National CineMedia Buys Screenvision for $375 Million

Could dominate in-cinema advertising

National CineMedia (NCM) is buying its largest competitor, Screenvision, for $225 million in cash and $150 million in stock, the companies announced late on Monday. Once the transaction closes, the Screenvision brand will be folded into NCM, a rep for the latter told Adweek.

So if you are a brand marketer interested in exploring in-cinema advertising, for better or worse, pretty much every road now goes through NCM. The New York-based company had 19,800 screens across thousands of theaters, and now it adds another 14,200 to its network. Cineplex Media, Emerging Pictures and a handful other North American players remain, but none represent the kind of scale represented by NCM and Screenvision.

NCM has been busy in the last couple of years, trying to reinvent in-cinema advertising for the digital age. During last year's Upfronts, NCM unveiled social-media partnerships with Twitter and Foursquare.

In early 2013, it inked a deal with Microsoft that let the tech company test out long-form spots that centered on a storytelling style of branding. Other advertisers that have used the NCM network include Old Navy, Kraft, Samsung, Taco Bell and Best Buy.

With the purchase of Screenvision, it appears to have unusually dominant leverage in the in-cinema space. It's not apples to apples exactly, but the acquisition—in terms of category-specific impact—is probably akin to if Facebook bought Twitter.