Bet you wouldn’t have picked BET as Paramount Global’s Hottest Commodity of 2023.
A few months ago, we nearly ran a spit on our laptop screens after learning that Paramount had turned down a $3 billion offer for Showtime. These days, offers are rolling in for another Paramount Global brand, BET, started at — and have since eclipsed — that price, a person familiar with the talks told IndieWire.
Paramount is actively soliciting bids for its BET group (consisting of BET, BET+ streamers, BET Studios, and VH1) in what our source described as an organized multi-round auction process. Participants gain access to each of the brand’s (otherwise undisclosed) revenue and earnings, apply their own multiples, and arrive at an independent value. The data is considered privileged and potential buyers must sign non-disclosure agreements (NDAs).
An equity analyst we spoke to for this story said $3 billion for the BET collective “seems really high.” It’s not alone, although our source within the negotiation process has pointed out that that line of thinking is limited. BET could unlock hidden value under new ownership. Not only does it make sense for a media group that caters to black audiences to have a black owner, but it could make (many) more dollars this way. For starters, there are additional revenue opportunities with businesses looking to advertise with Black-owned businesses.
Notable bidders for BET include Byron Allen, Diddy, Tyler Perry, and a posse that includes Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, Shaquille O’Neal, and “Black-ish” creator Kenya Barris. There are no bad options here.
Do you know who would have been a good option as the new leader of Showtime? The old leader of Showtime. David Nevins, with backing from private equity firm General Atlantic, was the one who presented the $3 billion offer. Instead, Paramount chose to use the Showtime brand and its programming to strengthen Paramount+.
We should point out here that while BET’s (current) offerings and Showtime’s (expired) offerings are attractive both in terms of size and similarity, they’re not really apples for apples. Since Showtime has never been auctioned and the offer has become public After was rejected, Nevins’ $3 billion offer should not be considered Showtime’s official market value. The bid could be high or low (it was clearly too low for Paramount) or it could be close, but it wasn’t a number derived from an open process like BET’s.
On June 27, Paramount+ and Showtime will merge as a rebranded Paramount+ with Showtime, which will replace the top tier Paramount+ platform (for $2 more than it currently costs). Later this year, Showtime’s over-the-top (OTT) app will be shut down and its linear channel will be simultaneously rebranded.
Paramount + with Showtime, or at least the “with Showtime” portion, will have a strong focus on expanding existing Showtime series. “Billions” and “Dexter” are up front, with the return of “Weeds” and “Nurse Jackie” reportedly in the works. Executives expect the new approach to create more value for the company overall than a sale would have done.
Nevins wasn’t the first to come to Showtime. He wasn’t even the first former Showtime executive — or most generously — to show money to Paramount Global’s controlling shareholder, Shari Redstone. Fellow Mark Greenberg, with help from private investment bank Blackstone Inc., bid $6 billion for Showtime just two years ago, according to the Wall Street Journal. That’s several billions and lots of “billions”.