On one hand, Dreamworks stock roared 15% higher, as the animator reportedly sought an acquisition price of roughly $2.5 billion, or $34 per share. On the other hand, Dreamworks still traded significantly below that price, while Hasbro fell more than 5% on the news. Both cases underscored the market's doubts that the potentially risky deal could fall through.
Sure enough on Monday November 17, both moves were effectively reversed when people familiar with the matter said that the talks had cooled, apparently stemming from disagreements on the proposed structure of the combined company.
But that begs the question of what brought Hasbro to the table in the first place. To be sure, we can't ignore the potential rewards of such an acquisition. Here are three of the biggest ways Hasbro would benefit by acquiring Dreamworks Animation:
1. Box office synergies
Last quarter, Hasbro highlighted its new Allspark Pictures studio, with which it aims to "take greater control of the process" by creating movies based on its existing properties for global theatrical release. Those films currently include Jem and the Holograms -- based on a cult-hit toy line and T.V. series back in the 80's -- and My Little Pony, which are slated for respective late-2015 and 2017 launches.
But Hasbro also noted Jem and the Holograms is being co-produced with Blumhouse Pictures, and My Little Pony is still in its early stages. If Hasbro were to acquire Dreamworks, it could not only benefit directly from Dreamworks' biggest box office hits, but also gain an experienced co-production partner with notable expertise in creating high-quality animated content.
What's more, Dreamworks could benefit by bringing to life some of Hasbro's most popular properties in its flagship CGI animation style -- I'm looking at you, Transformers and G.I. Joe -- all while avoiding costly and often creativity-stifling licensing agreements.
2. Television synergies
Last quarter, Hasbro also restructured its ownership stake in the Hub Network, reducing its share to 40% while Discovery Communications (NASDAQ:DISCA)simultaneously took a majority 60% position. As a result, Hub Network became Discovery Family in October. But this also gives Hasbro more creative freedom on the television side, as evidenced by the Q1, 2015 launch of Transformers: Robots in Disguise on Cartoon Network. Cartoon Network, for its part, is the top rated primetime network for boys ages 6 to 11 and 9 to 14.
Meanwhile, Dreamworks also boasts a burgeoning television business aimed at bolstering downstream monetization of its box office properties. Most notably, that currently includes Kung Fu Panda, Shrek, Penguins of Madagascar, Turbo F.A.S.T., and DreamWorks Dragons -- the last of which also airs, by the way, on Cartoon Network. And while television last quarter only contributed a fraction of Dreamworks' overall revenue and gross profit at $14 million and $2 million, respectively, it has already secured contracted commitments for over 1,200 episodes of original animated content going forward.
As a result, in fiscal 2015 Dreamworks expects television revenue in the mid-$200 million range as it continues to ramp delivery, with the segment's gross profit margin approaching 30% by late-2015 or early 2016. In the end, given Hasbro's newfound freedom on the small screen, I can't blame it for wanting to take part in that growth.
3. Merchandising synergies
Finally, we get to Hasbro's bread and butter: Merchandising. In fact, Hasbro CEO Brian Goldner often speaks of evolving and improving what he calls their "content-led branded play strategy." In short, great content can lead to great toys -- an area in which we all know Hasbro excels.
What's more, Hasbro could significantly improve Dreamworks' "toy IQ," so to speak, and help it more effectively build brands with subsequent merchandising opportunities in mind.
Again, Dreamworks already boasts an enviable portfolio of entertainment properties just begging for proper toy treatment. Tuck those properties into Hasbro's backpack, remove the aforementioned restrictive licensing agreements, and add in the first two content-related synergies above, and you can bet the toy maker would happily make the most of the opportunity.