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Amazon snaps up James Bond owner MGM for $8.45 billion as streaming war heats up

The deal can be viewed as a doubling down on business strategy that Jeff Bezos articulated at a conference in 2016: “When we win a Golden Globe, it helps us sell more shoes,” he had said, referring to Amazon's diverse business divisions

Smartphone with Amazon logo is seen in front of displayed MGM logo
Image: Reuters/Dado Ruvic
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  • The deal is designed to help Amazon supercharge its Amazon Prime Video service by keeping customers engaged and paying an annual subscription;
  • It gives Amazon a huge library of films and TV shows to tackle competition against Netflix, Disney Plus, Apple TV Plus, HBO Max and other streaming services.

Amazon said on Wednesday it is buying MGM, the fabled U.S. movie studio home to the James Bond franchise, for $8.45 billion, giving it a huge library of films and TV shows and ramping up competition with streaming rivals led by Netflix and Disney Plus.

Privately-held MGM, or Metro Goldwyn Mayer, was founded in 1924, owns the Epix cable channel and makes popular TV shows including Fargo, Vikings and Shark Tank.

The deal is designed to help Amazon supercharge its Amazon Prime Video service by keeping customers engaged and paying an annual subscription that also guarantees rapid delivery of purchases from its online store.

READ ALSO: Analysis: Discovery’s global footprint will help WarnerMedia’s international expansion

“The real financial value behind this deal is the treasure trove of IP in the deep catalog that we plan to reimagine and develop together with MGM’s talented team. It’s very exciting and provides so many opportunities for high-quality storytelling,” said Mike Hopkins, senior vice president of Prime Video and Amazon Studios.

Amazon‘s Prime Video faces a long list of competitors including Netflix, Disney Plus, HBO Max and Apple TV Plus. The companies are increasing spending and expanding in international markets, aiming to capture the pandemic-led shift to binge-watching shows online.

Amazon has also made big bets courting fans of live sports and has picked up lucrative licenses to stream games, including a long-term deal with the National Football League that was estimated to cost about $1 billion per year.

The proliferating streaming services are also scrambling for brands that they can expand and libraries of older shows and movies. Analysts have said this is a big motivation for another round of consolidation of media properties after a brief hiatus during the pandemic.

READ ALSO: The streaming growth can be sustained as people emerge from their homes to enjoy activities outside?

Underscoring the trend, AT&T announced a $43-billion deal last week to spin out its WarnerMedia business and combine it with Discovery, one of the most ambitious yet in the streaming era.

The acquisition is Amazon’s second-biggest after Whole Foods Market, which it bought for $13.7 billion in 2017.

The price represents a lofty premium relative to other deals. The price is about 37 times MGM’s 2021 estimated EBITDA – or almost triple the enterprise value-to-EBITDA multiple that Discovery’s deal implied for AT&T’s content assets – according to Reuters Breakingviews.

MGM started a formal sale process in December.

The deal can be viewed as a doubling down on business strategy that Jeff BezosAmazon’s CEO, articulated at a conference in 2016: “When we win a Golden Globe, it helps us sell more shoes,” he had said, referring to Amazon‘s diverse business divisions.

In April, Amazon posted its fourth consecutive record quarterly profit and boasted more than 200 million Prime loyalty subscribers. Amazon shares rose 0.5% in early trading.

READ ALSO: Disney’s Star Plus to debut in Latin America on August 31, offering a full slate of ESPN content

Lucrative franchise rights

A photograph of the late singer and actor Elvis Presley is framed by a portion of the Academy Awards bestowed upon films from movie studio MGM on display at the studios Los Angeles office. Photo: Reuters/Fred Prouser

Amazon has picked up Academy Awards over the years and slowly moved from art-house fare toward content with wider appeal. The MGM acquisition accelerates that move, giving it rights to James Bond, one of the most lucrative franchises in film history that’s earned nearly $7 billion at the box office globally, according to MGM. MGM also has a massive library of classic films.

The potential to mine this intellectual property, by making new shows and films based on popular characters, will help Amazon draw viewers to Prime, two former Amazon executives told Reuters.

Still, efforts by Amazon to profit off MGM’s library won’t be easy, or cheap.

READ ALSO: With superheroes and sci-fi, Disney+ outlook bright

In many cases, MGM’s content is tied up in multi-year deals with television networks, the former Amazon executives said. Amazon cannot air MGM’s reality show The Voice, for instance, which contractually is in the hands of NBC.

Bringing a new installment of the James Bond saga to Prime viewers may be a particularly difficult task, the sources said. The terms under which MGM acquired the franchise leave control in the hands of the Broccoli family, the Bond films’ producers.

READ ALSO: Televisa-Univision to launch its streaming platform in Mexico and the US in 2022

News of the acquisition followed quickly on the return of Jeff BlackburnAmazon’s former senior vice president overseeing content and M&A, who had left early this year.

Incoming Amazon CEO Andy Jassy had particular trust in Blackburn after decades at Amazon together, hoping he’d shepherd a complicated merger, the sources said.

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