Buy the downturn. That may be the mantra for media M&A in the coming year as entertainment giants go through a period of “repositioning” and the streaming sector drives innovation and reinvention.
On the latest episode of Variety podcast “Strictly Business,” Bart Spiegel, U.S. entertainment and media deals leader for PWC, predicts there will be buying and selling in unexpected places.
“There are lot of tangential impacts that are happening out in the market,” Spiegel says. “Some of them are easy to identify [and some] we may not realize for another year or two down the road in terms of how it’s changing behavior and in terms of what that means from a commercial entertainment perspective.”
The pandemic has thrown a wrench in the five-year plans of the largest media conglomerates. But Spiegel doesn’t think the choppy economic environment will deter dealmaking if companies see the ripe prospects.
“I would encourage them to be opportunistic,” he says. Without naming names, given his client considerations, Spiegel notes that a number of successful big media transactions came in the heart of the 2008-2009 downturn (think Comcast-NBCUniversal and Disney-Pixar).
Corporate leaders are faced with the question: “If my business has been impacted in a negative way, what can I do to help?” At the same time, they’re scrutinizing their own balance sheets, he says.
“Companies with rich portfolios are looking at what they have and thinking ‘Let’s sell this asset and deploy the capital into something else,’” Spiegel says. “I see some additional repositioning of assets going forward.”
He points to the prospect of moving and shaking in tech and back-end management services that will address the new demands for direct-to-consumer and streaming operations that are a top priority for most large congloms. That means everything from digital design to broadband infrastructure to subscription and payment management systems, or “all of the stuff that makes this new world operate,” as Spiegel describes it.
“It is incredibly important for the effective and seamless operation of their platforms and their overall operation going forward,” he says.
Having solid technology and underlying architecture is a must for video-based entertainment companies, not a luxury. “As soon as you’re interacting with a platform or brand and it isn’t a seamless experience, it’s a really big turnoff (for consumers),” he says. “As more and more content consumption and entertainment experiences shift online, the quality of your connection and all the back-office infrastructure stuff becomes even more important.”
“Strictly Business” is Variety’s weekly podcast featuring conversations with industry leaders about the business of media and entertainment. A new episode debuts each Wednesday and can be downloaded on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, Stitcher and SoundCloud.
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