Hollywood film studio MGM agrees to $8.45bn takeover by Amazon

Source: Sky News   

MGM, the Hollywood film studio behind classics from Singin’ In The Rain to the James Bond franchise, is to be snapped up by Amazon in an $8.45bn deal.

The online retail giant led by Jeff Bezos will swallow up nearly a century of film-making history as its Prime subscription service bulks up for the battle for video streaming customers with the likes of Netflix and Disney.

MGM has – like other film studios – endured a tough time during the pandemic with cinemas closed and its release date for new Bond film No Time To Die repeatedly delayed.

MGM owns the Rocky franchise

A joint statement from the companies said: “Amazon will help preserve MGM’s heritage and catalogue of films, and provide customers with greater access to these existing works.”

Confirmation of the deal, which was first reported to be in the offing last week, is the latest big move in the sector – after Warner Media was spun off by owner AT&T to merge with Discovery in a $43bn tie-up.

It hands Amazon a wealth of content from its huge film back catalogue to reality TV staples such as The Real Housewives of Beverley Hills.

That adds to the TV series and films already produced by its Amazon Studios arm, such as recent Oscar winner Sound of Metal, which can be accessed by the 200 million subscribers to its Prime service.

The acquisition is Amazon’s second biggest after it snapped up grocery chain Whole Foods for $13.7bn in 2017 – and comes just before founder Mr Bezos steps down as chief executive this summer.

Mike Hopkins, senior vice president of Prime Video and Amazon Studios, said: “The real financial value behind this deal is the treasure trove of IP [intellectual property] in the deep catalogue that we plan to reimagine and develop together with MGM’s talented team.

Founder, Chairman, CEO and President of Amazon Jeff Bezos gives a thumbs up as he speaks during an event about Blue Origin's space exploration plans in Washington, U.S., May 9, 2019
Jeff Bezos is stepping down as Amazon chief executive this summer

“It’s very exciting and provides so many opportunities for high-quality storytelling.”

MGM – or Metro Goldwyn Mayer – is known for its roaring lion logo and boasts 177 Oscars including 12 for best picture – among them West Side Story, Annie Hall and Dances With Wolves.

Founded in 1924, its catalogue also includes the Rocky and Robocop franchises and TV programmes such as The Handmaid’s Tale and Fargo.

Other major Hollywood studios already sit within larger conglomerates. Paramount is part of Viacom, Warner Bros is owned by AT&T, Disney owns Fox, and Universal is part of Comcast – also the owner of Sky.

Seattle-based Amazon, founded seven decades later as an online bookseller, has transformed global retail and more recently muscled in on the burgeoning demand for streaming that has until now been dominated by Netflix.

It has also gained a foothold in UK football broadcasting, recently renewing its deal to show 20 Premier League games a season.

The company saw its profits more than triple to $8.1bn in the first quarter of this year.

It has thrived during the pandemic as lockdowns accelerate the shift from physical to online stores. Profits nearly doubled to $21.3bn in 2020.

In April, Mr Bezos revealed that 175 million of Prime’s roughly 200 million members “have streamed shows and movies in the past year.” Users have access to Prime Video through being signed up to Prime membership, which gives customers access to faster delivery of online orders.

Netflix has more than 200 million subscribers while Disney’s streaming service Disney+ has signed up more than 100 million.

Amazon’s strategy to diversify away from its core retail business was articulated by Mr Bezos at a conference in 2016 when he said: “When we win a Golden Globe, it helps us sell more shoes.”

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