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 as of April 12, 2022.
- The top media companies are involved in advertising, broadcasting, news, print publication, digital media, and motion pictures.
- The largest media companies include Apple, 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.
- Apple entered the media industry later than most of its competitors but takes the lead in terms of market capitalization.
- Each of the top 10 media companies enjoys market caps above $20 billion.
1. Apple (AAPL): $2.74 Trillion
Founded in 1976 by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, Apple has a market cap of $2.74 trillion, far surpassing those of its competitors. After adding streaming and news media services to its portfolio, the company shifted from being a tech company to being a hybrid of tech and media.
Known for its sophisticated Apple products, Apple is also known for its more than 100 acquisitions. In 2014, the company acquired Beats, formerly known as Beat by Dre, for $3 billion, and in 2018, it acquired the song-identification app Shazam for $400 million.
Its media services line includes Apple Music, Apple TV, Apple Books, Apple News, and more. As of March 2022, the company has more than 25 million Apple TV Plus paid subscribers.
At the end of 2021, Apple recorded a 33.3% increase in net sales, $365 billion.
2. Walt Disney (DIS): $238.21 Billion
Disney (DIS) has a $238 billion market cap, generating almost $67.42 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 streaming portfolio subscriptions increased to 196.4 million, which includes 11.9 Disney+ subscriptions in the first quarter of 2022.
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
3. Comcast (CMCSA): $213.75 Billion
Established in 1963 with headquarters in Philadelphia, Pa., Comcast is one of the largest global media, entertainment, and communications companies with a $213.75 billion market cap and generating over $116.39 million in revenues over the TTM. Its business is run through five segments:
After a bidding war with Fox, Comcast purchased UK-based Sky for $39 billion in 2018.
- Cable communications: Comcast Cable wireless, video, high-speed Internet, and voice services
- Media: NBCUniversal's national, regional, sports, news, international cable television networks
- Studio: NBCUniversal's film and television studio production and operations
- Theme parks: Universal theme parks in the U.S., Japan, and China
- Sky: European video, high-speed internet, voice, and wireless phone services
4. Netflix (NFLX): $152.77 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 222 million subscribers as of the end of 2021.
The majority of Netflix’s revenues come from membership fees from streaming customers. In particular, Netflix generated $29.52 billion in streaming revenue in 2021. However, it also generated $182 million in revenue from its DVD rental business.
5. AT&T (T): $140.11 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.
For 2021, AT&T reported revenues of $168.86 billion, with $35.6 billion earned by WarnerMedia and $15.5 billion from video.
6. Sony (SONY): $114.10 Billion
Sony is primarily known as an electronics and music giant, but it also has other media properties. Its key segments include game and network services, music, pictures, and electronics products and solutions.
As of the fiscal year ended March 31, 2021, Sony generated $9 billion in revenue. The pictures segment includes its motion pictures, television productions, and media networks.
For nine months prior to December 31, 2021, Sony reported revenues of 7.66 trillion yen, or $60.76 billion.
7. Charter Communications (CHTR): $105.15 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 32 million customers and a market cap of $105.15 billion.
In 2021, it reported revenues of $51.68 billion, a 7.5% increase from the prior year.
8. Thomson Reuters (TRI): $51.84 Billion
Thomson Reuters, the Canada-based media company, has five segments: legal professionals, corporates, tax and 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.
For 2021, Thomson Reuters reported annual revenues of $6.35 billion, a 6% increase from 2020. Where legal professionals contributed the bulk of revenues at $2.71 billion, Reuters News brought in a healthy $674 million.
9. Paramount Global (PARA): $23.49 Billion
In 2019, Viacom and CBS merged to form ViacomCBS, and in February 2022, its name changed to Paramount Global. Established in 2005 in New York, the company 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.
Paramount Global 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.
In 2021, the company operated three segments, TV Entertainment, Cable Networks, and Filmed Entertainment, and reported revenues of $28.59 billion.
10. Fox (FOX): $21.06 Billion
Fox was previously a powerhouse in the media business. Its $21.06 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.
In the fourth quarter of 2021, Fox recognized revenues of $4.44 billion, an 8.7% increase from the prior year.
Who Owns the Majority of Media Companies?
The media conglomerate that owns the most media companies is National Amusements. Within its organization are Viacom, CBS, Nickelodeon, and other outlets. Closely following are Disney and Comcast, which also own many media outlets.
How Many Media Companies Are There?
Approximately 176 media companies operate in the United States. However, Comcast, AT&T, Disney, Paramount Global (formerly ViacomCBS), News Corporation (owner of Fox), and Sony control more than 90% of the media.
How Do Media Companies Make Money?
Media companies primarily make money from advertisements and paid subscriptions. Other revenue drivers include internet services, filmed entertainment, and licensing.
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 and lobbying services.
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.