Digital Media Guru Robert Tercek Talks Big Media Layoffs, Consolidation

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Rupert Murdoch; Jeff Bewkes

The former exec said to expect more new suitors and takeover attempts

Big media providers are holding their own amid the current digital industry tsunami, but 21st Century Fox's unsuccessful $80 billion play for Time Warner signals a coming wave of media consolidation, Milestone Entertainment head Robert Tercek told the Merging Media 5 conference on Thursday.

"We're going to see a trend in the coming year where there's a lot more consolidation," Tercek said during a keynote address in Vancouver. With profits these days coming from pay TV, he pointed to Comcast proposing to acquire Time Warner Cable for $45 billion and AT&T in a deal to buy DirecTV for $48.5 billion.

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More consolidation is expected, as Tercek pointed to profitable players like Time Warner, the Warner Bros. studio and HBO shedding jobs and costs to boost their share value or gird against becoming a takeover target. He said the recent layoff fever is defensive and reactive.

"Time Warner is doing extraordinarily well. They're having record profits, and strangely they're in the process of downsizing," Tercek said. Ditto at Warner Bros., which wants to stay out of Murdoch's clutches.

Before becoming a consultant, Tercek was formerly the president of digital at OWN Network, and had worked as senior vp digital at Sony Pictures Entertainment and as creative director at MTV.

"Those executives know that the minute Fox buys Warner Bros., all of those guys will hit the streets. The musical chairs will stop, as there's no more seats in Hollywood," he told conference delegates.

Tercek said Time Warner or Warner Bros. could yet be acquired by rivals other than Fox, and Discovery Communications and Scripps Networks Interactive are also likely takeover targets.