Analyst Cohen sees media consolidation


NEW YORK -- The media sector will be dominated by a handful of companies that produce or distribute entertainment, despite a proliferation of new technologies and companies vying to deliver programming to homes and handheld devices, a leading media analyst said Monday.

Merrill Lynch analyst Jessica Reif Cohen sees consolidation in distribution, even as new players like phone companies begin to compete with cable operators in offering Internet, television and voice services.

"There will be three to five large distributors ... there's roughly four or five large content companies, and lots of other players," Cohen told the Reuters Media Summit in New York.

Within the cable segment, Comcast Corp. and Time Warner Cable are likely to dominate, and the remaining players will be much smaller and possibly controlled by private investors, Cohen told the Reuters Media Summit in New York.

Phone companies Verizon Communications Inc. and AT&T Inc.  are taking the lead in building up video services and might ultimately buy satellite providers like DirecTV Group Inc. or EchoStar Communications Corp.

"We would expect there'll be consolidation on that side," Cohen said. "Whether its DirecTV and EchoStar, or EchoStar being sold to one of the telephone companies."

Cohen, who joined Merrill Lynch in 1994 as managing director and senior media and entertainment analyst, is among the top ranked in the industry.

Time Warner Cable is part of Time Warner Inc.