“A long chapter in media history came to an unlikely close on Sunday night.” — The New York Times
Andrew Blum, Principal, AJB Communications
With the announcement Sunday night of the $2.8 billion sale of Time Inc. to Meredith Corporation, another shoe dropped in the continuing trend of media consolidation. This time it was huge and there may be a major shift in the traditional media landscape.
As investors, analysts and consumers tried to assess the impact, one thinks of the odd bedfellows the deal brought together.
Like the line on Seinfeld when George was hired by the New York Yankees: “Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle …Costanza?” a similar refrain could be said about this media deal – “Time, Fortune, Sports Illustrated …Meredith, the Koch Brothers?”
It’s an odd pairing to say the least to buy Time, one of the most venerable names in journalism. Already there are concerns of synergy, a possible sale of key Time titles, layoffs, dropping circulation and the potential editorial interference of the conservative Koch brothers who made the deal happen with their $650 million equity infusion. The Koch brothers, after all, have been interested in buying media properties since 2013 when they were reportedly looking at the Tribune newspapers. And in the last year or so, there have been allegations of “fake news” and charges of media bias by President Trump and his supporters.
This deal could add to that rancor and further erode the line between a free press and politics.
For observers and the players impacted there are a few thoughts to consider:
1) Investors and analysts —At least Time got a fair amount of money for the deal unlike the owners of the Washington Post, which sold the paper for $250 million to Jeff Bezos. But it is still a seismic shift. And print media has been on losing side of the ledger for a while now.
2) Consumers — Print vs. online and digital. What will Time’s news product look like and what will be left once the dust settles?
3) Employees — will there be layoffs, how many and will entire Time titles be sold or shut?
Media reaction to the deal included that from Muck Rack and Brian Stelter’s CNN Reliable Sources daily e-newsletter.
Muck Rack’s daily email began: “That’s quite a headline” and then said:
“The Beginning of the End”
“A long chapter in media history came to an unlikely close on Sunday night,” writes Andrew Ross Sorkin of The New York Times in Time Inc. Sells Itself to Meredith Corp., Backed by Koch Brothers. He adds, “The deal could represent the beginning of the end for one of the country’s most celebrated magazine publishers.” Kara Swisher calls it a “Whimper end to a legendary media brand.”
Stelter’s newsletter reported: “Meredith Buying Time … Now What?” It went on to speculate that some of the weekly titles could be sold. To spin the deal to analysts, employees and and constituencies impacted by it, an investors’ conference call and Time town hall meetings were held on Monday. The deal was touted as a good thing by Meredith, while Time executives were grilled by employees.
So far, though, one key party appearing to profit from the merger is Time Chief Executive Rich Batista who is reportedly getting $15 million as part of the sale, the NY Times reported.
It may take a while to see how it plays out for consumers and employees.