company is among a number of potential buyers for the San Francisco mobile communications app developer. Others include Google Inc., in Mountain View, and Salesforce.com, the sales and marketing software developer also in San Francisco, which is working with Bank of America on the process. Laura Martin, an analyst with Needham & Co. in New York, said that Disney tends to be frugal when it comes to bidding on companies it has an interest in. “I would be surprised if it wins versus some of the other companies like Salesforce.com,” Martin added. Disney entered the Twitter sweepstakes on Sept. 26 in media reports from financial wire service Bloomberg that the company was working with a financial advisor to buy the company, citing unnamed sources familiar with the matter. Twitter Chief Executive Jack Dorsey has served on the Disney board since 2013. If successful in its bid, Disney would get a digital distribution platform that would help in finding viewers who are don’t watch sports programming on broadcast or cable networks. In the past year, Disney’s ESPN has lost millions of viewers to streaming services. Twitter began streaming the first of 10 NFL games last month in its bid to expand its streaming strategy. About 243,000 viewers tuned in to the broadcast, according to the NFL. Disney is making strides in other areas to gets its programming to viewers through alternatives to broadcasting. In August, for example, Disney said it would invest $1 billion to get a 33 percent stake in BAMTech, a spinoff company of MLB Advanced Media, the digital arm of Major League Baseball. BAMTech supplies the back-end technology for streaming professional baseball and hockey games, as well as content from WWE World Wrestling Championship. Disney also has a stake in MLB Advanced Media. “Our investment in BAMTech gives us the technology infrastructure we need to quickly scale and monetize our streaming capabilities at ESPN and across our company,” Disney Chief Executive Robert Iger said in a prepared statement. The news about Disney’s interest in Twitter showed mix results on Wall Street. Disney’s share price was down almost 2 percent in the days following the news, while Twitter’s shares increased by more than 4 percent during those two days. Publicity, the Sequel Adam Keen rejoined Warner Bros. Pictures as senior vice president of national publicity in September. Keen had previously worked for the Burbank film studio from 2013 to 2015 as vice president of publicity. He handled such films as “Gravity,” “The Conjuring” and “Man of Steel.” He most recently was executive vice president of worldwide publicity and corporate communications at Broad Green Pictures, in Los Angeles. He resigned that position in July at a time when Broad Green was laying off about 6 percent of its workforce. Blair Rich, president of worldwide marketing for Warner Bros. Studios, said he was thrilled to welcome Keen back to the studio. “He is an extraordinarily accomplished and respected publicity executive who inspires his colleagues and brings tremendous talent, drive and innovation to every campaign on which he works,” Rich said in a prepared statement. In addition to Broad Green, Keen has also served in publicity positions at Relativity Media, Overture Films and MGM/UA. DreamWorks Layoffs NBCUniversal will lay off 200 employees at the Glendale campus of DreamWorks Animation, the media company said last month. In a staff memo sent Sept. 15 by Jeff Shell, chairman of Universal Filmed Entertainment, DreamWorks employees were told the elimination of the positions was among the moves to integrate the company into Universal Filmed Entertainment Group. “These changes are focused in the corporate overhead groups as well as distribution and consumer products, areas where we can fully integrate operations with NBCUniversal,” Shell wrote in the memo. The layoffs come less than a month after NBCUniversal parent Comcast Corp. closed on its $3.8 billion acquisition of the former independent animated film and television studio. The acquisition gives Universal a broader reach in the competitive children and family entertainment markets. In addition to feature films, DreamWorks Animation also produces television series distributed on the Netflix streaming platform, live theatrical events and licenses its characters for use in overseas themed entertainment attractions. “These are difficult but necessary moves as we work to integrate our organizations and we will be as generous as possible to those who will be leaving the company,” Shell wrote in the memo. Staff Reporter Mark R. Madler can be reached at (818) 316-3126 or mmadler@sfvbj.com.

Mark Madler
Mark Madler
Mark R. Madler covers aviation & aerospace, manufacturing, technology, automotive & transportation, media & entertainment and the Antelope Valley. He joined the company in February 2006. Madler previously worked as a reporter for the Burbank Leader. Before that, he was a reporter for the City News Bureau of Chicago and several daily newspapers in the suburban Chicago area. He has a bachelor’s of science degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
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