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Film and TV in 2023: Tough times mean tough decisions

The big global media players are feeling the pinch

5 Jan 2023

‘Tough times mean tough decisions’ to quote Steven Cahill, Analyst for Wells Fargo. In a week when ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ broke through the $1.4bn Box Office barrier in 14 days, making it already within the top 15 grossing Films of all time, (not accounting for inflation), the overall financial health of streamers, studios and theatres is not good.

Most players in the media sector have been hit with huge losses resulting in a bloodbath for their share values. It is a moot point whether some of the share prices were inflated in the first place, but a perfect storm of a slackening in advertising revenues; recession fears; fierce competition and a downturn in subscriber numbers has hit share values. The chill wind is whistling around next week’s Golden Globes as budgets and marketing spend is predicted to be much lower than before. What this means is fewer parties!

Netflix was the darling of the market during lockdown when most folks sat back, stayed at home and discovered all those great movies and box sets. On a tangent, I watched ‘White Noise’ this week and loved it, yes it’s a Marmite film, so you’ll need to make your own mind up, but it’s worth giving it a chance. Despite whatever great product Netflix has, subscriber numbers have taken a hit and the share price is down some 58% over the past year.

Things over at Disney are not too good either. In the 4th Quarter 2022 they ran up losses of $1.47bn, double the loss of $630m in the comparative period in 2021. This resulted in the exit of their CEO and the re-instatement of Bob Iger, who had previously taken Disney to another level following the acquisitions of Lucas Films, Marvel and 21st Fox.

And staying with the bad news, following the merger of Warners and Discovery their share value is down 63.5%. Whilst we can understand the sense of cost cutting by Warners, the industry was amazed that Batgirl was scrapped after Warners had invested hugely in the production.

As far as other Studios go, Sony Corp, Fox Corp, Peacock and Lionsgate all saw their shares fall substantially last year. Sorry, there’s very little good news here.

As for the poor theatrical distributors, despite the best efforts of Bond, Top Gun and ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ it’s been, and continues to be, a tough time for the likes of Cinemark and AMC Entertainment

We are seeing a huge investment in Film and Television in the UK, this means full employment in the industry; opportunities for employment; and studios running at full or close to full capacity. I don’t see the travails of US Industry players having a major impact here, but I would expect rationalization and a tighter slide rule running over expenditure and perhaps investment in the UK.

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