Tech behemoth Amazon is the latest suitor interested in purchasing Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the Hollywood studio that owns the Stargate franchise.
The Information reports and Variety confirms through its own sources that Amazon is weeks into negotiations to purchase the historic studio, for a price tag said to be around $9 billion. Both companies have so far declined to comment.
That means that new projects in the Stargate franchise could eventually find their way to Prime Video, Amazon’s digital streaming service.
MGM is a hot commodity in the new digital streaming gold rush, given the depth of its TV and film library and the variety of IPs (intellectual property) owned by the studio — around 4,000 titles and 17,000 hours of film and television content. In addition to Stargate, MGM’s television arm produces Vikings (for History Channel), The Handmaid’s Tale (for Hulu), Fargo (for FX), and numerous unscripted series such as The Voice, Survivor, and Shark Tank.
On the film side, MGM owns or has significant interest in franchises such as James Bond, Rocky and Creed, Legally Blonde, RoboCop, the Pink Panther, and The Hobbit. The studio also owns the premium cable channel Epix.
READY TO SELL?
Trade publications reported in December that MGM was soliciting offers, formally enlisting a pair of investment banks — Morgan Stanley and LionTree LLC — to advise the company as it explores a potential sale. This followed on the heels of earlier reports that another tech giant, Apple, was in talks to buy the company.
Given that MGM has recently been valued between $5 billion and $6 billion, the high-dollar offer may be a flex on Amazon’s part — both to fend off other buyers and to demonstrate how serious the company is to pick up MGM’s IP-rich film and television library.
It’s also worth noting the common industry speculation that MGM’s board has essentially been working toward the goal of selling the studio since it emerged from bankruptcy more than a decade ago. As the company fell into the hands of is creditors, the intentions were to build back MGM’s value so that they could recoup their investment.
The company’s largest shareholder is Anchorage Capital, whose head Kevin Ulrich runs MGM’s board of directors. Ulrich himself is said to be involved in direct negotiations with Amazon Studios and Prime Video senior VP Mike Hopkins.
Former MGM board chairman Gary Barber was ousted in 2018, reportedly for entering into unsanctioned negotiations with Apple to sell MGM for around $6 billion. The Wall Street Journal reported that Ulrich urged investors at the time to stay the course, saying that in another two to three years he could sell the studio for more than $8 billion.
Given that history, it’s hard to imagine the company’s board passing on a $9 billion offer today. In the intervening years the film business has obviously struggled under COVID lockdown, with MGM’s tentpole James Bond film No Time to Die delayed multiple times. The theatrical release has been pushed once again — to October 8, 2021 — and MGM is hoping for earnings north of $1 billion.
WHAT FATE STARGATE?
The Stargate franchise has been in a holding pattern for three years now, since the Web series Stargate Origins premiered on MGM’s now defunct platform Stargate Command. Brad Wright, who co-created all three live-action TV series in the franchise, has been trying to get a fourth series off the ground since early 2019.
While the potential sale of the studio certainly would not prevent MGM from inking a deal and putting a new show into production now, it could be a factor. Not having the Stargate brand already committed to another outlet could be one more piece in favorable negotiations.
Because MGM produces numerous scripted and nonscripted TV series for various outlets, a purchase by Amazon does not mean that its output would immediately be funneled to Amazon Prime. But with Amazon looking to grow its content offerings and subscriber base, it would be the most logical home for a new Stargate series.
With the prominence of online streaming today, Amazon Prime Video could give a new Stargate series a prominent spot in front of consumers. Amazon has more than 200 million Prime members worldwide, and has stated that 175 million of those streamed Prime Video content in the last year.
And while MGM is a relatively small studio in comparison to media conglomerates like Disney and WarnerMedia, tech and media companies like Amazon, Apple, and Netflix have deep pockets. Because these companies are looking to grab market share in the still young streaming sector, right now they are spending big on content. Amazon spent $11 billion on TV, movies, and music for Prime services in 2020 — an increase of 41 percent over the previous year, according to Variety.
On the fantasy front, Amazon has made a major investment in a new series set in the Lord of the Rings‘ Middle Earth — at an astonishing cost of $465 million, just to build out the world for the first season. But Amazon’s original science fiction offerings have heretofor been slim, or low-profile acquisitions. The one exception to this is The Expanse, which Amazon acquired after the show was cancelled by Syfy Channel. Next year’s sixth season, however, is reportedly the last for the critically acclaimed series (at least for the time being).
2022 may be just the year to revive another big science fiction universe with a built-in, global audience. Stargate fans are more than ready.
We’ll continue to monitor MGM’s status and what it may portend for the Stargate franchise. Keep your browser locked on GateWorld for the very latest.