With CBS and Viacom talking merger again, all eyes are on Lionsgate, which is considered ripe for acquisition. According to one source, there are already potential suitors — Amazon, Verizon and a CBS-Viacom combination — who have all been sniffing around the company.
It would make sense on both sides: for the studio, which until now has been an acquirer of smaller film and television players, to be melded in with massive infrastructure to directly reach consumers and the resources to survive in a media environment increasingly dominated by giants; and for the suitors, whose acquisition would substantially raise its profile in content.
We hear of interest in Lionsgate from both the nation’s largest telecommunications company, Verizon, which has been bulking up its mobile video offerings through deals like the one announced today with the NBA; and technology giant Amazon, which has invested billions to create original content for its Amazon Prime service including this year’s Golden Globe-winning comedy The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.
We understand that Lionsgate, CBS and Viacom may also be evaluating a scenario that would combine the three. Such a deal would result in a dramatically strengthened media company with a dominant broadcast network in CBS; a library of movie titles with such blockbuster franchises as the Transformers, Mission: Impossible and Hunger Games; and a television library with a breadth of content including Mad Men, Orange Is the New Black, SpongeBob SquarePants and Teen Wolf.
Lionsgate’s $4.4 billion acquisition of the resurgent Starz in 2016 may well have increased its appeal to potential acquirers.
It’s unclear what, if any, role CBS CEO Leslie Moonves would play in the merged companies. Earlier today, the Wall Street Journal reported that Shari Redstone is reviving a plan, shelved in 2016, to re-unite Viacom and CBS. If a combined deal goes further than a dance, it would greatly alter the entertainment industry again.
Last month, Walt Disney Co.’s $52.4 billion bid for 21st Century Fox’s film and television assets signaled a transformation of the media landscape by creating a media colossus with the heft to compete with Silicon Valley players, which are also investing heavily in entertainment. That deal, announced in December, fueled speculation about which smaller media players would be likely take-over targets.