Illustration by Brian Stauffer

Although it seems like an eternity now, it wasn’t so long ago that the traditional film and television business was thriving. The Big Six media conglomerates—General Electric, Time Warner, Sony, Disney, News Corporation, and Viacom—ruled the industry. But the double whammy of streaming and the pandemic toppled the old-media oligopoly, which, with the singular exception of Disney, was woefully—if not fatally—slow to respond to the radically changing conditions. So most of the legacy media giants now are struggling simply to survive, while a new breed of digital-age behemoths, led by Amazon and Apple, gauge their film and television prospects, and Disney and Netflix lead the way into an uncharted online landscape.

The failure of the conglomerates to adapt is none too surprising, considering the unrivaled success they had enjoyed for decades. Spurred by Reagan-era economic policies and the FCC’s deregulation campaign, the media industries converged in a series of M&A waves that began in the 1980s with the News Corp–Fox, Time-Warner, and Sony-Columbia mergers and culminated in the […]

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