"Anything can happen" between rounds of golf and closed-door panels — but it'll probably be consolidation
Sun Valley, the annual mogul get-together hosted by Allen & Company which kicks off Tuesday evening, will have golf, creek-side cocktails and the King of Jordan. But what about the deals?
Insiders say three major areas of potential deals will be the topic of conversation:
1. The Sale of Hulu
Both bidders and sellers in the contest to buy online video pioneer will be on hand. That includes not just the brass from Hulu's owners Disney, Bob Iger, Fox's Rupert Murdoch and Comcast's Brian Roberts, but also would-be buyers like Peter Chernin, who partnered with AT&T on an offer, and DirecTV CEO Michael White, who is thought to be the most likely winner for the video service.
As TheWrap has previously reported, keep your eye on DirecTV's White, who is closest to getting this deal wrapped.
2. John Malone Is in a Buying Mood
Liberty Media's acquisition-hungry chairman John C. Malone (above) has cash and wants to go shopping.
Malone has made no secret that he likes the cut of Time Warner Cable's jib. He has shown great interest in the cable space, poring $2.62 billion into a 27.3 percent stake in Charter Communications.
"It comes down to inevitable consolidation of the U.S. cable [industry]," Matthew Harrigan, an analyst at Wunderlich Securities, said of a possible play for Time Warner Cable.
Analysts argue that Time Warner Cable lacks Malone's passion for getting hitched and suggest that he might have a better chance buying up smaller players — most of whom are unlikely to get an invite to the exclusive Idaho gathering.
"Malone is obviously interested in doing a deal, but Time Warner is a lot less interested," Hal Vogel, CEO of Vogel Capital Management, said. "Could he roll up a bunch of smaller cable companies? Yeah probably, but they won't be at Sun Valley. I don't think sitting around poolside and playing tennis is going to change things for him."
3. Online Video Is Very, Very Hot
"You're going to be hearing some early rumblings and intense inquiries into digital video from major media companies looking to make larger investments," said an investor who spoke on condition of anonymity, citing DreamWorks Animation's recent $33 million acquisition of the YouTube channel AwesomenessTV.
Previous conferences have led to such blockbusters deals as Comcast's purchase of NBCUniversal and Time Warner's ill-fated marriage to AOL.
But the well documented growing pains of social media companies like Groupon and Zynga along with Facebook's rocky initial public offering have tempered enthusiasm, investors say.
"There’s a lot more caution compared to past years," Vogel said. "The action is cooler this year than when we had Facebook and the Twitter guys and Foursquare and other social networking hot shots as major attractions. I don't see anything close to that this time."
Of course, old passions could flare anew once all these moguls get a whiff of that mountain air.