Wow, CNN is in the news and it’s not for comparing President Donald Trump’s four years in office to the Kristallnacht.
According to Fox Business, AT&T is looking at selling CNN. On Tucker Carlson Tonight, FNB senior correspondent Charlie Gasparino elaborated on the report:
“The balance sheet over there is a real problem,” Gasparino reports. “That’s what’s fueling this. They need to cut costs. There’s an active investor out there.”
AT&T, which acquired Time Warner in 2018, has a debt worth $150 billion. Gasparino adds the company is “financially unstable.” He concludes, without Trump, CNN may have hit its peak.
“This rumor is real and the people I know at CNN believe they are for sale,” Gasparino concludes.
Before the election, speculation in business circles emerged that, due to debt, AT&T could move off CNN. Investment bankers speaking to Fox Business surmised Jeff Bezos could be a buyer.
CNN’s future is up in the air for reasons beyond just AT&T’s enormous debt. CNN President Jeff Zucker’s may not stick around and the network’s current strategy is strictly hating Trump. Assuming Joe Biden is certified by the states as the winner, CNN’s shows and hosts must find a new identity. Finally, the increasingly irresponsible political network doesn’t fit with the rest of Time Warner’s safe properties. Both AT&T CEO John Stankey and chairman Randall Stephenson have grown less comfortable with CNN’s controversial programming, Fox Business adds.
With ratings expected to drop post-Trump, CNN’s value won’t increase. Thus, if AT&T plans to move the network, it should do so before the start of the ratings fall.
I argued last month that, under the right circumstances, CNN is still a high-reward investment:
The network is profitable and rates well in the coveted 25-54 demographic. In October, CNN again topped MSNBC in total day and primetime viewership in the demo, 361,000 to 243,000 and 709,000 to 475,000, respectively.
CNN does not compete with Fox News and MSNBC in total viewership. However, [in October], its numbers were up 78% in total day and +98% in primetime.
CNN also offers a strong website and digital presence.
However, its brand and future come with concerns. I explained:
Under Zucker, CNN’s news division went far-left and has featured some questionable figures in recent years like Andrew McCabe and Richard Spencer. It was revealed that the author of “Anonymous” is Miles Taylor, a low-ranking government bureaucrat who now works for CNN.
CNN does not have a passionate audience nor stars who draw ratings like Sean Hannity, Rachel Maddow, and Tucker Carlson. It also lacks a long-term identity. The only identity CNN currently has is anti-Trump.
Outside of Jeff Bezos, it’s hard to find a list of suitors. With his $200 billion net worth, Bezos is a potential buyer for everything.
Gasparino tells Tucker Carlson that the tech companies — the scenario discussed is Bezos buying CNN himself, not under Amazon — and Comcast are “out” because of anti-trust laws. However, veteran analyst Rich Greenfield disagrees, naming both ViacomCBS and Comcast as potential CNN buyers. That said, neither make sense.
ViacomCBS couldn’t compete financially with Bezos. CBS’s market cap is only $18 billion compared to Comcast’s $205 billion and Amazon’s roughly $2 trillion.
Comcast already has large investments in NBC News, MSNBC, and Peacocks’ news hub. I expect NBC to, instead, focus on Peacock, not buy a competing cable news channel.
Between CNN’s future and Donald Trump reportedly looking to create a competitor to Fox News — the future of the news media has never been more fascinating and unknown.