Kara Swisher

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Flixster Update: Warner Bros. Very Interested, as Yahoo Drops Out of Bidding for Social Movie Site

280Flixster

Recently, BoomTown reported that Flixster–the popular social movie site whose brands include the Rotten Tomatoes premium reviews site–was in early acquisition discussions with several suitors.

Now, said sources, Warner Bros. appears to be the frontrunner in various talks to buy the entertainment site, while Internet giant Yahoo has dropped out due to price concerns.

The reason for interest from the Time Warner-owned studio, said sources, is due to a spate of recent digital efforts, including its expansion of a movie rental experiment on Facebook.

As MediaMemo’s Peter Kafka wrote last night:

Facebook users watch “The Dark Knight” on the social network for $3. Now it has added five more movies, and is asking more money for three recent releases: It will cost you 40 Facebook Credits–the equivalent of $4–to rent “Inception,” “Life As We Know It” and “Yogi Bear” on the site. The first two “Harry Potter” movies, however, are at the original price.

Flixster has a strong presence on the Silicon Valley social networking giant, which could make it a good vehicle to attract people to the movie rental effort, as well as a popular mobile app.

Interestingly, Rotten Tomatoes was once owned outright by another traditional media giant: News Corp.

It is now only a minority shareholder, after trading Rotten Tomatoes for a 20 percent stake in the combined entity a little over a year ago.

News Corp., which owns 20th Century Fox Studios, is not bidding for Flixster, several sources said.

The price being discussed for the San Francisco-based start-up is between $60 million and $90 million.

Any acquisition negotiations could always fail, of course. In fact, Flixster held advanced discussions in late 2007 with IAC/InterActiveCorp.

Flixster trades all kinds of recommendations, ratings and news and even posts user-generated movie reviews on its Web site and via widgets on social networking sites, mostly on Facebook, and on mobile devices.

Co-founded in 2006 by CEO Joe Greenstein and CTO Saran Chari, Flixster has raised $7 million in venture funding from Lightspeed Venture Partners and Pinnacle Ventures, as well as garnering angel investments, such as from Silicon Valley entrepreneur and LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman.

The combination with Rotten Tomatoes and its more robust Web presence made a lot of sense. It features mostly premium content, including professional reviews, trailer videos and news.

The site is famous for its clever fresh and rotten tomato rating system for movies.

I have not received a response from emails sent to Flixster and Warner Bros. requesting comment.


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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work