Does bigger mean less-- or more?
July 17, 1996
Web posted at: 3:30 p.m. EDT
From Correspondent Brian Jenkins
NEW YORK (CNN) -- After Disney announced its deal last summer to buy up ABC, the running joke was that Peter Jennings would wind up wearing Mickey Mouse ears on the evening news. That hasn't happened. Nor has the "Wonderful World of Disney" replaced "Wide World of Sports."
The idea behind the big-media mergers is to combine complementary operations, not to cancel out competing products or give the public fewer choices. And industry analysts expect that as the new media giants get all their parts working together smoothly the audience will see bigger and better programming.
"There's a lot of consolidation in the radio and television and cable industry," says Jessica Reif of Merrill Lynch. "And if anything, that will make it more efficient for these companies to buy talent, to buy programming. So you may see more, not less -- because they can afford to do more."
Rupert Murdoch is about to expand the base for programs on his Fox TV Network. Murdoch's News Corporation, which owns Fox, has cut a deal to buy New World Communications for $2.5 billion. Fox already owns 12 stations and buying New World's 10 stations would make Murdoch the leading owner of television stations in the United States, ahead of ABC, NBC, and CBS.
When it comes to promoting programs, ABC may now have an edge, because it can advertise shows at Disney theme parks and hotels. Analysts expect to see ABC and ESPN paraphernalia pop up at Disney stores any day now.
Likewise, with the buy-out of Turner Broadcasting by Time Warner, Fred Flintstone's face could soon show up at Warner Brothers stores. Fred's a creation of Hanna-Barbara studios, taken over by Turner several years ago.
Some people are perturbed by all the cross-promotion that media conglomerates do these days. When Time ran a cover story on tornadoes in May that coincided with the premiere of the movie "Twister," the magazine didn't mention that the film came from Warner Brothers. But when Time ran a review of Twister, it was negative.
Paramount Pictures got a positive spin last year for the movie "Clueless" with heavy promotions on MTV, which like Paramount is owned by Viacom. But tooting one's own horn is nothing new in show business. Consumers can always vote with their wallets and remote controls.
"There's enough product out there so that they can watch whatever program they want to watch," says Michael Wolf, media consultant for Booz, Allen & Hamilton. "They're going to watch the things that attract them the most, not just the things somebody promotes or puts on the air."
So the media giants are bound to find that "synergy" and "efficiency" between their far-flung operations won't help if their movies, books, TV shows and records can't generate enough old-fashioned "word of mouth."
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