Big Media’s Home Renovation Isn’t Over

Big Media’s Home Renovation Isn’t Over
FIXER UPPERS From left, Lachlan Murdoch, David Zaslav and Bob Iger. (Photo illustration by Dawn Camner; see below for credits)

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From Disney to Amazon, who had the worst and best year?

Sorry folks. If you think 2023 was bad, wait until you see what 2024 has in store. The big media home renovation project is moving into yet another phase with Warner Brothers Discovery positioning itself as a potential acquirer of Paramount Global. If that happens — or other combinations involving Comcast’s NBCUniversal or even the Dolan family’s AMC Networks — expect legions of foot soldiers headed to the unemployment office, as the chase to keep up with the tech giants increasingly winning for time and money from the TV pie gets harder and harder. (Are you in the business of selling dayparts or demos? Your days are numbered.)

There are more walls to be knocked down, archaic practices to be tossed in the giant post-linear dumpster. Everybody — even the big tech giants — is redoing their 2024 budgets with an eye on caution after a more disappointing year than expected.

We all had six months to stare at our numbers. The part that scares me about it? We’re the kind of business when you hack off too much, there’s nothing left to create with.

– a top studio boss

Social media viewership is growing up from 33 minutes a day in 2019 to one hour and a minute this year — a 17 percent jump — while pay-TV households are expected to drop from 66 million to 54 million over the next five years, according to research from Activate CEO Michael J. Wolf

“Efficiency” is the buzzword of next year and every smart media executive will be looking for ways to bring AI into the mix. AI is already radically altering how we search for and create content, inevitably reducing labor costs.

As one studio boss pointed out, you can only cut so far before you destroy the potential for creativity. “We all had six months to stare at our numbers,” this person says, explaining that the pandemic plus the Hollywood strikes turned everyone’s eyes on the vast sums being spent. “The part that scares me about it? We’re the kind of business when you hack off too much, there’s nothing left to create with.”

Today I will:

  • Tell you about the big macro business trends already underway for 2024.

  • Examine the strengths, weaknesses and assign a letter grade to the eight big studios and streamers for this year.

  • Lay out expectations for the next year for each major player.