Platforms like Apple, Amazon, Roku to dominate streaming


John Malone chairman of Liberty Media

Michael Kovac | Getty Images | Vanity Fair)

Liberty Media Chairman John Malone told CNBC that Amazon, Apple or Roku could dominate in the crowded streaming space given their ability to scale globally.

“I think these global platforms will be enormously powerful,” Malone said in an interview that aired Thursday with CNBC’s David Faber. Most products they create will be selling wholesale through these transport systems, the billionaire media mogul added.

“The consumer’s not going to want to buy from a broad number of subscription services. They’re going to tend to want to go to one convenient supplier. It looks increasingly like that’s going to be, you know, Amazon … or it’s going to be Apple, or it’s going to be Roku. Or it could still be a Google effort,” he added.

As consumers continue to cut the cord in favor of streaming, the space has become increasingly competitive and the fight for subscribers continue to heat up. The largest U.S. media companies, including Disney, Comcast’s NBCUniversal, AT&T’s Warner Media, have launched their own streaming services, while the entertainment world is being disrupted by tech giants like Apple and Amazon.

Malone said Amazon and Apple are providing “extremely high quality services” and meeting consumer needs, while Roku, which aggregates content on its platform, is well-positioned for growth in the long run.

“I think the people who have the platforms in addition to the content, only the platforms, like Roku, are in pretty good position to build a long-term profitable global business,” Malone said.

“And because of their size and their market power, they are in the position to crush competitors or even to go into parallel businesses and wreak havoc. I don’t see anything likely to slow it down,” Malone added.

Cable industry ‘missed the boat’

The media magnate believes that it’s hard for the cable industry to catch up with other big direct consumer players that are rapidly expanding globally.

“I believe that the cable industry, the U.S. cable industry, kind of missed the boat on being able to be the direct consumer provider in the video space,” Malone said. “Never say never, and never say it’s too late, but the scale of a Charter or the scale of a Comcast is small compared to the scale of an Amazon or the scale of an Apple.”

Malone built cable empire TCI in the 1970s before selling it to AT&T in 1999 for roughly $50 billion.

Disney’s streaming service Disney+ blew past expectations for its first year with 73.7 million subscribers. Its cable networks’ operating income fell 7% year over year last quarter amid lower results at ESPN.

NBCUniversal’s new Peacock streaming service has reached nearly 22 million sign-ups. The service, which offers free and paid options, had 10 million sign-ups when Comcast last reported earnings in July.

“These things are global. And the cable guys that we’re talking about are a subset of the U.S.,” Malone said. “I don’t see how at this point they can catch the scale to be able to position themselves to be that powerful relative to the distribution of entertainment content.”

Disclosure: Comcast’s NBCUniversal is the parent company of CNBC.

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