Newsweek: Big Media, R.I.P.


Mourning the death of one of its own is perhaps the entertainment industry’s most time-honored traditions. In one cherished tribal ritual, Variety and The Hollywood Reporter-those old-school bibles of trade news and gossip-reap a financial windfall as movie studios, TV networks and top showbiz suits rush to place full-page memorials to the departed. There were no such memorials last week, however, as one of entertainment industry’s most influential organizing principles was laid quietly to rest. After an agonizing and prolonged decline, the long-suffering Vertically Integrated Media Conglomerate (1989-2009) passed away.

It’s an idea that was born when Time Inc. merged with Warner Communications Corp. in 1989, to form Time Warner. It endured as the industry’s prevailing business model for nearly a generation, spawning such clones and mongrel breeds as Viacom, News Corp and GE‘s NBC Universal. The vertically integrated media conglomerate was-or was supposed to be-many amazing things, giving a handful of companies unprecedented power over the media-and the chance to earn outsized profits in the process. But its defining characteristic was its sheer size, earning it a fitting nickname: Big Media.

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