The End of Big Media Conglomerates

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A few years ago, it seemed that -in the future- most part of relevant media outlets would be in the hands of big media conglomerates. In 2000, when Time-Warner merged with AOL, CEO´s of media companies all over the world identified two main competitive advantages: big size and a diversified portfolio of media assets. Ten years later Time-Warner has split in two units: content (magazines, TV networks and film production) and distribution (AOL and cable systems). Viacom followed a similar strategy some years before.

What happened with the economies of scale, the synergies and the diversification of risks that those companies where looking for? In fact, most part of operations of concentration in media industries in the last two decades destroyed value for shareholders. Economies of scale have a rationale: costs per unit decrease when production increases; but the disadvantages have more wheight: in such cases, firms have lack of focus, problems of coordination among business units, more burocracy, less innovative spirit… and synergies do not appear. In some ways, companies are like human beings: they should be strong enough but without exceeding a given size.

If a company has a clear “market fontier” its risks are highly concentrated. But the solution is obvious: the shareholders can select different bets. In this way, they diversify their risks while invest in focused media companies.

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