Actually, we’re saying hello to Tues, but that wouldn’t have fit the bastardized, Rolling Stones song title parody in our headline. The big content rumor this morning revolves around Cablevision’s Rainbow Media, which may soon find itself on the block and perhaps fetching several billion dollars from the right buyer. The Cablevision board has authorized the company to explore several strategic options, including buying back stock, paying dividends and yes… spinning off one or more businesses. Wall Street has long expected that Rainbow would be spin-off target #1 in the current environment. Why now? Let us count the reasons:
Channel space on cable systems has never—and we really mean this… NEVER—been more valuable than it is today. Not only are there now so many cable networks, but many of them are trying to add HD simulcasts. (At the recent Cable-Tec Expo in Philly, Comcast evp David Cohen remarked in one session that this is literally the worst time to be launching a new cable network because of the capacity crunch). The other reason is that Rainbow is on a roll relative to its history. While its nets aren’t exactly the biggest and most widely distributed, several are gaining unprecedented attention. AMC is riding the “Mad Men” train to publicity Nirvana, while its “Breaking Bad” is also gaining stellar reviews and attention. Meanwhile, WeTV has really cornered the market in wedding-based reality TV, with “Bridezillas” fast becoming a cultural icon. Then there’s the recent acquisition of Sundance Channel, which combined with longtime Rainbow net IFC gives the programmer dominance in the “all things indie” category. Yes, Fuse has struggled a bit, and IFC has been trying to find itself in recent months, but Rainbow pres/CEO Josh Sapan has to be happy with the company’s overall results lately and relatively confident that Rainbow could fetch a decent chunk of money. NBCU just paid $3.5bln for The Weather Channel and nearly $1bln for Oxygen, after all.
Cablevision said it will retain investment banking firms and such other advisors as necessary to pursue the strategic options. “As we indicated last week, we have a strong desire to close the value gap between our operating performance and the market value of our shares and, therefore, we will be actively looking at options to accomplish that," said pres/CEO Jim Dolan.
While Rainbow sale rumors have come and gone in the past, this one might actually be for real. Several insiders seem to view the current market environment as just right for a deal. As for what company might purchase Rainbow, the usual suspects come to mind. NBCU has been on a buying spree lately and could find several synergies, including the obvious ones between Oxygen and WeTV. And just think what USA could do with a show like "Mad Men"… 2mln viewers could turn into 7 or 8mln almost overnight. Then there’s Viacom, which could find plenty of uses for youth-oriented Rainbow nets like fuse and IFC (synergies with MTV and Spike abound). Of course, don’t count out Turner, whose Turner Classic Movies could use a boost and might find a nice partner in AMC. This is, of course, all speculation… but it’s fun nonetheless. Even more intriguing is whether Rainbow would entertain the idea of selling off these nets piece by piece. Fuse and IFC to Viacom; AMC to Turner; WeTV to NBCU; etc. Oh, the possibilities. We’ll be watching.