Get ready for big media deals—especially in cable as operators try to stay competitive with satellite TV and telecoms. As “Squawk on the Street” co-host and market analyst David Faber has reported, Time Warner Cable could be up for grabs, and Comcast, (CNBC’s parent company with a market capitalization of $130 billion), is an ideal suitor.
People familiar with the matter have said Comcast has hired JP Morgan as an advisor to explore its options regarding Time Warner Cable—so this is sure to be an evolving story, even before the end of the year.
As early as July, at the Allen & Co. Sun Valley Conference, I reported industry pioneer John Malone’s interest in driving mergers for Charter Communications, in which he controls a significant stake. It will be interesting to see how a confluence of forces will come to play next year as Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox and Charter examine consolidation plays.
It’s the cable giants’ competition not just with each other, but also with the satellite TV and telecom companies, along with streaming video options including Netflix and Hulu, that makes regulatory approval of such megadeals a possibility.
(Read more: Time Warner Cable’s incoming CEO comments on deals)
We could also see more acquisitions of digital content companies like DreamWorks Animation’s 2013 acquisition of YouTube channel’s Awesomeness TV, a multichannel network for people who are building their channels on YouTube. Driving the trend: traditional media companies’ desire to better understand online video—and to snag a chunk of the growing digital advertising pie.
We could even see movie studios in play, should Sony Pictures Studios, decide to spin off its entertainment assets.
Mobile, mobile, mobile
Watch for everything—social networking, retail or video content—going mobile. Mobile will be the new status quo, mobile access wlll be so ubiquitous, that companies and people will no longer talk about the distinction of a service or a product being “mobile.” Like Twitter, next year both Facebook and LinkedIn will draw more than half their revenue from mobile. And traditional video providers—the cable, satellite, telecoms and broadcasters—will continue to roll out apps, like Disney‘s “Watch ABC” app and HBO Go to ensure that anyone who pays for cable can access live TV anytime, anywhere.
The bottom line: Get ready for an era where a desktop website, without a mobile counterpart, is the exception, not the rule.
Convergence: Deleting the media/tech divide
Brace for a shakeup: The media and tech business will be defined by convergence. We’ll see this transformation in the following ways:
1. Media giants will embrace digital distribution—look for more traditional media companies to sell content to Netflix, Amazon, and Microsoft. At the same time, Netflix will work more closely with traditional distributors; look for the company to be closely integrated onto cable set-top boxes.
2. The distinction between digital and traditional content will disappear as streaming video through everything from the Xbox, to Roku, to Apple TV, goes mainstream, and cable boxes makes it easily to switch between YouTube videos, Netflix, and live sports on ESPN.
3. The age of Hulu Plus is born as the company’s parents give free access for cable subscribers, deleting the distinction between TV and web video, and preventing people from cutting the cord.
(Read more: Email’s long-awaited makeover in 2014)
A look back at 2013
Overall, many of my 2013 predictions came true. Media giants did indeed invest in web video—reacting to the surge in streaming video on Netflix, Hulu, and other services. Traditional media bet on digital content, with Dreamworks Animation buying YouTube network, Awesomeness TV. The heart of traditional media’s interest in Web video is in Netflix and Amazon—we saw a slew of new partnerships, like Disney agreeing to make original exclusive content for Netflix, as media giants treat Netflix as a valuable distribution outlet.
Netflix’s originals have been hugely successful, sending its stock soaring, and driving more investment in exclusive, original content. Amazon has ramped up its investment in original shows, rolling out pilots for viewers to weigh in on their favorites. Microsoft is continuing to invest in original content, but TV industry veteran Nancy Tellem hasn’t yet revealed what projects she’s green-lighted. We didn’t get an unlimited streaming option from Apple’s iTunes—it’s still selling content a la carte.
The music industry has indeed gotten its mojo back. The business of streaming music has never been more robust as iTunes Radio jumps into the game, to compete alongside Pandora and Spotify. Pandora has come to terms with its margin pressure, giving up on its push to reform music royalty rates, but it’s continuing to grow listener hours. The explosion of new listening options doesn’t mean artists are doing any better, but it’s certainly a win for consumers, willing to swap ownership of a smaller library with access to a virtually infinite one.
I was right that the publishing industry continues to transform, but it wasn’t exactly what I expected. Instead of consolidation, we saw spinoffs and acquisitions, like News Corp splitting its publishing and entertainment arms, Time Warner cutting loose its Time Inc. magazine division and The Washington Post company selling its flagship publishing assets to Jeff Bezos.
—By CNBC’s Julia Boorstin. Follow her on Twitter @JBoorstin.