Break Up the Media Giants
The streaming wars will produce a new oligopoly. We can do better.
For decades, corporate consolidation has been judged almost exclusively on whether it would raise prices for consumers, ignoring how the market power of massive conglomerates can have broader negative effects on society and the economy. That’s finally starting to change.
In the past year, the campaign to break up the tech giants has gained steam with support from Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and other progressive politicians. Two-thirds of Americans now support the proposal, recognizing that monopolistic control of digital platforms and services has negative implications for privacy and economic prosperity. But we must also recognize that tech is just one part of a larger economic disease, and if it’s truly to be addressed, antitrust regulators will need to look beyond the core businesses of Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google.
Given the media’s importance in informing us about current events and crafting the stories through which we understand the world, regulators must address how film and television is dominated by a small number of media giants that are gaining ever more control over the production and distribution of entertainment. The industry is undergoing an important transformation as the delivery of content shifts to digital streaming services. While that’s generating new competition in the short term, it will result in further consolidation and less diversity in the long term — unless someone takes action.
Tech’s impact on media
Tech companies have been engaging with media for a long time. Music was central to Apple’s success, beginning with the iPod. Amazon made its name delivering books before selling us just about everything else. And Google has been scanning books, delivering music videos, and more for years. What has changed isn’t tech companies’ interest in media, but the scale of their ambitions.
All the major tech companies are creating their own content to make their services more attractive to consumers, competing directly with traditional media companies whose products they’ve long sold or showcased. Netflix was the successful pioneer, shifting from DVD by mail to streaming, and realizing that…