Lagardere positions for interactive push

Feb 19, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Many media companies are scaling back their new media initiatives big time in the wake of the dot-com shakeout. Not Lagardere.
The eighth-largest media company in the world has created a new division to leverage its content across the cable, interactive TV, wireless, broadband and Internet platforms. Called Lagardere Active, it will have separate operating units in North America, Europe and Asia.
Lagardere Medias owns Hachette Filipacchi Medias, the world’s largest publisher of consumer magazines (including Car and Driver, Elle and Woman’s Day), and recently acquired RTM Productions, which supplies original television programming for TNN. The company already has relationships with AOL, Vivendi Universal, Canal Plus and Liberty Media.
Hachette Filipacchi Medias CEO Jack Kliger helms the new entity, and Benjamin Tatta, former senior vice president of USA Networks’ Interactive division, is chief operating officer.
Car and Driver and Elle are the two properties Lagardere Active has initially targeted for new media development as well as for expansion into cable TV.
“We think we can be very aggressive with Car and Driver-we bought RTM six months ago to control the development of television content-and Elle, which is in 33 countries around the world,” said Mr. Kliger. “We see a lot of viability in a 500 [TV] channel world, particularly in terms of syndication.
Obviously, the dot-com fallout doesn’t spook him or those at Lagardere’s headquarters in France. Mr. Kliger said the fallout presents opportunity.
“There was an overwhelming crush of sites that tried to cash in on automotive selling-most have or will fall away,” he noted, pointing out Lagardere’s sites proved to be an exception. “We spend millions of dollars a year testing cars. We now have an ability to use that content more than once-to maximize that very valuable information.”
Mr. Kliger noted that Lagardere Active already has an agreement with OpenTV to develop Car and Driver programming for the EchoStar platform and plans to relaunch Elle.com for the U.S. market. In France, his counterparts are working on multiplatform initiatives that include deals with Canal Satellite and Deutsche Telecom.
Putting together a strategy over the next six months will fall to Mr. Tatta, who was responsible for making USA Networks’ Scifi.com the “third stickiest site on the Web,” according to Media Metrix.
“The strategy is relatively straightforward: to transform the business from a publishing business to a multiplatform media company,” said Mr. Tatta. “To do that, we’ll extend the reach of our content assets by developing programming, capabilities and top-tier partnerships. The key is prioritizing.”
Plans include three to six more television shows (on top of 3 to 4 hours per week currently) on either automotive or outdoor programming and investments or full-out acquisitions (of a studio or studios) to expand the company’s production capabilities.
Lagardere Active also plans to launch brand-new offerings for broadband and wireless-a combination of rich media served from existing Web sites as well as interactive programs through its partnership with OpenTV and EchoStar. Mr. Tatta also expects the relationship with AOL to grow in all areas.
“You’ll see the results of that as early as this fall,” he predicted.