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Sunday 21 September 2014

Movers and shakers at key media summit

Published 11/07/2013 | 05:00

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Ronald Meyer, (l) President of Universal Studios with Veronica Smiley and film and television producer Brian Grazer at the annual conference in Sun Valley
Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg

Media deal-makers are attending Allen & Co's Sun Valley conference this week to lay the groundwork to add to the €40bn of mergers and takeovers already announced this year.

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More than 240 media deals have been struck this year, more than triple the level seen at this time last year. The action puts the industry third after real estate and food, and marks the fastest pace for media since 2008, when $57.2bn in M&A had been announced by mid-year.

The record-breaking union of Time Warner and America Online was hatched at Sun Valley in 1999. Walt Disney's Bob Iger said last year that his strongest memory was of 1995, when Disney's $19.5bn purchase of Capital Cities/ABC was conceived. This year, Hulu is for sale, and Wicklow resident John Malone is pushing to unite Charter Communications with Time Warner Cable.

"Old media is buying new, old is buying old," said Laura Martin, an analyst for Needham & Co in Los Angeles. "There's a lot of cash on these balance sheets, a lot of free cash flow.

As this year's attendees arrive at the Idaho mountain resort, Hulu owners Disney, 21st Century Fox Inc (FOXA) and Comcast Corp (CMCSA) are looking for a new owner that will keep buying shows for the upstart web-video site.

Among Hulu's bidders are incumbent pay-TV systems DirecTV, Time Warner Cable and U-verse owner AT&T, which is working with former News Corp president Peter Chernin.

Facebook, Google and other technology companies have increased their profile in Sun Valley as movies, music and TV become more important to their businesses.

Invitees include Google boss Eric Schmidt; Salar Kamangar, who runs YouTube, which introduced paid channels this year; Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Apple's Tim Cook.

M&A activity in the TV industry totalled $3.3bn from April to June, the highest quarterly total since 2007. With the Local TV-Tribune deal announced on July 1, the activity in the current quarter almost matches that total. (Bloomberg)

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