Is a DirecTV sale inevitable?
After things were quiet for the first few weeks of January about the potential purchase of DirecTV, there were developments over the weekend- with a new name emerging as the likely favorite, according to two separate news reports.
Reuters reported Friday that TPG, the international private equity firm, has entered “exclusive talks” with AT&T to buy a stake in DirecTV. The deal would allow AT&T to trim some of its debt.
A separate report by Bloomberg News also stated that the two companies were in exclusive talks, and that the talks “could still fall apart,” with a deal weeks away. Such a deal, per Bloomberg, would be “highly structured” and include preferred stock.
Neither AT&T nor TPG commented on either of the reports.
No deal has been finalized, but the deal is expected to value DirecTV at $15 billion, which AT&T had reportedly been seeking throughout the process. That number, however, is still considerably less than what AT&T paid for DirecTV back in 2016.
Word of the talks caused AT&T’s stock to rise slightly on Friday.
AT&T had been conducting an auction to sell off a stake in DirecTV over the course of the last few months of 2020, with Apollo Global Management often mentioned as a suitor, along with multiple SPAC companies. The New York Post had reported in December that TPG had been invited to the look at the books.
That Post piece had also said that AT&T had been dissatisfied with the bids up to that point, and was considering not going through with the sale after all.
DirecTV Sale: How Would It Stop Customers from Cancelling?
DirecTV has been bleeding subscribers for years, a trend that especially escalated with the pandemic in 2020.
AT&T’s TV business, of which DirecTV comprises the most significant part, lost another 590,000 subscribers in the third quarter of 2020, in addition to the 897,000 it dropped in the first quarter, and the 866,000 it shed in the second. AT&T will announce its fourth quarter earnings on the morning of January 27, and are expected to reveal how many subscribers it has for its streaming service HBO Max.
In mid-January, AT&T announced that it was killing off one of its streaming products, AT&T TV Now, which had previously been known as DirecTV Now. The former service will instead be folded into AT&T Now.
It doesn’t appear that Dish Network, whose CEO Charlie Ergen has repeatedly said that a combination with DirecTV is “inevitable,” will end up as part of any deal involving AT&T and DirecTV.
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.