The US federal court recently ruled in favor of AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner, Inc.—a deal that brings together a number of global entertainment leaders. HBO, Warner Bros., and Turner now fall under AT&T’s leadership in technology and video, as well as in mobile and broadband. With such a huge deal, what does this disruption mean for the future of the TV industry?
Before the official announcement, many people were antsy about the decision. “Literally, the world could change on June 12,” declared Tim Nollen, an analyst at Macquarie Research. And that, it did.
After spending $85.4 billion to acquire Time Warner, AT&T needed to recover the money they spent somehow. As such, the company is raising prices on customer fees. They are quietly earning back the chunk they spent on acquiring some of the biggest global entertainment names. AT&T increased their price twice in three months: 50 cents at first and then another 73 cents in June. As such, their customers now pay an additional $1.23 in admin fees—an $800 million extra revenue for AT&T, affecting 85% of their 64.5 million postpaid phone users.
Greenlight for Other Mergers and Acquisitions?
Because of the AT&T ruling, the doors are open for other telecoms and media outlets.
Comcast and Fox
Comcast has plans of making an all-cash offer for 21st Century Fox’s studio and entertainment cable channels. Insiders say the company is willing to give out $60 billion. Hoping to “undo” the deal struck by Disney last December, Comcast is attempting and successfully buying the same assets for $52 billion in a mix of stock and cash. Experts say Disney would most likely raise their offer to $65 billion. Fox’s controlling shareholder Rupert Murdoch is open to taking the highest bid.
The Comcast–Fox deal is not final. Moreover, this bidding battle has had rumors of having a third player, Apple, which has previously emerged but not come to fruition.
The Fox situation could get more complicated if other bidders jump in. In recent days, rumors are circulating of a third bidder. And some in the media industry wondering whether Apple could be a buyer. This idea has surfaced before but never became a reality.
Additionally, this Fox bid pretty much parallels a separate yet related bidding war. Both Fox and Comcast are interested with Sky plc, a pay TV operator in the United Kingdom. Fox already owns 39% of Sky and wants to buy the rest with Disney’s help. Comcast oddly outbid them, but Fox intends to bid higher. This is a crucial move as Disney and Comcast both have aspirations of creating their own online streaming services.
Verizon and CBS
Verizon may bid for CBS Corporation. According to industry insiders, the company expressed interest. But CBS Vice Chairwoman Shari Redstone is only interested in selling if Verizon would also buy Viacom, her other media company. With AT&T’s recent success, Verizon might just get the push they need in buying both of Redstone’s companies.
However, Verizon’s plan is still far from turning into reality. Verizon’s CEO Lowell McAdam recently told CNBC that buying a content company is not part of the company’s strategy at present. In addition, their new Chief Technology Officer Hans Vestberg (formerly the head of Ericsson) will succeed McAdam by August, and he also said that content isn’t their top priority. But if the price of an entertainment company is affordably low enough, Verizon might just change its mind. After all, Verizon bought both AOL and Yahoo, showing an interest in digital media in the past.
Charter Communications and CBS
This AT&T victory may bring out the “Malone wild card,” referring to billionaire media mogul John Malone. He controls Charter Communications and Discovery Communications. He may potentially try to purchase CBS and Viacom, or even combine some of the companies he already owns like Charter buying Discovery—the latter of which owns Animal Planet, Discovery Channel, and HGTV—or even movie studio Lionsgate, according to Nollen’s recent report for Macquarie.