April 14, 2024


Paramount Global and David Ellison‘s Skydance Media have set an exclusive negotiating period for merger talks, Deadline has learned, a sign that things are moving forward after months of speculation. Paramount won’t engage with other parties on a deal for 30 days.

Deal talk exploded in December when it first surfaced that Skydance was interested. David Zaslav’s Warner Bros. Discovery was in the mix then too, and private equity giant Apollo Global has been in and out, most recently with an $11 billion bid for the Paramount studio. Redstone, however, would prefer to sell the company intact, not in pieces.

Paramount Global’s finances (debt, streaming losses, negative free cash flow) are less than stellar and it’s a smaller company than its main rivals at a complex time in the media business. CEO Bob Bakish has said the company will entertain all offers. Paramount did a big round of layoffs in February. It’s also been selling off non-core assets

Last week, big ratings agency S&P lowered the company’s bonds to junk status, cited the toll of ongoing pay-TV declines and the shift toward a more competitive and more uncertain streaming model.

Paramount Global is controlled by National Amusements (NAI), the Redstone family holding company, which is in turn controlled by Shari Redstone. The Skydance deal would require two-steps: first the acquisition of NAI, and then merging Skydance and Paramount.

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