FuboTV Merging With AI Company, Plans IPO

Online live-TV streaming platform fuboTV and FaceBank Group, a sports-themed virtual entertainment company, March 23 announced a definitive merger agreement. Financials details of the agreement were not disclosed. The boards of directors of both companies and the major stockholders of fuboTV have approved the transaction, which is anticipated to close during the first quarter of 2020, subject to the satisfaction of certain closing conditions.

Following the closing, fuboTV will become a subsidiary of FaceBank, and FaceBank will be renamed fuboTV Inc. The combined company is expected to be headquartered in New York and led by fuboTV CEO David Gandler. Additional announcements regarding the combined company’s management structure and the board of directors will be forthcoming.

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The merger would combine fuboTV’s live TV streaming platform with FaceBank’s technology-driven IP in sports, movies and live performances. This combination will create a content delivery platform for traditional and future-form IP.

“As a tech-driven IP company, FaceBank was looking to find the perfect delivery platform for its celebrity and consumer driven content,” founders John Textor and Alex Bafer said in a statement.

fuboTV said it plans to leverage FaceBank’s IP sharing relationships with celebrities and other digital technologies to enhance its sports and entertainment offerings.

The companies also believe the merger will position fuboTV to continue its global expansion with FaceBank’s Nexway AG, an ecommerce and payment platform with a business presence in 180 countries, accepting payments in roughly 140 currencies. fuboTV was the first virtual MVPD to commit to global expansion and in 2018 entered Europe with its launch in Spain.

“The business combination of FaceBank Group and fuboTV accelerates our ability to build a category-defining company and supports our goal to provide consumers with a technology-driven cable TV replacement service for the whole family,” Gandler said in a statement.

Gandler said that in the current COVID-19 environment, stay-at-home stocks make perfect sense.

“We plan to accelerate our timing to up-list to a major exchange as soon as practicable,” Gandler said.

Since its founding in 2015 as a soccer streaming service, fuboTV has evolved into a live TV streaming platform with sports, news and entertainment channels.

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TiVo Merging With Xperi in $3 Billion Transaction

DVR pioneer TiVo has shelved plans to separate its legacy set-top hardware business from software licensing and is merging with Xperi, a marketer of audio technology in an all stock deal worth about $3 billion.

The company will operate under the Xperi corporate name while TiVo will continue to operate its brand name. Xperi CEO Jon Kirchner will be chief executive of the combined companies with CFO Robert Andersen assuming the same position. TiVo CEO Dave Shull, who took the position in May, will serve as a strategic advisor.

“This landmark combination brings together two highly complementary companies poised to set the industry standard for user experiences across the digital value chain,” Kirchner said in a statement.

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With more than 10,000 patents and applications between the two companies and minimal licensee overlap, the combined IP business will be one of the largest licensing companies in the world.

Together, the companies expect to benefit from a larger and stronger platform to drive growth, accelerate time-to-market, and improve IP licensing monetization and outcomes. The product business expects to pursue substantial cross-selling opportunities especially in its home and automotive markets.

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The new company had $1.09 billion in TiVo revenue and Xperi billings topped more than $250 million in operating cash flow on a pro forma basis for the twelve months ended Sept. 30, 2019.

The companies expect to achieve at least $50 million of annualized run-rate cost savings by year-end 2021 through the integration of their respective product and IP licensing businesses, the majority of which are expected within the first twelve months after closing. These cost savings are incremental to those that are expected as a result of TiVo’s ongoing cost-transformation plan.

“In a rapidly expanding and fragmenting digital universe, consumers want and need to be able to easily find and enjoy the content that matters to them,” Shull said.  “With Xperi’s annual licensing of more than 100 million connected TV units, and complementary relationships with major content providers, consumer electronics manufacturers, and automotive OEMs, our combined company will transform the home, car, and mobile entertainment experience for the consumer.”

Sony Pictures Entertainment Takes Full Ownership of Game Show Network

Sony Pictures Entertainment has acquired AT&T’s minority stake in Game Show Network for $500 million, the two companies announced.

SPE now owns 100% of the multimedia entertainment company offering original and classic game programming to millions of subscribers through the U.S.-based cable network. It also offers online and mobile games to millions of users through GSN Games. Following the transaction, the Game Show Network channel will continue to be carried on DirecTV.

Prior to the transaction, SPE owned a 58% stake in Game Show Network, and AT&T owned the remaining 42%.

Game Show Network will continue to be managed by Sony Pictures Television with Mark Feldman continuing as president and CEO of the multimedia outlet.

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“We’re excited to bring Game Show Network fully into the Sony Pictures Entertainment portfolio,” said Mike Hopkins, chairman, Sony Pictures Television, in a statement. “The acquisition allows us to work more closely with the company’s talented team to deliver the best iconic game shows, develop and syndicate new game show IP for audiences across the nation, as well as to advance the fast-growing GSN Games business, all of which directly aligns with our strategy of developing targeted direct-to-consumer offerings.”

Game Show Network television programming includes originals such as “America Says,” “The Chase,” “Common Knowledge” and “Catch 21,” syndicated shows including “Wheel of Fortune” and “Family Feud,” and classics including “The $25,000 Pyramid” and “Card Sharks.” GSN Games’ collection of mobile games includes GSN Casino, Bingo Bash, Wheel of Fortune Slots, Solitaire TriPeaks and WorldWinner.

Disney Selling Bonds to Pay Down Fox Acquisition Debt

When the Walt Disney Co. acquired 20th Century Fox Film for $71 billion, it also assumed more than $13 billion of Fox’s outstanding debt.

Despite ongoing downsizing at Fox Studios and selloff of Fox’s regional sports TV networks, Disney Sept. 3 announced the commencement of an offering of one or more series of senior unsecured notes and fixed rate senior unsecured notes pursuant to an effective shelf registration statement filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

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The new bonds are guaranteed by TWDC Enterprises 18 Corp., a subsidiary of Disney. 

Disney said it intends to use the net proceeds from the bond offering pay down previously existing notes related to the Fox acquisition, in addition to prepaying in full the aggregate principal amount outstanding under a “364-Day Credit Agreement,” dated as of March 15, 2019, which lists Disney as the borrower.

BayView Entertainment Acquires Monterey Media

BayView Entertainment, a supplier of independent special interest, fitness, and wellness video releases for more than 15 years, has acquired California-based Monterey Media, a distributor of independent films for all media platforms.

The Monterey library encompasses hundreds of feature films and documentaries and has been awarded numerous Multi-Platinum RIAA and ITA sales awards, according to a BayView press release. The Monterey catalog includes independent films starring such actors as James Franco, Kaley Cuoco, Susan Sarandon, Gabriel Byrne, Dennis Hopper, Shirley Knight, Tom Skerritt, Thandie Newton, Anthony LaPaglia, John Ritter, Tommy Lee Jones, William Hurt, Forest Whitaker, David Strathairn, Brian Dennehy, Robin Williams, Danny Glover, Nathan Lane and Jacqueline Bisset, among many others; sports programming including the Bruce Brown films On Any Sunday and The Endless Summer; an educational library of films adapted from literature’s renowned authors combined starring some of Hollywood’s greatest actors; and children’s programming.

“We are excited to welcome Monterey Media into the BayView Entertainment family,” said Peter Castro, VP of acquisitions at BayView, in a statement. “We share a common passion for the highest quality programming and this acquisition will drive exciting new growth for our wholesale customers as well as our producer partners by offering a complete portfolio of feature films and special interest titles from a single distributor.”

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“As all good things must be nurtured to grow, we are so very pleased to have found a new chapter for our wonderful library and its deserving producers.” said Monterey Media’s Jere and Scott Mansfield in a statement. “We are confident as we transition that unique opportunities lie ahead for our carefully curated library.”

For more than 35 years, Monterey Media has been a leading supplier and distributor of independent feature film programming. Monterey’s films have been nominated or won Independent Spirit Awards, Golden Globe Awards and NAACP Image Awards.

Disney’s Iger Cites ‘Historic Day’ Closing Fox Acquisition

Following the official completion of the Walt Disney Co.’s $71.3 billion acquisition of 20th Century Fox Film Corp. and related businesses at 12:02 a.m. ET March 20, Disney CEO Bob Iger sent out an internal memo to combined staff calling the deal “a historic day for our company.”

The histrionics of the merger are just beginning in what could reportedly result in the elimination of more than 4,000 positions.

“I wish I could tell you that the hardest part is behind us; that closing the deal was the finish line, rather than just the next milestone,” wrote Iger. “What lies ahead is the challenging work of uniting our businesses to create a dynamic, global entertainment company with the content, the platforms, and the reach to deliver industry-defying experiences that will engage consumers around the world for generations to come.”

Aside from the previously reported high-profile departure of 20th Century Fox Film chairman/CEO Stacey Snider, studio vice chairman Emma Watts, Elizabeth Gabler, head of Fox 2000, and Steve Gilula and Nancy Utley, co-heads at Fox Searchlight, are transitioning to Disney.

Other senior executives making the move include Andrea Miloro and Robert Baird, co-presidents, Fox Animation, and Vanessa Morrison, president, Fox Family. All report to Alan Horn, chairman Walt Disney Studios, and Watts.

In his memo, Iger called for patience during the integration process, which he said would impact some businesses more than others.

“We may not have answers to all of your questions at this moment, but we understand how vital information is and we’re committed to moving as quickly as possible to provide clarity regarding how your role may be impacted,” he wrote.

The deal includes 20th Century Fox, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, Fox Searchlight Pictures, Fox 2000 Pictures, Fox Family and Fox Animation; Fox’s television creative units, 20th Century Fox Television, FX Productions and Fox21; FX Networks; National Geographic Partners; Fox Networks Group International; Star India; and Fox’s interests in Hulu, Tata Sky and Endemol Shine Group.

As part of the deal, Disney has agreed to sell 21st Century Fox’s Regional Sports Networks.

Disney’s $71B Fox Acquisition Effective After Midnight

The Walt Disney Co. announced that its $71.3 billion purchase of 20th Century Fox Film Corp. officially goes into effect at 12:02 a.m. ET on March 20.

The deal includes 20th Century Fox, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, Fox Searchlight Pictures, Fox 2000 Pictures, Fox Family and Fox Animation; Fox’s television creative units, 20th Century Fox Television, FX Productions and Fox21; FX Networks; National Geographic Partners; Fox Networks Group International; Star India; and Fox’s interests in Hulu, Tata Sky and Endemol Shine Group.

As part of the deal, Disney has agreed to sell 21st Century Fox’s Regional Sports Networks.

Disney is also acquiring approximately $19.8 billion in cash and assuming approximately $19.2 billion of debt of 21st Century Fox in the acquisition. The deal price implies a total equity value of approximately $71 billion and a total transaction value of approximately $71 billion.

“This is an extraordinary and historic moment for us — one that will create significant long-term value for our company and our shareholders,” Disney CEO Bob Iger said in a statement. “Combining Disney’s and 21st Century Fox’s wealth of creative content and proven talent creates the preeminent global entertainment company, well positioned to lead in an incredibly dynamic and transformative era.”

 

 

Nexstar Media Group Acquires Tribune Media Company for $6.4 Billion

Nexstar Media Group Dec. 3 announced it has entered into a definitive merger agreement with Tribune Media Company to acquire all outstanding shares of Tribune Media in a cash deal valued at $6.4 billion, including the assumption of Tribune Media’s outstanding ($2.3 billion) debt.

The transaction makes Irving, Texas-based Nexstar the largest local TV station owner in the country, including 216 stations in 118 markets – reaching approximately 39% of U.S. television households. Tribune also owns 31% stake in Food Network.

The combined entity will be one of the nation’s leading providers of local news, entertainment, sports, lifestyle and network programming through its broadcast and digital media platforms with annual revenue of approximately $4.6 billion.

Notable Tribune stations include WGN America in Chicago and KTLA in Los Angeles. WGN became one of the first local broadcasters to ink production deals for original (now cancelled) series, including “Salem” from 20thCentury Fox, “Manhattan” (Lionsgate), and “Underground” (Sony Pictures), among others.

The deal is expected to close by the third-quarter next year following regulatory approvals.

“Nexstar has long viewed the acquisition of Tribune Media as a strategically, financially and operationally compelling opportunity that brings immediate value to shareholders of both companies,” Perry Sook, CEO of Nexstar, said in a statement.

Sook said the transaction offers synergies ($160 million in the first year) related to the enhanced scale of the combined broadcast and digital media operations and increases the company’s audience reach by about 50%.

The deal follows the scuttled $3.9 billion merger attempt between Tribune and Sinclair Broadcasting Group, which imploded following allegations the politically conservative Sinclair would have positioned Tribune stations as far-right partisan mouthpieces.

The new transaction reflects a 15.5% premium for Tribune Media shareholders and a 45% premium to Tribune’s closing price on July 16, the day FCC Ajit Pai issued a statement regarding his intention to hold a hearing on the Sinclair offer.

The Nexstar/Tribune deal faces its own regulatory hurdles under the current FCC and Department of Justice, which together under the direction of the Trump Administration, have taken stronger approaches toward media mergers as seen in the DOJ’s ongoing appeal of the AT&T/Time Warner pact.

Indeed, Nexstar said it intends to divest certain TV stations necessary to comply with regulatory ownership limits and may also divest other assets it deems to be non-core.

 

 

Fox Selling Sky Stake to Comcast — With Disney’s Blessing

Rupert Murdoch is a sly fox. After his 21stCentury Fox media company lost to Comcast in a weekend auction for outstanding control of Sky Plc., the media tycoon has agreed to sell Fox’s 39% stake (worth about $15 billion) in the British satellite TV distributor to Comcast – at the new elevated share price of £17.28 ($22.60).

To do so, Fox had to get Disney’s approval after the latter acquired select Fox assets, including 20thCentury Fox Film and Fox’s stake in Sky, for $71 billion.

After Comcast emerged victorious last weekend in a special auction held by British regulators – an event that saw Comcast agree to pay nearly 70% more for Sky than Fox had original offered, fiscal common sense prevailed over ego.

In a statement, Fox said it wished its colleagues at Sky well going forward. Murdoch helped launch Sky in 1989 through the merger of Sky Television and British Satellite Broadcasting.

“In light of the premium Comcast has agreed to pay for Sky, we and Disney have decided to sell 21CF’s existing 39% holding in Sky to Comcast. We congratulate Comcast on their pending acquisition,” said Fox.“We are proud of the role our company has played in building Sky, and of the outstanding value we have delivered for shareholders of 21CF and Sky, and customers across Europe.”

For Disney, the transaction, coupled with the divestiture of the Fox Sports Regional Networks, significantly reduces the amount of debt it would incur in acquiring Fox assets.

Disney, in a statement, said it would rather focus its “considerable investment” in the branded direct-to-consumer offering launching in late 2019 and the new ESPN+ sports streaming service. It will also seek to increase investment in Hulu’s content offerings and international distribution. Disney and Fox each currently hold 30% stakes in Hulu.

“Along with the net proceeds from the divestiture of the RSNs, the sale of Fox’s Sky holdings will substantially reduce the cost of our overall acquisition and allow us to aggressively invest in building and creating high-quality content for our direct-to-consumer platforms to meet the growing demands of viewers,” said Disney CEO Bob Iger.

The acquisition has received formal approval from shareholders of both companies, and Disney and 21st Century Fox have entered into a consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice that allows the acquisition to proceed, while requiring the sale of the Fox Sports Regional Networks. The transaction is subject to a number of non-U.S. merger and other regulatory reviews

For Murdoch and Co., selling Sky marks the end of an era.

When Murdoch-led Fox launched Sky nearly three decades ago, it nearly went broke operating four channels produced from a prefab structure in an industrial park on the fringes of west London.

“We bet — and almost lost — the farm on launching a business that many didn’t think was such a good idea,” Fox said. “Today, Sky is Europe’s leading entertainment company, a world-class example of a customer-driven enterprise … and we have created more than 31,000 jobs across the continent.”

Comcast Acquires 30% of Sky Stock Following Weekend Auction Win

Comcast Corp. Sept. 25 disclosed it has acquired 30% of British satellite TV operator Sky Plc., shares following a weekend takeover auction win over 21st Century Fox.

Fox, which owns 39% of Sky, is selling its stake, in addition to 20thCentury Fox Film, to The Walt Disney Co.

Comcast said it would continue to acquire Sky shares from investors for the £17.28 ($22.60) per share price hammered out in the special auction for controlling interest in the pay-TV operator. The share price values Sky at more than $40 billion. Fox had offered £15.67 per share.

“Comcast Bidco will continue to acquire Sky Shares in the market from eligible shareholders outside the United States at up to and including £17.28 in cash for each Sky Share,” Comcast said in a statement first reported by CNBC, which is owned by Comcast’s NBC Universal subsidiary.

Indeed, Comcast needs to acquire 50% of Sky’s stock plus one additional share to complete the takeover. Sky’s board approved Comcast’s offer, calling it “materially superior” to Fox’s bid and called on Sky investors to “immediately” accept it.

Notably, when Fox first bid on Sky’s remaining stock in late 2016, its offer totaled £10.75 per share.

Meanwhile, Comcast shares continue to decline following the auction, with some analysts contending the media giant overpaid for a waning distribution model (satellite TV).

Not so for Liberty Global CEO Michael Fries, who called Comcast’s purchase price a “great outcome” for Sky shareholders. The executive said it values the European pay-TV market, an ecosystem he claims is often overlooked.

Fries called on Comcast CEO Brian Roberts to remain “rationale” on the deal and to give it time to playout.

“I think the purchase price is terrific,” he told Bloomberg.