Deal volumes and values in the entertainment sector should rise in 2015, according to a new report from PricewaterhouseCoopers, but cable operators, who helped drive M&A values skyward in 2014, are expected to be somewhat cautious as the new year unfolds.
In its latest report – U.S. Entertainment, Media & Communications (EMC) Deal Insights 2014 – PwC said that deal values shot up by more than 90% in 2014 from the previous year, driven by three deals: , AT&T and DirecTV and Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp. Deal volumes remained steady in 2014 according to PwC at nearly 890 mergers and acquisitions in 2014, up 3% from 866 in the prior year.
In the cable sector, PwC estimates that regulatory concerns could limit deal making early in 2015, but that there remains strong incentive among operators to consolidate. Overall, M&A is expected to be active throughout the entertainment sectors.
“M&A in the EMC space will continue to be active as market participants take risks to position themselves for the future EMC marketplace which focuses on subscriber stickiness, efficient and well optimized networks and creating and maintaining the rights to compelling content,” said PwC partner, Entertainment, Media & Communications Deals, Bart Spiegel in a statement.
He added that as companies continue to reinvent themselves, particularly in the digital space, more partnerships and mergers could surface.
“Companies will continue to engage in landscape shifting deals as they figure out their digital strategy and how to remain relevant to the digital consumer,” Spiegel continued. “Simply put, they are spending time, effort and money on their strategy and relative position in the digital value chain.”
Absent any Comcast-sized deals early in the year, PwC predicts that other sectors should see increased activity, especially in Internet and Information Services. Here’s PwC’s outlook by sector.
- Cable: Two high profile consolidating megadeals in the first half of 2014 set the tone for the cable subsector and the overall deal landscape this year with a combined deal value of $94B. Absent these two transactions, cable deal volume was relatively flat, driven mostly by the consolidation of local cable TV systems. Given the regulatory attention consolidation in this market draws, market participants will remain cautious to see whether transformative deals will be approved and what impact, if any, the ultimate ruling on Net Neutrality may have on cable companies’ revenue streams and their further growth.
- Broadcasting: Announced deal volume declined 28 deals or 32% from 2013 to 2014. The overall slowdown was due to a very active 2013 market where there was significant consolidation of local TV stations. PwC expects strategic buyers – where allowable under existing Federal Communications Commission regulations – to continue to expand their TV platforms to gain leverage in retransmission negotiations.
- Communications: Amidst a dynamic M&A environment, which continues to attract intense regulatory focus, total deal volume was down 30% from the prior year – most evident in telecom equipment, telecom services and wireless deals. To overcome current market constraints, telecom players will likely: 1) acquire internationally in the face of a saturated domestic subscriber base, 2) pursue direct ownership of content to battle the disruption and 3) explore consolidation to manage the increase in mobile data consumption and rising spectrum bids.
- Advertising and Marketing: Advertising and Marketing announced deal values declined by $8.1B, however volumes picked up 21 from 181 deals in 2013 to 202 in 2014. Looking toward the future, advertisers will continue to invest in building a core competency in analytics-driven insights that connect consumers' behavior, expectations, buying intentions and media platforms. Marketers may find the most value in M&A targets that successfully link ad content with digital and mobile viewers’ interests and lifestyles.
- Publishing: Announced deal volumes increased by ~25% between 2013 and 2014, with deal values up nearly $0.7B to $1.9B for the year. With a projected slowdown in Internet advertising revenue growth, it will no longer be enough for publishers just to have a strong digital presence. Going forward, attractive M&A targets will have to embrace new advertising technologies that promote better usage measurement and explore new content marketing and payment schemes to continue to drive revenue growth.
- Internet-related/Information Services: Announced deal values increased significantly over 2013 primarily driven by two megadeals. PwC expects this sector to continue to remain active with the constant addition of web-based information sources and business solutions.