AMC-Starz Reports: Is It Really About Cablevision?

Malone, Dolan and the family jewels
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An interesting theory about those reports that AMC Networks was talking about acquiring Starz popped up in a report Wednesday from Todd Juenger, analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein.

After sorting through a number of strategic or economic reasons why the combination might or might not make sense, Juenger notes that “an even grander (and far-fetched) theory is that perhaps what Mr. Malone really wants here is to swap assets with the Dolans. He gets Cablevision. They get Starz. (somehow).”

Malone is John Malone, the cable pioneer who has been reassembling his MSO empire by backing Charter Communications, which is in the process of acquiring Time Warner Cable and Bright House. He also controls Starz.

The Dolans are the family of Chuck Dolan, another founder of the cable business, and owners of Cablevision Systems on Long Island. Cablevision spun off its programming business to form AMC Networks a few years back and speculation about what will happen to Cablevision as the industry consolidates has been a media industry parlor game for years.

Putting Cablevision and Time Warner Cable together to create a single operator serving the New York market makes sense and would be a feather in Malone’s cap. Whether Starz is enough to loosen the Dolans’ grip on the family jewels remains to be seen.