Byron Allen Says: I’m Ready To Buy ABC When Disney’s Ready To Sell

Byron Allen on CNBC
Byron Allen on CNBC’s ‘Power Lunch’ (Image credit: CNBC)

Byron Allen, who put in a $10 billion bid for The Walt Disney Co.’s traditional TV assets, said he’s ready to buy when Disney is ready to sell.

Allen, speaking on CNBC, said that he has spoken with Disney CEO Bob Iger, but Disney has indicated that it is not yet ready to sell the assets, which include ABC, local TV stations and cable networks like FX and National Geographic, and it might decide not to.

But Allen said that when Disney does decide to sell, obtaining financing for the $10 billion deal will not be a problem. “There’s plenty of capital to buy assets like this,” he said.

The real problem with any deal involving Disney’s television assets is obtaining government approvals and Allen Media Group is more likely to be able to pass regulatory muster than other potential buyers, he said.

“A lot of folks out there have plenty of cash, but they can’t do it,” Allen said. “I don’t think the tech companies can get it done. Tech companies can’t buy a lemonade stand. I don’t think Washington, D.C., is going to roll out the red carpet for them. A lot of the media companies are too big to do it and I don’t think D.C. will be supportive of private equity and hedge funds buying these types of assets.”

Allen said ABC and the local stations were important assets because so many people still get their news from the network and its stations.

“They’re going to be really careful with who they approve and it’s going to be an owner-operator like me,“ he said. “I’ve invested a little over a billion dollars buying ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox affiliates around the country. Local news is very important.”

Allen noted that Iger, who indicated in July that the television assets may not be “core” to Disney, has not yet decided to sell them. 

“Bob and I have been talking for some time,” Allen said. “We said we’re ready to go when you’re ready to go. Now they may never be ready … but if they are serious about doing it, we’re ready to go.”

Even if Disney decides not to sell, Allen said there were other television assets that are likely to go on the block.

“Folks are going to need to sell so they can fund their streaming initiatives,” he said. “We believe in linear and streaming. We’re seeing something we’ve never seen before. These 100-year-old legacy companies are having to reinvent themselves. They’re trying to build a new airplane while they’re flying their old airplane mid-air.”

Allen said the traditional media assets are still valuable and that he would be able to run them in a more efficient manner.

"I'm a firm believer that Americans are never going to wake up and say: ‘I don’t want local news. I don’t want college football. I don’t want NFL football,’ ” Allen said. “So I’m highly confident that these local television stations are going to have a great deal of value well into the next decade.”  

Allen added that he started his company from his kitchen table. “I’ve had to learn how to produce things very efficiently and I’ve been able to take certain assets and spend less to achieve more,” he said. “So I think we can do quite well if given the opportunity to buy an asset like this.”

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.