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Time Warner Still a Target as HBO NOW Battles Netflix

Corrects in 8th paragraph that HBO, combined with Time Warner's Cinemax, has 122 pay-TV subscribers worldwide.

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- It might not officially be on the market, but Time Warner (TWX - Get Report) may still prove to be an attractive acquisition target.

Though CEO Jeff Bewkes successfully fought off the hostile approaches of Rupert Murdoch's Twenty-First Century Fox (FOXA) almost exactly a year ago, Time Warner's HBO NOW has more than demonstrated that it can win streaming subscribers in the Age of Netflix (NFLX -Get Report). As media and tech companies seek to win viewers at a time when pay-TV subscriptions and television ad spending is declining, making a bid for the owner of HBO may be too tempting to pass up.

"HBO is the crown jewel of Time Warner," Bishop Cheen, a media analyst at SNL Kagan, said in a phone interview. "Time Warner is still attractive and for any of the big caps [market capitalization], HBO is the most-often mentioned angle for an acquisition."

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Speculation that Time Warner might find itself in the sights of a possible acquirer grew after the New York-based owner of TBS and TNT reported better-than-expectedsecond-quarter results earlier this month. Time Warner shares currently trade at $79.35, or nearly 7% less than the $85 per share offer Murdoch made for the company in June 2014.

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Shortly after Time Warner's board of director rejected Fox's bid, Murdoch withdrew the offer.

Time Warner buyers could once again include Fox as well as Walt Disney (DIS - Get Report) or even a tech company such as Google (GOOG - Get Report) orFacebook (FB - Get Report).

"Are they still a target? Sure," said Jimmy Schaeffler, a pay-TV consultant at the Carmel Group based in Carmel, Calif. "The stock being down 6% is reflective of the market, and not the company. If they were valuable a year ago, they still are today and a great [acquisition] candidate."

Industry watchers say the strength of HBO, with its roughly 122 million pay-TV subscribers worldwide when combined with Time Warner's Cinemax, is reason enough to buy the company that also owns Warner Bros. studios and Turner Broadcasting. An acquirer would be well placed to compete with Netflix's dominant position in streaming with its more than 65 million subscribers worldwide.

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