While we generally don’t report on the ins-and-outs of the business world, recent news about MGM is certainly worth talking about in the Stargate community. In 2020 it’s looking not entirely unrealistic that the storied Hollywood studio — and with it the Stargate TV and film franchise — could end up under new ownership.
We’re not talking about the studio selling off the rights to Stargate. Instead, the richest company in the world appears to be interested in acquiring MGM and its library of assets.
The Wall Street Journal reported last month that Apple has been in preliminary conversations with both Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and also the Pac-12 Conference (the western collegiate athletic group). Both would offer the company ways to expand the programming depth and audience reach of its new streaming service, Apple TV+, which launched in November.
A possible deal with MGM Holdings, Inc. could involve portions or even all of the company.
The Hollywood Reporter followed up with a report this week, suggesting that members of MGM’s board — who have thus far been resistant to the idea of selling — might now be open to changing their minds.
APPLE NEEDS SHOWS
Apple is worth over $1 trillion and is flush with cash — an estimated $250 billion, according to one Wall Street analyst. MGM could command $10 billion, which would be a hefty investment for sure. But it may be one that Apple is willing to make in order to energize its costly venture into the entertainment space.
Apple TV+ debuted with original shows like Jason Momoa’s See and Jennifer Aniston’s The Morning Show. Critics haven’t been all that kind to either — but more importantly, as Observer.com notes, Apple has not yet hit the cultural zeitgeist the way that its competitors have.
It’s most immediate competitor today may be fellow newcomer Disney+, which … well, Baby Yoda.
Apple TV+ debuted at $4.99 per month, with nine original shows and a need to build a subscriber base in order to compete in this rapidly changing, a la carte world of streaming entertainment.
Both Apple TV+ and Disney+ come with backing from big companies that can afford to go all-in, in the hopes of building the next Netflix or Hulu. But Apple has to strike now, lest it find itself in a distant fifth or sixth place in the streaming world when NBC’s Peacock and WarnerMedia’s HBO Max launch later this year.
‘WE WANT STARGATE’
Stargate’s own portion of the MGM library boasts three films and three television series, together running 17 combined seasons and more than 350 episodes. And the fan base for the sci-fi franchise remains active and vocal, rallying (more than once) for the studio to give the green light to a new, in-canon project.
One obvious outlet for MGM’s content — including a fourth Stargate show — is Epix, the premium cable channel that the company bought outright more $1 billion in 2017. A number of niche series have found success there, including a TV adaptation of 1995’s Get Shorty. We mentioned Epix in 2018, as a potential new home for a Stargate show.
Instead Stargate got a 10-part Web series, in 2018’s Stargate Origins. Its home was Stargate Command, MGM’s own experimental venture into building a first-party streaming platform. The studio announced this past October that it was shutting down the service at the end of 2019.
An acquisition of MGM would put Stargate in the hands of a company hungry for hits. And Apple has already demonstrated a friendliness toward science fiction and fantasy. Set 600 in the future, See came with a reputed price tag of $240 million for two seasons (nearly $15 million per episode). Also premiering last November was Ronald D. Moore’s alternate history space exploration series For All Mankind. And Apple is also developing a television adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s class Foundation series, and a revival of Steven Spielberg’s classic anthology series Amazing Stories.
But the new service doesn’t have a popular, fandom friendly, outer space franchise to hang its hat on. Disney+ has Star Wars and Marvel. CBS All Access has Star Trek. Now even Amazon has The Expanse.
One more reason MGM might be motivated to sell: the company is highly leveraged, according to THR. This means that while its assets are highly valued it also holds a substantial amount of debt, and selling to Apple (Comcast, Sony, and Viacom-CBS have also been floated as potential suitors) would offer stakeholders an immediate return on their investment.
The studio owns the likes of James Bond, Rocky, Tomb Raider, Legally Blonde, and a deep library of thousands of titles that for years has been coveted by investors and suitors. Its television business also goes back decades, featuring not only jewels like Stargate but more recent hits including Vikings, The Handmaid’s Tale, and a host of non-scripted programs, such as Shark Tank.
But MGM has also relied on numerous partnerships, both in production and distribution, in order to finance its more expensive pictures and manage its risk. This practice has become all the more visible since MGM’s 2010 bankruptcy.
That risk aversion, more than anything, might explain why Stargate hasn’t yet made a comeback — in an era where just about every IP from the past generation is finding new life somewhere.
But if Apple or another company were to acquire MGM, driven by a pressing need to fill its own outlet with marquee original programming? That’s when the abundance of caution goes out the window.
WILL MGM SELL?
THR‘s reporting suggests that any decision on the part of MGM’s board won’t come until after the April release of No Time to Die, the twenty-fifth installment of the Bond franchise. Execs may be banking on a box office success to put the studio’s valuation in the strongest possible position.
Should Apple come to own the Stargate franchise one day, it would close a poetic circle. When Stargate SG-1 was cancelled in 2006, it was actually Apple that was in talks to rescue the show for an eleventh season. Serious talks were underway to make SG-1 an iTunes original series, until Syfy Channel flexed its non-compete clause in the network’s deal with MGM.
Might Apple end up becoming the franchise’s new home after all?
We’re keeping our eyes open for further developments on the business front that might affect the Stargate franchise. Keep it locked on GateWorld for the latest!