Lending credence to reports of a possible hookup between the No. 1 U.S. satellite-TV provider and one of the major U.S. carriers, Liberty Media (LINTA) chairman John Malone said at a shareholders’ meeting today that “DirecTV is very compatible with the phone companies.”
As reported by Reuters, the comments came at a special gathering to approve the spinoff of DirecTV into a separate business called Liberty Entertainment. The spinoff will not only make DirecTV independent of its parent company, but also bring certain tax benefits should a sale occur.
With the proposed merger between Comcast Corp. (CMCSA) and NBC drawing heavy attention, not to mention intense scrutiny from federal regulators, a new wave of big media consolidations could be in the offing. Though no direct talks have been confirmed, DirecTV has been reported to be of interest to both Verizon Communications (VZ) and AT&T (T) for weeks. Malone acknowledged that the carriers have made overtures to Liberty Media about its sat-TV unit: “We know they’ve been interested from time to time in it.”
While he called talk of a possible sale “speculation,” Malone has been open about wanting to add high-speed Internet access to DirecTV’s services, a move that would likely require some form of partnership with a carrier. DirecTV already markets “triple-play” services bundles with both Verizon and AT&T, comprising telephone service, Internet access, and video programming.
Both DirecTV and the big telcos find themselves under pressure from aggressive service rollouts from the major cable companies. While it’s unclear exactly how the Comcast-NBC combination would play out, it’s clear that the pairing of the nation’s largest cableco and one of the three major traditional broadcast networks would cause a ripple effect throughout the telecom and home-entertainment industries.
Wall Street apparently likes the idea of selling DirecTV to a large carrier: The satellite provider’s share price has risen by 21 percent this month.