Report: AT&T Can’t Let Verizon Or Comcast Have All The Fun, Hopes To Branch Into Media

Image courtesy of Mike Mozart

Competition for a single consumer who wants to buy pay-TV or broadband is usually nonexistent, but the world of media and TV overall is super active and cutthroat. Everyone wants a slice of your time — and money — for their media service… and the rumor mill says that’s soon going to include AT&T as well.

Comcast has been putting video in front of your face since it acquired NBCUniversal in 2011, and Verizon leapt on board more recently with online efforts. Unwilling to let the competition have all the fun (and revenue), AT&T’s about to go on an acquisition spree of its own, Bloomberg reports.

Talking to — who else? — people familiar with the situation, Bloomberg says that AT&T is getting ready to drop a fat wad of cash on media producing and programming over the next three to five years. The short- and medium-term plan could involve buying companies worth anything from $2 billion to $50 billion, Bloomberg’s sources said.

From AT&T’s perspective, content ownership makes perfect sense as a next step now that it’s the nation’s largest pay-TV provider thanks to last year’s merger with DirecTV. Programming is expensive, all those carriage agreements add up fast, and when they go south and end in blackouts, consumers get ticked off.

As Bloomberg points out, the money needs to keep flowing, and it needs to come from somewhere. Growth in the mobile sector has flattened out pretty heavily, since these days most folks already have a mobile phone. Consumers might decide to switch between carriers in a given year, but the stream of completely new adopters has dried up from a firehose to a mere trickle. So snapping up content is a way AT&T can both save and make money down the line.

Sources tell Bloomberg that AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson literally keeps a list of 40-45 target companies on a spreadsheet with him on a tablet basically all the time, even as light airplane reading. So who’s on the acquisition list?

Well, to date it’s mostly a list of companies AT&T didn’t manage to buy.

AT&T reportedly considered buying premium cable channel Starz, before Lionsgate snapped it up instead over the summer. AT&T has also considered, but then decided against, buying Paramount, Bloomberg says. And while an analyst has posited that buying Time Warner would be a good move for AT&T, nobody’s actually said if such a move is likely.

AT&T also considered buying Yahoo earlier this year, Bloomberg reports, but instead backed down and let Verizon have it (something AT&T executives are probably feeling relief about these days).

AT&T Turns to Media Acquisitions as Its Video Ambitions Grow [Bloomberg]

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