Independent TV studios at risk as Netflix snatches up A-list talent, analyst says

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Independent television studios not affiliated with a network—like Warner Bros., Sony or Lionsgate—are at risk as Netflix continues to sign up A-list talent, one analyst says.

MoffettNathanson analyst Michael Nathanson said that as Netflix continues to sign production deals with high-profile TV producers like Shonda Rhimes and Ryan Murphy, traditional TV studios will have to behave like smaller market professional sports teams by scouting up-and-coming talent. That combination of unproven new showrunners and secular pressures on scripted TV viewership will result in increased pressure for a few years.

“Against this backdrop, we have real worries about the position of nonvertically aligned, independent studios. With another broadcast season in the books, we think the risk for independent studios (e.g., Warner Bros., Sony, Lionsgate) keep increasing as all the major networks prioritize content from their sister TV studios. We think that the consolidation of Fox’s TV studio with either Disney or Comcast will only accelerate vertical integration of networks and sister TV studios,” Nathanson wrote in a research note.

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Not that everything is rosy for integrated TV studios. Nathanson estimates that in 2017 CBS, Time Warner, 21st Century Fox and Disney aggregate TV studio revenues fell 3% and that EBITDA fell 2% thanks to slumping program sales to cable networks and SVOD services. He noted that TV studio exposure differs for those companies. CBS receives roughly 27% of its total EBITDA from its TV studios, while 21st Century Fox gets 10% and Disney gets 3%.

Nathanson said part of the pressure for studios comes from shifts in TV consumption toward live content and less “passive, nonessential programming.”

“Compared to five years ago, sports has been the only real share gainer as comedies, reality competition and other (largely daytime soap operas and game shows) have fallen off. We believe that these trends reflect changing viewing behavior, with broadcast viewing increasingly shifting toward live programming that must be watched when aired,” Nathanson wrote.