Not Fake News: Media M&A Deals On The Decline

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UK publishing group Trinity Mirror is in discussions to acquire all the publishing assets of Northern & Shell, owner of the Star and Express newspaper titles as well as glossy magazines such as OK!. Trinity Mirror had discussed purchasing a minority stake in N&S earlier this year, but a possible takeover superseded those talks.

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The news comes at a tumultuous time for the print media industry, as digital and social media companies continue eating into the bottom lines of traditional publishers. Indeed, N&S posted a £24.8 million loss for 2015, citing falling print advertising revenues as a key reason. The troubles aren't just limited to smaller players, either. Mass media giant News Corp lost $643 million in the last financial year, aided by a $200 million decline in advertising revenues.

The trend isn't helped by the changing nature of media audiences. For example, the Reuters Institute for Journalism’s 2017 ‘Digital News Report’ found that 51% of US citizens use social media as a news source. By contrast, just 22% get their news from print.

Those troubles are reflected in stagnating global M&A deal activity in the space. After investors completed 877 media deals across all geographies in 2014, that number has slumped to 237 so far this year.

So what does the future hold for an industry with high production costs, declining ad revenue and agile, tech-savvy competitors eager to siphon off readers via their computers and smartphones? High-profile media assets still attract attention from big-time investors, as seen with Jeff Bezos' takeover of the Washington Post and the Lebedev family's purchase of the London Evening Standard and Independent newspapers, among other recent moves. But for many smaller brands, this year's rapid decline in media dealmaking indicates the future could be bleak.

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Article by Sean Lightbown, PitchBook

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