Disney Chairman Bob Iger arrives for the Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference on July 6, 2021 in Sun Valley, Idaho.
Kevin Dietsch | Getty Images
New Year forecast pieces are a journalistic standard. But instead of making my own predictions, I asked 10 media managers, with the promise of anonymity, to give me their best estimates of what will happen in 2022.
The rules were simple: the prediction could be anything media and entertainment related, but it had to be significant and not be obvious.
Here’s what they told me.
I’ll check the predictions again at this point next year to see how they turned out, and then ask 10 new executives about their predictions for 2023.
Executive No.1: Roku buys Lionsgate’s studio
A senior executive said Roku will buy the Lionsgate film and television production studio.
Roku spiced up its original content on the Roku Channel, purchasing Quibi’s content library and “This Old House” in 2021. Founder and CEO Anthony Wood told CNBC in June that he was devoting most of his time to developing a content strategy for the company.
“It reminds me so much of Netflix in its early days,” media analyst Michael Nathanson told CNBC earlier this year. “I did interviews [Netflix Co-CEO] Ted Sarandos at conferences 10 years ago and he said, ‘Oh, we’re happy with just an original show or two.’ In the meantime, they would move up to better content. “
Lionsgate has already signaled to the investment world that it intends to either outsource or sell Starz, the premium streaming service and cable network it owns. That would mean the rest of the company – Lionsgate’s film and television production studio – would be ready to find a buyer as well.
While traditional content companies like Comcast’s NBCUniversal, ViacomCBS, Netflix, and Disney are all trying to add more content to their streaming services, Roku is a wildcard buyer with a market valuation of nearly $ 30 billion to take a step.
Still, Roku stocks are down more than 50% since their all-time high in late July. The purchase of Lionsgate’s studio could lead investors to take its content ambitions more seriously.
Executive No. 2: Bob Iger returns to Disney as CEO
It’s been less than two years since Bob Chapek took over as CEO of Disney. But a manager told CNBC there are already internal bets at Disney on Iger’s return.
The 70-year-old Iger repeatedly renewed his contract after looking to retire in 2015, 2016 and 2018 before abruptly resigning in 2020. He will serve as Disney’s CEO until the end of the year.
It is unclear whether Iger would like to return. According to The Hollywood Reporter, he’s already working on a second book after publishing one in 2019.
But Disney stock stumbled this year, nearly 20% year-to-date. Iger owns many of these stocks. The board of directors and Iger could get restless if Disney +’s growth stagnates and the company continues to have senior executive tensions.
Executives # 3 and # 4: ViacomCBS will merge or sell
Two votes for this one.
“I love Shari [Redstone], but ViacomCBS is not long for this world as it is today, “said one of two media managers who predicted that 2022 will be the year ViacomCBS ceases to exist as an independent company.
Comcast held preliminary talks with Redstone, the majority shareholder and non-executive chairman of the company, earlier this year to discuss various ways of working together. A merger of NBCUniversal and ViacomCBS would be chaotic from a regulatory perspective and would likely require a divestment of either NBC or CBS and their associated local subsidiaries.
For the past two years, Redstone has been considering other alternatives internally, such as buying Lionsgates Starz and merging with Sony Pictures Entertainment, according to those familiar with the matter. A deal with Warner Bros. Discovery when this merger is completed makes sense. But so far ViacomCBS has told Wall Street that it is content with moving forward as it is.
Shari Redstone, president of National Amusements and vice chairman of CBS and Viacom, speaks at WSJTECH Live conference in Laguna Beach, California on October 21, 2019.
Mike Blake | Reuters
Executive No. 5: The “free radicals” will sell themselves
It was in 2015 when billionaire media mogul John Malone coined the term “free radicals” to define content-only companies that aren’t the size to compete against media giants like Netflix, Disney, Amazon and Apple for top-notch movies and TV shows .
Some of these free radicals have already consolidated. Viacom and CBS have merged. WarnerMedia and Discovery have agreed to merge. Amazon is awaiting regulatory approval to purchase MGM Studios.
But others like Lionsgate, AMC Networks, and Fox continue to exist. This manager predicts that after 2022 no one will be alone, either selling to larger competitors or merging with one another.
Executive No. 6: Vice will sell in pieces
Shane Smith, Co-Founder of Vice.
Executive No. 7: Vox Media goes public
Vox’s decision to merge with Group Nine is the next logical digital media candidate to go public after BuzzFeed. Coincidentally, Group Nine has already set up a SPAC that could be used by the company for the IPO, in conjunction with the merger with another digital media player, in order to achieve greater reach.
Should SPACs remain burdened from an investment perspective, this manager said Vox could also pursue a standard IPO. The timing could be similar to BuzzFeed’s this year – an announcement of an IPO in late June and a public launch in late 2022, the board said.
Executive No. 8: A large sports betting company is going to go bankrupt or sell for peanuts
Executive No. 9: Apple will buy a film / TV studio
Apple’s ambitions to stream video have been dampened given the huge size of the company. “Ted Lasso” is an Apple TV + hit, but the service has largely operated on the brink of the streaming wars.
That is likely to change, this manager said in 2022, and it will be driven forward by the acquisition of a content studio. A fresh team of people who can create hit shows isn’t just going to make Apple a more serious gamer producing original content. It will also provide Apple with a library of TV shows and movies that it can offer to its customers. This is something Apple doesn’t yet own, but it’s likely essential to any serious long-term streaming ambition.
Ted Lasso on Apple TV +
Source: Apple Inc.
Executive No. 10: Free ad-supported streaming services are being consolidated
Another pillar of streaming wars that tends to be ignored is the world of free ad-supported services highlighted by Fox’s Tubi, ViacomCBS’s Pluto TV, Amazon’s IMDb TV, and Sinclair Broadcast Group’s STIRR. Smart TV operating systems also offer free streaming networks like Samsung TV Plus and the Roku Channel.
This executive predicted that free streaming TV will see strong growth in 2022 but will also consolidate. Too many of these services offer essentially the same thing – a bundle of free networks with lots of old movies and TV shows, as well as syndicated programs.
According to Executive No. 10 likely in 2022.
(Disclosure: Comcast owns NBCUniversal, the parent company of CNBC. Comcast and NBC Sports are investors in FanDuel)
WATCH: The Streaming Wars winner will be one with the most mass hits, says ViacomCBS manager