Suggesting that the combination will accelerate growth across linear, digital and short-form platforms around the world and create a global leader in real life entertainment, Discovery Communications and Scripps Networks Interactive, have signed a definitive agreement for Discovery to acquire Scripps in a cash-and-stock transaction valued at $14.6 billion (€12.44bn) or $90 per share, based on Discovery’s July 21st closing price. The purchase price represents a premium of 34 per cent to Scripps’ unaffected share price as of July 18th. The transaction is expected to close by early 2018.
Viacom was thought to have been in pole position to acquire Scripps, but was reported to have backed out of making as bid amid concerns that an all-cash bid could have resulted in a severe stress to its share price, with Viacom being downgraded to ‘junk bond’ status.
A report from analysts at Wells Fargo Bank on July 26th suggested that Scripps family trusts would be seeking at least $91 a share, and perhaps as much as $95 for a sale.
“This is an exciting new chapter for Discovery. Scripps is one of the best run media companies in the world with terrific assets, strong brands and popular talent and formats. Our business is about great storytelling, authentic characters and passionate super fans. We believe that by coming together with Scripps, we will create a stronger, more flexible and more dynamic media company with a global content engine that can be fully optimized and monetized across our combined networks, products and services in every country around the world,” said David Zaslav, President and CEO, Discovery Communications.
“Through the passion and dedication of our incredible employees, and with the support of the Scripps family, we have built a lifestyle content company that touches the lives of consumers every single day,” said Kenneth W. Lowe, Chairman, President & CEO, Scripps Networks Interactive. “This agreement with Discovery presents an unmatched opportunity for Scripps to grow its leading lifestyle brands across the world and on new and emerging channels including short-form, direct-to-consumer and streaming platforms.”
New Innovator Across a Broad Portfolio of Entertainment Assets
Together, Discovery and Scripps will offer a complementary and dynamic suite of brands. The combined company will produce approximately 8,000 hours of original programming annually, be home to approximately 300,000 hours of library content, and will generate a combined 7 billion short-form video streams monthly, demonstrating its commitment to delivering content as a top short-form provider.
Combined, Discovery and Scripps will have nearly 20 per cent share of ad-supported pay-TV audiences in the US Additionally, the combined company will be home to five of the top pay-TV networks for women and will account for over 20 per cent share of women watching primetime pay-TV in the US.
The Combined Portfolio’s Brands Will Include:
Discovery: Discovery Channel, TLC, Investigation Discovery, Animal Planet, Science and Turbo/Velocity, as well as OWN in the U.S., Discovery Kids in Latin America, and Eurosport, the leading provider of locally relevant, premium sports and Home of the Olympic Games across Europe.
Scripps: HGTV, Food Network, Travel Channel, DIY Network, Cooking Channel and Great American Country, as well as TVN, a premiere multi-platform provider of entertainment, lifestyle and news content in Poland; UKTV, an independent commercial joint venture with BBC Worldwide; Asian Food Channel, the first pan- regional TV food network in Asia; and lifestyle channel Fine Living Network.
International Growth Opportunities
The combination will extend Scripps’ brands, programming and talent to a broader international audience through Discovery’s best-in-class global distribution, sales and languaging infrastructure. Discovery sees strong opportunities to strengthen its existing global female networks with select content from Food Network, HGTV and all the Scripps brands. Scripps also has a strong position in key international growth markets, including the U.K. and Poland, and will help fuel Discovery’s existing content pipeline in growth areas like Discovery’s Home and Health network in Latin America.
Social, Mobile and Non-linear Growth Opportunities
The combined company will deliver 7 billion monthly short-form streams, bringing together Scripps’ established expertise in short-form video creation with Discovery’s investment in Group Nine Media to create a new scale player with a strong ability to compete for audiences and ad dollars. The combination will give Discovery an outstanding presence on new video and social media platforms. Additionally, Scripps Lifestyle Studios will become a key component of Discovery’s content engine, making the company a leader in key strategic areas such as data-driven ad sales, endemic advertising, and branded entertainment solutions.
Discovery’s added scale, content engine and multiple brand offerings will present a compelling opportunity for new digital distribution partners, including mobile, OTT, and direct-to-consumer platforms and offerings.
The combination is expected to create significant cost synergies, estimated at approximately $350 million. The deal is expected to be accretive to Adjusted Earnings per Share and to Free Cash Flow in the first year after close.
Scripps shareholders will receive $90 per share under the terms of the agreement, comprised of $63.00 per share in cash and $27.00 per share in Class C Common shares of Discovery stock, based on Discovery’s Friday, July 21 closing price. The stock portion will be subject to a collar based on the volume weighted average price of Discovery Class C Common Shares over the 15 trading days ending on the third trading day prior to closing (the “Average Discovery Price”). Scripps shareholders will receive 1.2096 Discovery Class C Common shares if the Average Discovery Price is below $22.32, and 0.9408 Discovery Class C Common shares if the Average Discovery Price is above $28.70. If the Average Discovery Price is greater than or equal to $22.32 but less than or equal to $28.70, Scripps shareholders will receive a number of shares between 1.2096 and 0.9408 equal to $27.00 in value. If the Average Discovery Price is between $22.32 and $25.51, Discovery has the option to pay additional cash instead of issuing more shares.
Scripps shareholders will have the option to elect to receive their consideration in cash, stock or the mixture described above, subject to pro rata cut backs to the extent cash or stock is oversubscribed.
This purchase price implies a total transaction value of $14.6 billion, including the assumption of Scripps’ net debt of approximately $2.7 billion. Post-closing, Scripps’ shareholders will own approximately 20 per cent of Discovery’s fully diluted common shares and Discovery’s shareholders will own approximately 80 per cent. This calculation is based on the number of Discovery shares outstanding on July 31st.
The cash portion of the purchase price will be financed with a combination of new debt and cash on hand. Discovery has secured fully committed financing from affiliates of Goldman Sachs & Co. LLC to fund the acquisition. Discovery expects to maintain investment grade ratings throughout this transaction. As part of its commitment to de-lever its balance sheet, Discovery intends to suspend its share repurchase program until such time as its credit metrics are in line with its rating. Specifically, Discovery expects to be below 3.5x gross debt to AOIBDA within the first two years after the transaction closes, using substantially all free cash flow to reduce pre-payable and/or short term debt.
Lowe is expected to join Discovery’s board of directors following the close of the transaction.
The transaction is subject to approval by Discovery and Scripps’ shareholders, regulatory approvals, and other customary closing conditions.
John C. Malone, Advance/Newhouse Programming Partnership (ANPP) and members of the Scripps family have entered into voting agreements to vote in favor of the transaction and take certain other actions, in each case subject to the terms and conditions of their respective agreements.