NBCUniversal did just that on Thursday, announcing that it was buying DreamWorks for $3.8 billion. Viacom is still working on its possible Paramount deal.
There seems to be some connective tissue here. Not just about big professionally produced, premium-content makers — TV and movie — being on the block, but more about their prospective buyers.
For Comcast, there is an obvious point of building up an even stronger Universal Pictures unit that has a big franchise, with “Despicable Me”/”Minions.” DreamWorks Animation chief executive officer Jeffrey Katzenberg has a long history with animation and an enviable track record.
But DreamWorks didn’t have the necessary distribution assets (for TV shows especially) that Universal has. Additionally, the up-and-down nature of independent movie studios’ financial reports makes things tough for entertainment industry analysts to analyze.
Now, consider DreamWorks, a big animation studio, at a another large media company, Viacom, the company that houses the No. 1 ad-supported TV kids network: Nickelodeon.
To be fair, Paramount does do animation, and has had a decent franchise in revamping “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.” But it isn’t DreamWorks, which has “Shrek,” “Kung Fu Panda” and a number of other franchises.
Here’s where you might have some head-scratching: The value on “premium” content providers isn’t always on the up and up. Take Paramount Pictures. Back in 1994 when Viacom bought the studio, it has a value of $9.75 billion. Today its value, according to analysts, is about half that.
In an age where everyone want to align themselves with “premium content,” either to sell to advertisers or through non-advertising subscription services, perhaps we need to redefine who has that content and what it means for restless consumers.
Premium content at a discount?
Good news is that Viacom isn’t giving up on Paramount -- only wanting to sell a minority stake in the company. It believes — as NBCUniversal does, and many other big media companies concur — that content is not only king but that it looks to have a very long reign.