The media industry is facing multiple financial and operational crises on an unprecedented scale. Rampant overpaying for acquisitions and “strategic” investments make incompetent corporate leaders as complicit in media's decline as the difficult economy. The authors, professors at the Columbia Business School, focus their sights broadly but home in on the usual suspects—Ted Turner, Rupert Murdoch, Disney and an alphabet of flailing companies (e.g., TBS, CNN, TNT). They discuss the dilemma of new media vs. old, the difficulty of establishing efficient operations, mergers that worked and mergers that didn't, and attempt to debunk any number of media myths, most assiduously the “content is king” platitude—considering especially that the movie, music and book industries are all floundering. An interesting subject in theory, but this treatment has the feeling of a homework assignment rather than an exposé and plods along to its meandering conclusion at a snail's pace. Dull writing and a complete lack of human interest detail make this a tough read and a tougher sell. (Oct.)
The authors, academics and consultants, analyze the destruction of value in media conglomerates caused in part by overpaying for acquisitions. In terms of revenue in 2005, we learn that only 4 of the 15 largest U.S. media companies were broadly held public companies that were not under the absolute control or influence of a mogul. Media mogul is "a metaphor for how the industry has been consistently operated and the results it has produced," and the mogul curse is that "with disturbing consistency over time bad (mogul behavior) begins to overwhelm the good." The authors set out to evaluate the media industry, explain why these companies are self-destructive, and offer new strategies. Losers in media companies outnumber winners, and the losers are the "talent"-performers, writers, producers, and the creative executives. The authors conclude with six principles for the good mogul, including focusing on efficiency and concentrating on business challenges rather than seeking diversification in the global arena. This thoughtful analysis of the media business appears to be also a textbook for consulting seminars and required reading for business students.