For the nation's 100 Leading Media Companies, revenue growth in 2008 was the lowest since 1991, and 2009 is set to show the first decline since Ad Age began ranking media firms in 1981.
Remarkably, 11 of 2008's Media 100 firms filed for bankruptcy over the past year, crushed in most cases by shrinking revenue and debt loads taken on during the blind optimism of the boom. Print media dominated the list: six newspaper companies, two magazine publishers and two yellow-pages firms. No. 11 in Chapter 11 was a debt-laden cable firm, Charter Communications.
This wasn't the final chapter, though. Six of the 11 -- Charter; newspaper publishers Journal Register, Star Tribune and Sun-Times; magazine publisher Source Interlink; yellow-pages publisher Idearc -- have already emerged from bankruptcy.
While the overall media market is in a funk, some sectors -- cable networks, cable systems, satellite TV and digital -- have been growing.
Five of the 10 largest U.S. media firms are cable/satellite players: Comcast, DirecTV, Time Warner Cable, Cox Enterprises and Dish Network. Four of those five firms were involved in 2009 media deals:
- Comcast Corp. in December struck a deal with General Electric Co. to buy 51% of NBC Universal.
- DirecTV Group in November merged with Liberty Entertainment.
- Time Warner spun off Time Warner Cable (in March) and AOL (in December) as standalone firms.
- Cox in November agreed to sell a 65% stake in Travel Channel to Scripps Networks Interactive.
Comcast displaced Time Warner as the nation's largest media company after Time Warner's spinoffs. Based on 2009 net U.S. media revenue, the shrunken Time Warner could fall to No. 4 on Ad Age's next Media 100, behind Comcast, Walt Disney Co. and DirecTV.