Media, Entertainment Mergers and Acquisitions Cool Down in First Quarter (Study)

Entertainment, media and communications companies aren’t getting hitched at the rate they once did, but when they do hook up, it tends to be a blow-out wedding.

The volume of mergers and acquisitions in the sector during the first quarter of 2015 was at its lowest point in two years, with 198 total deals, according to a new report by research and accounting firm PwC. However, the value of those pacts topped $39 billion, representing a 144% increase from the previous quarter.

“The market is ripe for some level of consolidation,” said Bart Spiegel, partner, entertainment, media and communications deals, at PwC. “I’d be surprised if the volume being down in the first quarter reflects a long-term trend. I think you can expect volume to pick up.”

The mega-deal is alive and well, with six deals making up 90% of the total value of all the deals in the space. They include Charter Communications’ $10.4 billion acquisition of Brighthouse Networks; Frontier Communications’ $8.6 billion purchase of Verizon’s landline business; American Tower Company’s $5 billion play for Verizon’s tower business; Gaming & Leisure Properties’ $2.4 billion purchase of Pinnacle’s real estate assets; an equity group’s $4 billion move on Life Time Fitness; and Expedia’s $1.6 billion bid for Orbitz.

Of course, this current quarter has seen the unraveling of one major mega-deal, after Comcast announced in April that it will abandon its $45 billion takeover of Time Warner Cable amidst regulatory challenges. The collapse of that deal is expected to trigger a wave of consolidation in the cable sector, as other players try to snap up Time Warner Cable.

Another recent move among Fortune 500 companies hints that the bonds between the entertainment, media and technology sectors could grow tighter. Verizon’s $4 billion purchase of AOL this week, purportedly to strengthen the video that will stream over its smartphones and mobile devices, shows the appetite that Silicon Valley and communications giants have for content they can distribute. That could lead to more deals and mergers.

In the most recent quarter, deal volumes in the communications sector fell more than 40% to 16 deals, and also dropped 30% in the publishing industry to 32 such pacts. The number of deals in the cable business rose from two to four in the most recent quarter, and increased from 53 to 60 in the advertising and marketing field.

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