Has JumpTheShark Jumped the Shark?

I'm not sure whether JumpTheShark.com founder Jon Hein has ever tried the Fonzie jacket on for size, but this may be a good time to wonder whether his own site has "jumped the shark," now that it has agreed to be acquired by Gemstar-TV Guide (Nasdaq: GMST  ) for an undisclosed amount.

Hein's site has been a pioneer in providing edgy user-provided content covering the televised programming realm. He coined the "jump the shark" phrase, based on an occurrence toward the end of the Happy Days series run, in which Arthur Fonzarelli ski-jumped over a shark. On Hein's site, visitors vote on when they think television shows peaked in popularity and lost their touch -- or, in other words, jumped the shark.

Gemstar can use the online real estate. Revenue fell 10.7% last year, weighted down by the company's sluggish publishing business. A dramatic makeover of its signature TV Guide publication last fall hasn't helped. Cutting against the slide, which has continued so far this year, is an improvement in the bottom line fueled by growth in higher-margin cable programming and Internet advertising.

The media company has been slow to the dot-com land grab. CNET Networks (Nasdaq: CNET  ) acquired TVTome.com and used it to refashion its TV.com domain. Glark Industries and Early Girl watch over Television Without Pity, but the site has partnered with Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO  ) TV for marketing support.

Moving on to the big screen, media giants have been doing the gobbling. Between Amazon.com's (Nasdaq: AMZN  ) purchase of IMDB.com and last year's purchase of Rotten Tomatoes by News Corp. (NYSE: NWS  ) , we have to ask: Will the last of the popular independent entertainment sites please turn out the light before signing on the dotted line?

As for JumpTheShark, we proliferated Hein's catch phrase early. Six years ago, we referred to Hein's site in writing about stocks that had jumped that shark. Hein then approached The Motley Fool to propose that we team up to launch a JumpTheShark subsite devoted to corporations instead of television shows. It's a strategy that worked for Hein a year later, when he hooked up with RollingStone.com to apply the formula to musical artists.

It didn't pan out with us. It was bad timing -- the dot-com bubble was starting to burst. We survived. Hein's site survived. Now it will be up to TV Guide's parent company to grow Hein's site and monetize it accordingly.

If that doesn't look like a black leather jacket and a pair of water skis, I don't know what is.

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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz lives with water all around him in Florida, but he has never ski-jumped over a shark. He does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story. The Fool has a disclosure policy. He is also part of theRule Breakersnewsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.


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