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Paramount Existentialism & More Goldmanology

Shari Redstone’s Paramount Global now has a market value of $9.75 billion.
Shari Redstone’s Paramount Global now has a market value of $9.75 billion. Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images
William D. Cohan
August 20, 2023

Earlier this week, the Journal reported that Paramount Global was pausing its sale of BET, the historic cable asset and brand, presumably because the bid-ask spread was too wide. Shari Redstone may be increasingly eager to strip down the franken-asset she created from her twin family heirlooms only a few years ago—over the long-held views of her father, Sumner Redstone, and my own advice, as loyal readers well know—but she won’t sell cheap, apparently. My partner Matt Belloni recently noted that all may not be lost—and that Tyler Perry, as I mentioned a few weeks back, remains in the hunt for the division. Perry already owns 25 percent of BET’s streaming business and that puts him in, or near, the driver seat, if he wants to take the whole thing, or so at least you would think. 

The problem seems to be that Paramount Global is asking around $3 billion for the business, or roughly 9x its 2022 EBITDA of $325 million. Perry, balking at the purchase price, reportedly offered $2 billion. And I can’t say I blame him. Nine times EBITDA for a falling knife sounds pretty pricey to me, especially when Paramount Global just sold Simon & Schuster to KKR for 6x EBITDA. There’s not much difference, really, from a buyer’s perspective, between KKR and Tyler Perry. They are both “financial buyers” looking to pay a fair but not an aggressive price for a business. You could argue, in fact, that S&S’s prospects are brighter than BET’s, given the ongoing decline of linear TV, and so perhaps Tyler should be paying less than 6x EBITDA for BET. And that’s probably why Paramount Global is acting like it will keep BET now instead of trying to sell it. On the other hand, if BET is really becoming just another wasting media asset, Paramount Global would be wise to sell it at any reasonable price and use the proceeds to pay down more of its $13.5 billion of net debt.