Lionsgate Shares Jump Amid Report CBS Kicking Starz’s Tires

By Patrick Hipes, Dominic Patten

With another potential delve into merger talks with Viacom on the horizon, CBS is looking to bulk up and has expressed an extemporary desire to acquire Starz.

The whisper of such a deal certainly was an immediate boon for the premium cabler’s parent company Lionsgate. News of the offer, first broken by the site The Information, has sent shares of Lionsgate up nearly 15% to 15.60 at the end of trading Friday on the Nasdaq.

While spokespersons for both CBS and Lionsgate declined comment on any possible sale of Starz to the Black Rock crew, a conversation was certainly had by by interim CBS CEO Joe Ianniello and Lionsgate chief Jon Feltheimer in recent weeks. In that context, our understanding is that there hasn’t been and may not be any formal offer by CBS, yet.

However, we also hear that informally top-tier execs at both companies did discuss a more than minor interest by the now ex-home of The Big Bang Theory of gaining some Power in their corporate portfolio. The reported offer didn’t go far initially because the low-billons figure that CBS dropped was not the sort of price the John Wick franchise-owning studio was willing to take for Starz — at this time.

It has been a topic of discussion in a number of corner suites the past few months that Lionsgate might be looking to offload Starz, after it purchased it from a group owned by Liberty Media in 2016 for $4.4 billion. Its original programming includes Outlander, American Gods, Vida and the much-watched Courtney Kemp-created crime drama Power, which has various spinoffs in the pipeline.

It was only this month that Lionsgate revealed its plan to integrate Starz’s television operations under Entertainment boss Feltheimer. The companies merged their TV physical production and post-production units, legal and TV music departments as well as aspects of business affairs and TV finance related to production. Unlike Disney’s takeover of a boatload of Fox’s assets two months ago, no layoffs were expected at the newly streamlined operation.

Such a deal as CBS snagging Starz would continue the industry consolidation that most recently included Disney acquiring most assets of 21st Century Fox for $71.3 billion, and AT&T acquiring Time Warner for $85.4 billion. Disney, WarnerMedia and Comcast (which owns NBCUniversal) are now planning streaming services to compete with the likes of Netflix, Amazon and Apple’s forthcoming offering.

Stay tuned.

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