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The Biggest Streaming Media Mergers and Acquisitions of 2015
April, 04th 2016

All types of media saw significant consolidation in 2015, reinforcing and accelerating a trend that started in 2014. Whether it was Amazon acquiring the Washington Post, or Verizon picking up AOL, 2015 was a banner year for old and new media to morph in to mobile- and video-centric media.

Looking at the big picture, the number of mergers and acquisitions in three key spaces—digital media, information, and technology—increased almost 25 percent in the first 6 months of 2015 compared to the same period for 2014.

According to investment bank Coady Diemar Partners, “the total number of these deals increased to 1,243 in the first half of 2015, up from 1,000 during the same period in 2014” but the value of mergers and acquisitions overall fell by almost 23 percent year over year to just shy of $100 billion. The company says this is “primarily due to a decrease in the number of deals equal to or greater than $1 billion.”

Let’s look at the top mergers and acquisitions for 2015 in digital media, and their bearing on the streaming media landscape.

[Editor's Note: You'll note that two of the biggest acquistions of 2015 aren't mentioned in this article. Click the links to read our coverage of Amazon Web Services' purchase of Elemental Technologies for a reported $500 million and Ericsson's acquisition of Envivio for $125 million.]

Verizon Acquires AOL, Which Acquires Millennial
This string of mergers reshaped the landscape in a small way, or at least gave AOL another lease on life. The once-infamous internet service provider was almost as well-known for its annoying past marketing tactics as it had been for the ill-fated merger more than a decade ago that saw it placed under the Time Warner umbrella until saner heads prevailed.

So bad was that initial merger that a Fortune columnist mentioned it last year as a classic example of the transient advantage.

“The business was up against a phenomenon I refer to as transient advantage,” wrote Rita Gunther McGrath, a Columbia Business School professor of business strategy. According to McGrath, the transient advantage is, well, fleeting, “namely when a combination of capabilities that at one point made a firm a leader, erodes and is replaced by the next form of competitive advantage.”

McGrath pointed out that AOL’s online presence was strong, in fact stronger than any presence that Time Warner had been able to build, so the merger made initial sense. That might be a warning to Verizon, though, as its acquisition of AOL, completed in mid-2015, was pitched as a way to allow Verizon to push much more rapidly into the realm of over-the-top (OTT) and mobile video content.

“This acquisition supports our strategy to provide a cross-screen connection for consumers, creators and advertisers to deliver that premium customer experience,” Lowell McAdam, Verizon chairman and CEO, said in a prepared statement.

“We are excited at the prospect of charting a new course together in the digitally connected world,” McAdam said. “At Verizon, we’ve been strategically investing in emerging technology, including Verizon Digital Media Services and OTT, that taps into the market shift to digital content and advertising. AOL’s advertising model aligns with this approach, and the advertising platform provides a key tool for us to develop future revenue streams.”

With the ink barely dry on the AOL-Verizon deal, AOL itself announced that it was acquiring Millennial, a mobile ad platform that AOL hopes to use to augment its own digital mobile ad platform offering. Millennial had stayed independent, then gone through its own IPO in 2012 before acquiring a number of small mobile ad platforms. While the company had raised $130 million and was briefly valued at around $2 billion, it fell prey to industry consolidation. AOL’s final purchase price of Millennial was just over $200 million, when the acquisition was completed in late October 2015.

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