The media has become one of the fastest growing industries around the globe with a new media house coming up regularly. This is the case for both small and localized media houses, as well as the large, global media conglomerates. Due to the high competition in the media industry, small companies are unable to keep up with the pace and they end up getting absorbed by the more established companies. More competition will lead to the big companies coming together, a process known as media consolidation.
Various media companies stand on their own while others have been combined together. VIACOM is the largest media conglomerates. Many media companies have been combined into the conglomerate’s business model and those in VIACOM include the following; MTV, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, and BET. These networks are further subdivided into minor networks. BET networks comprise of BET and Centric, the music and entertainment group includes MTV, Comedy Central, Spike, TV Land, CMT, Logo and VH1. On the other hand, the Nickelodeon group consists of Nickelodeon and its affiliate brands (Viacom, n.p.). VIACOM has a presence in all corners of the globe and is hence an international network. Its network includes Paramount Channel, VIVA, MTVNHD, Tr3s: MTV, Musica y Mas, TMF, and COLORS (Viacom n.p).
According to Bagdikian (n.p.), there are other major media houses that have merged in the past and they include Disney and ABC; a deal that went down in 1997 (Shah, n.p). In 2000, AOL merged with Time-Warner to form AOL Time Warner (Shah, n.p). Even as the players in this industry continued to reduce, more media companies continued to merge. In 1999 Viacom merged with CBS for around $37 billion (Shah, n.p).
The Potential for Media Consolidation to either expand or shrink options available to consumers
In certain countries, the government has total control over media freedom. Other countries have afforded their media houses total freedom with the result that some of these media houses have become powerful corporations. Limiting media freedom has a huge impact on what is available to the clients. This could in turn result in the expansion or shrinkage of options available to the clients. According to Shah, media consolidation leads to shrinkage of options for consumers in that the media rarely reaches to consumers (n.p). The latter notion leads to loss of diversity of issues and the ways in which people view things. The consolidation helps expand options available to consumers. According Mc Chesney (22), the main aim for conglomeration is for the media to increase market power (Shah, n.p). When various media companies come together, cross-promoting and cross-selling of various media brands becomes possible. The consumers therefore have access to various brands and options as the media has opened up to numerous sectors as a result of consolidation.
Synergies Existing Among Various Media Outlets Owned by the Conglomerate
Synergy entails combining skills, expertise and other resources to achieve what cannot be realized when such resources are used independently. This is a common feature among media conglomerates. For example, Disney, the largest media company in the United States, has made use of such synergies such as selling children entertainment items in their stores (Hardy 81). Synergy may also involve the use of various aspects within a media conglomerate such as record label, video game, and film studio, with each of these aspects promoting each other. Some of the companies that have merged and are using synergy are 20th Century Fox and MySpace (Hardy 81). The two media houses created a viral marketing campaign and have gained maximum profits through the use of the synergy concept.
According Tim (99), media companies that have consolidated also make use of symbiosis which is another form of synergy to earn profits from a single product (n.p.). The author continues to explain that symbiosis is whereby companies including those that are not media related come together to market a range of products. An example that involves symbiosis is such as the High School Musical that included spin-offs such as Happy Meals and Easter Eggs; the distributor in this case agrees on the licensing terms and conditions for other companies to sell their products but at the end the distributor gets their share of the profit (Tim 100). Disney introduced synergy and in particular symbiosis in the 1930’s by allowing various firms to use their Mickey Mouse character in advertising their products. This kind of relationship means that the two parties benefit. The Avengers which is a famous mover uses synergy to market the film and also uses symbiosis and cross media convergence (Tim 100).
The Impact of Media Consolidation on the Free Flow of Information and Democracy
When companies come together to form one major company the overall owner or leadership has influence over the same business. The top leadership dictates the direction to be taken by the company and the same applies to consolidation of media houses. There are various types of ownership of media houses, including individual, governments, and corporations. The owners dictate the type of information that reaches the end consumer and they make such a decision with their self-interest in mind.
Media consolidation allows free flow of information and practices democracy depending on the ownership and leadership of the merged company. According to Coronel, the media and democracy do not always go hand in hand due to “stringent laws, monopolistic ownership, the threat of brute forces, and state controls” (Odika 131). The author of the article ‘The Role of the Media in Deepening Democracy’ continues to explain the latter claim and states that serious reporting is hard to achieve. The media is used by rival political groups in a given nation that results to divisiveness, hate speech and suspicion; which do not promote democracy (Coronel 1). Despite the forces discussed above, the media has been able to deepen democracy in various ways. Some media personalities do investigative reporting that has led to; presidents resigning or being forced to step down and the fall of corrupt governments which in turn promoted democracy (Coronel 1). The media however, requires a certain level of knowledge for it to promote democracy and for the media personalities to ensure free flow of information.
According to Shah, some nations influence their media in a huge way thus influencing the information that which the media houses rely to the citizens (n.p.). The corporations that run various mainstream media influence the flow of information from the media to the consumers. Citizens are not in a position to make informed decisions as the information they receive from the media houses is either biased or insufficient (Shah, n.p.).
Cross Platform Convergence
When different media companies come together, the process is known as convergence. The conglomerates that have been discussed in this article are actively involved in cross-platform convergence. The media houses have merged with other companies to market their products and also market films and music. The convergence makes the media companies cut on cost thus building the media economically as cross-platform convergence allows for the same media to use a single marketing strategy across all sectors. My conglomerate engages in cross-platform convergence in that they market their products across all the media sectors that it owns. The conglomerate also allows non-media companies to use its resource to advertise and in the process, it gains profits.
There are various lessons that can be learnt from the research on media consolidation. One such lesson is on the importance of media houses converging into one big company. Consolidation brings about synergy whereby the two parties merging are able to accomplish some goals which could not have been achieved by individual media houses. The parties merging benefit from this relationship. There is another type of relationship known as Symbiosis which is also a part of Synergy. Symbiosis involves the convergence of media and non-media companies upon agreement of certain rules and regulations. In such a case both parties benefit from the profits gained. The media influences democracy both negatively and positively. The owners and the leadership governing the media determine the influence it will have on democracy. Forces such as the government and cooperates affect the media which in turn ruins or builds on democracy. Investigative reports can influence democracy positively by pointing out poor governance. The media has the power to allow free flow of information to the consumers who in turn make informed decisions based on such information.
Coronel, Sheila S. “The Role of the Media in Deepening Democracy.”
Hardy, Jonathan. Cross-media Promotion. Bern: Peter Lang, 2010.
Odika, Uche. Patriotism has no party: Defining Democracy Within the Context of Ensuring
Peace. Xlibris Corporation, 2013.
Shah, Anup. “Media Conglomerates, Mergers, Concentration of Ownership”. Global Issues.
Tim, Dwyer. Media Convergence. Mc-Graw-Hill Education, 2010.
Viacom. “Viacom Brands”. Viacom,