What a year it was in the media universe!
Between megamergers, the launch of two major streaming services, and the birth of Baby Yoda, 2019 shaped up to be one of the most revolutionary periods in recent memory — one that ushered in a whole new era for the entertainment and media business.
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Continuing the trend of consolidation among traditional companies looking to scale up in the digital age, Disney spent $71 billion to buy Fox in March, Sinclair snapped up Fox Sports Network (from Disney) for $10 billion two months later, and CBS and Viacom reunited in a merger valued at $12 billion that closed two weeks ago.
Disney’s acquisition of Fox was by far the biggest news of the year. Murdoch surprised the media world when he decided to break up his empire and sell off most of the assets of his historic Hollywood studio to a rival. It was totally out of character for someone who had spent decades being a builder, not a seller. “I was totally shocked,” former News Corp./Fox power player Peter Chernin told me during our keynote conversation at Variety’s recent Dealmakers breakfast.
It was also a year when streaming dominated every conversation about the state of the business and where it’s headed, as Netflix continues to flex its muscles. Bob Iger intoned that Disney Plus was the future of a company that’s already the biggest entertainment juggernaut in the world. Despite the embarrassing technical glitches, 10 million subscribers signed up for the service in a little more than 24 hours after its Nov. 12 launch. And, of course, Baby Yoda captured our hearts when “The Mandalorian” debuted.
Apple TV Plus entered the costly content contest two weeks earlier on Nov. 1, bringing us “The Morning Show,” which garnered three Golden Globe nominations. The streaming wars will heat up further in the next six months when NBCUniversal rolls out Peacock and WarnerMedia kicks off HBO Max.
A day of reckoning is coming in 2020, when as Cynthia Littleton and Elaine Low’s terrific cover story notes, “those in the C-suite have to prove they have made the right decisions to realign their businesses for media’s next epoch.”
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