@ FOBM: Bloomberg’s Norman Pearlstine: Acquisitions Won’t Grab Headlines

imageNorman Pearlstine, chief content officer of Bloomberg, said during his Q&A today that they are indeed looking at acquisitions, while also providing a refreshing take on what’s working with their highly profitable terminal business that charges 290,000 subscribers about $18,000 a year, and the work that needs to be done in its smaller consumer media business, including Bloomberg TV, which reaches 57 million U.S. homes.

Bloomberg won’t be buying anything as big as AOL: “Historically, Bloomberg has had a strong preference for building rather than buying, and since I’m coming from Time Warner (NYSE: TWX), the approach makes a lot of sense. But I think that we have shown a number of things — while maybe not in the acquisition area — we have shown the ability to work with others. We also have signaled a willingness to look at acquisitions. The CEO of Bloomberg, who is in charge of the terminal business, created a new group called Bloomberg Ventures, which is looking at a lot of new ventures for potential acquisition. In the immediate future, we aren’t talking about the major kind of acquisition that gets written about. With the difficulties of integration, and again I’m reminded of my AOL/Time Warner experience, I’m with that program.”

On defining success: Pearlstine, who has only been at Bloomberg since June, said: “I asked the Chairman what the goal was, and like a good former Carlyle person, I asked whether it was to increase cash flow, or to be the most respected source of business and financial information, and they said yes. It’s part of the mandate to be the most trusted source of information — for both business and financial. I think our consumer media properties have not always been run necessarily with a bottom line in mind — they were branding exercises — and we see opportunities to run them as businesses.”

Personalities matter, even on Bloomberg TV: “I’m happy with some parts of it. A couple of my colleagues from Bloomberg Television are here, and they’ve done some terrific work in building the size of the domestic audience… A lot of focus has been on speed and automation, but there was a feeling that it was a similar business as a terminal business, not a recognition that personalities matter, that programming pacing can matter. That’s where we can do a lot of focus. Last week, we announced a new CEO of our multimedia division, and I think his decision to join us suggests that we are making some significant changes.”

If you continue to add content, how do you make more money? “We get a lot more efficient about what we do. That’s one thing, and secondly, we try to keep growing the base, so we can offer more robust products. Would you look at separate subscriptions for certain content? “I think that’s one of the things we’ll look at going forward, but I confess, out of all the places I have worked where that’s an assumption, none of the places I have worked with have been as profitable as Bloomberg. I’ve drunk the Kool-Aid.”

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