Have you noticed the commercials getting longer and more frequent on sites like Hulu? Content providers are being squeezed as the price of content continues to climb, while subscription rates stay steady on a monthly basis. Those two factors are leading companies like Hulu to raise revenue from other sources as content providers reap the benefits.
Pure studio model
Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. (USA) (NYSE:LGF) is the most successful independent film and TV distribution company in the US, and the seventh-most profitable movie studio. As an independent film company, Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. (USA) (NYSE:LGF) relies heavily on the revenue it receives for creating great content. Lions Gate has created hit television series such as Weeds and Mad Men, and movies such as Twilight, the Hunger Games.
Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. (USA) (NYSE:LGF)’s success has attracted top-talent directors and producers to the company to solidify its moat, however, the creative world of entertainment can be a feast-or-famine environment. Last year, the company experienced a loss of -$0.17, and in the most recent quarter it beat expectations by $0.10 with EPS results of $0.51.
Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. (USA) (NYSE:LGF) is currently on a winning streak with the four-part Hunger Games series, but that will only sustain the company until the “next big thing” is found. Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. (USA) (NYSE:LGF) is busily pumping out movies like Now You See Me that use star- studded casts and special affects to draw in audiences.
The downside to all of Lions Gate’s success is that it is so cyclical and it’s really hard to determine what will and will not be a blockbuster. Content provider The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS) is a prime example of a well-diversified media conglomerate
The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS) owns movie studios, television networks, ESPN, theme parks, and has a stake in Hulu. If The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS) has a bad year at the box office, it can rely on revenue from its other divisions to keep the company afloat. However, with the Marvel and Lucas film acquisitions, Disney has secured several large and loyal followings.
The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS) was just hit in its ESPN division with higher content costs and more competition as CBS and Fox News enter the sports market. This could be a real problem for The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS), as the previous cash cow is seeing some neighboring cows to compete against. ESPN is bundled into Disney’s media networks division, which accounts for 46% of its revenue and nearly 70% of its profit.
Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ:NFLX) is the arch rival of Hulu. Where Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ:NFLX) has depth, Hulu has breadth and freshness. The difference between them is the cost of content. As a Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ:NFLX) or Hulu Plus subscriber, you pay $7.99 per month for an “all you can eat” business model. Between the two, Netflix has nearly 10 times the number of subscribers as Hulu at 30 million and 3 million, respectively.
In addition to subscription revenue, Hulu also has ad revenue from traditional video ads that interrupt the shows; these advertisement dollars allow Hulu to pay up for fresher content from the studios while keeping prices down for consumers.
Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ:NFLX) recently struck a deal with Disney for access to its media library, and exclusivity to the company’s upcoming releases. This deal will give Netflix a much needed stream of fresh content for years to come, as the company has been criticized for having thousands of movies that nobody wants to see. This deal has the potential to keep customers paying $8 per month; individuals who may have otherwise canceled their subscriptions. For Disney, this deal gives it a way to monetize its huge archives of classic movies.
Movie studios like Lions Gate have a very delicate balancing act to play when it comes to striking contracts with content providers. On the one hand, they can gain a lot of revenue from Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ:NFLX) by striking a contract. On the other hand, they are potentially giving up revenue from other sources as the subscriber base at Netflix increases.