In the old days, television was simple. There were three channels, you just sat on your couch and watched everything they showed you.
All this is different now, and much more complicated. It’s also more complicated: deciding which media or technology conglomerate owns the rights to the shows and movies you want to watch. We write about this stuff for a living, and we’re still confused about it.
Which is why we’ve produced the map below, which shows the relative size, power, and relationships between the companies that make, own, and distribute the things we watch at home, on our phones, and sometimes in the theater.
We’ve been doing this for four years. And every time we create a new version, we promise that the map will continue to change, and it is definitely there this time.
But it hasn’t changed exactly the way we could have imagined it just a few years ago. Yes, media companies continue to merge and assimilate each other. But the main change is that Wall Street, which used to love Netflix, is now even more ambivalent about streamingso the value of Netflix fell dramatically.
And every media company that has been chasing Netflix by trying to create a high-growth and low-end/not-for-profit streaming service has seen its value drop as well. In 2016, for example, Time Warner was valued at $85 billion plus AT&T debt; Now the company that was called Time Warner Delivered to Discovery Cable Networkswith a total value of only about $30 billion.
The other major change is one we made at the request of many of our readers, who rightly argue that the tech giants — Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google — are media companies. So we’ve included them in this year’s edition, although there are significant differences in the way these companies approach the media. Amazon, for example, treats media as a (very expensive) side-light — a way to persuade people to sign up for its Prime Shopping service. Meanwhile, YouTube is a major component of Google/Alphabet’s core advertising business. Key takeaway: These giants make big media companies look small. (And yes, we should probably include TikTok next time.)
By the way, our warning / advice / promise still stands: there will be more changes that will appear on this map, mainly through merging. It has become conventional industrial wisdom, for example, to believe that It would end up in Warner Bros. Discovery by merging with NBCUniversal from Comcast In the next two years. Smaller players such as AMC Networks and Paramount are frequently described as acquisition targets.
Having said that, it’s not entirely clear who will make the acquisition, given that any major tech acquisition of a major media outlet would attract a lot of regulatory scrutiny. (It may be expressive, for example, that Amazon bought MGM A media company that does not own television networks and has a low consumer image. And the Biden administration still surprised many with this deal before letting it go through this year.) Combining two small media companies makes you…a slightly bigger media company.
So yeah, this map is going to change…somehow, sooner or later. We just finished the prediction How he will change.