Yesterday, 6:44 PM
- CBS zipped through its annual meeting in about a half hour and, as expected, Chairman Sumner Redstone skipped it, as he did Viacom's meeting in March and recent earnings calls.
- Despite the (upbeat) content of CEO Les Moonves' state-of-the-company presentation, shareholder question No. 1 was about M&A.
- Moonves yet again dismissed rumors that CBS might take over Viacom (VIA, VIAB): “We have no intention at this point in time or any time in the future to take over anybody ... We are very satisfied with our assets and our performance. We don’t see anything like that."
- But considering the nature of Redstone's heavy control of both companies, and the confusion around succession, a sale/merger of one or both after his death gets increasingly likely.
- Redstone's current setup means control of his trust would pass to seven people, only two of which (including daughter Shari Redstone) are family members. The relationship with Shari is reportedly strained, and as Sumner Redstone's live-in girlfriend and ex-girlfriend plan his 92nd birthday party next week, Tony Bennett is invited -- but not Shari.
- At the meeting, Moonves praised the network's increased ownership of its shows (important as content licensing becomes a more significant revenue driver) and its moves into digital distribution.
- Previously: Redstone to skip CBS annual meeting next week (May. 14 2015)
Wed, Apr. 29, 10:33 PM
- Confirming some industry speculation, Lions Gate Entertainment (NYSE:LGF) was close to buying Starz (NASDAQ:STRZA) when the two entered a stock-swap deal in February -- and it fizzled in part because of Starz' valuation, The Wrap's Jon Erlichman writes.
- John Malone (Starz' biggest shareholder) got a board seat at Lions Gate and Starz got 3.43% of LGF in trade for 4.5% of Starz. But Malone reportedly wanted to make a deal, and Starz had talked with Viacom (VIA, VIAB) Sony (NYSE:SNE) and Fox (FOXA, FOX) last fall, Erlichman says.
- Starz reports earnings tomorrow and any buyer will have to pony up more now than last September: Shares are up more than 30% from their lowest point then, to $38.60 today. If Starz' valuation was a problem for LGF in February, it's bigger now.
- But Starz CEO Chris Albrecht describes the two companies as "kissing cousins" and a consolidating industry may force Malone's hand somewhat.
- Previously: Wolff: Get ready for 'M&A mania' with media consolidation (Apr. 09 2015)
- Previously: Maffei: More might come from Malone-Lions Gate relationship (Mar. 09 2015)
Fri, Apr. 24, 7:30 PM
- Comcast has ended its pursuit of Time Warner Cable, but what about that lawsuit from content companies that threatened to slow the whole thing down?
- Companies including CBS, Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS) and Viacom (VIA, VIAB) argued that the FCC's sharing hundreds of thousands of pages of negotiating strategies with third-party merger opponents like Dish Network (NASDAQ:DISH) would be "highly damaging." The fight was likely to add several weeks to any related merger consideration.
- The suit, still at the U.S. Court of Appeals, is still in progress because it also involved the ongoing AT&T (NYSE:T) deal to acquire DirecTV (NASDAQ:DTV). Attorneys close to the case are figuring that the Comcast-TWC documents will now be off the table as a moot point.
- Still, the decision likely still has an impact on the timeline for AT&T/DirecTV. The FCC will file an updated notification with the court.
- Previously: AT&T sells third-biggest debt offering to fund DirecTV purchase (Apr. 23 2015)
- Previously: Comcast, TWC move higher premarket on merger's end (Apr. 24 2015)
- Previously: It's over: Comcast officially ends $45B pursuit of TWC (Apr. 24 2015)
Thu, Apr. 9, 9:08 PM
- Don't let recent merger challenges and failures fool you, Michael Wolff argues: "M&A mania" is coming to a media conglomerate near you amid pressure for a new wave of consolidation.
- "Perhaps never before has consolidation been so much the flavor of the month, nor has it seemed so difficult to get a taste," he writes. "The table is set, but nobody's sitting down to eat."
- If Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) fails in its bid for Time Warner Cable (NYSE:TWC), he notes, it just means other cablers will step up to match Comcast's ambition, and Comcast will still look for a way to stay dominant.
- He points to a number of mergers he thinks are easily imaginable: Viacom (NASDAQ:VIA) and FOX? Disney (NYSE:DIS) and Time Warner (NYSE:TWX)? TWC and Charter (NASDAQ:CHTR)? Discovery (NASDAQ:DISCA) and, well, most anyone (Disney, Fox, CBS)?
- Factors encouraging the wave: Media's all about video now, and the pure-play aspect makes merger logic cleaner; distribution and content are separate and now even antagonistic businesses; the growth of over-the-top means not unbundling but re-bundling; and everyone needs scale for negotiation strength in content and ad deals.
- Other key players: John Malone (LMCA, LBTYA, STRZA); Verizon (NYSE:VZ); Lions Gate (NYSE:LGF); Scripps Networks (NYSE:SNI); Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX); DirecTV (NASDAQ:DTV) and AT&T (NYSE:T); Dish Network (NASDAQ:DISH).
Tue, Mar. 17, 4:54 PM
- The future of CBS might well include some kind of tie-up as the era of Chairman Sumner Redstone starts to draw to a close -- and last year, CEO Les Moonves talked with Time Warner (NYSE:TWX) chief Jeff Bewkes about making a merger, Bloomberg reports.
- Bewkes wasn't interested, though, and so speculation continues. Redstone's health has been the subject of increasing conversation -- he will be 92 in May, and missed his usual speaking part on Viacom's January earnings call -- as has succession planning for his empire.
- The trustees that will take over Redstone's interests upon his death include Viacom (VIA, VIAB) CEO Philippe Dauman and Redstone's daughter Shari, but not Moonves.
- Moonves has talked down merger chatter before ("very happy being alone"), though that may be about boosting price -- Moonves says CBS will be a $100 stock in four years, while BofA's Jessica Reif Cohen says TWX could offer $80/share.
- Moonves has said he doesn't think a Viacom reunion fits either, and he reportedly gathered partners earlier this year with an eye to taking the network private.
- Previously: March Madness equals billions in ad-ness for CBS, Turner (Mar. 17 2015)
Fri, Mar. 13, 4:28 PM
- As signaled before, the FCC has paused the 180-day "shot clock" on reviewing two megamergers -- Comcast's (NASDAQ:CMCSA) deal for Time Warner Cable (NYSE:TWC), and AT&T's (NYSE:T) deal to buy DirecTV (NASDAQ:DTV) -- as it's tied up with another case over programming contracts.
- The review of the deals was set to expire by the end of March, but now may take somewhat longer, likely several more weeks.
- The cause is the ongoing dispute with programming firms -- Disney (NYSE:DIS), CBS, Twenty-First Century Fox (NASDAQ:FOXA), Viacom (VIA, VIAB) and others -- over whether third parties commenting on the mergers will get access to private documents containing sensitive pricing and strategy information.
- The FCC has argued it has sufficient protections to keep those details from getting out. But the merger reviews now appear to be dependent entirely on that case's timetable.
- "In reaching this conclusion, the commission reserves the right to restart the clock as it believes will best serve the public interest," the FCC said.
Mon, Mar. 2, 8:23 PM
- Les Moonves said on CNBC last month that CBS was "very happy being alone," and the CEO doubled down on that talk at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media and Telecom conference.
- Moonves says his COO tells him that CBS will be a $100 stock in four years, so buyers or merger partners like Time Warner (NYSE:TWX) or Viacom (VIA, VIAB) would have to pay "a very high price." CBS shares gained 4.5% Monday to close at $61.75.
- He also expressed little concern about smaller cable bundles or any lack of negotiating power by eschewing a merger, saying CBS will be in every bundle. "People can't live without CBS ... We like the hand we're playing."
- The company faces new negotiations with DirecTV (NASDAQ:DTV) and Cablevision (NYSE:CVC) at the end of the year.
- Previously: AMC Networks finally looking for a deal? (Feb. 25 2015)
- Previously: Cumulus higher in late trade as CBS M&A chatter flies (Feb. 24 2015)
Dec. 31, 2014, 8:42 AM
- Streaming: Sony (NYSE:SNE), HBO (NYSE:TWX), CBS (NYSE:CBS), and Dish Networks (NASDAQ:DISH) are set to unveil streaming products in 2015. The theory of the companies that the skinny bundles will draw in more cord-cutters and cord-nevers than they will cannibalize current pay-TV subscribers will be put to the test. The rush of streaming options could help or hurt Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) depending upon which analysis an investor leans on.
- Theater traffic rebound: Exhibitors (CNK, RGC, AMC, CKEC, IMAX) and movie studios (LGF, VIA, VIAB, DIS, FOXA, CMCSA, TWX) maintain that the decline in theater attendance in 2014 (-6%) was due to a slate of films light on blockbusters. A bounce is forecast for 2015 with high-profile films such as Avengers: The Age of Ultron, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2, Fifty Shades of Grey, Jurassic World, Spectre (James Bond), and Mission Impossible 5 all set to premiere - along with the reboot of the Star Wars franchise in December. Capex spending on theater upgrades could also help boost in-theater spending and average ticket price for exhibitors.
- Mergers: If regulators allow the Comcast-Time Warner Cable (NYSE:TWC) and AT&T-DirecTV (NASDAQ:DTV) mergers to sail through it could clear a path for other media combinations, note analysts. Potential buyers include Alibaba (NYSE:BABA), Wanda Group, Softbank (OTCPK:SFTBY), and a TWX-rebuffed 21st Century Fox (NASDAQ:FOXA). Content producers which could be targets include Starz (NASDAQ:STRZA), Lions Gate (NYSE:LGF), DreamWorks Animation (NASDAQ:DWA), AMC Networks (NASDAQ:AMCX), and Scripps Networks (NYSE:SNI). A split-up Madison Square Garden (NASDAQ:MSG) could also be enticing.
Dec. 12, 2014, 12:13 PM
- Time Warner (NYSE:TX) CEO Jeffrey Bewkes speculated on the potential for a mega-merger in the media industry yesterday during a discussion at a conference sponsored by Dealbook.
- The exec mentioned CBS (NYSE:CBS) and Viacom (VIA, VIAB) as two companies that might like to combine within the sector.
- Time Warner remains very much in the M&A discussion after spurning an $85-per-share offer from 21st Century Fox (NASDAQ:FOXA) earlier this year.
- "I don’t want to talk about it," says Bewkes after already pointing to the elephant in the room.
Jul. 16, 2014, 10:01 AM
- Rupert Murdoch's interest in Time Warner is giving a bit of a boost to other content-heavy media companies.
- The combination of content-heavy studios with powerful media distribution firms has been a hot topic over the last week.
- CBS (CBS +1.9%) is out-performing with speculation picking up that it will make a nice fit for a tech giant someday.
- Other gainers: Lions Gate (NYSE:LGF) +6.2%, Discovery Communications (NASDAQ:DISCA) +4.5%, Viacom (VIA, VIAB) +5.1%, AMC Networks (NASDAQ:AMCX) +3.5%.
- Related: Content owners smile with tech heavyweights in the house, Time Warner-21st Century Fox timeline.
Mar. 2, 2014, 3:48 AM
- Viacom (VIA), Discovery Communications (DISCA) and Scripps Networks (SNI) have bid for U.K. TV broadcaster Channel 5, the FT reports.
- Saban Capital, the media-focused private equity group, has also made an offer.
- The value of the proposals couldn't be obtained, but Channel 5 owner Richard Desmond is seeking £700M ($1.17B).
- It wasn't clear if BSkyB (BSYBF) was part of the Discovery bid after an earlier FT report linked the companies for a Channel 5 offer.
VIA vs. ETF Alternatives
Viacom Inc is an entertainment content company. It connects with audiences in 165 countries and territories and creates television programs, motion pictures, applications, games, consumer products, social media & other entertainment content.
Other News & PR