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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

EXTRA! EXTRA! Top Media Moguls Form Venture to Compete AND Lead in Digital and Print Book Markets

From left, Barry Diller, Frances Coady,
Evan Ratliff of Atavist and Scott Rudin.


Tonight's post takes us right into the big business boardrooms, through media chiefs' critical thinking/analyses and exposes the latest venture that is about to enter 'the turbulent world of book publishing'.

Perhaps Amazon will at last get a worthy opponent :)

David Carr (Julie Bosman contributed reporting), The New York Times, reports the details:

Media Chiefs Form Venture to E-Publish
 
Two powerful entertainment moguls, Scott Rudin, the film and theater producer, and Barry Diller, the chairman of IAC/InterActiveCorp, are joining together to enter the turbulent world of book publishing.

Mr. Rudin and Frances Coady, a longtime publishing executive, have formed a partnership with Mr. Diller in a new venture called Brightline. It will publish e-books and eventually physical books in a partnership with Atavist, a publisher based in Brooklyn with expertise in producing electronic books and articles.

The alliance creates a new competitor in the rapidly changing digital book market, one that is dominated by Amazon, the online retailer, which has roughly 65 percent of e-book sales. Though fledgling, the new venture will enjoy the support of two influential executives who control a wide array of resources in media and entertainment.

Atavist and Brightline will exchange an undetermined amount of minority equity interests in each other’s ventures, and IAC will provide $20 million in capital to build out Brightline as a publisher in addition to making investments in Atavist.

Atavist, a start-up conceived by three friends in Brooklyn — Evan Ratliff, Jefferson Rabb and Nicholas Thompson — received attention for its content management system, which the group used to produce multimedia storytelling for various electronic devices. In May, Eric E. Schmidt, executive chairman of Google, was among a group of high-level technology executives who invested in an early round of financing for Atavist.

There were informal discussions this summer in which Mr. Diller and Mr. Rudin discussed paying as much as $10 million for a controlling interest in Atavist. A partnership grew out of those discussions.
“The book business has a concentrated number of players and is unquestionably in transition,” said Mr. Diller, sitting at a conference table at IAC’s Manhattan headquarters on Monday with Ms. Coady, Mr. Rudin and Mr. Ratliff. “There is a possibility here that if we start with a blank piece of paper that you could hit the opportunity that exists in the book business now.”

Mr. Rudin, who frequently works with authors like Michael Chabon, Jonathan Safran Foer and Jonathan Franzen to turn their books into films, said he had heard a steady stream of complaints about the opaqueness and resistance to change in the publishing business.

While traditional publishers are now releasing books in both paper and digital formats, e-book sales have surged in the last several years. E-books now account for more than 15 percent of publishers’ revenue, posing a challenge to the dominance of print in the long run and leaving the future of brick-and-mortar bookstores in doubt. Fiction has been an especially rich market for digital books: major publishers say new novels often sell more e-book copies than print copies in their initial weeks of sale.

Mr. Rudin worked for Mr. Diller as head of production at 20th Century Fox during the 1980s, and the two men have remained friends. For this venture, they decided to work with Ms. Coady because she was an early innovator in trade paperbacks at Random House and went on to work with authors like Augusten Burroughs at Macmillan’s Picador imprint.

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