The 10 Companies That Control the News

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5. News Corp.
> Total combined audience: 51.4 million
> Number of platforms: 4
> Total local TV audience: 29.0 million (the highest)

News Corp. has one of the largest single presences in the American national news markets, primarily because of Fox News and The Wall Street Journal. The Journal is the leading financial and business newspaper in the U.S., and its website, which is behind a paywall, is also widely read. Fox competes with two major cable broadcast networks, CNN and MSNBC. Fox News often tops these others in national ratings. FoxNews.com is one of the most widely viewed news sites in the country, with a unique visitor count of almost 18 million a month, based on Pew’s count. News Corp. also has a local TV presence because of the Fox News Network. Between its 27 stations, News Corp. reaches nearly 25% of local TV viewers, more than any media conglomerate in the country. These include local stations in New York City, Chicago Washington, Dallas and Los Angeles. News Corp. is one of the largest media companies based in America, with sales of $33.7 billion last year and net income of $1.4 billion.

4. Time Warner
> Total combined audience: 68.2 million
> Number of platforms: 3
> Total local TV audience: n/a

The Time Warner Inc. (NYSE: TWX) national news flagships are CNN, CNN.com and Time Magazine. CNN may run behind Fox and MSNBC in television rankings from time to time, but it remains the original 24-hour TV news channel and continues to get spikes in traffic when there are important national and international news. CNN also has several of the top news anchors in the country, such as Wolf Blitzer, Piers Morgan and Anderson Cooper. CNN.com, which has a huge audience — draws content from CNN, but also uses content from several of the top magazine news brands in the country, such as Money Magazine, Fortune and Sports Illustrated — all of which are Time Inc. properties. Time Warner news properties have effectively joined forces to create a more complete Web presence on CNN.com. The Time Inc. magazine division of Time Warner includes several of the country’s largest weekly magazines such as Time, People and Entertainment Weekly. Time Inc. is the largest magazine publisher in the country.

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3. Disney
> Total combined audience: 59.9 million
> Number of platforms: 4
> Total local TV audience: 24.4 million (5th highest)

Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS) was almost completely an entertainment company with a focus on film and theme parks until it took ownership of ABC through a buyout of Capital Cities/ABC in 1995 for $19 billion. Because of that transaction, Disney owns the ABC Television Group, which includes ABC, one of the Big Three broadcast networks, ESPN, which is one of the largest sports news operations in America, and television stations in many of the largest markets in the country. ABC News and ESPN each has a substantial online presence. ABC News produces one of the premier morning programs in America, “Good Morning America,” and in the evening, “World News Tonight.” Even though many television viewers have turned to cable, these two franchises have retained a presence in the national news sector. ABC has local television stations in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago San Francisco and Houston. In total, all the ABC local stations reach more than 20% of the local television market in the United States.

2. Comcast
> Total combined audience: 67.3 million
> Number of platforms: 4
> Total local TV audience: 22.6 million (6th highest)

Comcast, the largest cable carrier in the nation, acquired a majority interest in NBCUniversal from General Electric Co. (NYSE: GE) in early 2011. The acquisition made Comcast one of the largest providers of pipes into people’s homes, along with other cable companies, satellite TV providers and telecom companies. So now Comcast is also one of America’s largest content producers. The crown jewel of the media company is the NBC Television Network, part of which is NBC News. Recently, NBC took over total ownership of MSNBC.com, making the network one of the largest providers of news on the Internet. The site is part of NBC’s online properties, which together reach 29 million unique visitors a month, according to Pew data. NBCNews.com is the leading Internet property of a stable that includes CNBC, partial ownership of large Internet video site Hulu, and women’s site iVillage. As is true of national TV networks Fox, ABC and CBS, NBCUniversal has a number of owned and operated television stations in the largest local markets in the U.S., including New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago and Philadelphia. Among them, these stations reach nearly 20% of the total local TV market in America.

1. CBS
> Total combined audience: 132.5 million
> Number of platforms: 4
> Total local TV audience: 28.9 million (2nd highest)

CBS’s reach in media content, particularly news content, is built on its substantial presence in network TV, local television, radio and online news. The CBS News and CBS Sports franchises reach almost every local market in the United States through the CBS Television Network. CBS owns and operates local stations that cover almost 25% of the American local television market — only slightly behind News Corp. The stations’ reach include several of the largest markets — New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. CBS also owns part of The CW Network, a joint venture with Warner Bros., that targets young women. It also owns the huge online tech review and news site, CNET, which it bought in 2008. CBS Radio owns 125 radio stations, which puts its audience in U.S. local markets second only to radio giant Clear Channel, based on Pew figures. The success of CBS has not been lost on its shareholders. The media company’s share price has risen from $13 three years ago to $35 recently. CBS has more eyeballs than any other media company — a total audience of almost 132 million.

Douglas A. McIntyre

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