×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

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

  • Stan Lee, left, and Keya Morgan

    Stan Lee's Former Business Manager Arrested on Elder Abuse Charges

    Stan Lee’s former business manager, Keya Morgan, was arrested in Arizona Saturday morning on an outstanding warrant from the Los Angeles Police Department. The LAPD’s Mike Lopez confirmed that the arrest warrant was for the following charges: one count of false imprisonment – elder adult; three counts of grand theft from elder or dependent adult, [...]

  • promenade Cannes Croisette Cannes Placeholder

    Cannes Market Claims Record Visitor Numbers

    The Cannes Market, the Cannes Film Festival’s commercial wing, says that its 2019 edition welcomed a record number of participants. It reported 12,527 attendees. The largest group by nationality was from the U.S. with 2,264 participants, followed by France with 1,943 participants, and the U.K. 1,145. Comparable figures for 2018 were not available. The number [...]

  • Former movie producer Harvey Weinstein (L)

    Some Weinstein Accusers Balk at $30 Million Settlement

    Updated: Some of Harvey Weinstein’s accusers are balking at a proposed $30 million settlement of their harassment claims, which could scuttle the deal, Variety has learned. Attorneys in the Weinstein Co. bankruptcy case told Judge Mary Walrath on Thursday that they are close to a global resolution of the civil litigation. The accusers, their lawyers [...]

  • Director Dean DeBlois and online game

    'Dragon' Director Dean DeBlois and PUBG's CH Kim to Keynote 2019 VIEW Conference

    Dean DeBlois, director and executive producer of DreamWorks Animation’s “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World,” and PUBG Corporation CEO CH Kim are the first keynote speakers announced for the 2019 VIEW Conference in Turin, Italy, in October. Since it began 12 years ago, VIEW, which stands for Virtual Interactive Emerging World, has continually [...]

  • Harvey Weinstein

    Harvey Weinstein Accusers Near Settlement in Bankruptcy Case

    Attorneys in the Weinstein Co. bankruptcy case say they are getting close to reaching a settlement that would compensate Harvey Weinstein’s sexual misconduct accusers. The company went bankrupt last year, as it faced hundreds of millions of dollars in debt and numerous civil suits on behalf of Weinstein’s alleged victims. The company sold to Lantern [...]

  • Ari Emanuel Endeavor

    Endeavor IPO Filing Offers Details of Company's Financials, Leadership Pay Packages

    Endeavor’s IPO filing Thursday offers a hard look at the company’s financial performance during the past three years during a period of rapid growth for the company that’s home to UFC, WME, Professional Bull Riders and a clutch of other assets. Endeavor is generating solid free cash flow from operations and healthy adjusted earnings for [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content