By  on May 17, 2007

Bigger seems to be better in the media world these days, from Rupert Murdoch's $5 billion bid for Dow Jones Co. to Thomson Corp.'s $17.2 billion merger with Reuters. In its first survey of top global media owners, London-based ZenithOptimedia ranks the world's largest by 2005 media revenues, the latest figures available. Media revenues are defined as those "deriving from businesses that support advertising, which would include not only advertising revenues, but also other monies such as those earned via circulation sales for newspapers or magazines, for example," said the report. Though many of those represented are media focused, others, such as General Electric, are conglomerates whose media divisions are relatively minor players in their operations. And, though some companies in the overall rankings are privately held, such as Advance Publications (owner of WWD), Hearst Corp. and Asahi Shimbun Co. (Japan), the top five from both the U.S. and Europe are publicly traded firms.

TIME WARNER

Media revenues (2005): $29.8 billion

Outdoing its closest competitor by $13 billion in media revenues is New York-based Time Warner. While its three TV subsidiaries, Warner Bros. Entertainment, Turner Broadcasting System and HBO continue to do relatively well, Time Warner's Internet business, AOL, remains beleaguered, as does its magazine division, Time Inc. The publisher of titles such as In Style, Time, People, Sports Illustrated and Fortune was forced to cut hundreds of jobs earlier this year as revenues slid. Time Inc. admitted it is pumping more investment into the Web versions of its titles than the print magazines. Time Inc.'s first-quarter revenues fell $15 million from a year ago to $1 billion due to restructuring charges and declines at certain titles.

NEWS CORP.

$16.7 billion

What doesn't Rupert Murdoch own — or want to own? Murdoch is in the news again as he tries to snap up Dow Jones Co., publisher of The Wall Street Journal, for $5 billion. He has been making the rounds to reassure Dow Jones shareholders the Journal would remain independent, although some believe he could use Dow Jones to provide content for his upcoming business news channel. According to the report, more than 100 newspaper titles, including the New York Post and London's The Sunday Times, fill the portfolio. TV properties include Fox Broadcasting Co., Fox News Channel, Fox Cable Networks and a stake in British Sky Broadcasting (see below). Now it's big online, too, via its purchase of Intermix Media, owner of MySpace.GENERAL ELECTRIC

$14.7 billion

Founded originally as Edison Electric Light Co. by Thomas Alva Edison in 1878, GE is one of the largest companies in the world today and is run by Jeffrey Immelt. Though its portfolio consists mainly of industrial manufacturing, health care and finance, its division, NBC Universal, is a media and entertainment powerhouse. The division was formed in 2004 when GE's NBC operations merged with Vivendi Universal Entertainment. (Paris-based Vivendi remains a separate organization. See below.) The result? The NBC Network, MSNBC, CNBC, Telemundo, mun2, Bravo, Sci Fi, USA Network, and 12 channels in Europe and Latin America. NBC Universal also has an investment in ION Media Networks (formerly Paxson Communications).

CBS CORP.

$13.4 billion

The famed network has been taking a beating in the news lately, given its much ballyhooed recruitment of Katie Couric from the "Today" show to serve as its evening news anchor. But Couric remains in third place behind Charles Gibson of ABC and Brian Williams of NBC. Things have been better on the entertainment side with hit programs such as "CSI" and "Survivor." CBS also has a small share in the CW Network, which is a joint effort of both the former WB and UPN networks. In addition, the company owns Showtime, The Movie Channel and 39 local TV and radio stations, and its Outdoor division is the largest in North America, selling a range of displays, billboards, signs on public transportation and in-store kiosks.

WALT DISNEY COMPANY

$13.2 billion

Though Disney is probably best known for its theme parks worldwide, the report solely focused on its TV, radio, Internet and publishing businesses to derive its media revenue figure. Clearly, Disney's largest media property is ABC. Popular shows that have kept the network afloat as of late include "Grey's Anatomy" and "Dancing With the Stars," while "World News With Charles Gibson" is the most-watched evening news show. In addition, Disney owns 80 percent of ESPN, the sports channel (along with ESPN the Magazine), and the Disney Channel, and is a partner in the Lifetime Network channels, A&E Television Networks and others. The group also owns radio and Internet properties.BERTELSMANN

$9.6 billion

Headquartered in Germany, Bertelsmann is composed of six divisions: Gruner + Jahr (newspapers and magazines), RTL Group (TV and radio stations in Europe), BMG (music), Arvato (printing, IT services, etc.), Random House (books) and DirectGroup (book and music clubs). Only two of these — Gruner + Jahr and RTL Group — comprise the media revenues for this company. Gruner + Jahr, which pulled out of the U.S. market two years ago, boasts 150 magazine titles across 17 countries, along with five newspapers in Germany. Bertelsmann is a private company majority owned by the Bertelsmann Foundation, with remaining shares held by the founding Bertelsmann and Mohn families.

BSKYB

$6.8 billion

The U.K. satellite TV company is a product of a 1990 merger between Sky Television and British Satellite Broadcasting. One of the most popular channels in the U.K., BSkyB has boosted its viewership via sports with rights to broadcast FA Premier League soccer matches. But it also operates several other channels in the U.K. and Ireland. This year, BSkyB is planning to launch a broader video-on-demand service for its customers. Its Internet business is growing, especially after it made a bid in December for 365 Media Group, which runs a number of gambling and sports Web sites. News Corp. has a 38 percent stake in BSkyB, which is headed by ceo James Murdoch, the son of Rupert Murdoch.

VIVENDI

$4.3 billion

After spinning off its movie studios, theme parks and cable networks to General Electric in April 2006, Paris-based Vivendi's media revenues "derive from its ownership of the Canal+ Group, which owns a 65 percent stake in Canal+ France, the top pay-TV provider in France," according to the report. The company, which is run by chairman and ceo Jean-Bernard Levy, owns 18 television channels, including Canal+. At the end of 2005, Canal+ reported 5.1 million subscribers who had access to a wide range of programs, including films, documentaries and French League 1 soccer matches.

MEDIASET

$4.3 billionMediaset is one of the bases of power of former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, and the source of a lot of his fortune. Known as Italy's largest private television broadcaster, Mediaset was founded by Berlusconi but today is run by his son, Pier, who is deputy chairman. The company is controlled by the Berlusconi family through the holding company Fininvest. Mediaset consists of several Italian networks, including Canale 5, which produces shows such as "Grande Fratellos" (the Italian version of "Big Brother") and "Delitti Imperfetti" (based on "CSI"). In 2002, the company acquired a major shareholding in Spanish broadcaster Telecinco. Mediaset also owns radio station R101 and an Internet portal, Mediaset.it.

TF1

$3.4 billion

The French conglomerate's television channel, Television Francaise 1, is the country's most popular, according to ZenithOptimedia. TF1 also owns Eurosport, which broadcasts to approximately 109 million homes in 54 countries and features top sporting events such as the UEFA Cup and the Motor Racing Grand Prix. TF1 also has interests in several other French channels, including a 9.9 percent stake in Canal+ France, which is the sole operator of satellite pay-TV in France. Patrick Le Lay is chairman and ceo.

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