Thursday, October 11, 2012

For Sale: Premium Network Seeks Like Minded Partner

Liberty Media and John Malone are keeping pretty busy these days.  In one corner, they are actively buying shares of SiriusXM while planning a spin off and hopeful merger of Starz with another programmer.  "Speculation of a possible future sale ran high shortly after the spin announcement, with some reports that Time Warner Inc.’s Home Box Office unit or CBS’s Showtime premium channel could be possible suitors. Other possible suitors include Comcast (which controls the NBC Universal partnership), News Corp., The Walt Disney Co., and Netflix."

My question is where the value may be for a merger, in the content license deals that Starz owns or in the distribution of its service across cable operators.  Does HBO or Showtime really want to manage another distribution channel or do they like the content deals that Starz can bring to their respective premium channels.     For folks like Comcast and Disney, I think that it is the subscription revenue that Starz offers and the opportunity to build another vertical path from content creation to distribution.

I also wonder why is Liberty Media willing to sell their asset.  Does the premium window no longer interest them?  According to Malone, "Unfortunately, other than financial synergies, Liberty really can’t provide Starz with much in the way of operational synergies in this space in the U.S.” Doesn't the same hold true for its other programming entities like Discovery and QVC?  Clearly, there may be other reasons stoking this strategic change.

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