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Facebook Too Pricey for Yahoo?

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News Analysis
Light Reading
10/18/2006
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Google's $1.65 billion valuation of the video sharing site YouTube will make it harder for Yahoo Inc. (Nasdaq: YHOO) to buy the social networking site Facebook for a reasonable sum, industry observers say.

Yahoo has been losing ground to Google in the Internet ad business, and some people think the company needs an effective counter punch to Google's latest ad traffic land grab.

Yahoo's talks to buy Facebook reportedly broke down because of a serious disagreement on price. Google's valuation of YouTube isn't likely to help matters.

"There is a finite number of acquirers out there," says Bart Schachter, managing director of Blueprint Ventures in San Francisco. "There's a vast gulf between what other acquirers might want to pay and what other acquirees might want to get -- that gap is now getting even wider. Companies like Yahoo, not to mention the old-time companies, can't afford these kind of prices." (See LR Ranks Video Sharing Sites.)

Yahoo chose not to comment for this story.

Even if Yahoo were game, there are not many media properties out there with the kind of traffic generated by YouTube. With YouTube in the fold, Google will control a 60 percent user market share in the video sharing market, according to Hitwise. "The deal gives Google a leg up versus Yahoo and MSN in online video, and paying 1 percent of Google’s market cap for leadership in an important online category is reasonable, in our view," writes Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc. analyst Justin Post in a recent research note.

YouTube wasn't profitable, but its large audience spends an average of more than 20 minutes per visit, and that's a good thing for advertisers. The market for Internet video advertising, says eMarketer, is growing rapidly and will reach $640 million in 2007 and grow to $1.5 billion by 2009.

Some believe Yahoo will buy something in the video sharing space, even if no more traffic monsters like YouTube are available.

"It's more likely a buy than a build," says American Technology Research analyst Rob Sanderson of Yahoo's probable strategy. "Google is arguably a little better at bringing services to market organically. Yahoo down through the years has been more likely to bring things to market through acquisitions.

"Are they looking? Yeah, I'm sure they're looking at all kinds of things in this area," Sanderson says.

The rumor mill in Silicon Valley has been actively handicapping the next video sites to be sold. The names that come up most include MetaCafe, Heavy.com, and Guba.

Light Reading's readers, in a recent poll, say Blip.tv, Motionbox, and VideoEgg are all likely candidates for the taking. (See YouTube: Who's Next?)

Sanderson says Yahoo isn't feeling pressure to buy: "Is there a gun at their head to do a deal? Probably not; I don't think they feel that way."

— Mark Sullivan, Reporter, Light Reading

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