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Paramount calls off BET sale, after range of bids

Aug 17, 2023

Singer Muni Long at the BET awards. Photo: Paras Griffin/Getty Images for BET

Paramount dropped its plans to sell a majority stake in BET, Axios confirmed, putting the future of the media group's cable networks up in the air.

Why it matters: A BET sale had been seen as a key part of Shari Redstone's plans to slim down the company ahead of a potential sale, which has been anticipated for years.

Driving the news: Paramount informed bidders Wednesday night that it was no longer going forward with a sale, the Wall Street Journal first reported.

  • The company decided that a sale of a majority stake in BET Group — which includes BET, BET Studios, VH1 and the streaming service BET+ — "would not meaningfully deleverage its balance sheet," according to the WSJ.
  • Bidders included Tyler Perry (who already owns a stake in BET+), Byron Allen, Sean "Diddy" Combs, Shaquille O'Neal and 50 Cent, with Group Black and private equity firm HarborView Partners also involved.
  • Paramount bought BET in 2000 for $2.3 billion and had been looking to get at least $3 billion. Bids ranged between $2 and $3 billion, with Allen's being the highest at around $2.7 billion, a separate source told Axios.

The big picture: Paramount has been selling "non-core" assets so it can put more money into streaming and pay down its debt load.

  • Paramount agreed to sell Simon & Schuster to KKR for $1.62 billion last week.
  • In recent years, Paramount has sold some of its real estate assets including CBS Studios in California and CBS' old New York headquarters. The company also sold CNET in 2020.
  • Paramount has also been trying to sell a majority stake in Noggin, its learning-focused streaming service for preschoolers, since April.

Of note: Paramount rebuffed a $3 billion offer earlier this year for cable and streaming network Showtime from a group led by its old boss David Nevins, the WSJ reported in February.

The bottom line: The failure to offload BET could be a harbinger for other media companies that are looking to get out of the cable TV business, as those assets only figure to appear less attractive as cord-cutting continues to erode that business.

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