NBC Universal acquisition of Electronic Arts fell apart at the last second
Another major change to the gaming landscape was very nearly on the horizon.
The biggest stories of 2022 in the gaming world have been mergers and acquisitions. It feels like every other week, another major publisher or group of developers have been picked up by a larger corporation. As it turns out, on top of the acquisitions that have already happened, there's one that apparently did not come to fruition and that's NBC Universal allegedly making a bid for Electronic Arts.
According to an article in Puck (registration required), Comcast/NBC Universal CEO Brian Roberts was on the verge of making a major merger that would have put the mega corporation into the gaming world. However, the proposed deal with Electronic Arts never went through.
Here's what author Dylan Byers had to say about the matter:
Back in January, after news of the Microsoft-Activision deal broke, I noted that Roberts had few good options left: ViacomCBS, with a market cap of $21 billion, was too small to deliver meaningful scale to NBCUniversal; and, regardless, any potential acquisition would have required a divestiture of overlapping assets like the CBS broadcast station. The other option, I wrote, was Electronic Arts, the formidable gaming company, which had a $40 billion market cap at the time that has since fallen to $36 billion. While not as big as Activision, the Redwood City-based company would have given NBCUniversal a significant stake in the gaming world. An acquisition of EA would also have created opportunities for synergies between NBCUniversal’s vast catalog of sports rights and Electronic Arts’ popular EA Sports franchise, including Madden.
As it turns out, Roberts saw this logic as well. In the wake of the Microsoft-Activision deal, Roberts approached Electronic Arts C.E.O. Andrew Wilson with a proposal to spin off NBCUniversal and merge the media and gaming giants, four sources with knowledge of the proposal told me. The general terms of the proposal, which lawyers and bankers for both sides negotiated for several weeks, would have seen the Roberts family take majority control of the combined entity. In the configuration most seriously discussed, the company would have been run by Wilson. If the deal went through on those terms, NBCUniversal C.E.O. Jeff Shell would likely have been elevated to another role at Comcast, one source with knowledge of the plans said. Shell was involved in deal discussions, I am told.
The proposal ultimately fell apart within the last month due to disagreements over price and structure. Jennifer Khoury, the chief communications officer for Comcast, declined to comment. Electronic Arts spokesperson John Reseburg said his company would not comment "on rumors and speculation relating to M&A," and added: "We are proud to be operating from a position of strength and growth, with a portfolio of amazing games, built around powerful IP, made by incredibly talented teams, and a network of more than half a billion players. We see a very bright future ahead."
If there's a major player in gaming, chances are that it's probably been mentioned as a subject of a potential merger in the last few months. This all comes in the wake of the multitude of deals that have happened since January. That includes Microsoft acquiring Activision Blizzard, Sony acquiring Bungie, and Embracer Group picking up a bulk of Square Enix's North American developers.
This probably won't be the last we hear of potential acquisitions, whether they ultimately go through or not. It's a volatile gaming world right now and Shacknews will continue to watch over it for the latest updates.
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