Murdoch fires ‘first salvo’ in media mergers

21st Century Fox‘s surprise $80 billion offer for Time Warner may have been rejected, but more consolidation in media is likely, former Time Warner chief Gerald Levin told CNBC on Wednesday.

It’s “part of the digital disruption” of the industry, he said in a “Squawk Box” interview.

“Even though content is normally king, the new age of the Googles, theAmazons, the Apples, the Netflixs all suggest that you have to be very entrepreneurial,” Levin continued, “and most importantly, try and redefine your company.”

“It’s ultimately all about management,” he added. “The ability to manage a combination. It’s not just about blue-chip assets. That’s another lesson from AOL-Time Warner.”

Read More Time Warner rejects $80B offer from 21st Century Fox

Larry Haverty, associate portfolio manager of Gabelli Multimedia Trust, told CNBC a deal of this magnitude is like “two elephants playing in the jungle.”

“This is basically the first salvo in a wave of media consolidation,” said Haverty, following the news of Rupert Murdoch‘s overture.

In order to address antitrust issues, News Corp‘s 21st Century Fox said it would sell CNN, sources told CNBC, so Fox News Channel and CNN would not be under the same umbrella.

“The industry is ripe for consolidation,” he said. “I doubt there would be antitrust considerations.”

“I don’t think that it’s happening is a surprise, but the fact that it is happening in this scale in Time Warner, which has been a very high-performing company, [is]. “It’s made our clients tens of millions of dollars,” Haverty said.

“We thought internally that things would happen in this sector,” he said—adding a 21st Century Fox offer for Time Warner was not “exactly what we thought.”

Mario Gabelli, the billionaire value investor, tweeted his thoughts, saying Time Warner is in play.


Murdoch is said to be “determined” to buy Time Warner, despite the board’s rejection. If this deal were to happen, it would not only have implications in cable TV but also in sports and movies.

“Time Warner doesn’t have a broadcast network. And they have one of the most prolific, successful TV studios in the world. So if you marry the Time Warner TV studio with the Fox broadcast network, you kind of own the entire value chain,” said David Bank, media analyst and managing director at RBC Capital Markets.

“The content cost synergies, you’re negotiating across a massive portfolio of channels. And you’re going to probably get better pricing there,” he said.

Read More 21st Century Fox confirms bid for Time Warner, says not currently in discussions

Tony Wible, media analyst at Janney Capital Markets, told CNBC: “It’s way under-paying for the value that Time Warner brings to the table.”

“You think about this tie-up here. You bring 21st Century content to HBO, Fox ends up getting sports content. You get [retransmission fees] leverage to really improve the economics around Turner Network and other core cable networks,” he said.

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