TV Companies May Adopt Dual Identity: Content Creators/Network Sellers

Fewer cable networks in your big media company? It might not be such a bad idea for the future.

Given the skinny TV service talk, some TV/media companies with a smaller roster of networks might perform more efficiently in the new age of TV content distribution.

For years, it was all about shelf space -- and the leverage of selling lots of TV channels. The goal was gaining as many positions as possible on a cable TV system — and later on satellite and telco systems.

Companies like NBCUniversal, Viacom and Discover grew to own more than a dozen cable TV networks -- which has been a good thing for the past 25 years or so. Prosperous advertising and subscriber fee revenues will tell you that.

But going forward, that could be viewed as a hindrance. Analysts are concerned that many cable networks won’t make it on current and future so-called virtual pay TV services such as DirecTV Now, YouTube TV, Sling TV and others.

John Janedis, media analyst of Jefferies & Co., alludes to this in a recent note about CBS: “Looking ahead, we think CBS will be increasingly viewed as a multiplatform content creator rather than simply ‘the network.’ ”



CBS has been looking at itself this way for some time — as have other networks.

Some view CBS Corp. as a bit of an outsider, due to its slimmer roster of cable TV networks compared to other companies. That includes ad-supported channels, such as Pop (a joint venture with Lionsgate), CBS Sports Network, Smithsonian (a joint venture with Smithsonian Institution), and Showtime Networks, its big revenue generating ad-free premium cable division.

But like other broadcast network groups, CBS has been active in inking deals on skinny TV bundles, including YouTube TV, Hulu with Live TV, DirecTV Now, Sony’s PlayStation Vue. CBS also has digital TV platforms — CBS All Access and Showtime — each estimated to have around 2 million plus subscribers at year's-end, according to Janedis.

But do smaller cable network groups — Scripps Networks Interactive and AMC Networks — with just a handful of key networks looking to get on new skinny TV bundles also have that advantage?

Maybe not. (Executives behind Discovery Communications’ acquisition interest in Scripps may have a different point of view.)

The question is whether all big TV-media groups should have stronger dual business intentions in the future — to be “content creators" as well as operating (and selling) “networks.”

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