Beset by what are now chronic ratings declines on U.S. linear television, many analysts believe the sale of CNN--a real possibility, with Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox circling parent company Time Warner Inc.--would generate only a modest purchase price.
High-profile media analysts such as Wells Fargo's Marci Ryvicker, for example, list the cable news network's value at around $4.3 billion, adjusted for taxes, working out to a pre-tax value of $6 billion to $7 billion.
That might be half as much as the asset is actually worth, according to current and former unnamed Time Warner Inc. executives speaking to the L.A. Times, who list the value in the $8 billion to $12 billion range.
While CNN's prime-time ratings have hit record lows in the U.S. this year, the executives told the paper the network is still very profitable and commands premium advertisers. CNN's international operations in 200 countries, meanwhile, are also profitable, and its online and mobile operations far and away lead not just the entire cable news sector, but the entire realm of mainstream online news.
In fact, the CNN Digital Network averaged 30 million unique viewers a month in 2013, 40 percent better than the nearest competitor, Yahoo-ABC News.
Speculation about the sale of one of cable TV's most venerable programming assets becomes relevant, as it is now viewed as almost certain that Fox chief Rupert Murdoch will circle back around and make another acquisition offer for Time Warner Inc., which rejected his $80 billion overture in early July.
To be approved by federal regulators, the deal would probably require Time Warner to shed its cable news asset, which is in direct competition to Fox News.
And CBS Corp. has emerged as a potential buyer. Asked about this at the Television Critics Association summer tour in Los Angeles, CBS chief Les Moonves said, "It's something I'm sure we'll look at if it becomes available."
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