Digital giants tighten their grip on top media owner ranking

The Top Thirty Global Media Owners report is a ranking of the world’s largest media companies by media revenue, as estimated by Zenith. The report was launched in 2007 and was last published by Zenith in 2015. Zenith defines media revenue as all revenue deriving from businesses that support advertising, to determine which companies are most important for the marketing industry.

There are four other digital giants among the top 30 global media owners – Facebook, Baidu, Yahoo and Microsoft – and all have risen up the ranking this year. Facebook has moved up from 10th place last year to fifth place this year; Baidu has moved up from 14th to 9th; Yahoo from 18th to 15th; and Microsoft from 21st to 17th. Facebook is the fastest‐growing media owner in our top 30, with media revenues up 65 per cent on last year. Baidu is second‐fastest (up by 52 per cent) and Alphabet is third (up by 17 per cent).

Between them, the five digital giants generated US$88bn in media revenue, which is 34% of all the revenues generated by our top 30 companies, and represents 65 per cent of the entire global internet advertising market. Their collective dominance of digital advertising means that these five companies have captured most of the gains from its rapid growth. Digital adspend has grown at an average of 18 per cent a year for the past five years, driven by the spread of mobile technology, the rise of social media and online video, and improved advertising technology, such as programmatic buying and local real‐time search. Adspend across all other media has grown by just 0.6 per cent a year.

Faced with stagnant revenues from their core businesses, traditional media owners have invested in their digital activities, either expanding digital extensions of their existing brands or creating new stand‐alone digital products. This has been particularly pronounced among newspaper and magazine publishers, which have suffered from long‐term decline in demand for their print products in most developed markets. However, most media owners have found competition much more intense on the internet than in their traditional markets, since the barriers to entry are so low and the cost of distribution is effectively zero.

This high competition, and the dominance of the digital giants, has made it difficult for many media owners to replace lost revenues from their traditional businesses with new digital revenues. Nearly half of our top 30 media owners have lost media revenues compared to last year, although in two cases this is because media owners have disposed of some of their media activities. Time Warner has spun off its magazine division as a stand‐alone company – Time Inc, which makes its debut in this report at number 30 – while CBS Corporation has withdrawn from the outdoor advertising business.

“The big five digital media owners control most of the world’s internet advertising market, and its rapid growth is propelling them up the ranking of the biggest global media owners,” said Jonathan Barnard, Zenith’s Head of Forecasting. “The traditional media owners in our top 30 ranking have been scrambling to scale up their own digital businesses, to various degrees of success. 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.”

More about Zenith’s media owner ranking report

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