The Great Digital Displace

11 Jul,2019


By A Correspondent


Digital streaming brands have turned the latest industry ranking by Brand Finance, the world’s leading independent brand valuation consultancy, on its head. Testament to their power to disrupt status quo, digital platforms have claimed five out of 25 spots in the league table, with two brands – YouTube and Netflix – jumping straight onto the podium behind Disney – the industry’s unchallenged leader. As a result of the rise in popularity of on-demand streaming, enjoyed by viewers who no longer need to rely on fixed cable television schedules, most traditional network and studios brands have felt the pinch, sliding down the ranks.


Online heavyweights YouTube and Netflix have claimed second and third position in the ranking respectively. The last year has seen YouTube’s brand value swell to US$37.9 billion, up 46% from 2018. Meanwhile, Netflix more than doubled its brand valuation reaching US$21.2 billion this year, with its record 105% growth unmatched by any other Western media brand. Alibaba’s Youku (11th) and Baidu’s iQiyi (17th) as well as the Swedish audio-streaming app – Spotify (20th) – have also joined the Brand Finance Media 25 ranking for the first time.


Competition from online providers has had a marked effect on traditional broadcasting outlets, as one in two of the ranking’s incumbents have either lost brand value or seen meagre growth in the past year. The digital revolution has taken its toll on both sides of the Atlantic, with UK-based BBC (brand value down 9%), Sky (up 2%), and ITV (up 5%), as well as ABC (down 41%), Fox (down 6%), and NBC (down 3%) in the US struggling with the challenge posed by new players in the sector.


Commented David Haigh, CEO of Brand Finance: “Digital streaming platforms have revolutionised home entertainment, as they are better able to adapt to the needs of modern consumers seeking on-demand and advertising-free content. As customer preferences evolve at a faster pace than ever, the new platforms will need to continue to build relationships with consumers to stay ahead of the curve”.


Disney’s dreams come true: Unchallenged by newcomers, Disney maintains its position as the world’s most valuable media brand, following an impressive 40% rise in brand value to US$45.8 billion.


Over the last year, Disney has undertaken several strategic acquisitions in a bid to stay ahead of its competitors. Disney’s acquisition of Star India was an integral move to gain a foothold in the Subcontinent, which is currently the second-largest subscription TV market in Asia. The brand, which already owns a 60% stake in Hulu, is due to take full control of the service imminently, further demonstrating Disney’s pursuit of greater international exposure and dominance within the sector.


In March 2019, Disney acquired 21st Century Fox for an eye-watering US$71 billion, in preparation for the launch of its own streaming service, Disney+, later this year. Disney now holds the rights to Deadpool and the Fox-owned Marvel characters, to add to its ownership of Pixar’s intellectual property and the Star Wars franchise.


These purchases have placed Disney in a strong position within the digital streaming media landscape. At US$7 a month, its Disney+ subscription fee is going to be half the price of HBO Now and cheaper than Netflix, which raised its fee by US$2 in January 2019. These factors are set to place the brand as Netflix’s strongest competitor even before the official launch of Disney+.


US brands dominate ranking: US brands account for 9 out of the top 10 and claim an impressive 18 spots in the Brand Finance Media 25 2019 ranking. Traditionally reliant on the Hollywood powerhouse and the reach of the network giants, the US is now staying ahead of the game thanks to digital players from Silicon Valley.

However, the nature of the technology behind the digital disruption of the media market makes it easier for brands from other countries to break into the market. As the examples of Youku and iQiyi demonstrate, Chinese media brands may give the US monopoly a run for its money in the coming years. A further challenge can come from European start-ups such as Spotify.


iQiyi is fastest-growing: With a whopping brand value growth of 326% to US$4.3 billion, iQiyiis not only the fastest-growing brand in the media sector, but across all categories in the Brand Finance Global 500 2019 report. As China’s answer to Netflix, iQiyi hosts over 500 million monthly active users. Recent reports of the brand setting its sights on China’s US$9 billion box office, suggests further rapid expansion over the next year.


Disney-owned ESPN is strongest: Aside from calculating overall brand value, Brand Finance also determines the relative strength of brands through a balanced scorecard of metrics evaluating marketing investment, stakeholder equity, and business performance. Alongside revenue forecasts, brand strength is a crucial driver of brand value. According to these criteria, Disney-owned sports channel ESPN is the world’s strongest media brand with a Brand Strength Index (BSI) score of 88.9 out of 100 and a corresponding AAA brand strength rating.

Following some instability over the past couple of years, resulting in the brand’s previous President, John Skipper’s, resignation, ESPN’s strength on the global media landscape has once again resurged. The appointment of new President, Jimmy Pitaro, in March 2018 was a clear sign of the brand’s intent to modernise and marked a shift in its operations. Most notably, the brand launched ESPN+, its streaming service, which hit the one million subscribers mark in under six months. More recently, the network has partnered with the National Women’s Soccer League for the FIFA Women’s World Cup, streaming 14 games live on the ESPN app, exposing the network to 25.4 million domestic viewers.


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