Liberty CEO critiques conglom splits

Calls division of Viacom, CBS Corp. a mistake

NEW YORK -- Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei on Thursday again touted the potential synergies between content and distribution assets, going as far as calling their separation in recent years by several entertainment conglomerates a mistake.

Speaking at the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference in San Francisco, he called the split of Viacom and CBS Corp. "a mistake from any market-power perspective."

Viacom and CBS executives have said they believe the split allowed them to focus on their respective businesses and needs.

Similarly, the planned upcoming separation of Time Warner and Time Warner Cable came "mostly out of frustration" over a lack of success in execution, Maffei said. TW management has said it wants to unlock value by giving investors separate opportunities in the cable and content spaces.

TW said late Thursday that the spinoff would occur on March 27, and it announced the specific terms for it. "We're confident that this separation will benefit Time Warner and Time Warner Cable stockholders," TW chairman and CEO Jeff Bewkes said.

Finally, News Corp. swapped its stake in satellite giant DirecTV to Liberty mainly out of fear, Maffei said, as it wanted to buy back the firm's stake in News Corp. and was worried about the cable industry's triple-play bundle more than seems necessary in retrospect.

Maffei also again called a Dish and DirecTV merger "unlikely" at this stage, pointing to a recent flip in valuation per-subscriber in DirecTV's favor.

Plus, "I just don't see (Dish chairman and CEO) Charlie (Ergen) as a seller," he said.
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