Monday, April 6, 2020

Media Giants Will Need to Make Smaller Moves for Survival in this Streaming Era

Over the past few months, a number of developments have emerged for traditional media companies that indicate a spirit of reinvention and experimentation is spreading across the industry. There’s a new willingness to take a hard look at long-standing operations and make big and sometimes surprising changes.

This goes deeper than the headline-generating M&A deals that are measured in tens of billions of dollars. Of late there have been some granular-level moves that signal a push to revise the business blueprint for a new era of streaming and linear competition on steroids.

Who could have predicted that Sony Pictures Television would part with a clutch of Asian TV channels in a sale to the executives who previously ran those channels, Sony alums Andy Kaplan and George Chien? Or that Warner Bros., with all its volume and market clout, would set up a joint home entertainment distribution venture with Universal to serve North America?

Fox Corp. is acknowledging the migration of younger viewers to mobile streaming platforms in assembling the Fox Soul ad-supported streaming platform that launched with only a little fanfare on Jan. 13. It’s a means of grabbing eyeballs for locally produced and syndicated content that already has a linear home on Fox’s local TV stations.

Nexstar Media Group is proving to the broadcast industry that it has plans to capitalize on the nearly national reach of its newly enlarged station group. Plans for the “News Nation” primetime newscast coming to Nexstar’s WGN America cable channel this summer is a bigger swing — and far more effective leveraging of the company’s 197 TV stations — than airing low-cost Canadian and U.K. dramas, as the cabler does at present.

Iger’s willingness to withstand short-term hits to revenue and profits in order to build a bridge to the future with Disney Plus, Hulu and other streaming assets has drawn universal praise from his industry cohorts. Disney’s ability to assuage Wall Street and engage consumers has provided a ray of hope for traditional Hollywood after a long period of  gloominess over the fact that Netflix was suddenly and seemingly out of nowhere the undisputed cool kid on the block.

Disney’s boldness seems to be having a kind of ripple effect on companies with less formidable assets and balance sheets. Long may Baby Yoda help guide Hollywood through the fog of the streaming wars. 

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