Media companies are often hunting for merger partners and spinning off units, but this year the pace has seemed particularly frenetic. That’s partly due to the pressure these companies face as big tech companies muscle into their businesses—taking ad dollars, streaming subscribers, time spent—and reducing the confidence of investors that they can effectively compete. Add to that anxiety the emergence of SPACs as a newly popular (but recently volatile) way to engineer deals, and you have a recipe for a lot of noise.
To recap: Earlier this week, we reported that The Athletic was no longer in discussions to be acquired by The New York Times, thereby opening the subscription sports news site to another buyer. This came weeks after reports that the two companies were interested in each other, which themselves came after The Athletic abandoned merger talks with Axios. That news and politics site, meanwhile, is in talks to be bought by German media conglomerate Axel Springer, which owns Insider, as we first reported.
Meanwhile, BuzzFeed is hoping it is on the cusp of its big moment by going public via a SPAC and buying Complex Networks, just months after buying HuffPost. And its competitor Group Nine Media has also formed a SPAC to buy something to merge with Group Nine, while Vice is also in talks with another SPAC.
Dizzy yet? That’s just the half of it. In legacy media, all the major entertainment companies, from Comcast’s NBCUniversal to ViacomCBS, are figuring out their next steps in the wake of Discovery’s planned acquisition of WarnerMedia from AT&T, the biggest media deal of the year so far.
And of course there is the question of whether other tech companies, like Apple, will follow in the wake of Amazon’s footsteps and buy a movie studio as the e-commerce giant is doing with MGM. Any of these landmark matchups could lead to other, copycat pairings. When one competitor finds a match, others wonder what they’re missing.
The rush to find a partner, and maybe abandon deals where the ink isn’t quite dry, is expected to hit a fever pace next month. That’s when, for the first time since 2019, tech CEOs, media moguls and bankers will hobnob at Allen & Company’s Sun Valley conference. No one wants to be left alone when the music stops. —Sahil Patel
“It will be used to turn American and allied warfighters into invincible technomancers who wield the power of autonomous systems to safely accomplish their mission.”—Anduril founder Palmer Luckey, writing on his Facebook page about the defense startup’s $450 million capital raise.
CRYPTO STARTUP GOLDRUSH
Investor interest in crypto-related assets has never been more intense. Kate noted the deluge earlier this month when she broke the news that crypto wealth manager Blockfi was in funding talks just three months after it last raised money.
U.S. crypto startups raised $1 billion in May alone, and by early June, VC’s had poured $4 billion into the sector for the year—on track to take out 2018’s high of $4.3 billion, according to PitchBook.
On Friday, Bloomberg News gave another window into how white-hot this market has become, with a chart of crypto investments that included non-U.S. deals. These have reached $17 billion this year. That’s in large part due to one very big deal—Cayman Islands-based Block.one LLC’s investment into crypto exchange Bullish Global. Still, even taking out the $10 billion investment, investments this year are near the 2018 record. And there’s still more than six months to go. (For more on crypto deals and deal-makers, sign up for our new newsletter, Crypto Global.)—Laura Mandaro
IN OTHER NEWS...
• Tech companies such as Facebook and Google commemorated Juneteenth, a holiday that celebrates the end of slavery, with special speakers, meeting cancellations, and in some cases, a day off.
• The European Commission is expected to open a formal antitrust probe of Google's massive online advertising business before the end of the year, according to Reuters.
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WHAT WE’RE READING
The Lithium Mine Versus the Wildflower (Wired)
Live music, food trucks welcome back Goldman bankers (NY Post)
Does tech need a new narrative? (The New Yorker)