Roku (NASDAQ:ROKU) didn’t have a problem spurring potential suitors when it was a lowly private company, but now that it’s a successful market darling, it seems as if everybody is playing matchmaker. The Information argues that Roku would look good on the arm of Disney(NYSE:DIS), Walmart (NYSE:WMT), and possibly even AT&T (NYSE:T).
Smoking out suitors for Roku isn’t new. Needham analyst Laura Martin also played up Roku as a buyout candidate when she boosted her price target on the streaming video pioneer last week. It’s easy to see why media giants lacking a dominant platform for digital distribution want the top dog in this booming space, but why would Roku clock out when things are going so well? Let’s see why Disney, Walmart, and AT&T aren’t going to buy Roku.
The timing would be lousy for a Disney purchase of Roku. It just completed the largest acquisition in its history earlier today. It’s going to take some time and focus to work all of those juicy content assets it took in overnight into its bloodstream.
The closing of the Fox deal also means that Disney now has a controlling 60% stake in Hulu. Along with the highly anticipated launch of its Disney+ streaming service later this year, does Disney really need to own Roku? If Roku’s success is largely the result of its agnosticism — something that distinguishes it from the media giants with subsidized gadgetry — wouldn’t that end if it were owned by the company behind ESPN+, Disney+, and a majority stake in Hulu? Next.
Walmart has spent so much money in pursuit of becoming dot-com chic. Jet.com and Flipkart are two of its largest buys, but it also purchased Vudu in 2010 to gain a foothold in digital video. It seemed to be mounting a bigger push this year before reportedly scaling back its efforts.
Walmart makes more sense as a potential buyer of Roku than Disney. It’s hungrier than Disney, and it has a history of cutting big checks to make up for lost time. A deal is still unlikely to happen, especially with Roku rolling. Shares of Roku have more than quadrupled since going public 18 months ago. It’s not bowing out of the publicly traded game without a huge payday, and that’s something that even a pay-to-be-cool addict like Walmart may be unwilling to do.
The focus of The Information‘s article are Disney and Walmart, but it does also offer up AT&T as buyer. The telco giant is a long shot here given its burdensome debt load, but after its recent purchase of Time Warner, it’s easy to see why the parent company behind HBO and DirecTV would want Roku.
DirecTV is losing subscribers to its satellite television service at an alarming pace, and that’s where Roku — with its audience surging 40% to top 27 million over the past year — comes into play. WarnerMedia’s inevitable streaming service would get a leg up on the competition if it’s actively promoted through Roku’s operating system, but — again — this would also eat away at the platform’s advantage.
Let’s stop trying to sling Cupid arrows at Roku. You can’t fix — or fix up — what isn’t broken.
Walt Disney Co. shares rose $0.12 (+0.11%) in after-hours trading Friday. Year-to-date, Walt Disney Company (The) (DIS - Get Rating) has declined -1.30%, versus a 12.23% rise in the benchmark S&P 500 index during the same period.
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