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Time Warner Rebuffs Rupert Murdoch's Big-Dollar Bid For Media Giant


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.


And I'm Robert Siegel. There are few media companies bigger than 21st Century Fox and Time Warner. And today came reports of a possible merger that would create a huge new empire. If Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox bought Time Warner, all of these media brands could have the same owner. (SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE SIMPSONS")

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER: (Singing) The Simpsons...


UNIDENTIFIED NARRATOR 1: This is CNN breaking news...



CORNISH: Last month, 21st Century offered to buy Time Warner for $80 billion - that's right - 80 billion. Today, both companies confirmed the offer and said that Time Warner turned it down. But this could just be the starting point.

SIEGEL: NPR's David Folkenflik's covering this story and he joins us from NPR's New York Bureau. Hello David.


SIEGEL: Isn't Rupert Murdoch the man who already has everything? Newspapers, a publishing house, a top-rated cable news channel in Fox News - why would he want to buy Time Warner?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, look, there are a couple of corporate reasons and logic that would seemingly support it. He could consolidate a bunch of like properties - he could take, you know, Fox Studios and Warner Bros. and mix them together and he could take a bunch of these cable TV properties and slash some costs. And you can cut costs, they say, in merging those things. He would also, you know, have more clout in negotiating deals with cable television providers for those channels or for movie distributors for the movies. And also he'd be able to gain HBO - I think a large core of the value of his, call it 70 to $80 billion play for Time Warner was in HBO itself. You know, it's a premium cable - it's a property that he doesn't have himself any kind of corollary property for. And it's also a revenue stream that's been pretty consistent and is insulated from advertising. After all, it's subscriber-based. So that's the corporate reason. The real reason is it's a little bit like the old Woody Allen line from "Annie Hall," you know, a shark's always got to keep swimming forward or it falls down to the bottom of the ocean and it dies. Rupert Murdoch in his, you know, 80s is much the same. He's just had to split his company in two. He's just divorced his third wife. He's looking for some forward momentum for him and for his sons Lachlan and James. This would be one way to do that.

SIEGEL: Well, the Time Warner board said no. Why did they say no and could that no turn into a yes at some point?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, Jeff Bewkes, the head of Time Warner, posted a video around midday today to make clear to employees and shareholders that they weren't for sale. Not only had they rejected the offer, they saw no point in engaging in future discussions. And one of the things that you heard him cite in passing was that Murdoch had made this as a combination of cash and nonvoting shares of 21st Century Fox. One of the keys of Rupert Murdoch's successful formula is that although he and his family control, call it about 12 percent of the shares of his two big media companies, he actually has about 40 percent of control of the voting shares. And he's not going to cede that anytime soon. So the only way he can do it and try to swing this is to raise the price and Rupert Murdoch has always played the long game and he intends to do so on this one. And one of the things he's done by going public, by allowing this to get into the public sphere, is that it creates pressure from Time Warner shareholders to try to get a premium above the 25 percent he's already offered.

SIEGEL: David, in the bigger picture, why the drive to merge at all here?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, you're seeing a couple of things. There have been a number of mergers in the sort of larger media space. You saw Comcast is acquiring Time Warner cable, which was spun off from the old Time Warner. And that's creating a consolidation, not only in the cable provider world, but also in terms of broadband. But also there's been this incredible - look at - as we consume media on so many different kinds of levels - that the people who are providing it see competition, not only among their old rivals, but in new digital as well. This is one way to do to combat that.

SIEGEL: OK, thank you David.


SIEGEL: That's NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Folkenflik was described by Geraldo Rivera of Fox News as "a really weak-kneed, backstabbing, sweaty-palmed reporter." Others have been kinder. The Columbia Journalism Review, for example, once gave him a "laurel" for reporting that immediately led the U.S. military to institute safety measures for journalists in Baghdad.
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