Billionaire media investor John Malone will play a key role in redrawing the U.S. media industry in 2016, according to analysts and others who predict the landscape will be reshaped by consolidation and the continued rollout of over-the-top video streaming services.
Malone's Liberty Media Broadband (LBRDA) owns a 26% stake in cable operator Charter Communications (CHTR) , which is expected to close its $79 billion merger with Time Warner Cable (TWC) by mid-2016. If that happens, it could make Liberty Media (LMCA) , Malone's main holding, a vehicle for media consolidation, said Amy Yong, media analyst with Macquarie Securities.
Among the potential deals Wall Street expects from Malone would be a merger of Malone's 47%-controlled Starz (STRZ) premium cable network with movie studio Lions Gate Entertainment (LGF) . Malone and companies he controls own a 9.8% stake in Lions Gate.
Spokespeople for both Lions Gate and Liberty declined comment.
The successful completion of the Charter-Time Warner Cable merger would also enable Malone to acquire Cablevision (CVC) if New York regulators block an $18 billion deal by France's Altice (ATCEY) to buy the cable operator, said former Disney (DIS) senior executive Bernard Gershon, president of consulting firm Gershon Media. That deal would allow Malone's team to combine Cablevision's nearly three million cable customers in the New York with Time Warner Cable's customers in the region.
"There will be much more consolidation in 2016 on both the programmer side and the (TV distribution) side, " said Gershon.
The 74-year-old Malone won't be the only media executive shopping for deals in 2016. Wall Street insiders speculate Twenty First Century Fox (FOX) will sell its 39% stake in European satellite company Sky (SKYAY) with Time Warner (TWX) among the potential buyers, said media strategist Peter Kreisky, chairman of Kreisky Media Consultancy.
Representative of both Time Warner and Fox had no comment.
Cable TV giant Comcast (CMCSA) could be among the bidders for ITV, Kreisky said, if the British broadcaster goes on the market. Time Warner might also take a look at ITV.
"Comcast can't grow any further in the U.S. through M&A so must cast its sights overseas," said Kreisky. "ITV and Sky would likely be of interest to Time Warner as it seeks to expand its global footprint further."
ITV had had no comment on the rumors. Comcast threw cold water on speculation that it had approached ITV. "We don't comment on M&A rumors but the speculation on ITV is just completely inaccurate," a spokesman said in a statement.