finance

Amazon buys Hollywood studio MGM in $8.45bn deal


Amazon has bought MGM, the Hollywood studio behind the James Bond and Rocky franchises, for nearly $8.5bn as the battle for global streaming supremacy reaches new heights.

The scale of the deal far exceeds the $5bn (£3.5bn) price tag suggested when the studio put itself up for sale in December, as the fight to secure must-watch programming fuels fierce bidding wars for owners of increasingly scarce “crown jewel” content.

MGM was also courted by Apple and the Sky owner, Comcast. However, both ultimately balked at the size of the cheque Amazon was willing to write.

The famous studio has a library of 4,000 film titles and 17,000 hours of TV programming – ranging from Gone with the Wind and The Hobbit to TV hits such as The Handmaid’s Tale – that has collectively won more than 180 Academy Awards and 100 Emmy Awards.

Founded in 1924, MGM (originally known as Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) recorded huge success throughout the golden age of Hollywood with films ranging from The Wizard of Oz and Ben Hur to Raging Bull, Basic Instinct and The Silence of the Lambs. It has changed hands frequently and previous owners have included the drinks magnate Edgar Bronfman, the Las Vegas casino billionaire Kirk Kerkorian and CNN’s founder, Ted Turner.

It is the second-largest takeover deal ever struck by Amazon, the world’s second-largest streaming service, with 175 million global users. In 2017 it paid $13.7bn for the upmarket US grocer Whole Foods.

“The real financial value behind this deal is the treasure trove of intellectual property in the deep catalogue that we plan to reimagine and develop together with MGM’s talented team,” said Mike Hopkins, the senior vice-president of Prime Video and Amazon Studios.

Guardian business email sign-up

MGM explored the possibility of releasing the next film in the 59-year-old James Bond franchise on a digital streaming service after the coronavirus pandemic kept cinemas closed for much of the last year. The movie, No Time to Die, is Daniel Craig’s last appearance as 007. It is now scheduled to premiere in cinemas in September and is likely to be the biggest international box office hit of the year.

Bond is the fifth most-valuable movie franchise of all time, with its 24 films to date grossing more than $7bn, behind only the sprawling Marvel Cinematic Universe, Star Wars, Harry Potter and Spider-Man films.

Four years ago, Amazon splashed out $1bn on the rights to make six TV series in the world of The Lord of the Rings after its founder, Jeff Bezos, reportedly cited Game of Thrones as the sort of hit he wanted to drive the growth of the company’s streaming service.

Amazon spent $11bn on content last year, up from $7.8bn in 2019, as it increasingly invests in winning subscribers to its Prime subscription service. Netflix spent about $17bn last year. Amazon is vying for global streaming supremacy with Netflix, which has more than 200 million subscribers, and Disney+, which launched 18 months ago and has rapidly grown to more than 100 million subscribers.

Traditional media companies and Silicon Valley giants are also battling to win subscribers as viewers increasingly shift from traditional TV to streaming services.

On Wednesday, Kenichiro Yoshida, the chief executive of Sony, said the company would not look to sell its film and TV studio during the latest wave of media consolidation. One of the big five Hollywood studios, Sony Pictures, the home of franchises including Spider-Man, Ghostbusters, Jumanji and the Karate Kid, is valued by analysts at as much as $30bn.

This month, the US telecoms company AT&T announced a deal to merge its media division with Discovery to create a global content powerhouse to better compete in the streaming wars. AT&T already owns Warner Bros, the home of the Batman and Harry Potter movie franchises and TV hits such as Friends, the HBO network behind Game of Thrones and Succession, and the news broadcaster CNN.

Three years ago AT&T completed the $85bn acquisition of WarnerMedia, formerly known as Time Warner. It was Rupert Murdoch’s failure to buy Time Warner that prompted his shock decision four years ago to sell 21st Century Fox, which included the film and TV studios behind X-Men, Avatar, Deadpool and The Simpsons, admitting that without it his global media empire lacked the scale to compete.

Disney’s $66bn acquisition of the Fox assets gave the world’s largest media company the extra content muscle to successfully join the streaming wars with the launch of Disney+.



READ SOURCE

Leave a Reply

This website uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you accept our use of cookies.  Learn more