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The Battle of Cable's Also-Rans

What do ya know, the old Gadfly crystal ball still works: Scripps Networks Interactive Inc., the owner of HGTV and Food Network, is reportedly holding discussions with suitors Discovery Communications Inc. and Viacom Inc. Both programmers need to strengthen their offerings as they go toe-to-toe with larger rivals for placement in skinnier pay-TV packages.

As I wrote just a few weeks ago, the timing is right for Scripps to get bought -- and as far as Discovery and Scripps go, it'd be a match made in TV heaven. A merger would bring more shows targeted toward women under the same roof as Animal Planet, TLC and Discovery's namesake channel. And together they would surely be able to cut some overhead costs, as well as expand Scripps's content more quickly and cheaply to international markets where Discovery already has a platform.

Scripps has long been floated as a takeover target, not least because of its size. The company's $8.7 billion market value is digestible for most suitors (though potentially not for Viacom, which I'll get to later). Beyond that, though, Scripps and Discovery have also suffered faster subscriber losses than many of their peers as larger, more...