Malone to Heckler: Hey, I'm a Billionaire

John Malone showed once again that he can handle any situation — including getting heckled at a meeting of his own shareholders.

At Liberty Media's special meeting Nov. 19 in New York to approve the spinoff of Liberty Entertainment, Malone fielded a question from an obviously disgruntled shareholder who complained the company was not redeeming fractional shares in the transaction.

Malone at first tried to appease the man by telling him that he would take up his proposal of holding a separate “odd-lot” tender offer with counsel. But the questioner persisted.

So Malone told him that if he had bought Liberty stock when he said he bought it — the questioner he said he originally owned Liberty Satellite stock, which was retired several years ago — and held onto his shares, then he had done “extremely well.” The man continued to complain.

“Let me put it this way,” Malone said. “I started broke and I'm now a billionaire. And I never sold any shares.”

Malone has some stats to back him up. At Liberty's investor day in October, VP of finance Neal Dermer said that over the last 14 years, Liberty stock has had a compound annual growth rate of 12-13%, double its nearest competitor at 6%.

Malone said his earlier company, Tele-Communications Inc., for 20 years had the highest return on equity of any public corporation in the U.S.

The Wire also recalls media investor Paul Kagan frequently citing huge returns Malone had delivered. In 2003 Kagan claimed in a Cable World column that investors who owned TCI stock for 25 years, selling TCI spinoffs for cash and reinvesting the proceeds in TCI, had reaped a 1,000,000% return on their investment.

So, uh, case closed, heckler.

TiVo Marks a Decade Since 'Black Thursday'

Back in the early days of TiVo, shortly after the fledgling company launched its very first digital video recorders, came “Black Thursday,” when a TV-listings database crash disabled TiVo digital TV recorders across the country.

Richard Bullwinkle, now chief evangelist for Rovi (formerly Macrovision), recalled the dark day during a panel discussion at the Future of Television East conference Nov. 19 in New York.

Before TiVo shipped its first DVR in March 1999, it contacted TV listings provider Tribune Media Services to obtain program information for all areas of the country. That didn't exist at the time, according to Bullwinkle, requiring TMS to pull it together for the DVR startup's launch.

The glitch, about 100 days after the first customer deliveries, happened when TMS sent two different data sets for the same show. The TiVo database wasn't set up to handle that exception — and went belly-up.

TiVo had only sold 120 DVRs to that point, but the “Black Thursday” event required the company to send replacement units to every single customer.

“As a small startup, that hurt,” Bullwinkle said.

Disney Offers 'Ferb' Fans Holiday 'MissileToes'

Disney Channel is inviting fans of animated series Phineas and Ferb to send some mistletoe to their friends and family for the holiday season.

Make that “MissileToe,” as in an e-mail based missile that resembles a toe.

The network is offering an application on site beginning Dec. 4 and on Disney site on Dec. 11 that will allow users to create a 15-second animated “MissileToe Jam!” message featuring a customized “toe” that spells out a festive holiday message once launched.

Users can choose from one of 14 customized holiday-themed or Phineas and Ferb character-driven toes; one of 10 customized messages such as “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas”; or one of 10 graphic images for the skywriter, such as a Christmas tree or a snowman.

The Disney application will use e-mail addresses and “Send to a Friend” technology to deliver the card.

Along with the two Disney Channel-based Web sites, ABC Family will also host the application as part of their “25 Days of Christmas” event on Dec. 1.