Size matters in media.
The big companies keep getting bigger, with the number of mergers and acquisitions between major players increasing substantially during the past year, according to a report by PwC. This year has already seen a number of splashy pacts between Time Warner Cable and Comcast and AT&T and DirecTV, to say nothing of deals that weren’t, such as 21st Century Fox’s failed bid for Time Warner.
Overall, the number of corporate hookups was relatively even with the year-ago quarter, with 218 announced deals compared to 210 in 2013. The bulk of the activity was in the so-called “megadeal” space, which ranks mergers and acquisitions of more than $1 billion in value. Those increased by 50% year over year, from six to nine, and include the $2 billion sale of the Los Angeles Clippers and the Level 3’s $5.7 billion deal TW Telecom, in addition to AT&T’s $48 billion purchase of DirecTV and Comcast’s $46 billion pitch for Time Warner Cable.
“They’re looking towards the future and asking how can I control or have a hand in what’s going on in the home whether it’s through content or bandwidth or distribution channels,” said Bart Spiegel, partner in PwC’s Entertainment, Media & Communications Deals team. “They’re trying to prepare for what’s going to happen two, three, five years from now.”
During the most recent fiscal quarter, merger activity hit $74 billion. The most movement occurred in the advertising and marketing sector, where 53 deals took place, followed by publishing with 42 deals and Internet and information services with 40. There were 11 deals in the film space, 16 in the broadcasting world and five in the cable sector.
“We don’t see any factors from a macroeconomic level that are going to slow this level of activity down,” Spiegel said .
In many cases, buyers weren’t just corporations. Private equity firms accounted for 21% of purchasers, up from 17% in the previous quarter. Those looking to expand their reach cast their eyes overseas — U.S. companies acquired 100 foreign targets through the first half of 2014 compared with 79 last year.
As more cable providers and Internet giants continue to expand, many industry observers expect them to trigger a wave of mergers among content companies. In other words, Fox’s bid for Time Warner may have failed, but consolidation is coming.