(From “The Global Media Giants,” by Robert W. McChesney, Extra!, November/December 1997)
$25 billion – 1997 sales
Time Warner, the largest media corporation in the world, was formed in 1989 through the merger of Time Inc. and Warner Communications. In 1992, Time Warner split off its entertainment group, and sold 25 percent of it to U.S. West, and 5.6 percent of it to each of the Japanese conglomerates Itochu and Toshiba. It regained from Disney its position as the world’s largest media firm with the 1996 acquisition of Turner Broadcasting.
Time Warner is moving toward being a fully global company, with over 200 subsidiaries worldwide. In 1996, approximately two-thirds of Time Warner’s income came from the United States, but that figure is expected to drop to three-fifths by 2000 and eventually to less than one-half. Time Warner expects globalization to provide growth tonic; it projects that its annual sales growth rate of 14 percent in the middle 1990s will climb to over 20 percent by the end of the decade.
Music accounts for just over 20 percent of Time Warner‘s business, as does the news division of magazine and book publishing and cable television news. Time Warner‘s U.S. cable systems account for over 10 percent of income. The remainder is accounted for largely by Time Warner‘s extensive entertainment film, video and television holdings. Time Warner is a major force in virtually every medium and on every continent.
Time Warner has zeroed in on global television as the most lucrative area for growth. Unlike News Corporation, however, Time Warner has devoted itself to producing programming and channels rather than developing entire satellite systems. Time Warner is also one of the largest movie theater owners in the world, with approximately 1,000 screens outside of the United States and further expansion projected.
The Time Warner strategy is to merge the former Turner global channels–CNN and TNT/Cartoon Channel–with their HBO International and recently launched Warner channels to make a four-pronged assault on the global market. HBO International has already established itself as the leading subscription TV channel in the world; it has a family of pay channels and is available in over 35 countries. HBO President Jeffrey Bewkes states that global expansion is HBO‘s “manifest destiny.”
CNN International, a subsidiary of CNN, is also established as the premier global television news channel, beamed via ten satellites to over 200 nations and 90 million subscribers by 1994, a 27 percent increase over 1993. The long-term goal for CNN International is to operate (or participate in joint ventures to establish) CNN channels in French, Japanese, Hindi, Arabic and perhaps one or two other regional languages. CNN launched a Spanish-language service for Latin America in 1997, based in Atlanta. CNN International will also draw on the Time Warner journalism resources as it faces new challenges from news channels launched by News Corporation and NBC-Microsoft.
Before their 1996 merger, Turner and Time Warner were both global television powers with the TNT/ Cartoon Network and Warner channels, drawing upon their respective large libraries of cartoons and motion pictures. Now these channels will be redeployed to better utilize each other’s resources, with plans being drawn up to develop several more global cable channels to take advantage of the world’s largest film, television and cartoon libraries. Time Warner selected holdings
Majority interest in WB, a U.S. television network launched in 1995 to provide a distribution platform for Time Warner films and programs. It is carried on the Tribune Company’s 16 U.S. television stations, which reach 25 percent of U.S. TV households; Significant interests in non-U.S. broadcasting joint ventures; The largest cable system in the United States, controlling 22 of the largest 100 markets; Several U.S. and global cable television channels, including CNN, Headline News, CNNfn, TBS, TNT, Turner Classic Movies, The Cartoon Network and CNN-SI (a cross-production with Sports Illustrated); Partial ownership of the cable channel Comedy Central and a controlling stake in Court TV; HBO and Cinemax pay cable channels; Minority stake in PrimeStar, U.S. satellite television service; Warner Brothers and New Line Cinema film studios; More than 1,000 movie screens outside of the United States; A library of over 6,000 films, 25,000 television programs, books, music and thousands of cartoons; Twenty-four magazines, including Time, People and Sports Illustrated; Fifty percent of DC Comics, publisher of Superman, Batman and 60 other titles; The second largest book-publishing business in the world, including Time-Life Books (42 percent of sales outside of the United States) and the Book-of-the-Month Club; Warner Music Group, one of the largest global music businesses with nearly 60 percent of revenues from outside the United States; Six Flags theme park chain; The Atlanta Hawks and Atlanta Braves professional sports teams; Retail stores, including over 150 Warner Bros. stores and Turner Retail Group; Minority interests in toy companies Atari and Hasbro.