Cable giant Malone sees big future for streaming gatekeepers

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John Malone, Liberty Media chairman and cable industry titan, sees a future full of growth for streaming platforms like Amazon, Roku and Apple.

Malone spoke with CNBC and said that he believes the U.S. cable industry missed the boat on becoming the direct-to-consumer provider for streaming services and pointed out that the scale at Charter or Comcast is small compared with Apple or Amazon.

“I think these global platforms will be enormously powerful,” Malone said in an interview with CNBC’s David Faber. He added that direct-to-consumer services from Discovery, ViacomCBS and other programmers will be selling wholesale through these platforms. “The consumer’s not going to want to buy from a broad number of subscription services. They’re going to tend to want to go to one convenient supplier. It looks increasingly like that’s going to be, you know, Amazon ... or it’s going to be Apple, or it’s going to be Roku. Or it could still be a Google effort.”

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As this form of distribution becomes increasingly popular, it will negatively impact traditional MVPD and vMVPD channel bundles. Malone said he anticipated reaching a point when the “bundle breaks apart” and content will be available either direct-to-consumer or a la carte.

“Some sports may move over to premium or move over to the big tech companies,” said Malone. “I’m not sure but my guess is there’ll be a point in time when programming, even of companies like [NBCUniversal] will be migrating their most important programming over to other direct-to-consumer or close to direct-to-consumer platforms.”

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