Have you ever noticed how media critics claim the world is going to end whenever two media companies propose any sort of merger or partnership, but when the opposite is taking place these people are nowhere to be found? Indeed, we are in the midst of another wave of media DE-consolidation with numerous media companies exploring divestitures or break-ups, but few seem to notice or care.
Consider today’s announcement that media giant Viacom is preparing to split itself in two firms: the old broadcast radio and TV properties would go into one company; the cable and movie studio holdings into another. Viacom has spent the last decade amassing as many media properties as they could get their hands on, but like many companies these days, they have come to believe that it probably makes more sense to avoid spreading themselves too thin and instead are refocusing their efforts on doing just a few things very well.
Liberty Media is doing the same thing. John Malone’s continuing push to break apart the firm into smaller, independent media operations has generated little media attention, but there’s no doubt he’s on the way to breaking up his company into smaller units.
Same goes for Cablevision. In late 2003, the firm announced that it was spinning-off its satellite and national programming arm into an entirely new, distinct company, Rainbow Media Enterprises. And recently there’s be a move by the board to get rid of its “VOOM” high-def satellite service.
Isn’t is funny how you don’t hear much about this in the press, (unless you’re a nerd like me that relishes the business stories buried deep in the back pages of the Wall Street Journal and business magazines)? I guess this really isn’t all that surprising. As Ben Compaine, co-author of the brilliant Who Owns the Media?, correctly observes, “Break-ups and divestitures do not generally get front-page treatment.” Too true. By contrast, however, if Cablevision, Liberty, or Viacom were proposing acquisitions right now instead, we’d see front-page coverage in every paper complete with numerous quotes from the Chicken Little crowd about how the end times were near.