Media Banker Aryeh Bourkoff Calls Audio More Valuable Than Video, Says Sticking It Out In NYC During Covid Helped Him Score M&A Deals

Aryeh Bourkoff, founder and CEO of independent investment bank LionTree said audio is looking more attractive than video these days as consumers are a bit tapped out on TV.

People have 11 hours a day to spend on leisure time, he insisted during a Q&A at the Tribeca Festival Friday, and if that’s mostly video it’s a problem. “We have gone overboard on video streaming, which is why the rise of audio has happened. We think audio is more valuable these days than video,” he told moderator Stephanie Ruhle during TribecaX, a session that looks at business and entertainment.

The MSNBC anchor — and audience members on a rooftop in downtown Manhattan — were incredulous at the 11-hours stat, but took his point — podcasting has really exploded. “The ear is mightier than the eye” right now, he said.

Bankers are in business to do deals and LionTree is involved in many. Bourkoff, a former longtime UBS media banker, implied more will come in media. DTC is great and growing but requires bulk and innovation or consumers will “churn out.” Streaming companies have to keep growing, adding gaming and other services to keep people engaged. But companies should be careful how they do it.

“If you look at the S&P 500, most companies do one thing well and very few companies do more than one thing well. So conglomerates don’t do well,” he said.

Giant AT&T discovered that, hence the telco’s $43 billion deal last month to unload WarnerMedia only three years after buying it. In a spate of dealmaking, Amazon soon after acquired MGM for $8.45 billion.

Bourkoff has no shortage of clients but said LionsTree’s work on both of those deals — he repped AT&T in the WarnerMedia/Discovery deal and MGM in its sale to Amazon — others opportunities were facilitated by something unexpected – staying put in New York when many of his financial colleagues fled (Florida was popular). He forged connections and found ways to set up in-person one-on-one meetings with clients during the pandemic.

“My family history has dealt with reasons to flee based on persecution. You don’t flee … when the city actually needs people to stay put and have resolve, and especially if you have a company and employees who are looking to you. I felt the city of New York was never going to be down for long,” Bourkoff said.

“We called everybody to make sure all our media, telecom clients were doing well. Great conversations, first remotely, and then we said we have a safe place we can talk. A safe space, like the NBA bubble, we can get tested. I heard for six months, ‘You are my first meeting.’”

“It felt like a bond, meeting in the middle of a pandemic and talking about things that would happen after. The in-person meetings were a differentiator when everyone else was at home.”

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