AEG Live is looking to recoup the $30 million-plus it spent producing Michael Jackson's unrealized concert tour, and now it's selling off the rights to the rehearsal footage. Sources tell me that Sony Pictures Entertainment has bid $50 million to acquire the distribution rights. I'm also told that other studios, including Universal and 20th Century Fox bid in this price range, with the expectation that the final bid will be somewhere north of $50 million, but not too much higher than that.
It makes sense that Sony would pick up these rights. Sony Music and the Michael Jackson Family Trust co-owns Sony ATV Music Publishing. It includes half a million song copyrights, including a valuable Beatles library, and everyone from Mary J. Blige and Neil Diamond to the Black Eyed Peas. That's not Sony's only partnership with Michael Jackson: Sony owns the rights to some of Jackson's most popular songs, including "Off the Wall," "Thriller," "Bad," and "Dangerous" and "HIStory."
The buzz in Hollywood is that it would be very challenging and expensive for any studio other than Sony to acquire the necessary rights to Jackson's songs to effectively produce a film around the rehearsal footage.
Based on my reporting it seems that Sony will win the rights to the AEG footage for somewhere between $50 and $60 million by Thursday. You can bet they're already thinking about how to make a movie around that footage and get it out as soon as possible, while the King of Pop is still top of mind.
Questions? Comments? MediaMoney@cnbc.com