The media industry covers a wide variety of areas—advertising, broadcasting and networking, news, print and publication, digital, recording, and motion pictures—and each has its own associated infrastructure.

Media companies operate within these areas and offer products and services to end-users from individuals to large organizations. This list of the top media companies provides a look into their businesses and operations. It is ranked in descending order of market capitalization figures as of Oct.7, 2020.

Key Takeaways

  • The top media companies are involved in advertising, broadcasting, news, print publication, digital media, and motion pictures.
  • The largest media companies include Netflix, Disney, and Comcast.
  • Consolidation among media companies, such as Disney's partial buyout of Fox and AT&T’s purchase of Time Warner, is expanding the offerings and reach of many media giants.

1. Netflix (NFLX): $234 Billion 

Netflix has exploded onto the media scene over the last decade. Founded in 1997, the company has transferred itself from a DVD-by-mail business into a streaming giant. The company had 167 million subscribers as of the end of 2019. The majority of Netflix’s revenues come from membership fees from streaming customers. In particular, Netflix generated $19.86 billion in streaming revenue last year. However, it also generated $297 million in revenue from its DVD rental business. 

2. Walt Disney (DIS): $220 Billion

Disney (DIS) has a $224 billion market cap, generating almost $70 billion in revenues over the trailing 12 months (TTM). Disney, founded in 1923 and headquartered in Burbank, Calif., is a large media and entertainment group with multiple subsidiaries and an international presence.

In November 2019, Disney launched Disney Plus, a streaming service that offers shows and movies, including vintage Disney content, originals, exclusive shows, and blockbuster films.

Disney's four segments cover the following:

  • Media networks—everything within TV, radio, and cable networks and related operations
  • Parks and resorts—theme parks, hotels, resorts, sports complex, dining and entertainment facilities, and water sports establishments
  • Studio entertainment—live-action and animated pictures for distribution in the U.S. through subsidiaries and worldwide through partner companies
  • Consumer products and interactive media—online and mobile games and gaming consoles; licensing and retailing of trade names, characters, and properties, plus educational books and magazines

Disney had grown its Disney Plus subscriber count to 57.5 million as of June 27, 2020.

3. Comcast Corp (CMCSA): $209 Billion

Established in 1963 with headquarters in Philadelphia, Pa., Comcast is one of the largest global media, entertainment, and communications companies with a $210 billion market cap and generating over $105 revenues over the TTM. Its business is run through six segments:

  • Cable communications—video, high-speed Internet, and voice services
  • Cable networks—national, regional, sports, news, international cable television networks
  • Broadcast television—Telemundo and NBC
  • Filmed entertainment
  • Theme parks
  • Sky—European video, high-speed internet, voice, and wireless phone services

After a bidding war with Fox, Comcast purchased UK-based Sky for $39 billion.

4. AT&T (ATT): $203 Billion

Through the completion of its $101 billion acquisition of Time Warner Inc. in 2018, AT&T gained added the likes of Turner Broadcasting and HBO to its media offerings, as well as TNT, TBS, CNN, Cartoon Network, and associated websites like CNN.com. It also added motion pictures, TV shows, and video games under the Warner Bros. brand.

In 2015, it acquired DirecTV and added to its U.S. and Latin American media operations. DirecTV is a digital TV entertainment service provider via a satellite network.

5. Charter Communications (CHTR): $130 Billion

Charter Communications acquired Time Warner Cable in 2015 for $87.4 billion, giving it a significant media presence. Time Warner Cable Inc. included a wide portfolio of products and services. It added provides video, high-speed data, and voice services in the U.S. to Charter Communications' operations. The company operates under the Spectrum name, boasting 26 million customers.

6. Sony (SNE): $95 Billion

Sony is primarily known as an electronics and music giant, but it also has other media properties. It’s key segments include game & network services, music, pictures, electronics products & solutions. As of fiscal year ended March 31, 2020, Sony generated $8.26 billion in revenue. The pictures segment includes its motion pictures, television productions, and media networks. 

7. Thomson Reuters Corporation (TRI): $40 Billion 

Thomson Reuters, the Canada-based media company, has five segemnts—legal professionals, corporates, tax & accounting professionals, Reuters news, and global print. The Reuters news business offers financial news via media organizations. Thomson Reuters competes with the likes of Bloomberg L.P. 

8. ViacomCBS (VIAC): $17.5 Billion

Viacom and CBS merged to form ViacomCBS in December 2019. Viacom was established in 2005 in New York and provides entertainment content for a global audience through digital (online and mobile), film, and television. Popular brands include Nickelodeon, TeenNick, Comedy Central, and Spike TV.

ViacomCBS now also operates gaming businesses through websites like AddictingGames.com and Shockwave.com. Its filmed entertainment business includes brand names like Paramount Pictures, MTV Films, Nickelodeon, etc.

The CBS assets operate across radio, print, and television, as well as advertising services, including the ownership and management of ad spaces like billboards, transit paths, benches, trains, and buses.

9. Fox Corporation (FOX): $15.4 Billion

Fox was previously a powerhouse in the media business. Its $15.4 billion market cap is now a fraction of what it used to be. In 2017, it sold its entertainment business to Disney for $71 billion. This included its 20th Century Fox television and film studios, as well as a 30% stake in Hulu and U.S. cable channels, such as FX.

Now Fox Corporation operates as a slimmed-down media company, which includes the Fox News Channel, Fox Business, Big Ten Networks, and Fox Broadcasting Company, as well as other select assets.

10. DISH Network Corporation (DISH): $14.5 Billion

The Dish Network operates as a parent holding company. Through its multiple subsidiaries, it provides TV services through direct satellite broadcast, broadband services, movies, and games on demand for rental and sale. It was established in 1980. The company has a $15.5 billion market cap and has generated $12.8 billion in revenues over the TTM.

The Bottom Line

Media is a diverse field. Many companies in the “media” category also operate businesses that may not necessarily qualify as media, such as software solutions, lobbying services, etc.

Investors looking for investments specifically in media companies should carefully study the different business segments, operational areas, business domains, and corporate structures to ensure the desired companies fit into their investment profile.