NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Over the past year, media companies looked to make meaningful investments in efforts to extend their reach into new territories, both physically and digitally.
made several acquisitions and sales in 2010 in order to strengthen its media portfolio. The media conglomerate picked up popular online social gaming site
not long before it decided to sell its
film studio to
for an estimated $663 million.
Now rumors are swirling that
is looking to buy the digital rights to the Miramax films to add to its feature content offerings at YouTube.
looked to buy its way into the social gaming space by adding
, but then sold Rock Band developer
in order to focus more on its core business of entertainment and media.
CEO Rupert Murdoch continued to pursue new terrain as he bought and bid on several well-established companies in 2010. Through his acquisitions Murdoch gained products that he believes will put his company at the forefront of the digital shift within the publishing and education industries.
Murdoch also launched a bid to takeover U.K.-based pay TV operator
British Sky Broadcasting
, but not without strong opposition. His buyout bid has received criticism from BSkyB's rival news outlets as well as the Church of England, and has only recently been approved by the European Union.
also made a foray into the overseas market by completing the acquisition of a U.K.-based production company in October.
Disney Buys Playdom
On July 27, Walt Disney bought Playdom, a popular online social gaming site, in a deal worth as much as $763.2 million.
Disney bought the company for $563.2 million and agreed to pay up to $200 million more if Playdom meets performance goals; those goals were not made public.
>>Disney Enters Social Networking Scene
"We see strong growth potential in bringing together Playdom's talented team and capabilities with our great creative properties, people and world-renowned brands like Disney, ABC, ESPN and Marvel," president and CEO Robert Iger said in a statement.
Playdom, known for games such as Social City and Sorority Life, has an estimated 42 million active players each month.
The acquisition gives Disney yet another way to engage consumers, this time through social networks like Facebook and MySpace.
"We are at the start of a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform the way people of all ages play games with their friends across devices, platforms and geographical boundaries," Playdom CEO John Pleasants said.
Disney Sells Miramax to Filmyard
sale of Miramax film studio
in December. Disney bought the studio from Harvey and Bob Weinstein in 1993 for $80 million and sold it in 2010 for an estimated $663 million.
The sale included the rights to over 700 film titles, including
No Country for Old Men
"Although we are very proud of Miramax's many accomplishments, our current strategy for Walt Disney Studios is to focus on the development of great motion pictures under the Disney, Pixar and Marvel brands," Disney CEO Iger said.
Meanwhile, Filmyard has reportedly been in talks with
>> Google Eyes Miramax to Boost YouTube
Google may be looking to acquire the digital rights to Miramax films to enhance its content offerings at YouTube in order to compete with premium streaming services such as Hulu and
, which has also shown interest in Miramax's library.
"We're always talking to the studios about different things and Disney remains a valuable YouTube partner," a Google spokesman told the
New York Post
in November. "Outside of that, we don't comment on rumor or speculation."
News Corporation Bids to Buy BSkyB
In November of this year,
notified the European Commission that it
plans to make bid to take over British Sky Broadcasting
, or BSkyB, a U.K.-based pay TV operator.
News Corp. currently owns 39% of BSkyB and intends to make a bid to buy the remaining 61%.
The European Union then conducted an antitrust review and
granted News Corp. regulatory approval to acquire BSkyB
"I am confident that this merger will not weaken competition in the United Kingdom. The effects on media plurality are a matter for the U.K. authorities," EU competition commissioner Joaquin Almunia said in a statement.
However BSkyB's rival news outlets and
the Church of England continue to oppose the takeover
, arguing that News Corp. and CEO Rupert Murdoch would gain too much control of the British media.
The company already owns four major U.K. newspapers, including the nation's largest publication,
News of the World
. By buying out Sky, News Corp. would acquire its 10 million customers, or close to 66% of the pay-TV subscribers in the U.K.
In an official statement on the church's Web site, Bishop of Manchester Nigel McCulloch explained that if News Corp. owned BSkyB it would control the three major TV news suppliers in the U.K., including BBC and Independent Television News.
The acquisition would allow News Corp to "dominate both the television and media landscape," McCulloch said. "There would always be the potential for the exercise of subtle editorial influence, not least in the process of selecting which news items are to be covered and which left out."
In June, News Corp. proposed its takeover bid to BSkyB, but the board rejected the offer.
The U.K. Office of Communications is still investigating the deal. U.K. business secretary Vince Cable ordered that OFCOM complete a review by Dec. 31.
News Corp Buys Skiff and Wireless Gen.
In June, News Corp. acquired
Skiff e-reader business for an undisclosed fee, and vowed that it would transform the publishing industry.
Earlier in 2010,
showcased the Skiff e-reader
at a major consumer electronics show, and with its flexible screen it was hyped as the "next big thing" in online publishing.
News Corp. also made an investment in
, an organization that helps publishers collect revenue from online readers.
"Both Skiff and Journalism Online serve as key building blocks in our strategy to transform the publishing industry and ensure consumers will have continued access to the highest quality journalism," News Corp. chief digital officer Jon Miller said in a statement.
took its first steps into the education market
when it shelled out $360 million for 90% of the privately held, U.S. education technology company,
, in November.
The schools market is a $500 billion sector "waiting desperately to be transformed by big breakthroughs that extend the reach of great teaching," CEO Murdoch said in a statement.
Wireless Gen.'s systems allow teachers to assess their students' progress, access centralized student data, and individualize instruction accordingly. Wireless Gen. also provides social networking tools that facilitate collaborations between teachers to share knowledge.
Comcast Buying NBCU From GE
At the end of 2010,
announced its plans to acquire NBC Universal from
According to the terms of the deal, Comcast will gain a 51% stake in NBCU and will control and manage its operations, while GE holds onto the remaining 49%.
The companies had originally projected that the joint venture would be completed by the end of 2010. They expect the deal to be finalized in early 2011 due to a
The Federal Communications Commission recently proposed a set of regulatory conditions on the pending merger to ensure the cable company won't be able to monopolize competition in the video market once it gains control of NBCU.
FCC chairman Julius Genachowski proposed new guidelines for the merger to prevent Comcast from withholding NBC's media content from pay-TV and Internet video distributors.
NBCU CEO Jeffrey Zucker sent a memo to employees last week saying that the companies now expect the merger to be completed in January of the new year. "We have made substantial progress this month with both the FCC and the Department of Justice, and expect that we will get a 'green light' in January," Zucker said in the note.
Wells Fargo analyst Marci Ryvicker believes that the delay is related to the potential concessions regarding online distribution. "Applying program access rules to online video is extremely difficult given lack of precedence and 'market rates' for this type of content," Ryvicker said in a Dec. 22 research note.
While she thinks there will be some restrictions, she doesn't believe Comcast will be "handcuffed" by the FCC's rules, and the company will still be able to explore different online distribution methods. The delay does not financially impact Ryvicker's assessment of the merger as she advised investors to "buy on any weakness."
Bernstein Research analyst Craig Moffett recently
upgraded the cable company to a buy rating
and raised his target price to $26 from $20 in anticipation of its acquisition, which he expects to be finalized in 2011.
"With deal closure imminent for 2011, we believe it is time for investors to start thinking of Comcast as the combined Comcast-NBCU entity," Moffett said in his Dec. 14 research report. "On that basis it is attractive on valuation."
While the regulatory conditions of the merger will likely make NBCU "less valuable" within Comcast, according to Moffett, he expects the risks to have a minor impact on the entire company as the content business will only comprise about 9% of its earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization.
After the deal is complete, Moffett says that "Comcast's capital allocation plans should be far more transparent." He expects the company to return cash to stockholders by aggressively repurchasing shares.
While cable contenders
Time Warner Cable
are up 34% and 56.2% over the past year respectively, Moffett believes Comcast will catch up in 2011 after the merger is complete.
CBS Buys Ecomedia
In May, 2010,
president and CEO Leslie Moonves announced that the company acquired
in an effort to work on local environmental projects.
EcoMedia is an organization that uses corporate ad dollars to "produce media that both raises public awareness about environmental issues," according to its Web site.
CBS and EcoMedia had been working as partners since 2008. Through the acquisition, CBS incorporates EcoMedia's advertising model into its television, online, radio, publishing and outdoor units. "We have seen firsthand EcoMedia's work on the ground with environmental projects throughout the country and we're very pleased to now fully integrate EcoMedia into the fabric of CBS," Moonves said.
EcoMedia CEO and founder Paul Polizzotto continues to lead the organization as president of the new division.
Seven months after the merger, in a presentation at the 38th annual UBS global media conference, Moonves said the company has been hesitant to enter into partnerships and promised he isn't planning to pursue any mergers or acquisitions in 2011.
>>CBS' Moonves Sees Content as Leverage
Moonves explained that as the online platforms develop, CBS remains focused on creating original, premium content. However, he remains cautious, and has yet to close on any deals with online video providers such as Netflix and Hulu. "People want our content," he said. "We are going to take our time making the right decision. Caution is a not a bad thing here"
Moonves also said that CBS is planning to make three or four small-budget films next year in efforts to build on its so far disappointing film production business. "It's good to have our toe in the water," Moonves said. "I'm glad we didn't dive in head first."
Viacom Buys Social Express
MTV network bought social gaming company
in July in efforts to strengthen its online gaming presence.
The acquisition marked the media company's first entry into the social gaming space. Through the merger, Viacom has created social games based on original content and characters from its popular networks and brands. "Social gaming is one of the biggest drivers of the explosive growth in social media -- it's fun, it's engaging, and it's shareable," MTV chairman and CEO Judy McGrath said.
MTV networks owns and operates a variety of television and Internet properties, including MTV, VH1, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, AddictingGames.com and Shockwave.com.
In May, ComScore.com said that MTV's gaming sites ranked as the No. 1 destination for online games, attracting over 22 million unique visitors.
In its most recent quarterly report, Viacom announced its plans to sell Harmonix, the developer of the Rock Band music video game franchise. On the company's quarterly conference call, management said that Viacom is not a gaming company and it wants to focus more on its core business of entertainment and media.
Viacom completed its sale of Harmonix music systems to Harmonix-SBE Holdings, an affiliate of private investment firm
. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed, but some have speculated that the deal was worth up to $200 million.
Warner Bros. Buys Shed Media
Warner Bros. bought a majority stake in U.K.-based TV production company
this year as it looked to expand its content and distribution overseas.
Shed's production operations continue to take place in the U.K. and the U.S. while its distribution operations, which merged with the Warner Bros. international TV production unit, remained in the U.K.
Shed Media is a leading creator and distributor of television content, responsible for popular programming such as
"This acquisition marks an important part of our strategic growth initiative for the television group," Warner Bros. TV president Bruce Rosenblum said in a statement. "We already have a leading position and scale in the United States, and this marks the start of the establishment of Warner Bros. as producer of quality entertainment of scale in other important countries."
Warner Bros. management believes the purchase has opened numerous opportunities for its production business through worldwide distribution.
"Our objective is to align with the best possible talent in each major country," Warner Bros. international TV production executive vice president Ronald Goes said.
A few months before the deal was final, rumors emerged that Warner was offering £75 million, or approximately $116.3 million, for Shed. Apparently Shed executives held out for an even better offer and ended up closing the deal at £100 million, or $159 million.
--Written by Theresa McCabe in Boston.
>To contact the writer of this article, click here:
>To follow the writer on Twitter, go to
>To submit a news tip, send an email to:
Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors and reporters from holding positions in any individual stocks.