Carl Icahn is an activist investor on two consumer entertainment fronts these days.
At the same time, his stake in video game publisher Take-Two Interactive (NASDAQ:TTWO) has grown from 8.7% to 9.6% to 10.7% in recent weeks.
Is the billionaire trader a kid at heart, discovering the teenaged joys of video games and movies? No. He's simply trying on the cupid outfit that has resulted in mixed matchmaking results in the past.
Let's be clear here. It's highly unlikely that Icahn will actually buy Netflix.
"I have to admit I think about it, but we haven't made that decision," he may have said yesterday afternoon, but he's not really serious. He quickly bounced from that statement by pointing out that others with a vested interest in snapping up the undisputed leader in premium streaming video would be willing to pay more than he would.
In short, he's just trying to smoke out buyers.
As far as Take-Two Interactive goes, he's simply reading the tea leaves. The video game industry is in trouble, but that also provides an opportunity for consolidation.
Take-Two Interactive recently announced a springtime release for Grand Theft Auto V. The last time that Take-Two was gearing up for a Grand Theft Auto release, Electronic Arts (NASDAQ:EA) stepped up with an offer to buy the company out.
Will EA come back for more? Another reason for EA to consider a play on Take-Two is that its EA Sports division failed to put out an NBA game this year. The end result is that Take-Two's NBA 2K13 was the top-selling game in October.
The pool of potential buyers of Netflix is deeper. Every single major Internet company is making a play for online video, and Netflix would be a difference maker. There are also cable and satellite television providers -- and even the wireless carrier giants with their own broadband TV platforms -- that would love to have the world's leading premium video service.
Icahn's challenge is to make sure that he bought low enough and that any potential buyer is willing to pay more. It's a game that Icahn loves to play. He's not a billionaire activist investor by accident.