While battles loom regarding the proposed distribution consolidation occurring, those on the content side expect the same. Speaking at the Allen & Co. Conference, David Zaslav, CEO of Discovery Networks, believes that "'In the next couple of years, I think it's likely there will be consolidation on the content side,' he said." Discovery has been mentioned both as a potential buyer of content as well as a possible seller of its content business. Others mentioned include Scripps, AMC Networks, Viacom, and even Time Warner, holder of TBS, TNT, and HBO.
And while there are challenges brought in by the increased size brought on by cable consolidation, the rise in digital disruption continues to alter the playing field. How we get our broadband access, what we want to watch, and where we want to watch our content, have made traditional linear programming that much harder to grow. Live programming, sports, events, award shows, have all been best at driving linear viewing. The success of World Cup ratings in the US is the most recent example to cite.
Consolidation of content owners could provide some level of leverage against the big cable distributors. It certainly assures carriage of better watched networks while hoping to support an increase in carriage of smaller cable networks. Their challenge continues to be their niche appeal. Success of smaller cable networks that have found audience growth has come from broadening their programming format, building show brands, and driving reach and interest. But in the end, these networks become hard to differentiate one from the other for the sake of the bigger rating. Consolidation of content owners may simply help these niche networks to stay around a little bit longer.