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Paramount to sell Simon & Schuster to KKR for $1.62 billion

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The publishing offices of Simon and Schuster in New York.
Amy T. Zielinski | Newscast | Universal Images Group | Getty Images
Paramount Global agreed to sell book publisher Simon & Schuster to private equity giant KKR for $1.62 billion, the media company said Monday as it reported earnings.

KKR’s entry into the book publishing space comes months after Paramount scrapped its initial agreement to sell Simon & Schuster to rival Penguin Random House — which was valued at $2.2 billion — after a federal judge rejected the merger and it raised red flags with the government.

Paramount’s stock was up nearly 4% in after-hours trading.

Paramount executives said during Monday’s earnings call that the proceeds of the Simon & Schuster sale would be used in the company’s ongoing effort to pay down debt.

The $200 million termination fee Paramount received from Penguin when that deal was scrapped, along with the money saved when the company cut its dividend, will also go toward lowering leverage, CFO Naveen Chopra said Monday.

Paramount has also been considering offloading a majority stake in BET Media Group, the owner of the BET cable network and studio, VH1 and the streaming service BET+, CNBC previously reported. Paramount CEO Bob Bakish said on Monday’s call that he wouldn’t comment on any specific moves, but said the company was open to divesting, acquiring and partnering to drive shareholder value.

Paramount reported revenue of $7.62 billion for the quarter, down about 2% year-over-year, as the company’s TV segment was once again dragged down by lower advertising revenue.

For the quarter ended June 30, Paramount reported a net loss of $299 million, or 48 cents a share, compared with earnings of $419 million, or 62 cents per share, in the same period last year.

Media companies have been grappling with a soft advertising market, particularly affecting the traditional TV business.

Advertising revenue in the TV segment fell 10%. Revenue in the TV business revenue overall dropped 2% to $5.16 billion.

Executives said Monday that the advertising revenue on traditional TV during the third quarter would be similar to the first half of the year, but they expect it to improve during the fourth quarter. Advertising has been weak as businesses worry about the prospect of a recession.

In this photo illustration, Paramount+ (Paramount Plus) logo is seen on a smartphone against its website in the background.
Pavlo Gonchar | SOPA Images | LightRocket | Getty Images

Advertising revenue on digital platforms like Paramount+ and the free, ad-supported Pluto, is expected to grow, however. Media companies have been leaning on advertising to reach profitability for their streaming businesses as subscriber growth has stagnated.

Advertising revenue for the streaming business rose 21%.

Paramount said its streaming segment continued to grow. Paramount+ had about 61 million subscribers by the end of the quarter, and subscription revenue grew more than 47% to $1.22 billion.

Paramount+ recently combined with Showtime’s streaming app, and increased its prices.

The price increase is driving average revenue per user and overall streaming revenue, and the company will fully see the benefits of the change next year, Chopra said Monday.

Raising prices, in addition to adding ad-supported tiers, has allowed media companies to push streaming businesses toward profitability. Chopra noted pricing and tier changes will also roll out internationally, and the company believes that it has room to raise prices over time due to its strong portfolio of content.

Meanwhile, revenue for Paramount’s film business fell 39% to $831 million, since last year the period included the release of “Top Gun: Maverick,” the highest grossing domestic release in 2022.

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