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Cable Technology Feature Article

July 16, 2014

Time Warner is 'In Play'

By Gary Kim, Contributing Editor

When does a rejected acquisition bid nevertheless have consequences? When a big rejected bid means a target company is ‘in play’. The rejected $80 billion bid by 21st Century Fox to buy Time Warner (News - Alert) signals ‘game on’.  

Despite the rejection, other potential bidders now will have to evaluate whether their own bids to acquire Time Warner might now be on the agenda.

And though the list of potential bidders would include other big media concerns, it sometimes happens that friendly overtures, if rebuffed, develop into hostile takeovers—so 21st Century Fox might craft another offer.

And though one apparent Time Warner concern was the “non-voting shares” its shareholders would have received as part of the original proposal, 21st Century Fox might try to create another deal that sweetens other parts of the bid, even if the non-voting shares issue is not modified.

Already evaluating two other big acquisitions—AT&T’s (News - Alert) bid to buy DirecTV and Comcast’s effort to buy Time Warner Cable—the Federal Communications Commission and Department of Justice might soon also be weighing a Sprint attempt to acquire T-Mobile (News - Alert) US, as well as a big deal by a major content company to buy Time Warner.

But the list of potential bidders for Time Warner is not necessarily limited to other big media companies. Conceptually, even a firm such as Google (News - Alert) might consider the impact of such an acquisition on its existing business and future prospects.

Many observers have been predicting a new consolidation wave on both content provider and content distributor segments of the business as all contenders now view scale as an important asset in increasingly-difficult contract negotiations.

Distributors face growing pressure to limit content rights costs, as those payments directly contribute to retail price inflation that is significantly above underlying rates of inflation, and which will threaten the value-price relationship of linear video subscriptions.

Content suppliers obviously want to continue to hold bargaining power in contract negotiations. That power is threatened as some distributors gain scale, and are able to bargain both for higher volume discounts, and also threaten to withdraw a content firm’s distribution rights as well.

Many therefore expect that Time Warner, despite its rejection of the 21st Century Fox deal, remains ‘in play’, and will be acquired. 

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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