If the world didn’t already have a Rupert Murdoch we’d have to invent one. The 83-year old Australian mogul did what he does best yesterday with Twenty-First Century Fox's (FOXA) unsolicited $80 billion bid for Time Warner (TWX) sent media stocks soaring and scared the daylights out of execs across the industry.
Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes sent employees a video yesterday in which he both confirmed and rejected the offer. It was a nice try by Bewkes but Rupert didn’t become Rupert by taking no for an answer. The consensus on Wall Street is that not only will Time Warner end up getting swallowed but all content creators are now officially in play.
Time Warner shares finished yesterday higher by 17% and were already up in early trading. DreamWorks (DWA), Starz (STRZA), Discovery Communications (DISCA) and AMC Networks (AMCX) were among the media names that rose on the news.
Yahoo’s own Mike Santoli has been looking for this consolidation for a while. In the attached clip Santoli says the content players are bulking up to avoid getting bullied by looming juggernauts like Comcast (CMCSA) and Time Warner Cable (TWC). “[Networks] feel like they have to have more weapons, more content, more real estate on the cable systems in order to fight in this new world,” he says. “It’s understandable and overdue.”
There’s no small irony in the idea of Rupert Murdoch potentially being forced to argue against Time Warner management in the name of creating shareholder value. For years Murdoch has been subject to abuse for his tight-fisted control of Twenty-First Century Fox. Murdoch was a pioneer in the art of creating public companies where shareholders have essentially no voting rights.
Like it or not Time Warner et al are going to have to consider any reasonable alternatives to going it alone. The appeal of being nimble is limited when Comcast could potentially own assets like 30% of all cable households, 40% of the broadband and NBC. From the looks of it Murdoch is trying to cobble together something resembling a slightly grittier version of Disney (DIS) which has content coming out of its ears with original films, ABC and ESPN which is obviously at the center of world when it comes to sports.
If he gets Time Warner Murdoch would likely sell CNN for as much as $5 billion, hold on to TNT and HBO and bid for the rights to every major sporting event he can get his hands on for the next decade or so. The new Fox would then become something like the Rolling Stones with Disney in the role of squeaky clean Beatles. This metaphor reduces customers to the screaming fans stuck with skyrocketing bills. When merger mania really gets cranked up it’ll be a tough time to be a little guy in any sense.
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