×

John Malone, Greg Maffei Talk Anti-Trust Climate, Peak TV Challenges, and Wireless Opportunities

Liberty Media chiefs John Malone and Greg Maffei have voiced skepticism about the Justice Department’s approach to evaluating anti-trust concerns in relation to media mergers.

The pair spoke in New York on Thursday as Liberty Media and affiliates held their annual investor day presentation. Neither Malone, Liberty Media chairman, or Maffei, CEO, mentioned the AT&T-Time Warner merger by name but the pair were asked to comment on the prospect of the Justice Department adopting a much stricter standard for media M&A in the Trump administration.

Malone, a renowned media investor, has been predicting a wave of consolidation of mature content and distribution businesses for some time. Earlier in the day, Malone told CNBC’s David Faber in an interview that Amazon was akin to a “Death Star” that was a major threat to traditional media as well as other industries given its size and scale.

In this context, Justice Department efforts to block the vertical merger of AT&T’s distribution businesses with Time Warner’s content companies is curious, the executives said.

“The traditional content business is really challenged,” Maffei said. “The idea that you’re going to block consolidation is crazy.”

Malone got a laugh with quip: “I personally have very little insight into what the anti-trust division is smoking these days,” he said.

Malone noted that Discovery Communications, in which he is a major shareholder, has seen the approval process of its acquisition of Scripps Network Interactive move more slowly than expected, although he has no lack of confidence the deal will be approved.

Malone acknowledged that politics is a factor when it comes to the content arena at present.

“With respect to the content business, it’s extremely politically sensitive — perhaps more than it’s been in a long while,” he said.

Malone and Maffei held another half-hour Q&A session later in day. Among other highlights from both conversations:

Wireless market: Malone is not “in love” with wireless services but recognizes that it’s an important service that cable needs to offer in order to ensure that the cable pipe is the central source of broadband and mobile connectivity for consumers. He is still predicting that cable and wireless companies will come together over time — there were rumors earlier this year of Verizon making a bid for Charter Communications (in which Liberty is a major shareholder) — but he thinks the joint-venture approach that Charter and Comcast have set with Verizon is a good start “as opposed to trying to jump off a cliff and do a large transaction,” he said. “It’s very important that the cable company figure out how connectivity on any device comes through us — that we become the platform of preference.”

Peak TV: The exponential growth in TV content chasing consumers and licensing dollars raises the question of who’s going to pay for it all, Maffei said. “We’re not going to pay for it at Charter,” he said. Maffei credited Netflix with having a “major-league advantage” in their business model that allows them to charge less for far more content than HBO and other premium services. “That’s a tough proposition over the long-term unless you believe that the people at HBO are inherently smarter at picking shows,” Maffei said.

Charter’s suitors: Malone is gratified by the fact that there is so much chatter in the marketplace about Charter as an acquisition target. Liberty helped drive the resurgence of the operator after it went through bankruptcy under a previous management regime, and it helped steer Charter’s expansion through the acquisition of Time Warner Cable. “All this noise about everybody wants to buy Charter — it’s actually true,” he said. “It’s a fabulous company. It’s going to go in a great direction.” He’s also heartened by the steady advances in the services and functions that flow through the cable pipe. “It’s wonderful to see this evolution of technology,” he said. Cable’s “fundamental asset is it’s connectivity capabilities and massive capacity.”

More Biz

  • Orlando Bloom

    Orlando Bloom Sets First-Look Deal With Amazon

    “Carnival Row” star Orlando Blook has inked a first-look deal with Amazon, Variety has learned. Under the deal, Bloom will develop television and film projects for Prime Video. Bloom currently stars on Amazon’s “Carnival Row” alongside Cara Delevigne. The series premiered back in August and was renewed for a second season ahead of the series premiere. The [...]

  • Grammy Awards 60th Annual Grammy Awards,

    Recording Academy Reveals Its Diversity Task Force Report, With Strong Calls for Reform

    Anyone wondering what the Recording Academy’s Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion has been doing for the past 18 months got their answer this morning in the form of the organization’s strongly worded, 47-page-long Final Report, which is now available on the Academy’s website. As its name states, the Task Force, helmed by former first [...]

  • Jenna Coleman The Cry

    Great Point Media Teams With MC Credit Partners on New Film and TV Finance Initiative

    Britain’s Great Point Media is partnering with U.S.-based institutional investor MC Credit Partners on a finance initiative to fund new film and TV projects. London-based Great Point has committed $80 million to the initiative, and MCCP will invest up to $100 million from the funds under its management. The first films and TV shows to [...]

  • Hipgnosis Songs Acquires Catalog From Jack

    Hipgnosis Songs Acquires Catalog From Taylor Swift, Lana Del Rey Cowriter Jack Antonoff

    Hipgnosis Songs has acquired its fourth music catalog of the month, this one from prolific songwriter, producer and artist Jack Antonoff. He is frontman of Bleachers, a founding member of Fun. and has collaborated extensively with Taylor Swift, Lana Del Ray, Lorde, Pink, St Vincent and many others. While terms of the deal were not [...]

  • Harvey Weinstein arrives in court, in

    Time's Up Criticizes 'Flawed' Weinstein Settlement

    Time’s Up issued a statement on Wednesday criticizing the proposed settlement in the Harvey Weinstein civil cases, saying they are the product of a “broken system.” Weinstein has reached a tentative $25 million deal with most of his accusers, including the plaintiffs in a class action suit. The women with the most serious claims would [...]

  • Boris Epshteyn

    Sinclair Drops Political Commentary Segments From Boris Epshteyn, Ameshia Cross

    Sinclair Broadcast Group has decided to scrap the political commentary segments that have aired across its vast station group since 2017. Boris Epshteyn, former Trump campaign official turned chief political analyst for Sinclair, has been delivering commentary segments that were mandated to run adjacent to local newscasts on all Sinclair stations since the spring of [...]

  • Harvey Weinstein arrives at New York

    Harvey Weinstein Close to $25 Million Civil Settlement With Accusers

    Harvey Weinstein is close to a $25 million settlement that would resolve most of the civil litigation against him, including a broad class action case accusing him and his board of directors of a systemic pattern of sexual misconduct. The general terms of the agreement have been in place for several months, though it has [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content