Amid the cacophony of earnings results this week, you might have picked up the faint but unmistakable sound of a pendulum starting to swing in the entertainment industry. The long-popular idea that film and TV studios should be paired with the TV networks or streaming services that broadcast the studios’ output is suddenly getting rethought. First out the gate was Lions Gate Entertainment, which disclosed it was exploring a spinoff of its Starz unit which encompasses cable channels and streaming services. That would leave Lions Gate as a pure studio. The question now is whether other companies will follow.
Driving Lions Gate’s thinking is the fact that some recent deals have put higher valuations on stand-alone film and TV production companies than the market is giving companies that own both studios and TV networks. As if to prove the point, a Blackstone-backed firm confirmed on Thursday that it would buy kids’ programming maker Moonbug Entertainment for around $3 billion. That’s around 15 times next year’s projected earnings. Lions Gate, in contrast, is trading at around 10.5 times the same multiple. ViacomCBS, which owns the Paramount film and TV studio and various cable channels and streaming services, is even cheaper, at about eight times, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence. The prospect of Lions Gate spinning off Starz had a quick impact with investors: Its stock price jumped 22% today.