Talk about a missed opportunity. Paramount Global said today it would sell its Simon & Schuster book business, which publishes author Stephen King, among others, to private equity firm KKR for $1.6 billion. Paramount CEO Bob Bakish should have thrown a few other assets into the deal, like some of its once-valuable cable channels (MTV, VH1, BET). They’re now more of a drag on the company’s bottom line than anything else. As Paramount’s second-quarter earnings demonstrated today, this is a company that, like its peers Warner Bros. Discovery and Walt Disney, is going nowhere fast. For all three, even as their streaming businesses grow—at least in revenue terms—their older TV businesses are shrinking.
Take Paramount, the smallest of the three by revenue, market capitalization and most other metrics you choose. A museum of TV channels (including such gems as TV Land, which runs forgettable TV shows like “Nobodies”), Paramount’s TV Media division delivered profits (measured before expenses such as interest and depreciation) for the first half of this year of $2.5 billion, 14.5% lower than in the same period last year. Streaming losses, meanwhile, rose slightly in the period to $935 million. More strikingly, Paramount Global, one of the icons of old Hollywood, is burning cash like a tech startup right now ($541 million in the first half). If only Paramount could draw the same kind of valuations those startups typically draw.