Avis, Zipcar and the Next Big Wave of M&A

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The Wall Street Journal's Dennis Berman wrote an excellent piece for LinkedIn -- Zipcar and the Death of Entrepreneurship.

On the Avis Budget ( CAR) buyout of Zipcar ( ZIP), Berman nutshelled:

The reality is that Zipcar suffered from lack of capital, a need to expand abroad, and increased competition from Hertz ...

For entrepreneurs, the lessons are ... sobering. So many dream of the next Facebook or Airbnb, or yes, Zipcar. The odds say that the vast majority will fail. And even those that succeed often will do better in the hands of a bigger, if inglorious, owner.

Right. And, as TheStreet's Antoine Gara argues, all of this merger and acquisition activity in the broad travel sector could ultimately mean higher prices for consumers.

I'm not sure I agree. Because I don't own a car, I rarely think twice about it, but the cost to borrow a Zipcar or rent elsewhere is already high.

When I need wheels, I rent them. No matter the cost, I'm not leaving the counter. Fifty bucks for 24 hours a few times a month beats the heck out of a monthly car payment, gas, insurance and maintenance just to move my four-wheeled ball and chain from one side of the street to the other twice a week to avoid street cleaning tickets.

Consolidate away. Charge me more. I don't care. I'm one of the saps happy to pay for comfort and convenience.

The same goes for cable and satellite. I'm tired of this I cut the cord nonsense. If you watch sports at all, you have not cut the cord unless you're content spending 40 hours a week sitting on a bar stool.

What's this have to do with Avis, Zipcar and M&A? A lot. If you think we have seen a lot of consolidation in the travel space, wait till the media boys start making deals. The consumer might even benefit from these inevitable hookups.

Several companies have no choice but to sell. Others have no choice but to expand.

Consider Viacom ( VIAB).

Check out the company's most recent annual report. Revenue was down 19% across business segments between 2011 and 2012. Theatrical got pounded, off 40%, while home entertainment took a 12% beating. Its television networks are decaying. Viacom has no significant sports programming to speak of.

The biggest problem the company faces might be finding a buyer. Why would News Corp ( NWSA) or Disney ( DIS) want to take on a raging problem?

That said, somebody will see value. Buyers will vie for at least parts of the business, if not the whole thing.

It's more sensible for News Corp to continue empire building by collecting regional sports networks, eventually assuming full control of YES (Yankees Entertainment and Sports) and taking Madison Square Garden ( MSG) out.

News Corp, Disney, Time Warner ( TWX) and Comcast ( CMCSA). They're the players. They call the shots.

If regulators allow it, expect a merger between two of the four. Either way, they'll absorb smaller players, entire sports franchises, venues, sports broadcast rights, you name it. And, as they continue to build out to massive scale, you win.

Cable already has you by the short hairs. Despite Reed Hastings' nocturnal fantasies, Netflix ( NFLX) isn't changing that game. Intel sure as hell won't. And I don't suspect Apple ( AAPL) wants to.

The old guard will change the game when it's ready. It will wean itself off of things like affiliate fees and sweet and easy third-party digital licensing deals (also known as "fleecing Netflix") when it's good and ready.

The old guard will merge and partner and partner and merge to deliver the content people need to see live live and everything else on-demand via multiple platforms. It will look a lot like Hulu. In fact, it might even end up being Hulu. We'll see.

However it shakes out, when the dust settles, we'll have an exciting living room, dominated by a handful of hardware makers (Apple, Samsung, maybe Sony ( SNE)), purveyors of awesome user experiences (Apple, Microsoft ( MSFT) via Xbox) and the big old guard media names.

Things will change profoundly, for the better, while, in many ways, staying the same.

--Written by Rocco Pendola in Santa Monica, Calif.
Rocco Pendola is TheStreet's Director of Social Media. Pendola's daily contributions to TheStreet frequently appear on CNBC and at various top online properties, such as Forbes.