The likelihood that movie studio Lions Gate (LGF) will acquire premium television network Starz (STRZA) is predicated on the changing relationship between content developers and the TV media outlets.

That's one the sentiments from media industry analysts and watchers in the wake of report in the Los Angeles Times that said Starz is in advanced talks to be acquired by Lions Gate, the studio behind such Hollywood hits like The Hunger Games franchise. No possible terms have been reported, and calls to both Lions Gate and Starz for comment were not immediately returned.

Starz, home to programs such as the Patrick Stewart comedy Blunt Talk and the business-and-drug-dealing drama Power has been the subject of acquisition speculation for much of the year. In September, there were reports that AMC Networks was talking to Starz about buying the network. Starz has seen its profile rise among premium networks and recently surpassed Showtime in terms of subscribers, according to research firm SNL.

"We're looking at a big, premium TV distributor being acquired by one of the bigger studios," said Jimmy Schaeffler, president of media consultancy the Carmel Group. Schaeffler said Lions Gate's interest in Starz provides evidence that more media companies are considering opportunities that go beyond their traditional business ecosystems.

"All of these different media silos are starting to merge together," said Schaeffler said. "Somebody at Lions Gate said they need to do something different and move into a sphere that others have moved into."

The possible combination of Lions Gate and Starz is seen as giving a boost to both companies premium content lineups. Richard Tullo, of Albert Fried & Co., noted that Lions Gate has a deal in place for content with the Epix TV network, and Starz, with its 16 original programs, would provide each other with a greater library of material.

"From the production side, there's enough here to justify that expansion," Tullo said. "The synergies between the two are more traditional and apparent."

Such a deal would also add to the prominence of Liberty Media  (LMCA) Chairman John Malone in the premium TV network industry.

Starz and Lions Gate already have a connection due to Malone, who is Starz's largest single shareholder. Earlier this year, Malone traded 4.5% of his stake in Starz for a 3.4% share of Lions Gate stock, and a seat on that company's board of directors. That move ignited speculation that Starz was on the block.

"Malone is obviously shopping it [Starz]," said Tullo, who added that Malone's relationship with Charter Communications (CHTR - Get Report) , and its almost $57 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable (TWC) , may have a role in his plans for Starz, as Malone is also Charter's largest shareholder. Charter is still awaiting federal approval of the deal, which is expected to close by the end of the year.

"From Malone's end, it makes this deal talk a little more tangible," Tullo said. "It's a way for them to unlock some cash toward the Time Warner deal. And with Charter and Time Warner getting bigger, there's a rationale that says you need to be bigger to compete with your content and networks."

Starz's shares shed 9 cents Tuesday to close at $38.98, while Lions Gate stock edged up by 2 cents a share to $39.20.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.