Jay Leno's debut in the 10 p.m. hour was must-see TV for NBC. But the audiences have left him and we predict he'll leave the time slot in 2010, perhaps to return to late night, maybe on another network. (Justin Lubin / NBC)
- If there was still any debate in the media world over which is king -- content or distribution -- it was settled in 2009.
Between cable giant Comcast Corp.'s $30-billion deal to take control of NBC Universal and Walt Disney Co.'s surprise $4-billion purchase of comic book publisher and Spider-Man home Marvel Entertainment Inc., it became abundantly clear that it's more valuable to own what goes on the screen than the screen itself. Even a back-of-the-pack cable network like the Travel Channel sold for almost $1 billion, and Nickelodeon shelled out more than $50 million for rights to four old Ninja Turtles characters.
Content owners may be king, but it won't be worth much if these media titans can't figure out how to make money from all the new platforms overwhelming the landscape. There is a general consensus that putting content on the Internet for free -- d'oh! -- may not have been the brightest idea. Much of next year will be spent experimenting with business models to get people to pay for what they are used to getting for free.
Satellite broadcaster DirecTV will be sold to AT&T. The deal will face intense scrutiny, and to get it through Washington, DirecTV will agree to end its exclusive deal with the National Football League. Worried about being left behind, Verizon will start kicking the tires of Dish Network, but Dish CEO Charlie Ergen will lose the deal after attempting to extract too steep a price.
* Hulu will start charging viewers.
Hulu, the free video site owned by News Corp., NBC Universal and Disney, will require people to pay to watch its programming. This will cause a rift internally as Hulu CEO Jason Kilar resists switching to a pay model, leading to his exit.