Jeff Bewkes, chairman/chief executive of Time Warner, teased about a potential mega-media merger, floating names like CBS and Viacom as possible merger partners with his company -- or possibly with each other. The two companies had previously been together as one publicly traded entity.
Bewkes claimed some knowledge about a certain mega-media merger -- but couldn’t offer details.
It wasn’t that long ago that 21st Century Fox made an unwelcome bid for Time Warner -- which eventually was abandoned due to Fox’s falling stock price in response to the deal.
No matter. All this says that bigger media mergers still seem like a good deal to some -- possibly including Time Warner.
In particular, cable-network-heavy Time Warner would do well to merge with more broadcast-centric CBS -- a potential deal that’s fueled some speculation. Viacom? A merger there would give Time Warner an even big cable network group, adding MTV, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, VH1, TVLand to its stable of HBO, TNT, TBS, and CNN.
Years ago, the idea of big-media mergers worried many, including smaller cable network groups, pay TV providers, consumers, and public-minded organizations. Back then, though, TV viewership -- apart from broadcast platforms -- wasn’t dropping. Now, all of traditional TV -- broadcast and cable is -- getting hit.
And big media has other concerns now. With consumers shifting the way they access entertainment, mega-media mergers make corporate sense. More than ever, it comes down to producing more original premium content. Big media companies like NBCUniversal, CBS, 21st Century Fox, Viacom, Discovery Communications and Time Warner say that owning valuable content will be even more important in the future.
While distribution platforms continue to be important, big content companies seem to be more focused on producing topnotch TV shows. Exceptions: CBS tip-toeing into the cloud-based TV world with CBS All Access; HBO starting up its own stand-alone service; Hulu and Hulu Plus continuing to be owned by Walt Disney, NBCUniversal, and Fox.
But all this may be transitory: The three Hulu partners have considered selling its Hulu operation; Time Warner’s Bewkes talked about possibly partnering with someone for the cloud-based HBO service -- or letting another party run the show. CBS might eventually do the same with CBS All Access down the line.
Today, content isn’t just king; it’s mostly the only thing.