Although the talks are said to be “informal,” the story characterizes Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes as a “willing seller.”
In 2014 he rejected a $75 billion offer from Rupert Murdoch’s Fox. Time Warner’s current market value is $64.6 billion.
Time Warner and AT&T declined to comment.
AT&T bought DirecTV last year and has its U-verse wired TV service, making it the nation’s No. 1 TV distributor. It plans to introduce a national streaming service, DirecTV Now, by year end.
CEO Randall Stephenson is said to want additional content. The telcom is a partner with Peter Chernin at Otter Media.
Time Warner shares swooned last year as investors lost faith in the prospects for pay TV programming. But the company’s up 28.3% so far in 2016 helped by election-fueled ratings growth at CNN, and strong box office results for films including Suicide Squad and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
Time Warner’s name frequently comes up in deal talk because — unlike Comcast, Viacom, CBS, and Fox — it doesn’t have super voting shares that would give a single shareholder potential veto power over a transaction. It also offers a relatively pure option for those who want TV and movie content: Bewkes has unloaded other businesses including Warner Music, AOL, Time Warner Cable, and Time Inc.
But it’s unclear what would justify a decision by AT&T to pay a premium price to own Time Warner as opposed to just licensing the content it wants. For example, it wouldn’t make sense to upend HBO’s business model to make it exclusive for AT&T customers.
And Time Warner doesn’t appear to need help distributing its content. It seemed to find a powerful niche online recently with its deal to buy 10% of Hulu.
As a result, a transaction would “have to be predicated on competitive necessities,
opportunity costs and revenue synergies with benefits unlikely to accrue immediately,” Barclays Equity Research analyst Kannan Venkateshwar said last month in a report that considered the possibility of an AT&T-Time Warner deal .