Pea-Max? Para-flix? Regardless of what portmanteau they might end up with, odds are good that streaming services are going to spend a bit of time merging in 2024. Warner Bros. Discovery and Paramount were already talking about it at the end of last year, continuing the trend that started when WarnerMedia and Discovery merged in the first place. After years of Everybody Has a Streaming Service, that plethora of streaming video apps is getting pared down as people start making tough decisions about which streamers are actually worth it. If ad-supported models, password-sharing crackdowns, and cancellations don’t turn streamers into profit powerhouses this year, consolidation might, and the results look awfully boring.
In a report released this week, Parrot Analytics, a firm known for calculating what value any particular show has for a streamer, looked at what various streamers would have to offer in four possible merger scenarios: Warner Bros. Discovery merging with Paramount Global, Netflix with Paramount, NBCUniversal with Warner, and Paramount with NBCUniversal, or NBCU for short. The results show a world where a Warner Bros. Discovery and Paramount merger would create the greatest demand in terms of people wanting to watch the shows exclusive to those companies—and one where the results are so muddled they’re almost meaningless.
Let’s look at Para-Max. Should they merge, they’d control about 29 percent of demand for series in the US. Parrot also argues that such a consolidation would create a portfolio of sports offerings (Paramount controls CBS Sports; Warner has TNT and TBS) that could match up with Disney, which owns ESPN. It would also bring the home of Deadwood (HBO) together with CBS broadcast programming and all those Taylor Sheridan cowboy shows that America’s dads love so much.
That’s cool, but also feels like a bid to create an entity where only the juggernauts get airtime. More Yellowstone, less chance of a Westworld revival. And while a merger of these two companies would mean more than just a new-new version of Max and/or Paramount+, it would mean even fewer people are able to green-light new, inventive shows, and that rarely turns out well. (RIP Rap Sh!t, which got canceled as I was writing this.)
Similar outcomes arise in other mergers, though the numbers may not look as appealing to shareholders. If Warner Bros. Discovery were to merge with NBCU, Parrot predicts, they’d have just under 27 percent of that US demand. A marriage between Netflix and Paramount yields about 20 percent of that demand; couple up Paramount and NBCU and that number is a smidge below 22 percent.
These numbers may not seem huge, but they’re staggering when you imagine nearly a quarter of the most in-demand shows being in one place, and what the company with access to those eyeballs would do to keep them. For context, the only company with close to that figure is Disney, which controls nearly 20 percent of that demand.
Again, this is just one set of statistics about hypothetical mergers, but investment bankers are wishin’ and hopin’ for more of these deals in 2024, and marriages seem likely. The results wouldn’t just be new streaming services, but new media conglomerates responsible for big chunks of the culture and entertainment that people have access to in the US and beyond.
This has been happening for a while—ever since Amazon bought MGM and, of course, WarnerMedia merged with Discovery. R&D is now M&A. There’s likely a New Big Three on the horizon. Which companies they’ll be made of and what they’ll offer is anyone’s guess, but it’s looking unlikely they’ll be much different than what came before.