The entertainment industry continues to expand as the world becomes more connected and consumers' options expand. The top media companies dominate movies, broadcast and cable television, and digital distribution. They are also among the top companies in the theme and amusement park industry.
Comcast Corporation (NASDAQ: CMCSA) had over $68.7 billion of revenue for the 2015 reporting year, with net income of $8.5 billion. The company is still controlled by the family of founder Ralph Roberts; family members own only 1% of the total shares and all of the Class B voting shares.
NBCUniversal, which includes NBC, related cable channels and Universal Studios, gives Comcast a dominant position in the production and broadcast of TV programs and movies. It's also a major player in the theme park industry via Universal. The company has annual revenue of more than $23 billion. Comcast initially bought 51% of the NBCUniversal from General Electric in 2011 and then bought the remaining 49% in 2013. NBCUniversal also owns Telemundo, which is one of the largest Spanish-language TV networks in the United States.
Comcast owns the Philadelphia Flyers of the National Hockey League (NHL) and the Philadelphia 76ers of the National Basketball Association (NBA). Comcast Cable Communications LLC operates the Xfinity brand of cable television, Internet, and voice communications. It has over 27 million subscribers.
CBS Corporation (NYSE: CBS) has annual net income of approximately $2 billion. It owns the CBS TV broadcast network and related distribution and production facilities, CBS Radio, CBS Records and CBS Sports. It also owns the Showtime premium cable channel. Like many of its competitors, CBS is working to remain successful with the cord-cutting generation. Changes include adding a fee-based on-demand component to its broadcast TV shows to enable and profit from viewers who choose to watch shows at a later date. Sumner Redstone owns a controlling interest in CBS.
AT&T (NYSE: T) bought DirecTV in July 2015. DirecTV is a satellite TV service and the largest provider of TV subscriptions in the United States. The company has over 20 million subscribers and over $30 billion in revenue. It specializes in broadcasting out-of-market sports events to homes and bars; it also has large offerings of TV programs and movies on demand.
Both the company itself and the National Football League (NFL) have been the subject of anti-trust lawsuits, which seek to give other companies the right to license games. It also faces challenges from Netflix and Amazon, as the cord-cutting generation moves to streaming services that can be accessed anywhere.
Dish Network Corporation (NASDAQ: DISH) is a satellite television and Internet provider. It had $14.6 billion in revenue in 2014. The company launched the video-streaming service Sling TV in February 2015 in a move to attract the cord-cutting generation and compete with Netflix and Amazon. The service offers several popular channels, including ESPN, the Disney Channel and AMC (home of "Breaking Bad" and "The Walking Dead"); it has also added HBO as a premium option. Sling reported 500,000 subscribers by the end of October.
Netflix Inc. (NASDAQ: NFLX) was founded in 1997 as a DVD rent-by-mail service. It quickly dominated the DVD rental market and drove Blockbuster Entertainment out of business. The company is the industry leader in the fast-growing on-demand media industry. Netflix continues to offer physical DVDs because they remain highly popular with some customers, and some studios have been resistant to licensing their movies for streaming. The company has more than 65 million subscribers and is continuing to roll out its streaming service worldwide.
Netflix's first original series was "House of Cards," which premiered Feb. 1, 2013. It was the first series ever to release all of its episodes at the same time, and it was the first streaming series to be nominated for an Emmy Award. It was followed in July of that year by the even more successful "Orange Is The New Black." The company had 15 original series in 2015; that number is expected to double in 2016.
Time Warner Inc. (NYSE: TWX) was formed in 1990 via the merger of Warner Communications and assets from Time Inc. Its business segments include film production and distribution along with several cable networks. Its annual revenue tops $30 billion.
Warner Brothers Entertainment is a film production company and TV company founded in 1932 by Albert, Harry, Sam and Jack Warner. Its 2014 box office receipts totaled more than $4 billion worldwide, and it produced 21 feature films. Warner Brothers also co-owns the CW Network with CBS.
Turner Broadcasting System owns CNN, TNT, TBS and the Cartoon Network. It also owns Turner Sports, which produces and broadcasts sports programs. It owns the broadcast rights to the annual National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) basketball tournament and numerous professional sports events.
Time Warner owns the HBO and Cinemax premium cable networks. HBO has been a leader in original programming since "The Sopranos" premiered in 1999. It recently added the stand-alone streaming service "HBO Now," which allows non-cable subscribers to watch via Apple TV or Roku.
21st Century Fox (NASDAQ: FOX) was spun off from the conglomerate News Corporation in 2013. The move was designed to separate the entertainment segments from the publishing business. It was founded by Rupert Murdoch; he remains the executive co-chairman, although his son James Murdoch is chief executive officer (CEO). The company reported revenue of $31.8 billion in 2014.
The company's broadcast business includes the networks Fox News, Fox Business News and Fox Sports. It also owns cable networks FX and FXXX, as well as many regional sports channels. Movie production and distribution falls under 20th Century Fox Film, which was founded by Daryl Zanuck in 1935. Fox Searchlight Films is the independent and specialty films division. 20th Century Fox Television produces such hit shows as "Empire," "Glee" and "Modern Family." Another subsidiary, 20th Television, is responsible for licensing television shows for syndication.
Viacom Inc. (NASDAQ: VIA) was established in 2006 as a spinoff of CBS. It is controlled by Sumner Redstone, and its annual revenue was $14 billion in 2014. The company owns Paramount Pictures, which is one of the largest and oldest production companies. Viacom also owns MTV, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon.
The Walt Disney Company (NYSE: DIS) was founded in 1932 by brothers Walt and Roy Disney. The media and entertainment conglomerate's 2014 revenue totaled $48.1 billion.
Disney/ABC Television operates the Disney TV and radio networks, including ABC Studios and ABC Television. It also owns substantial interests in A&E Network and the streaming service Hulu. ESPN owns sports-related networks and websites in the United States and worldwide. Walt Disney Parks & Resorts USA operates the theme parks, including Disneyland in Anaheim, California, and Disney World in Orlando, Florida.
Disney bought Lucasfilm in 2012; the company produces the Star Wars films and owns the related licensing rights. Disney bought Marvel Entertainment LLC in 2009. It publishes the Spider-Man, X-Men and Captain America comics, and it produces the related movies and TV series.
The Dalian Wanda Group is a diversified Chinese company with subsidiaries in commercial real estate, luxury hotels and department stores. It has annual net income of $23 billion.
Wanda Media is a subsidiary that produces and distributes feature films and television for the Chinese market. It owns a major theater network and is working with foreign movie companies on co-productions that would ensure Chinese distribution. In 2012, Wanda bought AMC, the second-largest U.S. theater chain.