For cable TV pioneer John Malone, all the current cable merger talk may be too little, too late. He should do some more shopping.
Malone, chairman of Liberty Media, had been upset for years that a company like Netflix was allowed to build a big TV business, partly at the expense of HBO and other big cable networks (ad-supported or not).
His name hits the news as a possible merger of Discovery and Scripps is rumored. And Malone is a major shareholder in Discovery. (Malone is also seemingly interested in some sort of Univision deal.)
But shouldn’t we be talking about real innovation, rather than old-style media consolidation? Stronger TV content providers see future growth when it comes to any new digital TV platforms, especially so-called virtual multichannel video program distributors.
Recently, Malone was instrumental in pushing two big cable TV operators together: Charter Communications and Time Warner Cable. Malone is a big investor in Charter.
The plus here is traditional pay TV providers in the skinny bundle game -- including DirecTV (DirecTV Now), Dish Network (Sling TV), and one coming from Comcast. But those skinny bundles also have skinny retail consumer pricing at the moment. They don’t look to be big revenue generators anytime soon.
So put aside Netflix for the moment.
Some believe the next big TV innovation might actually be Amazon -- especially when it comes to grabbing more digital and TV advertising revenue -- perhaps as much as $20 billion in a few years, according to estimates.
With its massive scope in ecommerce, Amazon could match up those retail CRM efforts with that of TV and other media advertising for any new video ad-supported platform. That could spur greater consumer conversations, a more direct link for consumer-product marketing companies.
Does the cable industry have those kind of consumer-product connections? Nope.
Now think bigger. What if -- down the line -- the powerful Amazon actually makes a big move to buy a major TV content provider, or maybe a big pay TV provider?
Mergers are nice. But these proposed traditional media combinations could be seen as quaint five or 10 years from now. Malone? He then might have more reasons to complain.