The television industry has been bombarded with curveballs this year, from program cancellations, delays and evaporation of advertising revenue from Covid-19 to accelerating changing consumer habits. Now add another seismic shift to the list: an unprecedented changing of the guard in the upper echelons of major television companies.
Over the past three months, Disney, NBCUniversal, ViacomCBS and WarnerMedia have revamped and restructured their organizations to position streaming at the heart of their business. Even streaming native Netflix, which has had a better than expected year, has changed at the top of its television programming unit due to a streamlining that will put a greater focus on global programming.
The reasoning is simple. Corporations are streamlining their sometimes labyrinthine organizations to better cope with the new business realities of streaming, the importance of which has been illustrated by successive debuts of new services. As the ripple effect of these new products and the inevitable effect of the continued consolidation of the media, the overhauls in the highest echelons of the media reflect the inevitable change as companies seek to cut costs, unite across ever larger portfolios, and satisfy customers and advertisers .
“The signal is clear that streaming is clearly the way forward,” said Jason Kanefsky, Havas Media’s chief investment officer. “Since the income from traditional advertising and partner fees continues to decline with increasing cable cuts, streaming – be it on your own platform or a pay-to-play platform – is the not-too-distant future.”
The latest case of an overhaul was at ViacomCBS, where executives last week appointed Pluto TV CEO Tom Ryan to lead the company’s collection of free and paid streaming services. That survey also resulted in the final retirement of longtime digital officer Marc DeBevoise, who oversaw the growth of CBS All Access from an aspiring streamer to a streamer of high profile originals like The Good Fight and Star Trek: Picard. This move came, of course, less than two years after Viacom acquired Pluto TV and less than a year after Viacom and CBS merged.
A week earlier, Disney – now under the direction of newly shaped CEO Bob Chapek – brought the company’s sales and marketing operations, including ad sales and streamers like Disney +, under a single media and entertainment distribution group, that of Disney Consumer Goods and the Publishing Veteran Kareem Daniel is headed.
These upheavals in autumn were preceded by considerable restructuring in summer. In August, WarnerMedia underwent a major overhaul, led by new CEO Jason Kilar, with longtime chairman Bob Greenblatt and content chief Kevin Reilly departing. There were also expanded roles for HBO programming president Casey Bloys and Otter CEO Tony Goncalves.
In the same week as WarnerMedia’s reorganization, NBCUniversal itself was redesigned. This marked the departure of NBC Entertainment Chairman Paul Telegdy, an important role for Peacock Chairman Matt Strauss, and a unification of the entertainment segment.
TV companies have focused on streaming loud and clear since they built all-purpose streamers to accommodate consumer shifts to over-the-top and on-demand television. And after massive acquisitions, they also want to cut costs.
Bob Bakish, CEO of ViacomCBS, promised that after the merger of ViacomCBS hundreds of millions of “cost synergies” would arise. AT&T also put forward a three-year plan to generate $ 1.5 billion in cost synergies following the acquisition of Time Warner (now WarnerMedia) in 2018. Disney, which acquired Fox in March 2019 and has since rearranged Hulu and Fox assets to include them in its own portfolio (and instigated its own executive shuffles), saw similar changes.