Billionaire John Malone, owner of Liberty Media, plans to acquire iHeartRadio, leaving the Department of Justice wondering if it should intervene.
According to the New York Post, sources say that lawyers for the DOJ are scheduled to look into the merger and any potential anti-competitive implications that may follow during January and February. Over the past few weeks, Liberty, which owns SiriusXM and the streaming music service Pandora, looked into buying iHeartRadio, expanding its 4.8 percent stake in the broadcast owner of 858 broadcast stations. However, Liberty reportedly will not make a move on the company behind the radio giant until the agency finalizes their decision on either acquisition.
If Sirius and iHeartRadio merge, traditional radio could be at risk. Holland & Knight lawyer David Kully, who oversaw radio mergers for the DOJ from 2013 to 2016, told the Post that his biggest concern with Sirius and iHeartRadio’s merger would be the reduced competition. He noted that unhappy broadcast customers could simply switch to Sirius and have to pay a subscription fee. Sirius explained in their 2019 annual report that traditional radio “may reduce the likelihood that customers would be willing to pay for our subscription services.”
At this time, sources say Liberty is waiting on regulators to approve the acquisition before pursuing iHeartRadio further.
Liberty currently owns a 33 percent stake in Live Nation. Malone has already caught attention this past month after the DOJ investigated Live Nation’s merger with Ticketmaster for anti-competitive practices. The investigation settled after the promoter giant agreed not to stifle competition against venues not owned by Ticketmaster, extending its 2010 consent decree with Ticketmaster through 2025.