I also asked Maffei about Liberty’s possible interest in AOL, the unit that is in the process of being spun off from Time Warner . Liberty controlled Time Warner shares worth roughly $660 million as of the end of March and has always favored tax free transactions in which it can swap ownership stakes like that one for operating businesses.
It seems unlikely Liberty would try and make a move now, though after AOL is spun it becomes a great deal more unlikely. When I asked Maffei about AOL he acknowledged Liberty has had “positive” discussions with Time Warner regarding AOL (see clip).
As for the main event: the merging of Liberty Entertainment into Direct TV ( a company for which John Malone will no longer control the right to block a deal) , Maffei had little to offer about what is constant speculation that the company will eventually be sold to either AT&T or Verizon .
As part of that complex transaction, Liberty will create a new stock that will largely track the performance of its Starz network. The market is currently attributing little value to Starz, which like many of the other “movie channels” may need to alter its business model in years ahead given the expiration of programming deals with the movie studios and the cost of those deals.