How Do Porcupines Mate? Very Carefully…
The New York Times’ Jonathan Mahler and Ravi Somaiya write about the dance Time Warner and 21st Century Fox are doing with Vice…
People familiar with the negotiations say the talks with Time Warner have made the most progress. It could buy a large, minority stake in Vice, and give Vice control of the cable channel HLN, or they could operate the network as a joint venture. The deal would give Vice a 24-hour news network that reaches more than 100 million households. Time Warner would get a potential solution to a channel that has struggled to find an audience.
But the companies remain at odds over how much influence Time Warner would have over Vice and HLN, said the people familiar with the talks, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are continuing and delicate. The two also disagree about the total value of Vice. Time Warner contends it is worth about $1.5 billion; Vice says it is worth at least $2.5 billion.
These people also cited another matter. In March, Mr. Smith delivered a profanity-laced assessment of CNN — also owned by Time Warner — to The Daily News in New York, calling the network “a disaster.” The president of CNN, Jeff Zucker, was furious, a Time Warner official said. If Vice were to take over HLN, Mr. Zucker and Mr. Smith would be colleagues.
Among its other suitors, Vice has the strongest relationship with Fox, which last year bought a 5 percent stake in the company for $70 million. James Murdoch is on Vice’s board.
But a Fox deal faces hurdles, too. The company does not have a logical single channel to give Vice, which is what Mr. Smith most wants. “You can’t be MTV without a TV network,” he said.
An agreement might instead call for Vice to program blocks of time on a few Fox networks. And, of course, Fox’s defining news brand, Fox News, is not popular among Vice’s core audience.