That Ain’t Synergy, My Friend

What follows is a short rant. Apologies in advance for the strident tone. But this has to stop.

From an article in today about–what else?–AOL’s acquisition of Time Warner:

Not that synergy in its old-fashioned sense doesn’t continue to play a part. As the [cable] ad exec noted, “MovieFone is now part of AOL. So you can call MovieFone and book your seat for the latest Warner release.”

Hey! This is not freakin’ synergy, in its old-fashioned sense or otherwise! Guess what! I can call MovieFone right now and book my seat for the latest Warner release, and AOL will make some money off that and Time Warner will make some money off that, and between the two of them they will make just as much money off my phone call to MovieFone as they would have if they were part of the same company. Where is the synergy? What’s next? People use credit cards to buy tickets over MovieFone, so AOL should buy Visa?

Once and for all–not really, since I’m sure I’ll be writing about this again soon–synergy only exists when putting assets under one corporate umbrella creates more value than those assets would have produced on their own. So if you could convince me that AOL is going to rig MovieFone to make me want to go see Warner Bros.’ movies–and that it couldn’t have been convinced to do that through a licensing or contract deal–then I might say there’s synergy. Or if you could convince me that just being in the same company as Internet guys is going to make Wolf Blitzer a more productive White House correspondent, then I might say there’s synergy.

The most amazing thing about all of this is that the guy who was quoted (unfortunately, anonymously) is a cable advertising executive. I wonder if he’s in there right now, trying to convince the network he works for that it should just buy TV Guide: “Hey, people can use TV Guide to find our shows. So if we owned it, there’d be synergy!”