Warner Music Group sold for $3.3 billion – is EMI next?

Warner Music Group

It’s no secret that the music industry is struggling to stay afloat after years of plummeting CD sales, taildragging failures to convert to digital media distribution, pervasive music piracy, and a diverse marketplace where many performers eschew labels for a DIY Internet-based business model. So someone would have to be crazy to invest serious money in a major music label, right? Billionaire Len Blavatnik is hoping that means “crazy like a fox”—his company Access Industries has inked a deal to buy all of Warner Music Group—including all recordings and music publishing—for $3.3 billion in cash.

“We are delighted that Access will be the new steward of this outstanding business,” said WMG chairman and CEO Ed Bronfman Jr., in a statement. They are supportive of the company’s vision, growth strategy and artists, while bringing a fresh entrepreneurial perspective and expertise in technology and media. Most importantly, Access supports Warner Music’s commitment to our recording artists and songwriters who are the foundation of our current and future success.”

The deal calls for WMG shareholders to receive $8.25 in cash for each share of WMG they own, amounting to a 34.4 percent premium over the volume-weighted average share price for WMG over the last six months. Once the deal is completed—expected in the third quarter of 2011, pending regulatory approval—WMG will become a privately-held company, with no stock traded on any exchange. However, it will continue to be called Warner Music Group and operate out of its current facilities.

Warner Music Group is the third largest of the “Big Four” major music labels, Warner, EMI, Sony Music, and Universal Music Group. Some industry watchers expect that Blavatnik’s acquisition of Warner Music Group is just a prelude, however, with EMI the next major label in his sights. Although EMI is the smallest of the Big Four labels, in business terms Warner and EMI could be quite complimentary: where Warner is strong with American acts and new artists, EMI is strong is Europe and has a deep back catalog of highly valued, top-selling artists like the Beatles and Pink Floyd.

EMI is widely expected to be offered for sale by owner Citigroup later this year.

It’s not entirely clear why Blavatnik believes buying Warner Music is a strong business decision, although he is a long-time member of the company’s board. Overall, WMG posted a 6.7 percent decline in revenue for its most recent fiscal year, and its net loss for the year increased to $143 million. Blavatnik’s personal wealth stems mainly from natural resources and oil trading; he also has stakes in other media companies, including the largest Russian television producer, an Israeli television firm, and Los Angeles’ Icon Group, partially owned by controversial star Mel Gibson. Whatever Blatvatnik’s plan might be, however, you can bet it is going to involve digital music distribution.

Movies & TV

'Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald' will seem muddled to mere muggles

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald brings magizoologist Newt Scamander back for more adventures, but the sequel to 2016's Harry Potter spinoff Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them takes a very deep dive into Potter-verse lore.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix, from 'The Haunting of Hill House’ to ‘The Good Place’

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Movies & TV

‘Moonlight’ film studio A24 to produce movies for Apple

Indie movie studio A24 has entered into an agreement to produce films for Apple. The studio is best known for bringing Oscar-winning drama Moonlight to audiences, as well as Room and Ex Machina.

Here's our head-to-head comparison of Pandora and Spotify

Which music streaming platform is best for you? We pit Spotify versus Pandora, two mighty streaming services with on-demand music and massive catalogs, comparing every facet of the two services to help you decide which is best.

These 100 best iPhone apps will turn your phone into a jack-of-all-trades

The iPhone is the most popular smartphone in the world, and we want to bring out the best in yours. Behold our comprehensive list of the best iPhone apps, from time-saving productivity tools to fun apps you won’t be able to put down.
Movies & TV

How to watch NFL games online, with or without cable

The NFL's 2018 season is here, and we know you don't want to miss a moment of the action. Our comprehensive streaming guide will show you all the best options to watch the games online so you can make the right choice.
Movies & TV

More cast members join Jordan Peele’s ‘The Twilight Zone’ reboot

Get Out writer and director Jordan Peele is developing and hosting a reboot of the classic sci-fi anthology series The Twilight Zone for CBS All Access, and the cast for the first season is filling out with some familiar faces.
Home Theater

From game consoles to 4K UHD spinners, these are the best Blu-ray players

Streaming may be popular, but the disc isn't dead yet. To get the very best picture and sound quality from your system, you need to be watching Blu-ray or 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray discs, and these are the best Blu-ray players you can buy.
Home Theater

What’s new on Amazon Prime Video (December 2018)

Amazon Prime Video adds new titles each month that are available for free to all Prime members. Check out our list to find all the content hitting Amazon Prime Video in November and December 2018, from new original series to classic films.

Remembering Stan Lee, Fantastic Beasts 2 review, Apple goes Hollywood

This week on Between the Streams, we'll discuss the passing of comics and entertainment legend Stan Lee, a spoiler-free review of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, Apple's new partnership with indie movie studio A24, and more.

College sports are yours to watch live online with an ESPN+ free trial

It can be difficult to catch all the college games, especially for smaller conferences. Well, thanks to ESPN+ that’s no longer the case. Now, you won't need to miss any of your alma mater rival games.
Home Theater

The best movies on Netflix in November, from 'Buster Scruggs’ to ‘Dracula’

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, witty humor, or anything else.

You can now watch soccer games online with streaming service ESPN+

Launched back in April, ESPN+ is a direct-to-consumer subscription streaming service. For a mere $5 a month or $50 per year, you can have access to the best sports content available including multiple soccer leagues.
Movies & TV

Out of movies to binge? Our staff picks the best flicks on Hulu right now

From classics to blockbusters, Hulu offers some great films to its subscribers. Check out the best movies on Hulu, whether you're into charming adventure tales or gruesome horror stories.