Two Chinese companies – CCTV and Baidu – have entered ZenithOptimedia’s Top Thirty Global Media Owners ranking this year, the first time any company from China has done so. They join Brazil’s Globo as the only companies based in emerging markets on the list.

The top media owner is Google, which is by some distance the world’s largest media owner, with revenues 47% higher than the second-largest, DirecTV. This gap has widened from 39% in last year’s edition of the report, as Google’s core search function has benefited from the rapid rise in search volumes from smartphones and tablets. Among the rest of the top five, DirecTV remains in second place and Comcast remains in fifth. Disney has overtaken News Corporation to take third place, after News Corporation split into two separate operations. One of these – 21st Century Fox – comes fourth in our ranking, while the new News Corporation is in twelfth place. Cox Enterprises has moved up from eighth to seventh, and BSkyB has risen from tenth to eighth. Bertelsmann has slipped from seventh to ninth, while CBS Corporation has dropped from ninth to tenth.

CCTV is China’s national state television company, and enters the Top 30 ranking in 23rd place, ahead of Facebook. It boasts 22 free channels and 23 pay-TV channels and accounts for about a quarter of China’s TV ad market. Baidu comes in at 28th, ahead of Microsoft. It is the country’s main search engine, the local equivalent of Google, which does not operate in China. Like Google, Baidu has diversified away from basic search, and offers maps, social media, question answering and many other services.

The Top Thirty Global Media Owners report is a unique ranking of the world’s largest media companies by media revenue, as estimated by ZenithOptimedia. The report was launched in 2007 and was last published by ZenithOptimedia in 2013. ZenithOptimedia defines media revenue as all revenue deriving from businesses that support advertising, not just the advertising revenue itself.*

Most of the top media owners are international in scope

Most companies in the Top 30 have operations in more than one country, and many are truly international in scope with operations around the world. Only seven companies are essentially devoted to one market: Baidu, CCTV and Globo, plus Cox Enterprises in the US, and the three Japanese companies Asahi Shimbun Company, Yomiuri Shimbun Holdings and Fuji Media Holdings. Given the large size of many emerging advertising markets (China being the third-largest in the world and Brazil the sixth-largest), the low representation of companies from emerging markets in this list is surprising, and can be explained by the fact that most media owners in the developing world are confined to their home markets. Some emerging market media owners – such as Zee Entertainment in India – have started to expand internationally, and we expect to see greater representation from these companies as this process accelerates.

The big five internet companies

The arrival of Baidu means there are now five pure-play internet media owners in the Top 30, up from four last year: Google, Yahoo!, Facebook, Baidu and Microsoft. Between them they attract 67% of all global expenditure on internet advertising. This demonstrates how power in the internet ad market currently belongs to the intermediaries – companies that connect consumers with the content they’re looking for, or with each other – rather than to the content producers themselves. These five intermediaries account for 21% of all media revenue generated by the Top 30 media owners.

Content producers still dominate

Despite the rapid rise of the internet intermediaries, content producers continue to generate the majority of media revenues. 22 companies in the Top 30 are traditional media and entertainment companies that create and distribute their own content. Between them they account for 64% of the combined media revenues of the Top 30 media owners.

Deconsolidation of publishing and broadcasting

Since the last edition of this report, the former number-three media owner News Corporation has split into two: 21st Century Fox and the new News Corporation, which take fourth and twelfth place in our new ranking respectively. The split was designed to provide more corporate focus to the two companies – 21st Century Fox has taken over most of the television and film interests of the former corporation, and the new News Corporation has taken over the publishing interests. It was also intended to raise the valuation of 21st Century Fox by removing its association with the declining publishing industry. A similar rationale lies behind the spin-off of Time Warner’s magazine publisher Time Inc., due in the second quarter of 2014, which will leave Time Warner with its television and film units. Time Warner is large enough that it will remain in sixth place even without its magazines, while Time Inc. will not place within the Top 30.

  “The arrival of CCTV and Baidu in our Top 30 list is testament to the size and dynamism of the Chinese market,” says Jonathan Barnard, Head of Forecasting at ZenithOptimedia. “But we expect a much greater presence from emerging market media owners once they start to expand their international operations in earnest. The rise of the internet has created a new type of media owner – the intermediary – which generates its revenue by connecting consumers with contents and with each other. However, the production of compelling content lies at the heart of the media world, and content producers still dominate the Top 30.”

Ranking of Top 30 Global Media Owners 2014

* Definition of media revenues

ZenithOptimedia defines media revenue as all revenues deriving from businesses that support advertising – television broadcasting, newspaper publishing, internet search, social media, and so on. This includes not only advertising revenues but also other revenues generated by these businesses, such as circulation revenues for newspapers or magazines, or subscription revenues for pay-TV. For publicly listed companies, the revenue figures are taken from their annual report and accounts; for the privately held companies, the revenue figures are ZenithOptimedia estimates.

Some companies on the list are entirely media-focused; others are corporate giants for which media revenue forms only a small part of their overall turnover. We count only the media revenue for ranking purposes. This provides a clear picture of the size and negotiating power of the biggest media owners in the global marketplace.

 The report covers the financial year 2012, which is the latest year for which we have consistent revenue figures from all of the publicly listed companies.

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