With the Vodafone Airtouch merger with Mannesmann overtaking AOL's previous record-breaking takeover of Time Warner, investment bankers are rubbing their hands with glee. Media moguls and sector analysts, however, are looking for synergies between the two monster communications combines.
While yesterday's $179bn (Euro181bn) Vodafone takeover of Mannesmann, is on the surface a purely telecoms deal, there are bound to be knock-on effects for more conventional media companies.
Indeed the new-fangled media company Vivendi of France was almost certainly instrumental in Vodafone's victory. It had been courted by both Vodafone and its unwilling victim Mannesman as it is able to deliver not just more telephone muscle, but also content.
Early last week Vivendi signed up with Vodafone to construct a massive Internet venture - temporarily named MAP - a portal that promises to lean heavily on the film and TV programming produced and delivered by Vivendi's Canal Plus and UGC, and the advertising savvy of its Havas arm.
Crucially, both the Vodafone-Mannesmann hook-up and the MAP alliance improve the prospects for wireless delivery of content. First, both Vodafone and Vivendi are pioneers in the development of Wireless Application Protocol (WAP). Second, as Vodafone-Mannesmann and Vivendi's SFR weave a seamless European-US web of mobile phone networks there will be less need for expensive 'roaming' and greater ability to deliver localised services. This means that a Mannesmann or SFR mobile subscriber travelling in the US could, for example, receive cinema screening times via cell phone, without the hassle and expense of switching networks.
The deal is certain to have consequences for that other new media conglomerate AOL-Time Warner. Vivendi has clearly been dissatisfied with the performance and national limitations of its AOL France joint venture. Similarly, Bertelsmann is also unhappy with its role in AOL Germany, especially now that AOL has partnered with its music, books and films rival Time Warner. But it is not yet clear which is more likely; a break-up of AOL or a Vivendi move on the whole continental European operation.
This week's alliances also hold out intriguing - or frightening - prospects for the creation of an even bigger 'big brother' network. As they come from different sectors AOL-Time Warner-EMI need not have too much trouble with European regulators if they got into bed with Vodafone-Mannesmann. And there is no need to suppose that Vivendi could not be added to that mix. After all Vivendi's Canal Plus has strong links with Time Warner. News Corp, desperately trying to catch up in the new media field, could also be brought in. Rather than fight Vivendi over its ownership of a 24.% stake in BSkyB, Rupert Murdoch could swallow his pride and in one move obtain access to the world's cables, microwave frequencies and the US and Europe's pay-TV heartland.
Faced with that behemoth, Microsoft, Yahoo or AT&T might finally be tempted to swallow up a studio. Universal, MGM and Disney are all under the microscope at the moment. Although under current regulations, US regulators might make a case against, the single biggest impact of the recent mega-mergers is that they re-write the rules.