MGM is leading media acquisition target, CNBC says

MGM’s Leo the Lion logo

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, James Bond’s home studio, is the leading acquisition target among media companies as the industry consolidates, CNBC reported.

MGM “has held preliminary talks” with companies including Apple and Netflix “to gauge their interest,” the financial news network said in an online story. CNBC cited two people familiar with the situation it didn’t identify.

The Wall Street Journal reported last month that Apple held preliminary talks with MGM.

Danjaq, parent company of Eon Productions, and MGM control the Bond film franchise. MGM is owned by a group of hedge funds, which acquired MGM out of a 2010 bankruptcy.

MGM may now be worth $10 billion, CNBC said. Besides Bond, it produces television shows for cable networks and streaming services and owns the Epix premium channel.

Netflix has prompted studios including Walt Disney Co. to start their own streaming services. Apple also has established a streaming service and reportedly is looking to add programming.

Some questions Variety could have asked Broccoli & Wilson

Eon Productions logo

This week, Variety published an interview with Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson of Eon Productions. What follows are some questions that could have been asked.  Maybe they were but there’s no reference in the story that they were.

–Mr. Wilson, you’re 78. You and your half-sister Barbara Broccoli have run the franchise for a quarter-century. Does Eon have a succession plan in place? If so, can you describe it? Might you retire? Or do you plan to carry on? Or  will Barbara Broccoli take full command?

–Has anyone proposed acquiring Danjaq/Eon in the last 10 years?

–Do you expect the Broccoli-Wilson family will remain in control of the Bond film franchise 10 years from now?

Michael G. Wilson

–Who proposed that “Smallville”-style TV show? (The Variety story said Broccoli and Wilson rejected a “Smallville”-style TV series with Bond at Eton as a teenager) Was it Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, your studio partner? Why did Eon reject it?

–How would have the proposed “Smallville”-style TV show differ from the “Young Bond” novels published by Ian Fleming Publications? Would it have been substantially different in tone than the James Bond Jr. animated show (which featured Bond’s nephew, rather than Bond himself) from the 1990s?

–MGM, has undergone many changes over the past 40 years. It exited bankruptcy in 2010. It hasn’t had a CEO since Gary Barber exited in March 2018. Are you satisfied with where MGM is right now?

–The entertainment industry is facing a lot of changes with streaming. What is Bond’s place amid all these changes? Stay with movies? Make some kind of adjustment?

I did a couple of tweets with a few of these questions. I got some pushback from a reader who felt the questions were rude. The thing is, all of these are legitimate questions.

Remember, Albert R. Broccoli put Danjaq (parent company of Eon Productions) up for sale in the early 1990s. Nothing came of that. But succession planning is common. Even family-owned companies do succession planning all the time.

Broccoli says Eon resisting doing Bond spinoffs

Barbara Broccoli, boss of Eon Productions

Eon Productions chief Barbara Broccoli says in a recent magazine story that the production company has been pressured to make James Bond spinoffs but is resisting such a move.

“We’ve been under a lot of pressure to make spinoffs,” Broccoli told Total Film, whose 2020 movie preview issue went on sale this month.

“Bond is Bond, she added. “We want to make these theatrical films. We want to make them one at a time, and create an anticipation for them, and deliver films of a very high standard.”

Broccoli didn’t specify where the pressure was coming from. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Danjaq (Eon’s parent company) share custody of Bond.

Marvel Studios, which has produced more than 20 inter-connected movies since 2008 is branching into TV series for the Disney + streaming service.

The entire Total Film article is not online but scans of it are showing up on internet bulletin boards. There is a preview of the story online.

Eon has avoided planning long story arcs. Quantum of Solace was always intended to be a “direct” sequel to Casino Royale. But Skyfall director Sam Mendes said at a 2011 news conference that his movie wasn’t tied to the two earlier Daniel Craig films.

Then, with SPECTRE, the filmmakers did a “retcon,” making Skyfall connected to Casino and Quantum after all. Skyfall villain Silva became part of SPECTRE/Quantum after the fact. Now, all four are connected to the upcoming No Time to Die.

In the 2000s, Eon developed a proposed Bond spinoff movie featuring Jinx, the character played by Halle Berry in Die Another Day. Nothing came of the project.

Meanwhile, Eon has stepped up its production of non-Bond movies, including the upcoming The Rhythm Section being released by Paramount in January.

Apple holds preliminary talks with MGM, Journal reports

Apple logo

Apple Inc. has held preliminary talks about acquiring Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the home studio of the James Bond film series, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Most of the story is behind a paywall. However, CET has a summary that can be viewed by CLICKING HERE.

Apple wants is considering “ways to broaden the appeal” of its Apple TV app and $4.99 a month Apple TV + streaming service, the Journal said. In addition to MGM, Apple also had preliminary meetings with the Pac 12 college athletic conference concerning possible programming, the Journal said.

In streaming, Apple is up against various competitors, including Netflix, Disney + and HBO Max. Financial analysts have speculated that Apple needs more programming compared to those competitors.

MGM controls the Bond film franchise, along with Danjaq, parent company of Eon Productions. The company also has a large film library, much of it from the old United Artists, which MGM acquired in 1981. MGM is owned by a group of hedge funds.

MGM has been rebuilding since a bankruptcy in 2010. It has gotten back into film distribution with the formation of the United Artists Releasing joint venture with Annapurna Pictures. MGM also is trying to build other “franchises” such as Creed and the animated Addams Family.

In 2017, The Hollywood Reporter said that Apple and Amazon were looking to get involved with the Bond franchise. At the time, distribution for Bond 25 (now titled No Time to Die) was unsettled. What eventually emerged was United Artists Releasing handling U.S. distribution for No Time to Die, with Universal performing distribution internationally.

The big development since then is the emergence of the streaming competition as studios move to counter Netflix. Walt Disney Co. has been aggressively marketing Disney +, including original programs from its Star Wars and Marvel franchises.

Disney boss hints he covets owning Bond

Walt Disney Co. logo

Robert Iger, CEO of Walt Disney Co., suggested he wouldn’t mind owning the James Bond franchise.

Iger was named “Businessperson of the Year” by Time magazine, an offshoot of its “Person of the Year” issue. At the very end of the article, there was this passage:

But for now, for just this moment, Iger is unassailable. He’s transformed his company from a stuffy media doyen into a sexy cultural force. He can glide to retirement in 2021 on the fumes of that triumph. Except it’s not his style. When asked which IP he would buy if in some fantasy world he could: Harry Potter, Gandalf or James Bond, Iger smiles. “We’re not looking to buy anything right now,” he says. “But I’ve always been a huge James Bond fan.”

The thing is, Disney has a piece of Bond, at least through mid-2020.

Disney paid more than $71 billion for most of the assets of 21st Century Fox, including the 20th Century Fox studio. That included Fox’s home video operation, the current distributor for Bond films.

Under Iger, Disney has also acquired Marvel and its movie-making operation as well as Lucasfilm Ltd., the maker of Star Wars movies.

Some James Bond fans would rather slit their wrists rather than see Disney get more involved with Bond. Currently, the Bond franchise is controlled by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, one of the weakest Hollywood studios, and the Broccoli-Wilson family-controlled Danjaq (parent company of Eon Productions).

MGM has been rebuilding since a 2010 bankruptcy. Financial issues at MGM have affected how often Bond films have been released.

Bond 25 questions: The MGM call edition

No Time to Die teaser poster

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer doesn’t comment very often about the James Bond film series. Occasionally, 007’s home studio discusses the franchise when reporting its quarterly financial results.

Well, No Time to Die came up this week when MGM talked to investors about third-quarter financial results. Naturally, the blog has a few questions.

What did MGM say about No Time to Die’s marketing?

Not that much. The studio said No Time to Die’s marketing will ramp up shortly after Jan. 1.

However, MGM didn’t say much more than that. At this point, No Time to Die doesn’t have a first trailer out. A rough cut, or preliminary version, was completed by August, according to the James Bond & Friends podcast. But a final version hasn’t been released yet.

To be sure, there’s a lot more to marketing than trailers. But it’s clear Bond fans aren’t seeing much marketing yet for No Time to Die.

How important will No Time to Die be for the company?

Very important. MGM is draining cash this year as it invests in new movie and TV projects as well as investing in its Epix premium TV channel.

An MGM executive referred to the company’s 2020’s feature film plans as a
“James Bond-led revitalized film slate.”

Is there something else we should be aware of?

I have listened to MGM investor calls for seven years now. Rarely do investor ask about Bond films specifically. The calls are intended to discuss MGM financial results generally.

However, this time out, MGM executives got two Bond questions.

One concerned whether MGM had consulted with Danjaq (the parent company of Eon Productions, which actually produces Bond films) whether 007 films could come out more often.

Also, MGM was asked about whether the studio has sought a new Bond actor now that Daniel Craig has said No Time to Die will be it for him.

Listening to a recording of the call, MGM execs were not prepared for either inquiry.

After the first question, there were three seconds of dead air. After the second, there were six seconds of silence.

Doesn’t sound like a lot? On most investor/Wall Street analyst calls, executives pipe up with all sorts of jargon and blather. They don’t stay silent for seconds.

What does that mean?

It means the Bond franchise has major questions to be resolved after No Time to Die arrives at theaters in April 2020.

It also means that MGM isn’t ready to discuss those issues now. MGM and Danjaq (the parent company of Eon) have joint custody of the Bond film franchise.

The entertainment industry is changing rapidly. On the MGM call, new streaming TV shows from Star Wars and Marvel Studios were referenced in questions.

Put another way, the lack of a No Time to Die trailer may not be that important in the long run. We’ll see.

Apple seen as buyer to stock new streaming service (MGM?)

Apple logo

Apple Inc., which is preparing to launch a streaming television service, is seen as looking to buy entertainment companies to get a library of titles for viewing. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, James Bond’s home studio, comes up on the list of possibilities.

Earlier this month, Apple said its Apple TV + will go live Nov. 1 and cost $4.99 a month, $2 less than rival Disney +. The problem is Apple doesn’t have the library of titles that Disney has, which includes projects made under the Disney, Lucasfilm and Marvel Studios brands. Marvel, in particular, is making new series for Disney + to go along with its various movie titles. AT&T, which owns Warner Bros., also is getting into streaming television.

Bloomberg and Yahoo Finance had separate stories on Sept. 13 raising the question whether Apple may buy entertainment properties to boost its supply of programming.

Here’s an excerpt from the Bloomberg story (which was picked up by The Washington Post):

Much has been made of Apple TV+ undercutting competitors, but the price was set low to make up for the fact that, unlike rival services, it won’t contain a backlog of content out of the gate. (snip)

Apple’s lack of a library argues for the company to buy a production studio. Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. (which also owns the Starz premium channel), Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. (known as MGM), Sony Pictures and indie studio A24 are all prospects.

Yahoo Finance interviewed Wedbush analyst Dan Ives.

“It’s a content arms race,” Ives told Yahoo. “Right now, Apple has built a house, they’ve priced it accordingly. They need to fill it with content and we think that’s going to be the next trick up the sleeve for (Apple CEO Tim) Cook in terms of bigger M&A.” That’s mergers and acquisitions for those who don’t converse in business talk.

Ives’s pecking order for potential purchases was as follows: A24 Studio, Lionsgate, Viacom/CBS, Sony Pictures, MGM Studios, Netflix “and then a potential gaming publisher (that could be incorporated into Apple’s streaming service or a separate gaming subscription service) as a wild card.”

Sony distributed the four most recent Bond films. It’s not involved with No Time to Die, which will be distributed by United Artists Releasing (joint venture between MGM and Annapurna) in the U.S. and Universal internationally.

MGM has long been one of the weakest studios, having survived various restructurings and a bankruptcy. MGM controls half of the Bond film franchise along with Danjaq, parent company of Eon Productions. MGM also owns a large film library, which includes the old United Artists library containing such titles (in addition to Bond films) as West Side Story, The Great Escape, The Magnificent Seven, the Rocky series and the Pink Panther series.

Apple certainly has plenty of cash. Interesting times in show biz.