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Handful of major streamers will survive as rest ‘swallowed up,’ says Liberty Global CEO

SERIESFEST: Between three and five large, general entertainment platforms will emerge victorious in the streaming wars while the remainder will be acquired by bigger players, according to Liberty Global CEO and vice-chairman Mike Fries.

Mike Fries

The companies he highlighted as “moving to the middle” and becoming fully built-out general entertainment streaming platforms are Disney, Warner Bros Discovery, Netflix and YouTube TV.

“There will be four or five that try to rush to the middle and the rest will get swallowed up,” said the exec during a panel at SeriesFest in Denver yesterday. Streamers and studios without that level of scale will struggle to survive as standalone entities, he said.

“I don’t see Starz, AMC [surviving]… It’s going to be hard for these smaller [platforms with] 20 to 30 million subscribers rotating in and out, 60% churn a year. It’s going to be hard for these folks to maintain momentum. They have great creators, producers, content. But I think it’s going to be difficult.”

Fries added: “I sit on the board of Lionsgate. I see it with Starz, it’s not easy.”

He also discussed the seismic impact he believes artificial intelligence (AI) will have on the media ecosystem and society at large.

“I’ve been in rooms with the CEO of Microsoft and the CEO of Open AI, and they describe it as being bigger and more important – socially, economically – than the internet,” he said, adding that it will have a “dramatic impact” on creativity.

The potential impact of AI is one of the many issues central to the Writers Guild of America’s strike against the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers, which represents the studios in labour-related matters.

“It has the ability to go out to the entire internet, trillions of pieces of data,” Fries said. “If you ask it to write you a script in the voice of Francis Ford Coppola, it’s going to produce you a script, and it’s possibly going to be very good, who knows?

“And what it’s doing is exactly what you would do if I asked you to write that script. It’s relying on its experiences, its knowledge, all the things that you’ve learned over the years. Whenever we create something, we’re relying on a lifetime of experience that we’re putting into that, that’s what the AI model is doing as well.

“I think it’s going to have a dramatic impact. I’m not trying to be hyperbolic here.”

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