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Maybe it’s just the time of day but looking at Liberty Media’s (NSDQ: LINTA) Q1 earnings and listening to the call is making my head hurt. While thorn-in-the-side Barry Diller plans to simplify his complex creation by spinning off four companies, the even-more-complex company John Malone built has opted for the virtual route. It’s now up to three tracking stocks that are supposed to help investors amd analysts make more sense of it all and literally follow certain businesses more carefully: Liberty Interactive Media, (QVC, interest in IAC (NSDQ: IACI), and other e-commerce businesses), newly reclassified Liberty Capital and now Liberty Entertainment, created with the acquisition of the majority interest in DirecTV (NYSE: DTV) and three regional nets, and including Starz Entertainment.
IAC resolution?: Asked about the situation during Q&A, CEO Greg Maffei said a resolution is possible. Would Home Shopping Network be one solution? “We remain open to a transaction if it can be done at an attractive price … if you look at the operating structure it isn’t apparent there are a lot of cost efficiencies.” He said the company hasn’t done internal due diligence on HSN yet, which is its own clue. A side note: Liberty lists the value of certain holdings year over year and IAC dropped to $1.73 billion from $1.86 billion even thought Liberty bought more stock. Then again, that court fight in Delaware wasn’t exactly good for share value.
Some financials: — Liberty Interactive revenue rose 10 percent to $1.9 billion.
— Liberty Entertainment revenue was up 11 percent, to $310 million. Starz Entertainment revenue was $273 million, compared with $265 million last year. Subscriber numbers were up year over year and sequentially for Starz and Encore.
Competition from new Viacom (NYSE: VIA) pay TV JV: This came up in prepared remarks and again in questions as analysts try to figure out what the recently announced Viacom-MGM-Lionsgate JV. CEO Robert Clasen said he doesn’t take the competition lightly. He stressed Starz’s own increased emphasis on original programming, its new Overture Films studio and deals with Disney (NYSE: DIS) and Sony (NYSE: SNE) that run into the next decade, as well as a library deal with MGM. He also talked about the “massive” distribution a new pay service would need to be successful but acknowledged that one or two good distribution partners could make the difference.
Time Warner: Now that News Corp (NYSE: NWS) is out of the way with the DirecTV swap, analysts want to know what LIberty is going to do with the rest of that stock. Maffei: “We’ll take our chances for the moment on TWX stock” but if something interesting comes along …