CBS, Lionsgate, Viacom heat up media space M&A rumors

Viacom
(Viacom)

CBS, Lionsgate and Viacom are trending near the epicenter of recent reports suggesting that 2017’s media industry M&A melee could continue into 2018.

Lionsgate Vice Chairman Michael Burns answered a number of CNBC’s questions regarding potential consolidation options.

"We're very interested in the consolidation space," Burns said. "Obviously that's something very important to us."

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Potential merger partners for Lionsgate, which Burns said now has a $7 billion market cap, included Comcast, Verizon and Amazon. But Burns said a rumored CBS-Viacom recombination could also potentially be a deal that Lionsgate would like to get in on.

“I do think the combination between the two of them ultimately may happen and it’s for no other reason than Shari Redstone and the Redstone family controls both companies,” said Burns, hinting that Lionsgate could potentially turn that into a three-way merger.

RELATED: CBS-Viacom remerger rumors spurred by media consolidation: report

Meanwhile, activities surrounding a potential recombination appear to be ramping up at both CBS and Viacom. According to Reuters, CBS CEO Les Moonves and Viacom CEO Bob Bakish have held “exploratory discussions” regarding a merger of their companies, both of which are controlled by the Redstone family’s National Amusements. As the report points out, the discussions were preliminary and no official decisions regarding a remerger have been made.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Shari Redstone reluctantly set aside an attempt at a remerger in 2016 but never gave up believing it was a good idea. Now, as Disney is buying most of Fox’s entertainment assets and a number of other media consolidation deals are in the works, Redstone is reportedly thinking the time is now for the recombination, for the sake of “bulking up.”

Besides Disney and Fox, other notable media deals include AT&T’s $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner, Discovery Communications’ $14.6 billion purchase of Scripps Networks, and Sinclair’s $3.9 billion acquisition of Tribune Media.

According to the report, Redstone is also concerned about long-term planning at CBS and the lack of a clear successor for Moonves. Redstone is reportedly prepping a list of names for new directors on CBS’s board.