Pivotal Research Group’s Brian Wieser’s generating a lot of buzz on Wall Street today with a report that makes the case for a deal. CBS chief Les Moonves has said he’s interested in Sony Pictures, although the Tokyo based company says it’s not selling. Wieser finds it “difficult to imagine” that the struggling electronics giant would reject a serious offer for the studio, which doesn’t clearly fit with its other operations. He figures the studio could go for at least $10B based on Lionsgate’s market value (about $2.6B) — although he acknowledges that “relatively little is known” about the nuts and bolts of Sony’s studio business. And CBS, which recently announced plans to raise cash from its billboard business, could afford to make such a deal. Moonves would see quick benefits by wielding the ax at Sony’s production company, which Wieser says appears to be “materially more bureaucratic than others in the industry.” A deal also would make sense strategically, he adds, by giving CBS “a significant foothold in international television programming.” Sony has 124 channels in more than 159 countries including SET (general entertainment), AXN (edgy entertainment and movies), and Animax (which focuses on anime). In the U.S. Sony owns a piece of GSN and FearNet. Building off of those assets and Sony’s movies, Showtime could “more closely match HBO’s global footprint.” CBS would find it easier to sell its programs overseas. And CBS could use Sony’s library to cut more lucrative licensing deals with streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon. Wieser also says that Sony Entertainment honchos Michael Lynton and Amy Pascal “would be significant assets.”
What about other potential targets for CBS? AMC Networks would be a fit for CBS, but “it is and is likely to remain an expensive stock,” the analyst notes. Starz — which just became an independent company — would be less expensive, but CBS would probably prefer to just increase its invest in Showtime rather than buy a rival. CBS shares are +3.3% in mid-afternoon trading, while Sony is +5.4%.