Who Owns What?
By: Simon Pitt | Written: Thursday 20th August 2009
The increase in the number of media conglomerates has created a world in which a handful of huge companies own dozens, if not hundreds, of smaller companies. Often companies that seem small and independent are owned by huge multinational conglomerates.
Rupert Murdoch is famous as a media mogul, but News Corp isn't even the largest media conglomerate. The Walt Disney company is the largest, with Viacom (apparently short for Video & Audio Communications - as if that's likely) third and Time Warner fourth. What makes this confusing, though, is that Viacom is owned by National Amusements, which is 80% owned by Summer Redstone.
Often the chain becomes quite complex. News Corp, for example, has a 40% share in BSkyB, which, in turn, has a 20% share in ITV, which has a 40% share in ITN. Another 20% of ITN is owned by the Daily Mail and General Trust. So The Daily Mail, ITV and News Corp work together on ITN, which produces news for Channel 4. I've always regarded ITV News as the television version of The Daily Mail, and this, in part, explains it. But more to the point, these three different sources of news, are, ultimately, lining the pockets of the same pot (illogical metaphor aside).
Most people who aren't stupid know that News Corp owns The Times and The Sun, but not as many people know that News Corp also owns MySpace and Rotten Tomatoes. Sometimes, the results are surprising. Microsoft, for example, owns a 5% share of Apple. Seeing these connections, you realise that many of these big companies are not primarily media companies, but investment companies. The point of conglomerations isn't to generate media, create news or drama, but to make money, and often the way to ensure that they always do this is to own and invest in competing companies. The competition, then, becomes almost a joke. It doesn't matter to them who makes the most money; whichever company does best, they win. I'm reminded of the tagline to the "cinematic masterpiece" Alien Vs Predator: "whoever wins, we lose".
Below follows a brief over-view of which conglomeration owns what, some of these will be well known, but some are a bit more surprising.
News CorporationEveryone knows News Corp own Fox, Twentieth Century Fox and Fox Searchlight Pictures, as well as The Sun, The News of the World, The Times and The New York Post. However, they also own:
The London Papers (a free London evening paper, competing with London Lite), Dow Jones and Company, The Wall Street Journal and HarperCollins.
In addition, they own The National Geographic Channel and they have a 40% share of BSkyB. They have also moved into websites and own GameSpy, IGN, drownedinsound, MySpace, Photobucket and Rotten Tomatoes.
Time WarnerTime Warner, of course, own Warner Brothers and Time Magazine, but they also own AOL (a 5% share of AOL belongs to Google). They own a variety of American TV channels, including: the wonderful HBO, Cinemax, The Cartoon Network and CNN. Along with Warner Brothers, they own Newline Cinema and Picturehouse. Surprisingly, they also own Winamp, Bebo and DC Comics. Along with Time Magazine, they publish NME, and such highbrow periodicals as TV Times (the idiot's answer to the Radio Times) Woman's Own, Nuts and Loaded.
The Walt Disney CorporationThe world's largest media conglomerate owns largely film companies, including, obviously, Walt Disney Pictures, but also Touchstone Pictures, Hollywood Pictures, Miramax Films, Pixar, Buena Vista International, the American channel ABC, The History Channel and they have an 80% share in ESPN.
General ElectricGeneral Electric is an interesting company. As well as having an 80% share in NBC they were one of the group of companies that founded the British Broadcasting Company (which was incorporated in 1927 and became the BBC we know and love). They now own the Sci-Fi Channel, Universal Studios, Focus Features and Working Title Films.
National AmusementsNational Amusements holds a majority share in Viacom, which in turn, owns all of these companies: Paramount pictures, Dreamworks, Nickelodeon, United International Pictures, MTV and Comedy central. They also own CBS, Showtime and the Movie Chanel. More surprisingly they own last.fm, cnet and the publisher Simon & Schuster.
Daily Mail and General Trust plcEveryone's "favorite" immigrant-basher, The Daily Mail also owns London newspaper The Evening Standard and London Lite (which is free in the evenings, unlike The Evening Standard) and Metro (which is free in the morning). They have a 20% share in ITN, and own Classic FM, Teletext, and, quite surprisingly, the film company Pathe.
The BBCOther than its unusual origins in the General Eclectic, the BBC is relatively transparent. Most items they produce contain the BBC brand. BBC Films used to be a separate company, but a recent restructure has put it under the control of BBC Vision (the departement that makes TV, as opposed to BBC Audio and Music, the department that makes radio (entitled thus because somebody high up obviously doesn't realize that music is audio). BBC Worldwide is the commercial arm of the BBC but again remains branded with the BBC logo. It controls BBC Books and BBC Magazines. Both of which do what they say on the tin.
The only oddities are UKTV (which the BBC co-runs with Virgin). They also part own the home of "witty banter", stupid names and irritating slogans: Dave. Finally, there was the unusual, and ultimately doomed, partnership with Woolworths: 2 entertain Ltd, which released videos and DVDs. The BBC is a major player in Freesat and the will-it-won't-it Project Canvas (which isn't the "will-it-won't-it" but ultimately "it-won't" Project Kangaroo). The BBC also, of course, publishes the Radio Times, which slightly hides the fact it is a BBC magazine; it's the only one not to have the logo emblazoned all over it.
PearsonThe final mention goes to Pearson, which gets on this list due to the slightly unusual companies it owns. It is the owner of The Financial Times and then Penguin, Ladybird and Dorling Kindersley. The black sheep of the Pearson family is the exam board Edexcel, which is the only exam board in the UK that belongs to a private company, and really isn't a media company, no matter how you look at it.
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