The M&A Impact on Media Talent

After a wave of mergers, larger media firms will need different talent strategies to succeed; a Korn Ferry report.

Over the last two years, executives at cable companies, film studios and other legacy media organizations have said that they need to consolidate to keep up the with the pace and scale of Amazon, Netflix and newer firms. Disney bought Fox. AT&T acquired Time Warner. Sinclair attempted to buy Tribune. Discovery and Scripps came together.

But it’s one thing to cut the check and merger, it’s quite another to mesh the cultures and rally the employees behind a common vision. “If you have a problem, you’re not going to just merge your way out of the problem,” says Deirdre McGlashan, global chief digital officer for MediaCom.

McGlashan and several other media executives spoke with Korn Ferry senior client partner Henry Topping Korn Ferry about the changing media landscape.  In “Value creation through talent,” Topping and colleagues conclude that the media firm’s talent strategy may vary wildly depending on the type of merger they are going through. “These newly merged entities will need to make significant organizational changes—no easy feat in industries that hardened structurally decades ago, long before direct customer-level data emerged as a useful tool,” Topping says.

The one talent skill needed regardless of merger type is the ability to harness the power of data. That may be a cultural shift, since many media firms traditionally made major programming decisions based on focus groups or gut feel rather than customer-level data. “The talent needs to include an analytics team that can take the raw data and put it into consumable use cases to help drive the business,” says Jeff Hirsch, chief operating officer of the premium cable network Starz. “The knowledge gleaned will allow content producers to create high value, well targeted content, thereby making smarter bets.”

Indeed, in the new media landscape, owning a platform or producing a great show will not be enough to succeed. Topping says that the consolidated media firms will need to bring the right content on the right platform at the right moment to satisfy consumers. 

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