Warren Buffett and 'Big Short' investor Michael Burry have shown their cards in the streaming war, courtesy of big bets and major selloffs

Big Short investor Michael Burry seems to be liking what he’s hearing from streaming giants, while legendary investor Warren Buffett is unconvinced. At least, that’s if their stock filings are anything to go by.

On Wednesday, Burry’s Scion Asset Management revealed in an SEC filing that it had added 375,000 shares in Warner Brothers Discovery to its portfolio during the final quarter of 2023.

Burry—best known for calling the 2008 property crash—got a foot in the door well before the media giant announced an unprecedented coalition with two other streaming giants: ESPN and Fox.

The trio confirmed earlier this month they would be launching a new sports streaming service in the fall of 2024, which will include content from all the major professional sports leagues and college sports.

However the news, unfortunately for Burry, has done little to boost the business’s share price. The stock price for CNN’s parent company is down 36.6% over the past year and 16.5% in the year to date.

A hint of why Burry is interested in Warner Bros might have been dropped during the company’s Q3 2023 earnings call. The business posted a minimal revenue increase of just 1% to $9.9 billion, with advertising revenue also sinking by as much as 50% in some areas of the business.

But the update also highlighted a renewed interest from consumers as well as investment in new products. The company posted its highest-grossing film in history with Barbie raking in nearly $1.5 billion across the global box office.

Additionally, while other movie franchises have begun to lose steam, Warner Bros said The Nun II (the 6th film in The Conjuring universe) crossed $250 million in the global box office, making the series the highest-grossing in the horror genre of all time.

Additionally, Warner Bros Discovery CEO David Zaslav said newly-launched products like news streaming service CNN Max were showing early signs of increased engagement and lower churn.

Paramount problems

On the other end of the spectrum, Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway confirmed this week it was paring back its holdings in Paramount Global.

The Oracle of Omaha’s disclosure showed the sale of 30.4 million shares, approximately a third of its previous holding, but doubled down on oil company Chevron.

The news Berkshire is backing away from the multinational mass media business appeared to spook other investors, with its share price dropping 6.7% to $12.31 following the announcement.

Paramount hasn’t enjoyed the best time on the NASDAQ over the past 12 months. At the time of writing the company’s share price has slumped by more than 46% since this time last year, and is down 8.4% for the year to date.

The company is also facing turbulent times. The majority of the voting stock in Paramount is held by the Redstone family, led by Shari Redstone, who are currently courting a raft of investors who are weighing offers to buy the Paramount’s parent company, National Amusements.

Bloomberg reports that among the options for the Redstones may be Apollo Global Management, one of the world’s largest money management companies and investor in independent film studio Legendary Entertainment.

Elsewhere film and TV producer David Ellison is weighing an offer that would see National Amusements merged with his company Skydance Media, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Whether either of the bids is made and accepted remains to be seen, but the current c-suite at Paramount is already having to make some tough decisions. Citing sources, Reuters reported Tuesday the business is laying of 800 people, though the business declined to comment.

The business is also considering a Disney-Fox-ESPN-like ‘bundle’ deal with Apple, the Wall Street Journal reports, which would see Apple TV and Paramount plus—which has thus far struggled to turn a profit—join forces.

Despite the upheaval, Buffett, like Burry, clearly sees green shoots for historic media businesses attempting to navigate a streaming new age—after all, he still owns tens of millions of shares. His faith may be justified: CBS, one of Paramount’s many offerings, drew a record 123.7 million American viewers for the Super Bowl on Sunday, according to Nielsen estimates.

The record-breaking figure makes the Kansas City Chiefs’ defeat over the San Francisco 49ers the most-watched event since astronauts walked on the moon in 1969.—or, by other measurements, ever

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