Like 2018, 2019 was another year of political turmoil and media disruption. The streaming wars officially got underway, with Apple TV+ and Disney+ launching and HBO Max, Peacock and Quibi on the way. Disney acquired, kept and expanded its ownership in Hulu as well. All of those services join Netflix, which was first to market and innovate TV streaming, as well as Amazon Prime Video.
Here are the ten media stories Daily Brief felt most impacted the television industry in 2019:
1) President Donald J. Trump is impeached
Donald Trump was Daily Brief‘s top story last year too, and in 2019, impeachment was the story no one could escape.
It concluded—for this year at least—on Wednesday, Dec. 18, when the House of Representatives, largely along party lines, impeached Donald J. Trump on two counts. That makes Trump the third American president, along with Bill Clinton and Andrew Johnson to be impeached by the House. Richard Nixon was not impeached because he resigned beforehand.
Wednesday’s House vote scored high ratings for cable news networks with more than 16 million people overall tuning in at 9 p.m. ET to see the final House vote. Fox News, CNN and MSNBC combined for 11.3 million viewers in the 8 to 9 p.m. hour, and that audience grew to more than 12 million by 9 p.m. NBC was the only broadcast network to carry the entire vote live, while ABC and CBS briefly broke in to report the news.
Throughout the process, which has included lengthy hearings in the House Intelligence and Judiciary Committees, broadcast and cable networks have carried the proceedings, frequently preempting regular programming.
The process moves to the Senate in January, where Trump is expected to be acquitted by the Republican majority, led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
2) UK makes strides towards Brexit
It’s been as rocky a political year in the UK as it has been in the US, with prime minister Theresa May resigning in June to be replaced by fellow Conservative Boris Johnson. Johnson is proving more resilient, having won a majority of votes in the country’s recent general election, which is allowing his party to form a majority government.
Under Johnson’s leadership, it’s expected that Brexit will finally be pushed through. Johnson has promised supporters that a bill would pass Parliament by Christmas and that a Brexit deal with the EU would be done by Jan. 31. One result of Brexit has already been that many media (and finance and others) companies have moved their headquarters to other European cities, such as Brussels and Amsterdam.
3) Disney acquires Twentieth Century Fox
It took 15 months but Bob Iger and Rupert Murdoch finally got it done: The Walt Disney Co. closed its $71.3 billion purchase of most of 21st Century Fox (excluding Fox Broadcasting Co. Fox News, Fox Business and 28 TV stations) in March.
4) Disney debuts Disney+
A big part of the reason Disney wanted to acquire Fox was to assist in the building of its new subscription streaming service, Disney+, which it successfully launched on Dec. 12. The new service offers new and existing assets from Disney, Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar and National Geographic as well as some Fox assets, like The Simpsons.
In its first month alone, Disney+ signed up an estimated 24 million U.S. subscribers and introduced the world to Baby Yoda.
Earlier this month, Viacom and CBS successfully completed their re-combination into an entertainment company with more than $28 billion in annual revenue. The two entities previously operated as a merged entity from 1999 to 2006.
Bob Bakish leads the combined company as president and CEO, while Joe Ianniello remains chairman and CEO of CBS.
The combined company, which is known as ViacomCBS Inc., includes CBS; Showtime Networks; CBS All Access and half ownership of The CW; Viacom and all of its cable networks, including BET, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, Paramount Network, Pop and VH1; and Paramount Pictures.
The combined Viacom-CBS library comprises more than 140,000 episodes of television and more than 3,600 movies, including popular film franchises such as Star Trek and Mission Impossible. It will reach more than 4.3 billion TV subscribers in more than 180 countries. Viacom also acquired free streaming service Pluto TV, which it is augmenting with content from Viacom’s networks.
It’s not the juggernaut that Disney+ is at launch, but it was launched by a juggernaut: AppleTV+ debuted in October with such original series as Golden Globe-nominated The Morning Show, starring Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon; See, starring Jason Momoa; Dickinson, starring Hailee Steinfeld; and For All Mankind, starring Joel Kinnaman.
The service costs $4.99 per month and is included as part of the purchase of many Apple devices or to students who subscribe to Apple Music.
7) WarnerMedia restructures
Ahead of its launch of streaming service HBO Max this spring—which will include such popular series as Game of Thrones, Friends and The Big Bang Theory—WarnerMedia reorganized. To that end, it named Bob Greenblatt chairman of WarnerMedia Entertainment and extended Kevin Reilly as chief content officer of HBO Max and head of TNT, TBS and truTV through 2022.
WarnerMedia also promoted Jeff Zucker to chairman of WarnerMedia news and sports from his prior post as president of CNN Worldwide.
8) Top TV producers score lucrative deals
As TV gets all the more competitive, top TV producers, creators and showrunners are able to demand lucrative deals with studios.
To wit, this year J.J. Abrams, who is just releasing Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, agreed to a $500 million multi-year deal with WarnerMedia, while David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, the creators and showrunners of Game of Thrones, signed a $200 multi-year deal to produce for Netflix. Dan Fogelman, creator and showrunner of NBC’s This Is Us, agreed to $125 million to stay at Twentieth Century Fox, which is now owned by Disney. And just this week, Sharon Horgan, creator of Catastrophe and Divorce, signed a deal with Apple.
9) US Women again dominate Women’s World Cup
One of the biggest sports stories of this off-Olympics year was the U.S. Women’s Team’s complete domination of the Women’s World Cup, which was carried in the U.S. by Fox Sports and Telemundo.
The U.S. women scored a record fourth title and became only the second team, after Germany, to retain their title for two straight World Cups.
The U.S. Women’s Team also became a part of the #MeToo storyline, after they protested being paid so much less than their male counterparts while performing so much better on the world stage. Two dozen members of the USWT filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against U.S. Soccer in March and a judge in November ruled that any women who had played soccer for the organization could be counted as part of a class-action lawsuit. That case is still ongoing.
10) Nexstar finalizes acquisition of Tribune Media
Years of trying to figure out the future of beleaguered Tribune Media finally came to a close in September, when Nexstar completed its acquisition of Tribune Media.
For years before that, Sinclair Broadcast Group had been trying to buy the media group, which included TV stations in top markets New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, but the government finally blocked that deal over regulatory issues, allowing Nexstar to swoop in.
Just as the government had required Sinclair to do, Nexstar had to divest some stations to keep it under FCC-regulated media ownership caps. Tegna purchased 11 stations, mostly Fox and ABC affiliates, in small and medium-sized markets for $740 million, while Scripps paid $580 million for eight stations, including WPIX New York and WSFL Miami.