Shari Redstone, chairwoman of ViacomCBS and president of Nationwide Amusements, reacts as she celebrates her firm’s merger on the Nasdaq Market website in New York, December 5, 2019.
Brendan McDermid | Reuters
Within the phrases of the nice Tom Lehrer, “Who’s Next?“
Now that AT&T has decided to separate WarnerMedia and merge with Discovery, the remainder of the media world — notably the smaller gamers — face new strain to make their countermoves.
Even earlier than this deal, it was clear that Lionsgate, MGM, Sony Footage and AMC Networks had been most likely too small to compete in a streaming world the place success relies on a large retailer of content material and international attain.
However ViacomCBS and Comcast‘s NBCUniversal are a lot greater, and doubtless assumed they’d a while — at the least a yr — to see what number of subscribers signed up for his or her streaming choices, Paramount+ and Peacock.
“Throughout the subsequent two years, it will be put up or shut up for all of us,” stated David Zaslav, Discovery’s CEO who will take the top job at the combined company, in December. “Are you able to present you are scaling? Are you going to be a participant within the U.S.? Are you going to be a participant around the globe?”
That timeline is shorter now.
Abruptly, each ViacomCBS and NBCUniversal appear subscale in contrast as they try and put collectively international streaming companies. They are not making an attempt to be area of interest gamers, similar to Starz or AMC+.
The apparent transfer can be for ViacomCBS and NBCUniversal to merge. However a mixed ViacomCBS/NBCUniversal would have two U.S. broadcast networks — CBS and NBC — housed underneath the identical company roof. That will not fly with U.S. regulators. Whereas the mother or father firms might theoretically spin out or promote them, the published networks present a lot worth to each firms — and their streaming companies — that it appears unlikely.
Additional, Shari Redstone controls ViacomCBS and Brian Roberts controls NBCUniversal by way of his household’s Comcast shares. Their twin class share construction is one other impediment for each firms, because it makes it arduous for outsiders to strain the businesses to make adjustments the executives do not favor. Nevertheless it’s not a deal stopper — Discovery had a number of lessons of shares too, however John Malone was keen to remove his voting shares to get a deal executed with WarnerMedia.
That leaves Comcast and ViacomCBS with 4 probably choices.
Purchase. If each firms really feel their streaming companies can compete around the globe, they’ll go on international and home acquisition sprees. It could take a number of offers to get to a scaled place, as they piece collectively smaller U.S.-based belongings and bigger international media firms in Latin America and Europe.
Promote. They might additionally promote. Shari Redstone is extra open to the thought of promoting ViacomCBS than her father, in accordance with individuals aware of the matter. It is unclear if Roberts would think about promoting NBCUniversal. Potential consumers might embrace Amazon or the newly merged WarnerMedia-Discovery. Apple and Netflix proceed to hover alongside the periphery, however neither firm has ever proven a lot curiosity in making massive media acquisitions.
Cut back their ambitions. The third choice is to throw within the towel on being a world streaming service. As an alternative, NBCUniversal and ViacomCBS might license their content material to different, bigger streamers and wind down Paramount+ and Peacock in the event that they fail to realize international traction.
Bundle. Possibility 4 is analogous however much less drastic. ViacomCBS and NBCUniversal might start bundling their streaming companies collectively or discovering new streaming companions to extend international distribution by way of discounted choices. The primary drawback with this technique is it limits the upside for each firms, who will not be capable to compete with bigger gamers for high content material and breadth of programming.
The fifth choice — inaction — is now not a viable technique. The strain is on Roberts, NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell, Redstone and ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish to search out thrilling go-forward options for his or her firms.
Disclosure: Comcast owns NBCUniversal, the mother or father firm of CNBC.
WATCH: What the WarnerMedia-Discovery deal might imply for the streaming wars