Lionsgate Says Scope Of Starz Deal Could Grow As Partners Eye Studio Too; September Announcement On Track

Lionsgate execs said the company is still on track to announce a deal for Starz next month and close as early as next spring, but talks have expanded to possibly include the studio as well.

CEO Jon Feltheimer said Thursday that different types of bidders have emerged — a group of investors focused on the streaming platform, and others that understand the “immense value” of the studio and are eyeing that. He urged Wall Street to look at Amazon’s $8.5 billion purchase of MGM as a benchmark, noting the high price tag, and that it left Lionsgate “the only real, actionable investment” around as a studio.

“Our library is better than the MGM library. Our library is newer, fresher than the MGM library,” he said.

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On timing, he and CFO James Barge — speaking on a post-earnings call — said it’s key is to do this deal “right, not fast,” especially as it’s become more complicated with the structure being considered “now broader” than just Starz.

For the company’s fiscal first quarter, Starz added 1.8 million subscribers globally, including 700,000 domestically, to hit 26.3 million.

Feltheimer had said in May on the last call that the company would unveil its plans for Starz by the late summer and close a deal by next spring as the process to monetize the premium channel and streamer moves forward.

Lionsgate CFO James Barge said the key is to do the deal right, not fast. He said it’s complicated since structure being considered is now broader since some potential partners “have expressed interest in the studio as well as Starz.”

Canal+, a division of French conglomerate Vivendi, has been in the mix as potential suitor, as have Roku and Apollo Global management bidding jointly for a minority stake. DirecTV is also interested.

Lionsgate acquired Starz for $4.4 billion in 2016. It announced last fall it was exploring strategic options for the cable network and streamer that has been growing fast in streaming under Jeff Hirsch but failed to provide a bump for its parent. Selling a chunk of Starz would put a value the asset, and could unlock greater value for its parent.

For the quarter, Lionsgate reported revenue that dipped slightly – to $894 million from $901 million the year before. Losses widened, in part on costs for Starz originals that fell in the fiscal first quarter ended in June.

A loss of $122 million, or 53 cents a share, compared with a negative $51 million, or 20 cents a share the year before. Adjusted loss attributable to Lionsgate shareholders in the quarter was $51.7 million or $0.23 per share adjusted, diluted.

Feltheimer noted a standout performance from our television group and key financial metrics in line with expectations. “Though we’re navigating an uncertain economic environment, we continue to successfully execute our core mission: filling our film, television and Starz pipelines and our library with premium content that creates long-term value for our consumers, partners and shareholders.”

The company said revenue from Lionsgate’s 17,000-title film and television library was $749 million for the trailing 12 months.

Media Networks segment revenue of $381 million compared to $382 million in the prior year quarter with lower domestic linear revenue offset by growth in domestic streaming revenue and Starzplay International. Profit dipped to $37 million from $88 million in the prior year quarter on higher cost for Starz original premieres.

The studio business – film and TV production  — increased revenue by 5% to $711 million. Profit increased 48% to $70 million.

Motion Picture segment revenue decreased 4% to $279 million. Profit rose 14% to $50 million.

Television production revenue increased 12% to $432 million and increased five-fold to nearly $20 million driven by continued growth in content deliveries, and the improvement in segment profit reflects a favorable comparison to the prior year’s first quarter.

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