Life,  Wealth

Big media companies cover all American cultures

  In the past, the US media environment was relatively simple and clear. Content companies, such as studios, produce TV shows and movies and sell them to pay-TV distributors, who in turn sell them to consumers.
  Now, everything is in contention, and all established rules have been broken. Netflix buys content from studios, but it also produces its own content and sells it directly to consumers. This has led to attempts by established media companies to compete through consolidation. For example, Disney bought a majority stake in 21st Century Fox in 2018, marking the first time since MGM’s decline in the 1980s that a major studio ceased to exist as a separate entity.
  Giant tech companies like Google, Amazon and Apple, which used to wait and see, are now jumping in – Amazon has jumped in with both feet first, announcing an $8.5 billion acquisition of MGM in 2021, adding to the already-hot internet streaming industry. The battle has heated up again. Clearly, Amazon is trying to bolster its intellectual property arsenal against Disney and WarnerMedia, as well as other streaming services with deep catalogs of video games, movies and TV.
  Focusing on scrambling for new entrances, the media industry in the United States has undergone a lot of consolidation in recent years, leaving only a few big media companies responsible for most of the mass media consumption and dissemination. According to one estimate, 90% of media in the United States is controlled by six corporations: Disney/21st Century Fox, Comcast, AT&T, Paramount Worldwide, Sony, and Fox.
  According to different judgment criteria, the list of the six major companies is also different. That’s because the media industry covers a wide range of fields—advertising, broadcasting, journalism, print and publishing, digital media, music, and film—and each has its own associated infrastructure. Media companies operate within these domains, delivering products and services to end users ranging from individuals to large organizations. Another ranking identified the largest media companies, in order: Apple, Disney, Comcast, Netflix, AT&T and Sony. No matter how you rank it, each of the top 10 media companies enjoys a market cap of more than $20 billion.

  Just nearly 40 years ago, 50 corporations controlled most of the American media. Today, the big media companies in the United States can be counted on two hands. That means just a few hundred media executives are calling the shots on the vast majority of the information and entertainment provided to people, with a scale of control unprecedented in the history of the media industry.
  In other words, there are only a handful of owners behind most of the products people see on newsstands, at amusement parks, on cable TV, or on the Internet. Everywhere you go, it’s the minority owners and the same business needs that come into play. Newspapers, magazines, movies, TV, music, games, sports teams, and the latest streaming alike are all about a frantic scramble for as much shelf space and brain space as possible to make as much money as possible as quickly as possible.
  To do this, the big media companies pull out all the stops to make you watch and buy right away, using all the best measurement and monitoring to figure out what their audience is like. They focus on every situation in a million ways, and they see the teen market as part of the gigantic empire they’re colonizing.
  These media companies are highly non-competitive and do not have to worry about newcomers entering. As The Economist talks about, the barriers to entry are so high that it’s essentially a private club whose members are becoming too big to fail. It seems unlikely that Comcast, Disney and their peers will go bankrupt. It took a series of stupid decisions to fail, and even if it did happen, their subsidiaries would be bought by other large companies. Since they own almost everything, they can use their enormous power to over-commercialize content without fear of competitive retaliation. And because their channels are all-encompassing, this gives them powerful leverage to do more commercialization.
  As the streaming wars continue, such a high monopoly could ultimately mean fewer choices and higher prices for consumers. Consumers may gain massive exposure to spinoffs based on their favorite stories and characters, but they will lose out otherwise. There will be fewer unique stories, and it will be harder for new ideas to emerge. At the same time, with people consuming as many as 12 hours of media a day, these companies are given disproportionate power to influence the way the world is viewed.

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