"Apple Buys Disney or Netflix": Hollywood Insiders Reveal Their 2020 Predictions

6:00 AM 12/24/2019

by THR Staff

Guilds will go on strike, digital video costs will skyrocket, a streamer will win the best picture Oscar and more forecasts as 40-plus top industry players place their bets.

Illustration by: Julia Yellow

It's impossible to know what, exactly, the future holds, particularly in an era of unprecedented transformation — but that's never stopped smart people from prognosticating. As the decade draws to a close, The Hollywood Reporter asked more than 40 of them — from the heads of studios to the faces of movements — to weigh in with their predictions for the year ahead.

Some were decidedly bold with their bets (Apple will buy Netflix! Quibi will flounder! Sony, Lionsgate and MGM will merge!); others more hopeful, with declarations about original content making a comeback, a strike by the guilds being thwarted, a rising of the underrepresented and the end of nondisclosure agreements, to name a few.

Still more wondered aloud why more people aren’t talking about such things as the proliferation of "meh" TV ("There’s a depletion of resources above the line and below, not enough care in helping a show become great," says Annapurna chief content officer Sue Naegle); or, per attorney Craig Jacobson of Hansen Jacobson, how "Amazon is going to take an increasing share of the advertising market away from the traditional and new players given the fact that it has more data on consumer purchasing habits than anyone."

  • My bold prediction for 2020 is:

    JON JASHNI
    Investor

    Apple+, Quibi and Peacock admit (by their actions) that they cannot truly and effectively compete in the streaming wars.

    FRANKLIN LEONARD
    The Black List founder 

    An unfortunate percentage of the industry will continue to underestimate the improvement that real inclusion could make to their bottom lines.

    AMY BAER
    Women in Film president

    A studio will buy a theater chain and the shrinking of windows will finally begin.

    LINDA LICHTER
    Attorney 

    Sony and Netflix will be bought by Amazon or Apple.

    STACY L. SMITH
    Annenberg Inclusion Initiative founder 

    Five of the top 15 films of 2020 will have a female director attached.

    RICK GENOW
    Attorney

    Short strikes by the guilds, tech dominance, agency spinoffs and, sadly, fewer major studios.

    CINDY HOLLAND
    Netflix chief content officer

    More Americans will watch stories from other countries.

    LEIGH BRECHEEN
    Attorney 

    Apple decides to go big and buys Disney or Netflix, or simply decides this business isn't really selling many of its products and decides to get out altogether. Not a big impact on their bottom line, either way.

    CHARLES RANDOLPH
    Screenwriter 

    The streamers are going to have to fall into a profit participation model in the next 18 months. The [backend] buyout days are slowly numbered.

    ALLISON BEGALMAN
    Young Entertainment Activists president 

    BoJack Horseman comes true and the assistants of Hollywood unionize! And everyone in the industry gets the day off to vote.

    CHRIS SPICER
    Attorney 

    There will be more acquisitions by U.S. conglomerates of foreign-based production companies who excel in local-language product.

    DAVID UNGER
    Artist International Group CEO 

    A pivot back to individual voices, much like independent cinema in the '90s. Personal storytelling will replace franchise fatigue; indie film will be back.

    CASSIAN ELWES
    Producer

    All the major technology companies start to realize that entertainment has to be an inherent part of their strategy, bringing major investment and new thinking.

    KEN ZIFFREN 
    Attorney

    Expenditures on digital video in 2020 will far surpass even the most optimistic predictions. Indeed, over the next three to four years, my guess is that more than $200 billion will be directed to SVOD/AVOD digital streaming services.

    KRISTA VERNOFF
    Showrunner

    Original content will make a comeback. Off the success of Knives Out, studios will remember that IP isn't everything. We can dream, right?

    HIRAM GARCIA
    Producer and president of production for Seven Bucks Productions

    Apple will acquire a big content creator. They are going to spend big money to work with someone who is already doing things right.

  • In Hollywood, 2020 will be the year of:

    SCOTT STUBER
    Netflix film chief 

    Musicals and international storytellers.

    SARAH AUBREY
    HBO Max original content head 

    Ending nondisclosure agreements.

    GREG BERLANTI
    Showrunner

    People alternating between deciding which streaming service to go with and fretting that Trump is going to win reelection.

    NGOC NGUYEN
    Time's Up executive director 

    The rising of the underrepresented.

    LESLI LINKA GLATTER
    Director

    The woman. We've already seen substantial increases in female and diverse directors in TV, which is wonderful, and hopefully, 2020 will yield the same kind of increases in film, which still hovers at around 4 percent.

    JOSH SAPAN
    AMC Networks CEO 

    The Big Fan. People will increasingly define themselves by their entertainment passions, with fan communities and interactivity supporting and complementing video on all platforms.

    JOHN FITHIAN
    NATO President

    "Pain," to quote Clubber Lang in Rocky III. The incredible rate of spending and competition in the home [video] market is going to be bloody, and there will be a few winners and a lot of losers.

    CHRIS LICHT
    The Late Show With Stephen Colbert showrunner 

    Corporate social media giants will be held more accountable for what content blasts forth on their platforms.

    CHRIS FENTON
    Producer 

    Aggressive congressional scrutiny on Hollywood's cozy relationship with China.

    VERNOFF

    Middle-of-the-night writing frenzies. The Muse of Election Terror will emerge from her slumber. We will see some bold strokes, some great art, some nervous breakdowns.

    LIZ ALPER
    #PayUpHollywood founder

    Asian directors.

    LESTER HOLT
    NBC Nightly News anchor 

    Streaming.

    SPICER

    AVOD.

    JANET YANG
    Producer and Gold House co-founder

    Women prove, without a doubt, that they can direct blockbusters.

    BAER

    The representation business model correction. Music, film and TV have adapted to new consumer habits, and representation must finally adjust.

    SUE NAEGLE
    Annapurna Pictures chief content officer 

    Working out merger madness and hopefully avoiding a strike.

    RICKY STRAUSS
    Disney+ content and marketing president 

    Unparalleled access to great storytelling.

  • Looking ahead, why aren't more people discussing:

    BERLANTI

    How 5G will change how we make, distribute and watch entertainment.

    MICHAEL H. WEBER
    Screenwriter 

    The managers and attorneys who are kicking ass on behalf of writers who no longer have agents.

    CRAIG JACOBSON 
    Attorney 

    How Amazon is going to take an increasing share of the advertising market away from the traditional and new players given the fact that it has more data on consumer purchasing habits than anyone.

    NAEGLE

    Too much "meh" TV. There's a depletion of resources above the line and below, not enough care in helping a show become great.

    LEONARD

    The death of physical media and how the major studios could more effectively invest in the talent pipeline to the industry's and their own benefit.

    YANG

    The underrepresentation of Latinx and Middle Eastern talent.

    DAVID P. WHITE
    SAG-AFTRA national executive director

    The rapidly changing demographics of our country.

    BILL MECHANIC
    Producer

    Making better and a wider array of movies.

    NGUYEN

    Indigenous representation.

    FITHIAN 

    The remarkable stability of the domestic theatrical business.

    FENTON

    Hollywood's constantly decreasing market share in China.

    SMITH 

    Why unconscious bias training hasn't worked, and the specific psychological mechanisms that prevent equality.

    PHIL GRIFFIN
    MSNBC president 

    How automation is transforming the job market.

    GURU GOWRAPPAN
    Verizon Media CEO

    5G. The future of media and entertainment industries will be among the first to benefit and transform.

    SARAH BARNETT
    AMC Networks Entertainment Group president

    It's funny to say, but YouTube. Very talented kids who grew up on user-generated video content are now entering their creative prime. And what's their dream? To create content for the outlets that they grew up on … places like YouTube.

    KEYVAN PEYMANI
    Venture capitalist

    Virtual Beings, from digital assistants to persona-based curators to nearly indistinguishable deep fakes.

    DOUG WICK
    Producer

    The return of live entertainment — which, for talent, is dwarfing many more traditional revenues.

    BING CHEN
    Gold House co-founder and tech entrepreneur 

    Southeast Asia. They boast some of the most populated countries in the world (Indonesia), over-index in social media consumption on several platforms and are big fans of Western sensibilities.

    STUBER

    Getting more involved civically. We can't wait for Greta Thunberg to wake us up.

    VERNOFF

    Harvey going to jail?

  • The company that people aren't talking enough about is:

    WEBER

    [Elizabeth Gabler's] 3000 Pictures.

    BAER

    Lionsgate. Ripe for an acquisition, and having a banner year in film and TV under new management.

    WHITE 

    Marginal [MediaWorks]. They're on the front line of inclusive, next-generation storytelling.

    GENOW

    TikTok.

    AUBREY

    Joan's on Third. They could take a packaging fee on half their business between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m.

    RANDOLPH

    A24. I have good faith in their model — and that we're going to see a lot more companies that work at that budget level come along.

  • The deal or trend that will finally happen next year is:

    JASHNI 

    Sony, Lionsgate and MGM merge.

    WEBER 

    Netflix takes home the Oscar for best picture.

    BRECHEEN

    The WGA and the agencies will finally realize that the damage done to their collective future by vertical integration, with no third-party sales, is far greater than the damage they've done to each other.

    JAY ROACH
    Director

    Hopefully some exhibitor or company cracks the nut of keeping people in theaters or inspiring people to keep going to theaters — especially for comedies. There's something about sitting in a theater and laughing contagiously with other people.

    GENOW

    Long overdue nonexclusive series deals for actors and writers.

    SAM GORES
    Paradigm Talent Agency chairman

    A resolution to the WGA-agency conflict.

    NGUYEN 

    More female directors nominated for awards!

    BAER

    Streamers will disclose viewership numbers more and more, given how competitive streaming is about to become.

    WICK 

    Former first-dollar gross players will sell their private planes to people with giant streaming deals.

    This story first appeared in the Dec. 19 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.