Google/Alphabet Widens Media Revenue Lead Over Disney

Google campus - Getty H 2016
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Social media giant Facebook is the fastest?growing media owner in ZenithOptimedia's annual top 30 ranking.

Alphabet/Google has increased its lead as the world’s largest media owner, with 166 percent more media revenue than nearest rival Walt Disney, up from a 136 percent lead previously, according to an annual ranking by media planning firm ZenithOptimedia.

The company didn't detail media revenue figures, but told The Hollywood Reporter that Alphabet/Google reached $59.6 billion, while Disney had $22.5 billion, followed by Comcast, which continues to rank third with $19.7 billion.

That trio is followed by 21st Century Fox, also unchanged in the fourth spot, and Facebook, up from the tenth spot in the ranking published last year. Rounding out the top 10 are German media powerhouse Bertelsmann (steady in the sixth spot), Viacom (also unchanged), CBS Corp. (down from the fifth spot after an asset sale), Chinese internet powerhouse Baidu (up from 14th) and News Corp., which dropped one spot.

iHearthMedia is unchanged in the 12th spot on the list, followed by Discovery Communications (unchanged), while China's CCTV is listed at 19th (up one spot) and U.K. TV giant ITV at 24th (up from 27th).

Social media giant Facebook is the fastest?growing media owner in the top 30 ranking, with media revenue growth of 65 percent over last year's figures, followed by Baidu (up 52 percent) and Alphabet/Google (17 percent).

Zenith's estimates are for 2014 as the firm says that is the last year for which it now has "consistent" figures from publicly traded companies. ZenithOptimedia estimates are for media revenue, which it defines as all revenue "deriving from businesses that support advertising — television broadcasting, newspaper publishing, internet search, social media and so on." This includes not only advertising revenue, but also other revenue generated by these businesses, such as circulation revenue for newspaper or magazine firms.

The company, which has provided the ranking since 2007, says it "provides a clear picture of the size and negotiating power of the biggest global media owners that advertisers and agencies have to deal with."

Five digital giants are in the company's top 30 ranking. Beyond Alphabet/Google, Facebook and Baidu, they include Yahoo (15th, up from 18th), which is going through a sale process, and Microsoft (17th, up from 21st).

Together they account for $88 billion in media revenue, or 34 percent of all the revenue generated by the top 30 companies and 65 percent of the entire global internet advertising market, according to Zenith.

"Their dominance of internet advertising has made it difficult for many media owners to replace lost revenues from their traditional businesses with new digital revenues," said Zenith. "Nearly half of our top 30 media owners have lost media revenues compared to last year."

In the case of No. 16-ranked Time Warner, down from the eighth spot last year, that was due to its spinoff of its Time Inc. division into a stand-alone company, which makes its debut on the Zenith ranking at No. 30. CBS Corp. was similarly affected by its exit from the outdoor advertising business.

"The traditional media owners in our top 30 ranking have been scrambling to scale up their own digital businesses, to various degrees of success," said Jonathan Barnard, Zenith’s head of forecasting. " As digital ad technology — such as programmatic buying — spreads to traditional media, it will further shake up the businesses of traditional media owners, but also provide them with new opportunities for growth.”

Digital ad spend has grown at an average of 18 percent a year over the past five years, driven by the spread of mobile technology, the rise of social media and online video and improved advertising technology, according to Zenith. Ad spend across all other media has grown by just 0.6 percent a year.