The former CEO of WarnerMedia predicts only 3 major entertainment companies will survive in the streaming space




Jason Kilar WarnerMedia CEO
Jason Kilar WarnerMedia CEO  
  • Media exec Jason Kilar predicts only 3 entertainment companies will survive the streaming war.

  • Kilar wrote that he expects "two or three major mergers and/or acquisitions" in the next two years.

  • Kilar led WarnerMedia until it merged with Discovery earlier this year.

There may not be enough room in the streaming space for everyone, at least according to former WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar.

In a piece for The Wall Street Journal, Kilar predicted that only three of the global entertainment companies, not including tech giants Amazon and Apple, will come out of the "streaming war" unscathed.

"Digital markets for industries that have high fixed costs and relatively low variable costs have tended toward a few, unusually large winners, and I believe such will be the case in entertainment," Kilar wrote in the piece, which was published on Monday.

"In this scenario, no more than three global entertainment companies are likely to attain the streaming-service scale required - 300 million global subscriptions at an average of $15 per month - to generate attractive cash flows (Amazon and Apple, both purveyors of streaming, will be in addition and measured differently)," Kilar said.

Media companies are currently losing billions of dollars on their streaming businesses. Disney, for instance, reported that its direct-to-consumer division lost $1.5 billion in its most recent quarter, and the company's 2023 losses could be higher than expected.

But based on Kilar's threshold, Disney is well-positioned to survive, with 235 million global subscribers across its services, 164 million of which belong to Disney+.

Netflix is, too. Despite a rough year in which it lost subscribers in the first two quarters, the company still has 223 million paying users. In efforts to address slowing growth, the company is cracking down on password sharing and adding an ad-supported tier.

But the other streaming players are lagging by comparison.

Paramount Global's Paramount+ had 46 million subscribers as of the end of Q3, and NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell said this week that its service Peacock has 18 million paying customers. Warner Bros. Discovery said in its most recent earnings report that HBO, HBO Max, and Discovery+ have a combined 92 million subscribers.

Kilar added that "two or three major mergers and/or acquisitions" in the entertainment industry would occur in the next two years because of shifts in the streaming space.

Industry watchers have long speculated that Disney would merge Hulu and Disney+ if the company buys Comcast's stake in the service, which it is set to do by 2024. Former Disney CEO Bob Chapek, who was ousted last month, hinted in September that he'd want to integrate Hulu into Disney+ once the deal is complete, though it's unclear what returning CEO Bob Iger's plans are.

Warner Bros. Discovery plans to combine Discovery+ and HBO Max next year. (The latter launched under Kilar.)

Kilar isn't the only major media figure that thinks some streaming services won't survive.

In September at Vox's Code Conference, Iger said, "I don't think they'll all make it."

He noted that Disney+ and Netflix are likely to survive, along with Prime Video and Apple TV+.

"They're not primary businesses for them, and they're measured, probably, by different standards in terms of bottom line, and they serve other purposes in those companies," Iger said of the tech companies.

"But they're not going to stand pat," he added. "They're going to continue to grow, and they'll grow well. They've got deep pockets. They've got great access to consumers. They have strong technology platforms. They've proven they know how to do it. So they stay."

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