Liberty Media CEO Talks Possible Starz Deal, Sirius XM Outlook

6:38 AM PST 03/05/2013 by Georg Szalai
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Greg Maffei

Asked about a possible Starz deal with a bigger entertainment company, Greg Maffei also tells an investor conference, "We'll see if there's a partnership out there for Starz that makes sense."

Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei on Tuesday once again signaled at an investor conference that premium TV firm Starz, which recently became a separate company after its spin-off from Liberty, would be open to a deal with a bigger entertainment company.

Speaking at the Deutsche Bank 2013 Media, Internet & Telecom Conference in Palm Beach, Fla., he said: "If you look over the last five, six, seven years, Starz has had a heck of a run in terms of free cash flow. So it has not been challenged in that sense."

But Maffei added: "On the other hand, are there synergies out there...somebody who had more channels, cross-marketing, ability to bundle better, ability to perhaps have retransmission...and perhaps some cost synergies, you can imagine that scenario. I do believe we are in an era where cable networks will consolidate."

The Liberty CEO didn't mention possible deal partners for Starz CEO Chris Albrecht, but observers have mentioned NBCUniversal and News Corp. as possible acquirers or strategic partners. "We'll see if there's a partnership out there for Starz that makes sense," Maffei concluded without providing further comments on the possible timing of a potential future deal.

Starz shares were up 3.5 percent as of 10:30am ET.

Asked about satellite radio firm Sirius XM Radio, which Liberty controls, Maffei on Tuesday said that after the recent departure of CEO Mel Karmazin, business has continued to perform well. New CEO Jim Meyer "has picked up the baton very well and is running with it," he said. A decision on a permanent CEO is expected later this year.

Maffei predicted further growth upside for Sirius and concert-promoter Live Nation.

Asked about possible other deals and investments that Liberty Media may be interested in, Maffei said the company is always looking for other businesses "where we can have scale and leverage."

Questioned about Liberty's stake in bookstore giant Barnes & Noble, Maffei said its business has been doing okay, but it has been operating in a "tough and challenging market" amid rapid tablet growth.

Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com
Twitter: @georgszalai

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