MGM, the storied movie studio with an extensive modern and classic film library—it’s been trying to make James Bond’s latest, No Time to Die, happen for what seems like a decade while its co-founder and inner workings were recently fictionalized in Mank—has put itself on the market. One of the few remaining studios not owned by a greater telecom/media entity (AT&T’s Warner Bros., Comcast’s Universal, Viacom’s Paramount), Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios is a high-profile “mini-major” with a $5.5B price tag. And, for its collection of content, which includes somewhere around 4,000 movies and a slew of TV productions, it may very well attract buyers from within the industry. But realistically, who’s buying?
Sure, MGM is a good-looking acquisition for a streamer like Netflix or a massive entity like Sony, but there’s been a recent resurgence in antitrust awareness that might dissuade a deal like that from going through. If the FTC is trying to break up Facebook by making it get rid of acquisitions like Instagram and WhatsApp, then the film industry could see some similar litigation if a big purchase takes place between major players. Disney and Fox may have just barely skated by.
But, a way around that is if that major player isn’t necessarily a major player in the film world. Apple, for example, is a tech company that’s been recently investing in the entertainment sector—Apple TV+ has offered up a few critical favorites over its short lifespan—but it’s still mostly selling iDevices. Amazon could make a similar claim, but its in-house movie investments have been showing quite a bit more health than those of Apple. Either could benefit from MGM’s back catalog and recognizable IP, but Apple’s probably the more likely option here. And that’s not even counting any random faceless equity firms that could just float the cash.
This isn’t the first time MGM has been a target for purchase, but it’s perhaps the time that a sale seems most possible: The industry has recently been rocked, the movie distribution model is in flux and it’s extremely attractive to have a nice fat parent company floating your productions as the moviegoing public slowly figures out how quickly they want to return to theaters in a post-vaccine world. At the same time, major companies that see the evolving industry as an opportunity could use MGM’s name recognition, library, production bonafides and overall clout to bolster their entrance. Leo the Lion will certainly keep roaring before films, but who he’ll ultimately be roaring for could be changing soon.