Revelations of Rupert Murdoch’s $80 billion attempt to create the world’s biggest media company has sparked speculation it will lead to a bid for Australia’s Ten Network.
Time Warner, owner of Warner Brothers films and Game of Thrones maker TV giant HBO, has spurned 21st Century Fox’s bid but market analysts expect Mr Murdoch to relentlessly pursue the biggest media deal in a decade.
The reason Australia’s weakest commercial network Ten is in the picture is related to the fact that it already gets its US TV content from Fox’s TV arm.
Time Warner, however, has supplied the Nine Network with US programs for decades but that could change if Fox’s takeover bid succeeds depending on contractual arrangements, says media analyst Steven Allen, of Fusion Strategy.
“It will have a big knock-on effect in Australia if it comes to pass and they changed the arrangements overseas and Fox was the recipient of the Warner output, which is the most likely scenario,” he told AAP.
“That might be the catalyst for a bid for Ten.
“They would be pretty close to bottom of the market prices and if you have got a whole bunch of programming content that some time in the near future you could switch from Nine to Ten then that could be the solution to their problems … ratings are their problems after all.”
Ten made an $8 million first half loss this year in a weak ad market having trailed the other commercial networks and ABC in recent years in ratings.
A takeover would depend on proposed changes to Australian cross media ownership laws succeeding.
Morgans senior analyst Ivor Ries says a takeover of Time Warner would also protect Australia’s pay TV Foxtel network from increasing attacks from the new media kings: Apple TV, Google TV, Netflix and Amazon.
Mr Murdoch’s move was interpreted as a fightback by a traditional content producer against those Silicon Valley internet competitors and a desire for one last mega-deal to restore the 83-year-old mogul’s reputation after the UK phone hacking scandal.
“The number of alternatives viewers have for accessing content is increasing all the time,” Mr Ries told AAP.
“If the ultimate owner of Foxtel owns both Fox and Warner Brothers and HBO they can ensure that their cable systems get the product first.
“There would be a certain element of a defensive characteristic in making sure you release them on your cable network first.”
Mr Murdoch must convince a resistant Time Warner board after chief executive Jeffrey Bewkes sent a video to employees explaining that the company should execute its own future plans and not be acquired.
Mr Ries rated the chances of a takeover only 50-50 due to tougher laws in the US around hostile takeovers and the likelihood of a rival bid.
Mr Allen was more optimistic saying any investor including Time Warner’s shareholders would sell at the right price and Mr Murdoch tended not to fail.
“Nearly everything he’s pursued as openly as this, eventually it’s got up,” he said.