The structure of American mass media

Main Corporations

The elite

Time Warner (formerly AOL-Time Warner-Turner -- 2004 U.S. media revenue, $37 billion -- January 2000 merger with AOL recently approved worth $178 billion. Total corporate worth: $350 billion. Also directly connected to Comcast (see below) and Liberty Media Group, which also owns 3% of Vivendi (see NBC below) and has holdings in 7 of the top 100 media companies; as of late 2003 was talking with EMI about combining music divisions -- worldwide Time Warner's revenue was $39.5 billion

Viacom (2004 U.S. media revenue, $21.4 billion -- separated from CBS into two companies beginning in 2006 after years of being combined. CBS was formerly held by Westinghouse.)

Comcast -- linked to AT&T, by a $72 billion merger (2004 U.S. media revenue, $20.1 billion -- owns E! Network, part of QVC and Golf Channel, Comcast Cable Systems, and linked to Liberty Media Corp. (not a media company but investors in media companies such as Time Warner) and owns Philadelphia 76ers and Flyers.

Disney/ABC-Cap Cities (2004 U.S. media revenue, $17.4 billion -- possibly being acquired by Comcast in a $54 billion merger, Disney is also directly connected to AT&T's Liberty Media Group -- it has 10 TV stations)

NBC Universal (GE) (2004 U.S. media revenue, $12.4 billion -- NBC recently acquired Vivendi (French owner owner of Universal, whic owns USA network and is huge into music and theme parks and also holds 26.8 million shares in Time-Warner) -- GE has 44 TV stations. It is also into areas such as aircraft engines, lighting, plastics, medical systems, nuclear fuel services, satellite, electrical distribution). GE's worldwide revenue was $134.1 billion before 2003.

News Corporation (2003 media revenue, $11.4 billion -- Rupert Murdoch controlled corporation holding Fox TV, and into books, cable, books and magazines around the world, is also directly connected to Echostar (owner of DISH satellite network) and Gemstar (owner of TV Guide) -- News Corp. worldwide revenue for 2003 was $19.2 billion -- it has 37 TV stations

DirecTV (2004 U.S. media revenue, $9.7 billion -- owned by General Motors Corp.

Cox Enterprises (2004 U.S. media revenue, $8.5 billion -- into newspapers, TV (owns 16 stations), cable, etc.)

EchoStar Communications Corp. (2004 U.S. media revenue, $6.6 billion

Clear Channel Communications (2004 U.S. media revenue, $6.5 billion -- nation's largest radio owner, also holding TV stations -- including Bellingham's KVOS and other media)

Advance Publications (2004 U.S. media revenue, $6.4 billion -- owner of Parade magazine, Conde Naste's 17 magazines (such as Vogue, Esquire, etc.) and 25 newspapers, and linked to Cox. Enterprises

Gannett (2004 U.S. media revenue, $5.7 billion -- owns USA today and around 90 daily newspapers, along with TV stations (21 of them), cable, billboard, etc.)
Tribune Co. (2004 U.S. media revenue, $5.5 billion) -- owns 30 TV stations, 15 newspapers, including the LA Times and Chicago Tribune, and has holdings in radio and cable and owns the Chicao Cubs

Bertelsmann (German corporation holding books, magazines, music, multimedia and broadcast in Europe -- $15 billion -- as of late 2003 was combining music divisions with Sony)

Six parent firms -- General Electric (NBC Universal), Viacom, Disney, Bertlesmann, Time Warner, News Corp. -- (ordered on annual media revenues) have more of such revenue than the next 20 firms combined -- Ben Bagdikian, The Media Monopoly, 6th ed. In the 7th edition, Bagdikian lists Time Warner, Disney, News Corporation, Viacom and Bertelsmann as the "Big 5."

The rest

Charter Communications ($4.9 billion)
Cablevision ($4.4 billion)
Hearst (2003 U.S. media revenue, $4.0 billion -- into newspapers like Seattle P-I, TV (owns 36 TV stations), cable, magazines like Good Housekeeping, etc.)
Adelphia Comm. Corp. ($3.90 billion)
Sony ($3.8 billion)
The New York Times ($3.3 billion)
McClatchy Company -- owner of Bellingham Herald, Olympian Morning News Tribune and 49.5% of Seattle Times(during 2006, acquired Knight Ridder with a 2004 revenue of $3 billion) Dow Jones ($1.7 billion)
New York Times Co. ($3 billion)
Washington Post Co. ($1.9 billion)
Cablevision ($3 billion)

A few others in the world (earning are not from 2004):
Bertelsmann (German corporation holding books, magazines, music, multimedia and broadcast in Europe -- $15 billion -- as of late 2003 was combining music divisions with Sony)
Thompson -- Canada ($7.3 billion)
Havas -- France ($8.8 billion)
Reed Elsevier -- Britain/Netherlands ($5.5 billion)
EMI -- Britain ($5.4 billion -- talking in late 2003 about combining music divisions with Time Warner)
Hachette -- France ($5.3 billion)
Kirch Group -- Germany ($4 billion)
NHK -- Japan ($5.6 billion)
Fuji TV -- Japan ($2.6 billion)


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Gannett -- 90 (including USA Today, etc.)
Dow Jones -- 20 (including Wall Street Journal)
Thompson -- 183 dailies (including papers in Canada, Britain, etc.)
New York Times --20 (including NYT and Boston Globe)
McClatchy Company --recently acquired Knight-Ridder with its 31 dailies (including 49.5% of Seattle Times, Bellingham Herald, Olympian)
Newhouse -- 26 dailies (including Portland)
Tribune Co. -- 14 (including Chicago Tribune -- recently acquired Times Mirror with 10 more , including LA Times)
Scripps-Howard -- 23
Hearst -- 12 (including PI in Seattle)
Cox -- 20
News Corp. -- 3 (Murdoch, includes Boston Herald)
Media News Group -- 18
Ingersoll -- 37


Top media company by newspaper revenue (for 2004)

Gannett Co. ($4.95 billion)
Tribune Co. ($4.1 billion)
New York Times ($3.1 billion)
Knight-Ridder, now owned by McClatchy ($2.89 billion)
Advance Publications (Walt Disney $2.28 billion)
Hearst Corp. ($1.56 billion)
Dow Jones & Co. ($1.29 billion)
Cox Enterprises ($1.16 billion)
McClatchy Co. ($1.16 billion)
Lee Enterprises ($1.14 billion)
The Washington Post Co. ($.93 billion)


Time Warner -- People, Time, SI, Fortune, Vibe, Money, Sunset, etc.
News Corp. Ltd. -- 17, New York, etc.
Hearst -- Good Housekeeping, Cosmopolitan, Esquire, ESPN Redbook, Harper's Bazaar, Popular Mechanics

Top media companies by magazine revenue (for 2002)

Time Warner ($4.8 billion)
Hearst Corp. ($2.2 billion)
Advance Publications (owner of Parade and Conde Nast magazines, $1.9 billion)
Primedia (owns 17 and Channel 1, $1.4 billion)
Reader's Digest (Reader's Digest, $.85 billion)
International Data Group (PCWorld, $.80 billion)
Bertelsmann (Gruner & Jar USA) ( $.77 billion)
Meredith Corp. ($.70 billion)
McGraw-Hill (Business Week, $.698 billion)
Reed Elsevier (Britain/Netherlands, Travel Weekly, $.64 billion)

Top 10 magazines for the year 2000, according to advertising revenue:
People ($723.7 million)
Time ($661.1 million)
Sports Illustrated ($649.6 million)
Parade ($582.2 million)
Business Week ($572.1 million)
Better Homes & Gardens ($471.1 million)
TV Guide ($450.4 million)
Newsweek ($439.6 million)>br> Forbes ($434.3 million)

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Viacom -- Paramount Comm. -- Simon & Schuster, Ginn & Co, etc. (also owns CBS, MTV, M2, VH1, 13 TV stations, Blockbuster, Simon & Schuster)
Harcourt Brace Jovanovich -- Academic Press, etc. (being acquired by Thompson and Reed Elsevier for $5.6 billion)
Time Warner -- Little Brown; Scott, Foresman, etc.
Bertelsmann, A.G. -- Doubleday, Bantam Books, Dell, Random House, Knopf, Crown, Ballantine, Times Books, Pantheon, Fawcett, Bell Tower etc. (also has holdings in magazines, McCall's YM, Family Circle, Fitness, Parents; recordings, RCA Records, BMG Music, BMG Catalogue, Arista, Killer Tracks; and is connected to America Online)
Reader's Digest Assn. -- Condensed books, etc.
Newhouse -- Random House, etc.


Columbia Pictures (Sony)
Warner Bros. (Time Warner)
Disney/Cap.Cities/ABC (Touchstone % Beuna Vista)
Paramount (owned by Viacom -- also aquired DreamWorks SKG in late 2005)
20th Century Fox (owned by News Corp. -- R. Murdoch)
Universal/MCA (GE, NBC, acquired Vivendi Universal in 2003)
MGM/United Artists (owned by Pathe Comm. Co -- Italy)
Disney, Paramount, Universal, Fox and Warner accounted for 70% of box office receipts by 1990.


Radio group owners

Clear Channel Communications (1,202 radio stations and 37 TV stations, including the Seattle-based Ackerley group acquired in October 2001 -- an effort to by a private group of equity firms to take over Clear Channel was under way in April 2007). The Thomas H. Lee Group (which owns the Time Warner Music division) and others moved in November 2006 to acquire Clear Channel for $18.7 billion
Viacom (owns Infinity and the CBS stations)
Cox Enterprises
ABC -- Walt Disney
Entercom Communications Corp. (headquarters, Seattle; KIRO-AM is lead property)

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Thomas H. Lee group -- ($2.5 billion, acquired Time Warner's music division in late 2003) -- Alanis Morissette, Neil Young, Hootie & Blowfish, Tracy Chapan, REM, Kevin Campbell, Clay Walker -- Total or part ownership if labels like Atlantic, Elektra, Maverick, Reprise, Sub Pop

Sony -- ($1.8 billion -- combining music divisions with Bertelsmann as of late 2003) $45.7 billion total 1996-- Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam, Rage Against the Machine, Celine Dion, Oasis -- Labels: Columbia, Epic, MJJ Music (with Michael Jackson), WorkGroup, 550 Music Soundtrax YabYum, Columbia Nashville

GE (NBC) (acquired Vivendi Universal in 2003)-- see below -- Mary J Blige, Lost Boyz, George Michael, Bush, Lina Santiago, Reba McEntire, Wynonna, George Strait -- Labels: MCA, Polygram, Zebra, 510 Records, Way Cool Records, Universal Records, Death Row, Voyager, Pallas, Groove Nation, Mojo Records

NBC now holds much of the music previously held by Philips, which was 13% in 1996 ($1.6 billion; $4.6 billion internationally) $15.8 billion total then -- Soundgarden, Cranberries, Melissa Ethridge, Elton John, Shania Twain -- Labels: A&M, Axiom, Capricorn, Motown, Rocket Records (with Elton John)

Bertelsmann AG -- ($1.3 billion; $5 billion internationally -- combining music divisions with Sony as of late 2003) $14.7 billion total in 1996 -- Wu-Tang Clan, Whitney Houston, Billy Ocean, Jars of Clay, Grateful Dead, Dave Matthews Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Tool, Pam Tillis, Tom Harrell -- Labels: Arista, LaFace, RCA, Silvertone, Volcano Entertainment

EMI -- $1 billion, $5.4 billion total in 1996 -- began talks with Time Warner in late 2003 to combine music divisions, but Time Warner sold to the Thomas H. Lee investment firm) -- Beastie Boys, Bonnie Rait, Billy Idol, Smashing Pumpkins, Rolling Stones, Garth Brooks, Ice Cube Master P, Cassandra Wilson -- Labels: Capitol, Grand Royal, Virgin, Priority

Independents: Only 21% -0- Run DMC, Third Eye, DJ Shadow, Versus, Rancid, Down by Law, Alison Krauss, John Prine

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ABC (Disney)
CBS (owned by Viacom; formerly by Westinghouse)
NBC (General Electric)
Fox (News Corporation)


Top media company by television revenue (for 2002)

Viacom -- CBS ($7.4 billion)
General Electric -- NBC ($6.76 billion)
Disney -- ABC ($4.48 billion)
News Corp. -- Fox ($4.3 billion)
Tribune Corp. -- WB ($1.1 billion)
Univision Communications ($.99 billion)
Gannett Co. ($.77 billion)



Top media company by cable revenue (for 2002)

Comcast ($16.0 billion -- serves 21.3 million subscribers) -- QVC, E! (with Disney and Liberty Media), Golf Channel (90%), etc.
Time Warner ($14.1 billion -- serves 11 million subscribers)
Viacom Inc. ($5.05 billion) --MTV, UPN, Paramount Channel, Nickelodean, VH1, Comedy Centra (with AOL-Time-Warner-Turner), Showtime, BET, TNN, CMT
Cox Enterprises ($5.0 billion -- Cox Cable)
Charter Communications ($4.56 billion -- Charter)
Walt Disney ($4.4 billion -- owns ESPN)
Adelphia Comm. Corp. ($3.4 billion) Cablevision ($3.2 billion -- Rainbow Media, with NBC and MGM) -- also is owned in part by News Corporation, also holding part of Primestar, which is owned in part by GE/NBC & Microsoft, which also holds part of Comcast)
News Corp. ($1.6 billion -- Fox Sports Networks)
Advance Publications ($1.4 billion)


Media feeding frenzy: a selected history

January 1986
Capital Cities Communication buys ABC (price: $3.6 billion) -- result Capital Cities/ABC

June 1986
General Electric buys RCA, parent company of NBC (price: $3.4 billion)

November 1989
Sony buys Columbia Pictures (price: $3.4 billion)

January 1990
Warner Communications and Time Inc. merge, creating world's largest media conglomerate (price: $14.1 billion)

January 1991
Matsushita Electric Industrial (Japan) buys MCA (price: $6.9 billion)

July 1994
Viacom buys Paramount Communications (price: $10 billion)

August 1994
Viacom buys Blockbuster Entertainment (price: $8 billion)

June 1995
Seagram buys MCA and renames it Universal (it holds Universal Studios) (price: $5.7 billion)

November 1995
Westinghouse Electric buys CBS (price: $5.4 billion -- later sets it up as a separate subsidiary)

February 1996
Walt Disney Co. buys Capital Cities/ABC (price: $19 billion)

October 1996
Time Warner acquires Turner Broadcasting System (price: $7.6 billion)

December 1996
Westinghouse/CBS buys Infinity Broadcasting (combining two large radio networks) (price: $2.9 billion)

December 1998
Walt Disney Co. buys Capital Cities/ABC (price: $19 billion)

October 1996
Time Warner acquires Turner Broadcasting System (price: $7.6 billion)

December 1996
Westinghouse/CBS buys Infinity Broadcasting (combining two large radio networks) (price: $2.9 billion)

December 1998
Seagram buys PolyGram music company (price: $10.4 billion)

February 1999
AT&T buys Tele-Communications Corp (TCI) (value: $69.8 billion

April 1999
CBS agrees to buy King World Productions (largest TV program syndicator) (price: $2.5 billion)

July 2000
Gemstar Internation buys TV Guide International (value: $14.6 billion)

September 1999
Viacom agrees to buy CBS (price: $36 billion -- CBS stockholders vote to accept in December 1999)

January 2000
America Online, worth $164 billion (and owner of CompuServe and Netscape), initiates a merger with Time Warner-Turner, worth $97 billion, in the largest takeover of a media conglomerate by an internet company

March 2000
Tribune Co. acquires Times-Mirror (including the LA Times) for a price of $6.38 billion.

November 2000
Harcourt is acquired by Thompson Corp. and Reed Elsevier for $5.6 billion

January 2001
FTC approves AOL merger with Time Warner-Turner

Oct. 2001
Ackerley sells media properties to Clear Channel

December 2001
Vivendi buys USA Network for as much as $18 billion

Comcast begins $72 billion merger with AT&T broadband

August 2003
GE (NBC) acquires Vivendi Universal

Fall 2003 -- Bertelsmann and Sony agree to combine music divisions; Time Warner sells its music division to Thomas H. Lee investment firm after selling half stake in Comedy Central, its stake in DirecTV, and the Atlanta Hawks and Atlanta Thrashers

Winter 2004 -- Comcast begins effort to acquire Disney in a $54 billion deal

circa 2005 -- Viacom splits its TV holdings into a separate CBS corporation

Fall 2006 -- Thomas H. Lee Group and others move to acquire Clear Channel for $18.7 billion.

These statistics were compiled primarily from material gathered from Advertising Age (esp. Aug. 18,2003, Aug. 19, 2002 and Aug. 21, 2000, the Seattle P-I (latest cites are 11/17/06, D2; 2/12/04, p. 1; 10/8/2001, p. E1 & 12/21/01, E1), The New York Times (10/20/2003 and 11/17/03 and 11/25/03), The Wall Street Journal (Dec. 13, 2000), the Every Other Weekly, the North County Times (San Diego County), USA Today and books/articles by Ben Bagdikian (The Media Monopoly) and Robert McChesney (Rich Media, Poor Democracy); and articles in Extra and Advertising Week, as well Columbia Journalism Review at
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Updated 2008