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Will Fox Buy Time Warner?

By Daniel B. Kline and Jake Mann - Jul 23, 2014 at 9:12AM

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Rupert Murdoch is at it again, trying to pull one of the biggest deals in the history of media.

Fox (FOX) CEO Rupert Murdoch's $80 billion offer for Time Warner (TWX) was rejected by the company's board. But the unsolicited bid effectively puts the media giant into play, and Murdoch is likely to try again.

A potential deal between the two media giants would face enormous regulatory hurdles. Murdoch has at least in part addressed this, saying he would sell off CNN, since Fox already owns a news channel in Fox News. In addition to CNN, Time Warner owns the Turner family of cable channels, which includes TNT and TBS, the Warner Bros. movie studio, and the grand jewel of the deal, HBO.

Fox, officially 21st Century Fox, owns the Fox Network, as well as Fox News, two Fox-branded sports channels, the FX and FXX cable networks, and the Fox movie studios. Both companies also have television production companies as well as many other lesser assets.

Jason Hellmann, Daniel Kline, and Jake Mann discussed whether this merger could happen -- and what a deal might look like -- on the latest edition of Business Take, the show that gives you the Foolish perspective on the most important business stories of the week.

Why does Murdoch want Time Warner?
Murdoch would certainly like to eliminate a major cable competitor. If he owns both the Fox sports stations and the Turner networks, he takes leverage away from leagues looking to push rights fees higher. The two companies are potential rivals for the National Basketball Association television rights, which come due after the 2015-2016 season.

Turner currently holds a piece of those rights, sharing them with Walt Disney's (DIS -1.38%) ABC and ESPN. Fox is a potential bidder. The NBA is looking to double the size of its deal from just less than $1 billion annually to a little less than $2 billion. One of the reasons rights fees keep increasing is that there are never enough packages to go around, and all it takes is one extra bidder to keep pushing numbers higher. 

If Fox and the Turner stations are all under one banner, it might make it easier for Murdoch to win the rights without them being bid up. There are certainly no guarantees of that, as Comcast's NBC or CBS could become involved.

In general, whether it's sports rights fees or negotiating with talent for a new show, controlling more channels and having fewer competitors drives prices down. Murdoch knows that, and he's trying to build as big an empire as possible.

Why is HBO so prized?
Media reports about Murdoch's bid suggest that he views HBO as the centerpiece of the deal because the pay network is the only viable content producer that could be a Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX) killer. The pay service could be worth as much as $20 billion, according to Bloomberg, partially due to its subscriber base and partially because it has a huge library of high-quality content under its control.

Add what HBO owns to the premium content under the Turner brands, and then to what Fox owns, and you would have the potential for a digital streaming service that could rival Netflix -- and steal away some content when current deals expire.

"I could see a deal happening where they take the premium networks (HBO and Cinemax), which is something Fox doesn't really own, and they divest everything else," Kline said.

Do you think Murdoch can pull off what would be one the largest mergers in history? Watch the video below and share your thoughts in the comment section.  

Daniel Kline has no position in any stocks mentioned. Jake Mann has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Netflix and Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of Netflix and Walt Disney. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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