Disney Looks Past Station Rules, Eyes Nontraditional Platforms

Worried about traditional media consolidation for giant Walt Disney? Stop agonizing--it's not in the cards. The big media company isn't asking the FCC to loosen any of its ownership rules. The federal agency will soon re-examine media regulations, and has been asking for comments.

Disney response: It has plenty of TV stations. More importantly, it's looking for other non-traditional TV platforms for content delivery.

In fact, Disney says it's moving away from traditional media. The company is looking to divest a large number of radio stations. More importantly, Disney has been examining new content platforms, including reported discussions with telephone companies about a Disney devoted content streaming network.

This shouldn't be much of a surprise, says Mark Fratrik, vice president for BIA Financial Network. Disney hasn't bought a TV station in 10 years. With 10 owned stations, Disney is not even at 24% of U.S. television households--well below the 39% allowed by the FCC.



"They don't even have any duopolies in any market," says Fratrik--unlike NBC, CBS, and Fox. NBC has many duopolies because of its Telemundo stations.

Fratrik believes Disney is marching to the beat of its own drummer: "Different companies have different strategies. For example, [TV station group owner] Media General wants to be dominant in the Southeast; Fox wants to be dominant everywhere."

In the spirit of full disclosure, BIA's Fratrik says he has done consulting work for the National Association of Broadcasters on this matter. He wonders whether Disney is backing off because other groups are doing the work. "Maybe they feel the commission didn't need to get pressure from them. Maybe they figure on letting the NAB carry the banner of deregulation."

On Monday, CBS had a different filing, suggesting that with all the new digital TV platform opportunities, now was the time for the FCC to rethink and relax its media regulation rules. For its part, like Disney, CBS also sold off some smaller market radio stations.

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