Let’s face it: 2020 has not been the best of years. We‘ve been having to learn how to live in the midst of a devastating global pandemic; one which has caused severe disruption to economies all over the place. This, for a known fact, may explain why we haven’t been hearing the word “mass media merger“ as much as we used to.
In the past year alone, the media landscape underwent significant drastic changes when Disney completed its mammoth acquisition of 21st Century Fox, CBS Corp. and Viacom were reunited to form ViacomCBS, and Hasbro expanded its media footprint with its purchase of Entertainment One. With a lot of smaller companies struggling to keep pace, I've decided to make my first post about a list of predictions regarding acquisitions and mergers that could occur over the next couple of years. So without further ado, here's my picks for the media mergeacquisition predictions for 2021 and beyond! Note: My picks will range from small-scale film studios to video game companies to publishing houses and so on. The possibilities here are straight-up endless!
Hasbro acquires MGM https://preview.redd.it/2xd8pl71cmv51.png?width=2071&format=png&auto=webp&s=9cd81f8950280c98e8ab47e76413644a4ecffe94
Hasbro is undoubtedly the world's leading toy manufacturer, with such popular IPs including Transformers
, G.I. Joe
, My Little Pony
, Power Rangers
, and so much more, and coming off its purchase of Entertainment One, the leading international film/TV distributor home to notable family-fare brands include Peppa Pig
and PJ Masks
, as well as the libraries of record labels such as Death Row Records, the prolific toy giant has truly diversified further into the realm of content production, but what if the time came to take a step further?
Well, that's where Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) comes in. Sure, the lion's been having some discussions with several parties, including Apple and Netflix about a possible takeover, but I reckon one of those suitors could be Hasbro itself. If a Hasbro-MGM merger went through, Hasbro would own several iconic film series including the James Bond
, Bill & Ted
franchises, among others, critically-acclaimed TV series including the Stargate
, The Handmaid's Tale
, etc., and popular unscripted formats including Survivor
, The Voice USA
and The Apprentice
Above all, I think Hasbro's content production arm could benefit dramatically with labels such as the main MGM banner and the Orion Pictures sister studio, combined with eOne's global film production/distribution/sales divisions, so yeah, could a Hasbro deal finally be the moment where MGM regains its status as a major film studio? Only time will tell.
Comcast acquires Electronic Arts (EA) https://preview.redd.it/y9dcntu3cmv51.png?width=1830&format=png&auto=webp&s=698b27c49463e6d7c9c6ebbe8395bc6655065f59
EA is one of the leading video game companies in the industry, and perhaps in recent years, the most reviled, with many gaming buffs citing its desire to shut down development studios and its overabundance on micro-transactions, all in the name of greed. Comcast, a fellow previous "Worst Company in America" recipient, is defined by the properties owned through its media subsidiary NBCUniversal, which includes the Universal Pictures film studio, the NBC TV network, Universal theme parks, and most recently, the Peacock streaming service.
Corporate negativity aside, I personally think that in acquiring EA, Comcast could establish a third pillar in its media holdings alongside NBCUniversal and Sky (which it bought back in 2018), with several major video game franchises including Need for Speed
, The Sims
, Medal of Honor
, Mass Effect
, Plants vs. Zombies
, and the EA Sports family of games (FIFA
and so on) under its umbrella. These gaming IPs would fit pretty well with NBCUniversal's existing IP which includes film franchises such as Jurassic Park
, Fast & Furious
, Despicable Me
, How to Train Your Dragon
, and much more.
Comcast certainly wouldn't be the only mass media conglomerate with video game holdings, though. WarnerMedia, owned by AT&T of course, stands as the only leading mass media conglomerate that owns a leading video game publishedeveloper (in Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment). Under the Comcast umbrella, I'd expect some serious changes in management, so EA can earn newfound respect, after years of brutal flack from gaming fans.
Microsoft acquires Netflix https://preview.redd.it/p9pn3zb6cmv51.png?width=2496&format=png&auto=webp&s=e84e08f5648d97cd534cbe29140e87034a4213c8
For years, Netflix has been the world’s leading direct-to-consumer entertainment platform, with critically acclaimed original series under its roof including House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, Stranger Things, and many more, as well as three Best Picture-Oscar nominees in Roma (2018), Marriage Story and The Irishman (both 2019). With all of that success in mind, one question has clouded it for a predominantly long time: Is Netflix an acquisition target? Many analysts have suggested countless times that either Disney or Apple should buy the streaming giant, but since then, both companies have launched streamers of their own (Disney+ and Apple TV+, respectively) to prove which streamer’s the best. Which raises the question on who else could swoop in and take it.
Well, as this section suggests, the honor of buying Netflix goes to another tech giant, Microsoft. The prolific corporation is best known for its Windows computer operating systems, its Office suite of programs, and its Xbox line of video game consoles. The acquisition of Netflix, of course, would be a historic moment in Microsoft’s 45-year history, as it would give the company significant media holdings, as well as a new flagship brand in its ranks. If that were the case, anyone who buys a new Microsoft hardware product (Windows, Surface or Xbox) could get a year’s subscription for free. Now that’s watching with power!
Amazon acquires Ubisoft https://preview.redd.it/7d51d6w6cmv51.png?width=2363&format=png&auto=webp&s=15b849cf0448627fb84e706c466ff36376db37af
Amazon, without question, is the world's leading online marketplace, second-largest streaming player (through Prime Video). But did you know it has some gaming assets under its belt, too? That's where Luna, its upcoming cloud gaming service, comes in. It also has a gave development/publishing arm - Amazon Game Studios, which publishes first-party titles; but here's the problem: it's not big enough in scale - or IP - yet.
What game company is it probably most likely to purchase, though? That honor goes to Ubisoft. With Ubisoft's franchises including the Rayman
, Raving Rabbids
, the Tom Clancy's
games (Splinter Cell
, Ghost Recon
, The Division
), Assassin's Creed
, Far Cry
, Just Dance
and more, Amazon's profile in the gaming market could truly skyrocket, and benefit Luna even more, seeing as they have a gaming channel with Ubisoft. Could Amazon use Ubisoft to break the code to compete with Sony and Microsoft in the gaming market? Well, if an acquisition like this goes through, I'd say it would.
ITV plc acquires Lionsgate https://preview.redd.it/8tpjuwiacmv51.png?width=2364&format=png&auto=webp&s=79d8ecc9ede2bc4c942a89efe73270250620934d
Remember back in 2016 when eOne, prior to its acquisition by Hasbro, rejected a bid to be acquired by British television broadcaster ITV? That's a unique example of ITV trying to diversify, with very little luck. In the age of streaming, ITV is currently trying to expand its horizon's a bit. So, what better way to do that than buying out a little mini-major film studio? This is where Lionsgate comes in. Lionsgate's future has been in deep question since January 2018. At that point, Amazon, Verizon, Comcast, and even the future ViacomCBS were being looked at as potential suitors. As speculation continues to mount about who could possibly buy it, I imagined recently what would happen if ITV decided to buy Lionsgate in an effort to diversify into film production.
Now I know this prediction sounds odd, seeing as ITV is a British company, but ITV Studios - the company's content production/distribution arm, does operate internationally (most notably in the United States, where it's the like the largest unscripted producer in the country) could do with some well-established IP, namely a couple on the cinematic front. I believe that Lionsgate's films and franchises, most notably the Saw
, The Hunger Games
, and John Wick
franchises, as well as Lionsgate's sister studios (like Roadside Attractions, for example) could benefit under the ITVS fold. If that were to happen though, Lionsgate's TV arm would be folded into ITVS's US division, inheriting the existing TV programs currently produced by Lionsgate.
Of course, Lionsgate also owns a handful of TV channels, including the U.S. premium network Starz, which brings us to a crossroads of sorts. Starz (as well as Lionsgate's stake in Celestial Tiger Entertainment) may continue to be owned by ITV, but the most likely option is this: both networks may need to be divested due to rules on foreign companies owning U.S. TV channels. This is where suitors like Disney, NBCUniversal, Sony Pictures and Discovery may come in. Regardless though, Acquiring Lionsgate's studios, combined with it's large film library, would prove a truly significant boost to ITV's content production efforts!
Verizon acquires Hearst('s media assets) https://preview.redd.it/trigqz3bcmv51.png?width=2496&format=png&auto=webp&s=1488e273efd5b3ceba1fe6da773828e67939ad3c
Verizon is a pretty underrated company in comparison to larger conglomerates, with key assets including its bespoke Wireless and FiOS services, and internet brands like AOL and Yahoo!. Hearst, on the other hand, is home to a number of magazines and newspapers (with a couple of web properties in between), along with a 50% stake in A+E Networks, which it owns with Disney. (Fun fact: Hearst and Verizon already have a partnership in Verizon Hearst Media Partners, but now may be the time to go further
Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg already stated that the company has no ambition in joining the media-merger race any time soon, but now may be the time to reconsider. With Hearst's publishing and entertainment under its disposal, Verizon Media can benefit significantly. Which brings us to its broadcasting assets. Hearst also owns affiliates to major U.S. broadcasting networks like ABC, CBS, NBC and so on. Hearst may scale down and focus on those stations (similar to the likes of Nexstar and Sinclair Broadcasting), but keep some companies like Litton Entertainment (which owns some early-morning blocks on ABC and CBS).
I do have a feeling that Verizon may acquire Disney's share in A+E, which would lead to Disney acquiring Hearst's 20% stake in ESPN to take full ownership. This alone could increase Verizon's international holdings dramatically - and for good reason!
Liberty Global acquires ErosSTX https://preview.redd.it/81ebgvtfcmv51.png?width=2071&format=png&auto=webp&s=edbce0a9846d8e5978635ecc2198521eeb1fbc65
Well, as it turns out, some miracles can happen in a year of economic uncertainty! In that case, the surprise merger between STX Entertainment, the newest mini-major studio in Hollywood, and Eros International, a leading Indian film studio. The result? ErosSTX. A relative newcomer to the public stock exchange, its film unit (STX Films) has released a modest slate of mid-budgeted films - most recently Hustlers
, 21 Bridges
and The Gentlemen
, with a few flops (eg. Uglydolls
) in between. Ripe for immediate takeover? maybe.
The suitor most likely? Liberty Global - the largest cable/broadband provider outside the U.S., with its brands containing the likes of UPC, Virgin Media (in the UK and Ireland) and Telenet (in Belgium). While it does own small stakes in ITV and Lionsgate, The John C. Malone-controlled firm's footprint in content production is relatively small, but with film operations in both the U.S. and India, Liberty, if it bought ErosSTX, could have an unrivalled global outreach in terms of other mini-major studios. By extension, this might be the time for Liberty to buy Discovery's half of All3Media, which could give them an even larger content library of sorts...
??? acquires AMC Networks https://preview.redd.it/dewswek9cmv51.png?width=2364&format=png&auto=webp&s=8818a23c22d27ac2249116e700104770294163b3
Now, here's an acquisition target with multiple scenarios. This means that anyone - even an unexpected suitor, could swipe in and add its assets to its portfolio. This is the case of AMC Networks, the cable networks group behind The Walking Dead
franchise, Breaking Bad
, Mad Men
, etc. Here are a couple of buyers that may come into mind:
- Discovery: Let's start out with the most draconian scenario, shall we? Of course, if Discovery bought out AMC, this would result in the dominant independent owner of cable television networks, given the amount of networks Discovery owns globally, even before its 2018 merger with Scripps Networks Interactive. An AMC-Discovery merger would also open the doors for Discovery to boost scripted programming, as most of Discovery's channels (like the namesake Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, TLC and more) are mostly factual-oriented.
- Hasbro: Hasbro (via eOne) and AMC already have a lot of common, as the former distributes The Walking Dead internationally. Question is: could Hasbro expand into broadcasting to fit better in line with larger conglomerates? This deal could be a potential scenario, one in which Hasbro may buy Discovery's 60% stake in Discovery Family, if lucky.
- RTL Group: Bertelsmann-owned RTL is an established digital broadcaster across Europe, with key operations in Germany, the Netherlands, and France, not to mention its content arm Fremantle - whose notable programming includes The X Factor, [insert here]'s Got Talent, The Price is Right, among others. But what if it expanded to the Americas? Maybe AMC would be its answer - and Fremantle would gain distribution rights to almost all of its programming.
- ProSiebenSat.1 Media: PSS1 is perhaps regarded as a leading broadcaster in German-speaking territories, though its namesake Sat.1 and ProSieben networks in Germany. Internationally, its content arm, Red Arrow Studios (which was itself up for sale until COVID got in the way), has a number of programming at its disposal including Love is Blind, Bosch and A League of Their Own to name a few. Maybe buying an established cable company like AMC Networks could boost their international recognition a bit...
- Sony Pictures: Sony has a predominantly low key presence when it comes to owning notable TV channels. Fortunately though, Sony Pictures Television does have some ties with AMC, as a producer on Breaking Bad and its spin-off Better Call Saul. Now might be a pretty good time to tie that knot. Question is: what could happen to the likes of Sony's existing international channels? (eg. Sony Channel in various countries)
??? acquires A24 https://preview.redd.it/1z007zs8cmv51.png?width=2364&format=png&auto=webp&s=fba4af39ec14e042e09420ffee9b89e9428c6425
A24 is perhaps, to this day, considered the most revered independent/art-house film studio in Hollywood, having released a barrage of critically-acclaimed prestige pics like Ex Machina
, Lady Bird
, The Lighthouse
, Uncut Gems
, and many more. But ever since Apple announced a multi-year partnership with the indie titan, there has been some mild speculation that the tech giant should buy them outright. In addition to Apple, I think a couple of other suitors would be interested:
- Apple: Apple is obviously the first name that comes into A24's mind when it comes to prospective future buyers. Granted, they have a multi-year partnership with Apple, which involves them supplying the Apple TV+ streaming service with content, but it would come as no surprise to me if Apple were to ramp up production by buying into this indie powerhouse.
- Banijay: Having bought out both Zodiak Media and Endemol Shine Group and amassing a gargantuan library of television programming and unscripted formats, France's Banijay has become the world's largest independent television studio, with notable shows under its roof including Big Brother, Deal or No Deal, Black Mirror, MasterChef, Peaky Blinders, and so much more. So with that in mind, buying an equally renowned indie film studio would make a strong case for Banijay to expand into film, right?
- Disney: Now this one may sound a bit unworkable, given that Disney also owns an art-house studio in Searchlight Pictures. How may they sort that one out, you ask? Merging the two indie studios into a larger one - presumably under the name of "A24-Searchlight" or something.
??? acquires Activision Blizzard https://preview.redd.it/aox37ae2cmv51.png?width=2364&format=png&auto=webp&s=e2511fb816d3bcc5e845477e5dc37f885554352c
Now here's another publicly-traded gaming studio that just happens to be a takeover target! Activision Blizzard is to this day, the largest game company in the Americas and Europe in terms of revenue and market capitalization. With several franchises under its roof like Call of Duty, Crash Bandicoot, Spyro/Skylanders, World of Warcraft, Overwatch, Candy Crush Saga and too many to count, it certainly should be no surprise that a mass media company's in pursuit for their gaming goods. Here are a couple of companies that may be interested:
- Apple: The number #1 tech giant strikes again! If Apple does buy Activision, this could lead to the tech giant making a bigger splash in the gaming market, after distinguishing itself with its Apple Arcade subscription service. Could this lead to Apple launching a cloud gaming offering or even a video game console to put PlayStation and Xbox to shame? We shall see.
- Amazon: Since Amazon is, of course about to make its mark on cloud gaming with its Luna platform, it could also make sense for them to pick up some well-established IP - alternatively - in Activision's. If that were to happen, expect some Activision and Blizzard titles available to play on Luna for the long run!
- Alphabet Inc.: Now here’s another internet company (through its Google subsidiary) making waves in cloud gaming circles! By that I mean Stadia, which was had a fairly decent run going against PlayStation Now. But where are the original, in-house games? Well, that’s where Activision comes in. Similar to a potential Amazon deal, Stadia would make Activision's vast library of games available to play on its service. At least the wider Alphabet conglomerate could branch out beyond the Google subsidiary at some point in time, though!
- Hasbro: Gee, it turns out this toy giant is getting a lot of love! If Hasbro wanted to diversify further, they'd probably just buy a run-of the-mill video game company like this. Historically, Hasbro did have a video game division at one point, until it got sold to Infogrames (now the current incarnation of Atari), but could they give it another spin? Maybe; it makes good sense as Hasbro currently has a deal with Activision when it comes to licensing Overwatch merchandise.
- Sony Interactive Entertainment: Microsoft's recent acquisition of Bethesda has certainly given them a further step ahead of Sony in the next phase of the console wars. All things considered, I'm pretty sure Sony's planning some sort of counter-attack in the number of development studios to shame, so what better way to do that than buy Activision? Now that's how you add more game franchises to your roster.
- Take-Two Interactive: Now here's a predominantly draconian scenario! A leading force in third-party gaming, Take-Two's most iconic game franchises include BioShock, Borderlands, Grand Theft Auto, NBA 2K, Red Dead, and so many more. But with Activision and Blizzard's assets under its roof? Then Take-Two would basically be unstoppable; An Activision/Take-Two merger could probably give the latter the largest amount of gaming franchises out of any gaming company in the business.
- WarnerMedia: WarnerMedia's gaming unit, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, owns a modest number of video game franchises, including the LEGO video games, Batman: Arkham, Mortal Kombat, and Scribblenauts, as well as games based upon Warner Bros. films and animations (eg. DC Comics' works). Acquiring Activision could certainly give WBIE a leading position in the major game company race, and more game franchises they can adapt in the future, especially when HBO Max is concerned!
So yeah, to wrap up, 2021, if lucky, will build a long, long road to recovery for many, especially for the media industry, which is why I wrote this list. Anyway, your opinions are welcome!