Alliance Atlantis taking its enviable assets to market

Alliance Atlantis' statement this morning that it is 'exploring strategic initiatives' added up to a terse 144 words. But it was enough to lob a bombshell into the Canadian media and business landscapes.

Who might buy the little Canuck company that grew into a conglomerate to be reckoned with? ‘Certainly, it would be an incredible acquisition for Canwest, should they be able to afford it,’ M2 Universal president Hugh Dow speculated to MiC early this morning.

He surmises that if Canwest were to buy Atlantis Alliance, the resulting juggernaut ‘would be an absolute natural with Canwest’s strength in conventional and perhaps their lack of strength in the specialty area. And if Canwest is going to be in a position to compete, given the pending Bell Globemedia situation, they’re going to have to bulk up – and this would be one way of doing that.’

Regardless of who ultimately purchases all or part of Alliance Atlantis, and what the end result might mean in terms of attractive venues for marketing messages, Dow has high praise for what the plucky company has brought to the mediaverse as it evolved over the past two decades. ‘Especially with their focus on specialty, in order to grow their business, they’ve had to be innovative and extremely creative in terms of how they’ve developed relationships with advertisers. They very definitely built their business on that.’

Dow also gives Alliance Atlantis top marks for boldness, particularly in having the vision to acquire and help grow what he describes as the company’s ‘crown jewel’ – the seemingly unstoppable CSI franchise – which the Toronto-HQ’d company co-produces and distributes.

At the end of the day, Steve Arnovitch, investment manager at Starcom Mediavest Group, tells MiC, what the sale of Alliance Atlantis will mean to marketers and their media strategists ‘depends on who buys them’ and where broadcast advertising ranks on its (or their) priority list. ‘Obviously, consolidation is happening out there now and there can be synergies realized with whoever buys Alliance Atlantis and its current properties and brands. But consolidation doesn’t always help clients, meaning there are just less entities you can leverage.’

Alliance Atlantis owns 13 specialty TV channels: BBC Canada, BBC Kids, Discovery Health Channel, Fine Living, Food Network Canada, HGTV Canada, History Television, IFC Canada, Life Network, National Geographic Canada, Showcase, Showcase Action and Showcase Diva. The company also indirectly holds a 51 per cent limited partnership interest in Motion Picture Distribution LP, a major distributor of motion pictures in Canada, the UK and Spain.