Picture the current “streaming content” landscape as a vast ocean. And picture all the various studios, distributors, and hybrid content creators/platforms as the various fish and — gulp — sharks swimming around, looking for stuff to eat. Lately, in this ocean, we’ve been seeing a lot of aquatic animals consuming each other, resulting in strange hybrid fish-creatures trying desperately to fight other strange hybrid fish-creatures (i.e. HBO and WarnerMedia teaming up for HBO Max; Disney buying Fox and getting rid of the ‘Fox,’ etc.).
But one fish hasn’t found their shark to gobble them up: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), an entertainment studio since 1924. And as we’ve seen in this current ocean, when a fish can’t get eaten by a powerful shark, it tends to starve itself. There’s already currently a fair amount of corporate fish team-ups occurring within MGM — they tend to co-produce and distribute their projects with places like Sony Pictures and Hulu, and they own subsidiaries like United Artists, Orion Pictures, and Epix. But they don’t have a place in the ocean to stream their own content — a shark to team up with/get eaten by. However, that may all change very soon, per a report from CNBC.
MGM has begun preliminary talks with giant media companies like Netflix and Apple, with designs of selling their content for acquisition. This would be a huge boon for either company — alongside owning the rights to popular franchises like James Bond and Rocky, MGM also produces hit TV shows like The Handmaid’s Tale (on Hulu) and Live PD (on A&E). The studio also tends to earn around $1 billion in revenue per month — a handsome sum for any media company to want a piece of, especially when Netflix is throwing around chunks of change for new content willy-nilly. It’s hard to speculate exactly how these corporate mergers could work if enacted — would Handmaid’s Tale suddenly shift to Netflix? would Apple get all the Bond flicks or just the Timothy Dalton ones? — but the fact that talks are even occurring speaks to just how dramatic a disruption is occurring vis-a-vis streaming content. As CNBC puts it, the various mergers and networks are splitting studios into “haves and have-nots.”
Among the have-nots, beyond MGM? Companies like AMC Networks, Discovery, Lions Gate and Sony Pictures have yet to get consolidated into one of these mega-consuming-shark-hybrids (is this metaphor still working?), potentially putting them in positions of financial weakness, of delaying the inevitable — even as they work out individual licensing agreements with individual projects (i.e. Breaking Bad on Netflix). However — this might also be good news for these “smaller studios,” as they become juicier and juicier targets for content acquisition from the big ol’ sharks swimming around. Will Amazon and Hulu get into a bidding war to get Lions Gate’s upcoming Knives Out cinematic universe? Will the resulting payday result in more projects from Lions Gate — and the ability to produce riskier, more interesting projects? This all could result in more appealing choices for the consumer. Or — it could result in an overwhelming amount of streaming choices for the consumer, becoming increasingly expensive. Or — both! Or — neither! It’s all, at this point, a Wild Wild Ocean. And now I know the metaphor is no longer working.