It would be a major strategic shift for Apple to buy a producer of traditional media content. But Wall Street’s intrigued by that possibility this morning following a report in the Financial Times that the tech giant talked to Time Warner late last year about a deal.
Time Warner shares are up about 1.6% in early trading following the disclosure. And Netflix, which the paper says is also in Apple’s sights, is up 2.7%.
Seems that Apple SVP of Internet Software and Services Eddy Cue raised the possibility of an acquisition in a meeting last year with Time Warner’s chief corporate strategist Olaf Olafsson. The conversation appears to have ended there.
Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes vigorously fought Fox’s effort in 2014 to buy the owner of Warner Bros., Turner (which includes CNN, TBS, and TNT), and HBO.
Still, this morning’s news was enough to excite media investors who have been hoping that a tech giant will buy a major content producer. Many have dreamed about Apple, which could easily afford a deal: It had more than $55 billion in cash or short-term securities on its books at the end of March.
The company also is looking for new growth opportunities: Its main profit driver, the iPhone, is becoming mature. Its sales declined for the first time in the March quarter compared to the same period last year. Apple shares have lost more than 23% of their value over the last 12 months.
But traditional media doesn’t generate the lofty profit margins that Apple currently delivers, and its investors expect. The company also has preferred to distribute other people’s movies and shows, rather than take the risks itself and compete with other providers it might want on a platform — including Disney, led by Apple board member Bob Iger.
Some investors began to wonder whether its views changed over the last year or so as it struggled to secure deals with major network owners to create a skinny bundle streaming service that might challenge cable and satellite.
Speculation about a possible deal with Time Warner’s HBO grew last year when the pay TV service launched its standalone HBO Now streaming service on Apple TV.