Verizon will acquire Straight Path Communications for $3.1 billion, beating out AT&T’s initial offer of $1.25 billion. The primary driver for the deal is accessing Straight Path’s millimeter wave spectrum which will be key to building a faster 5G network.

Disruptive technology and evolving consumer habits are reshaping the telecommunications industry at a rapid pace and both Verizon and AT&T have used acquisitions to stay ahead of the curve. AT&T recently acquired Time Warner for $85 billion to gain access to its content including HBO and CNN and Verizon acquired Yahoo! for $4.83 billion to boost its digital ad business.

Consumers are dropping landlines and cable TV and moving toward online streaming, especially on mobile devices. Social media has also reshaped where viewers get information and entertainment and media companies are struggling to adapt. For Verizon, using acquisition in along with organic growth, will help the company build an infrastructure to stay relevant with consumers. A 5G network will have higher speeds and greater capacity to keep up with downloads, video streaming, and other smart devices like Alexa, Google Home, or even automated vehicles. Companies that can anticipate and capture future consumer demand will remain successful and continue to grow, while others will be left behind.

Leaders in all industries should be aware of this dynamic and consider capturing future customer demand as a major driver for strategic growth. This means giving customers what they need and also what they don’t know they need. Amazon does an excellent job of this by suggesting items in their follow up emails base on strong algorithms. Think about how you can apply this principle to your current customers and your potential future customers and how you will go about fulfilling their needs.

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The media industry is going through a wave of consolidation as traditional players try to adjust to changing consumer habits. Demand for traditional media like print newspapers, cable TV, magazines, and landline phones, has decreased as streaming, mobile and digital media becomes more popular. As this trend continues, businesses will continue acquiring to capture consumers, build economies of scale and monetize content in order to stay profitable and grow. Here are three interesting transactions in the telecommunications, media and entertainment sector.

AT&T to Acquire Time Warner

AT&T plans to acquire Time Warner for $85 billion in one of the biggest media acquisitions in history. The telecommunications provider is eager to get its hands on Time Warner’s popular channels, such as HBO and CNN, in order to compete with rival Verizon, which recently acquired AOL and is in the process of acquiring Yahoo!. Time Warner plans to sell Atlanta broadcast stations to Meredith Corp in order avoid an antitrust review.

Sprint Acquires a 33% Stake in Tidal

Sprint acquired a 33% stake in Tidal, an online music streaming service owned by rapper Jay Z. By pairing Sprint’s pipeline of mobile phone customers with Tidal’s music and video content, the companies can be more powerful and reach more consumers.

In some ways this deal is a realization of the infamous Time Warner – AOL deal where they tried to leverage AOL’s infrastructure to distribute Time Warner’s content. While that deal is largely considered a failure, times have changed and Sprint and Tidal have a chance to get the integration right. While Time Warner and AOL tried a “merger of equals,” Sprint has acquired a minority investment in Tidal for $200 million.

Hollywood Reporter – Billboard Media Purchases Music Brands from SpinMedia

The Hollywood Reporter-Billboard Media Group will acquire four brands, Spin, Vibe, Steroegum, and Death and Taxes, from SpinMedia in order to establish the largest music brand by digital traffic, social reach and audience share. The Hollywood Reporter – Billboard Media Group’s strategic rationale is to reach millennials and aggressively enter into the video market.

I was recently interviewed about this deal in The Street:

“One of the challenges in today’s media environment is how do you remain relevant, so by combining these business brands and in particular by focusing on the music space, I think strategically the deal makes sense.”

As technology advances and consumer behavior continues to evolve, media companies will continue acquiring in order to stay relevant and most importantly, profitable.

Seeking growth amid a shifting telecommunications industry, AT&T has bet on media content. The company plans to acquire Time Warner for $85 billion in one of the biggest media acquisitions in history. The transaction will likely take over a year to receive regulatory approval, but both AT&T and Time Warner executives are optimistic. AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson has compared the deal to Comcast’s acquisition of NBC Universal in 2013, which was approved after a long period of regulatory scrutiny. This vertical merger will bring together Time Warner’s media content and AT&T’s distribution network in one company.

Consumers Dropping Landlines, Cable TV

The telecommunications market has shifted with many consumers dropping landlines and cable TV. Mobile use is increasing exponentially with mobile users representing 65% of digital media time in 2015. This means people are primarily using smartphones to read articles, play games and watch videos than are using computers.

Telecommunications and media companies are starting to take notice of these trends. Just last year AT&T’s biggest rival, Verizon, acquired AOL in a push to reach more mobile users. And earlier this year, it announced it would acquire Yahoo to boost its mobile unit.

Deal Synergies

One benefit of the deal is that AT&T will be able to provide more data to Time Warner and advertisers without raising prices for consumers or withholding the content from competitors (like Verizon).

AT&T may also plan to create original, exclusive content leveraging Time Warner’s expertise in media. Online streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon have successfully produced their own original content.

In the long term, AT&T wants to build up a robust, next-generation infrastructure in order to compete with cable providers. “I will be sorely disappointed if we are not going head-to-head” with cable providers by 2021, said Stephenson.

Growing in a Declining Market

As demand for traditional telecommunication services shrinks, AT&T and other providers must look outside their current market for new growth opportunities. In a declining marketing, consolidating, or simply gaining more market share will not help you grow in the long term. If AT&T managed to capture the entire market for landline phones, their revenues would still shrink as consumers abandon landlines.

By acquiring Time Warner, AT&T will own content including popular networks such as HBO and CNN. Organically growing its own content business would take time and be difficult given the large size of other media content producers like Disney and CBS. As an established business, Time Warner gives AT&T a foothold in the media market and immediate access to new users.

If like A&T you are stuck in a declining marketing, identifying markets with future demand for your company’s products or services is the key to growth. You can explore future demand by using our tool, the Opportunity Matrix, to understand where you want to position your company strategically looking forward.

Start exploring today 

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As expected, a wave of M&A activity among European telecoms has begun. Last week, UK’s Vodafone bought Spain’s Ono for $10 billion. Vodafone most recently sold a 45% stake to Verizon Wireless valued at $130 billion.

When Vodafone purchased Kabel Deutschland for $7.7 billion euros last July, Capstone predicted an increase in M&A activity in 2014 due to an improved economic environment and regulatory reforms. This analysis still stands. Reuters Breakingviews also forecasts a rise in European telecom M&A, following a string of cable M&A activity.

Multiple factors are fueling consolidation among European telecoms. These include cheap debt due to historically low interest rates and a growing number of companies involved in M&A amid a rising stock market that has led to more public offerings.

In addition, we see consolidation fueling consolidation as executives worry about being left behind by competitors, including those overseas. The European telecom market is overpopulated and segmented, leaving few players with the size necessary to undertake the massive CAPEX needed to sustain growth and modernize telecoms.

Here are some telecom companies to look out for as M&A activity picks up:

  • AT&T – While AT&T says the window for wireless deals in Europe may be closing, there may yet be potential for a deal. As of January, AT&T was still considering a takeover of Vodafone; given Vodafone’s latest M&A activity, this now seems unlikely.
  • Hutchison Whampoa – Last year, Hong Kong’s Hutchison Whampoa purchased Telefonica’s Irish unit for $1.1 billion. Its chairman, Li Ka-Shing, announced it is considering more acquisitions in Europe for 2014.
  • Telefonica – The European commission has raised concerns over Telefonica’s acquisition of E-Plus for $11.5 billion. Despite this, Telefonica reportedly is close to buying a 56% stake in satellite TV provider Prisa.
  • Vivendi –Vivendi has agreed to exclusive talks with Altice for its mobile phone unit.
  • Vodafone – After its latest cross-border deal, there are rumors that Vodafone may turn its attention closer to home for its next acquisition.
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