We are in the middle of the greatest media investment boom since United Artists led by Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, and Douglas Fairbanks started the silent Golden Age of Hollywood.
Today’s boom has been predicated by 20 years of creative disruption. New technologies first shook up the music industry - thus the emergence of Spotify and iTunes. Now technologies enabling downloads and streaming ‘on the go’, and subscription models have, and are, transforming film and TV.
Last month Disney launched its streaming service for a monthly fee of $6.99, less than the cost of a cinema ticket or a DVD, and just look at what is available; an immense catalogue ranging from ‘Snow White’ to ‘Avengers Endgame’ plus 662 episodes of ‘The Simpsons’; and many, many more programmes. In fact, the Disney library has over 7,500 TV episodes and 500 films. In addition, they are committed to a huge spend on new content. It’s no wonder that 10 million people signed up for their new service on its first day.
The pioneer has been Netflix, which now has 158 million global subscribers. Having recently lost ownership of ‘Friends’ and ‘The Office’ it has just acquired the rights to ‘Seinfeld’ to set alongside 47,000 TV episodes and 4,000 films.
The market is seeing acquisitions and mergers led by a desire for vertical integration, the ownership of distribution and content all under one roof.
The tech conglomerates – Facebook, Apple, and Amazon are hungry to add media content to their platforms. Their pockets are deeper, far deeper than traditional media companies. They are therefore able to invest billions into developing content and it does not seem a stretch to assume they may eventually buy out any studio or traditional programme maker, if the fancy takes them.
Meanwhile, the wider public can sit back, relax and enjoy thousands of hours’ worth of content for a very modest fee.
Remember, It’s a Wonderful Life!