BTIG's Rich Greenfield: The New Battle in Media Is For Your Time

October 9, 2018

By Carlo Versano

Media companies are waging an all-out war for your time — and the fight is only going to intensify.

That was the general impression at the Vanity Fair New Establishment summit in Los Angeles, where titans of the industry gathered to discuss a media landscape populated by generational upheaval and confusion.

The industry is "under siege," analyst Rich Greenfield told Cheddar at the event. "There is an absolute war" over capturing consumer attention, he said.

"Scale is being redefined."

Legacy media companies, once behemoths that were beamed nightly into millions of homes, controlled the national conversation, influenced politics and culture and kept a stranglehold on viewers’ leisure time. Now they find themselves increasingly irrelevant as people find new "cures for boredom," as Greenfield put it.

Viewers used to flip on the television set when they had a few minutes of downtime, but that's been all but replaced ー whether by browsing highlights on Alphabet's ($GOOGL) YouTube, scrolling through Facebook's ($FB) Instagram, gaming, or consuming bite-sized morsels of content-optimized for smartphones.

That was apparent on Wednesday when Snap ($SNAP) ー another company fighting for eyeballs that have more places to look than ever before ー announced its first foray into scripted content with the launch of a dozen serialized shows produced specifically for the Snapchat app. That may not be enough to get the company out of its slump ー shares have lost more than half their value this year as the service bleeds users and were down again Wednesday.

Greenfield believes there will be continued consolidation in media as legacy companies realize they need to get bigger if they want to compete with the likes of Facebook, Amazon ($AMZN), Apple ($AAPL), Netflix ($NFLX), and Google. A potential tie-up between CBS ($CBS) and Viacom ($VIA) may just be the tip of the iceberg, and Greenfield said even that combination will look "irrelevant" compared to the size of tech giants with grand production budgets.

"Even Disney looks like a relative pimple" compared to the FAANG companies, he said. "You haven't seen the end of this M&A cycle."

Meanwhile, we're still in the early innings of the rise of tech as media players, according to Greenfield. When Netflix started producing original content, with high-profile, mainstream shows like "House of Cards" and "Orange Is the New Black," it was all being compared to HBO.

"Netflix doesn't want to be HBO," Greenfield said. "They want to replace all of television."

As Amazon, Disney ($DIS), and Apple rev up their streaming and production departments, Greenfield said he expects these battlelines to become even more apparent ー time is fixed, after all, and there's only so much content one can consume in a day. "This is not a one- or two-horse race," he said.

One of the ways media companies are at a severe disadvantage, of course, is in analytics. Industry watchers have been talking for years about personalized commercials, meanwhile ads on social media have gotten so good at leveraging data, according to Greenfield, that it feels like the world has passed by other forms of advertising.

As he put it: "Instagram knows you."

How can anyone possibly compete with that?

For full interview click here.