In my almost 30 years in the media and entertainment worlds, I have probably heard the phrase “Content is King” more than any other cliche (or truism) in these industries. In an increasingly fragmented and plentiful media environment for consumers today, clearly content is driving the growth and success in VOD and other areas. In most cases the only thing that distinguish one media company over the other, and their products, is HIT content.

Many people have regularly repeated the mantra of content is King, but a newly- launched company, Candle Media, backed by the Wall Street behemoth, Blackstone BX -8.3%, has put a lot of money where their mouth is.















Candle Media was recently launched by Kevin Mayer, the former Chairman of International and Direct to Consumer at Disney DIS -4.4% and his long-standing colleague, Tom Staggs, the former COO of Disney. With Blackstone’s financial backing, Candle has already announced many acquisitions of content companies, as well as some minority investments. It should be noted that Mayer founded and operated the massively successful Disney Plus streaming service and was the chief dealmaker for Disney with great content brands like Pixar, Marvel, Lucas, and others.

It is generally accepted that the streaming industry is in dire need of more and more content, and particularly unique content with a strong appeal to various sub-groups of viewers. Candle is probably the newest and biggest company to address this huge opportunity for new content production and for existing content libraries.

Candle announced a few days ago that they would make a minority investment in Will and Jada Pinkett Smith’s company, Westbrook Inc. Westbrook has worked on film and TV productions like King Richard, released last year by Warner Bros, as well as Facebook talk show Red Table Talk and a number of widely seen titles on Snapchat and other digital platforms. For further analysis of the Westbrook investment, please see the paid newsletter from Forbes writer Jim Dowd.

Candle has made a number of other recent content buys with the acquisition of Faraway Road, the producer of Fauda, a hit show on Netflix, that is based on dramatic stories from the Israeli “homeland” security organization. Previously they have acquired Moonbug Entertainment which makes popular preschool shows like CoComelon, reportedly for $3 billion. They also acquired Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine for $900 million.

In an exclusive interview with Kevin Mayer, this writer asked about the future of media, particularly “traditional media” vs. user-generated content or what is increasingly called “creator content.”















Mayer, who also served as CEO of TikTok previously, fully understands the fun and entertainment of typically short form, UGC content, often devoid of any story. Mayer explained to me that Candle is focused on media that tells a story and that they believe that storytelling is the foundation of most successful content, particularly long-form content and content that drives huge audiences and revenue.

Mayer observed that “while UGC content may be very popular, it scratches a different itch than storytelling based content” which often involves a more emotional and deeper connection with the content, and is the basis of creating long-term successful franchises built around story-based content. Mayer said, “there is plenty of room for both types of content” as consumers seek out more and more forms and sources of entertainment.

Content – Long live the King!

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As we near the end of 2021 it is time to look back at my predictions for 2021 and see how I did. In 2020 I gave myself a B (3.25 out of 4) and you can read my 2020 predictions and self evaluation here. You can read my self-grading for 2021 for each prediction here. This year I scored myself at 3.77 (out of 4), a strong A-.

1. Again, just like last year, my first prediction is that we will continue to see many big deals (at big valuations) in the video game industry. I still expect the most likely big IPOs to be Discord and Epic. Last year we saw numerous acquisitions of game companies over $1B and I expect we will see that again this year, as well as a growing amount of funding going to earlier stage venture-backed gaming companies.

2. Again, repeating one of my predictions from 2021, I expect the “creator economy” – people and businesses who make money from creating things ranging from handicrafts, to games, to videos, and music, as examples – to grow dramatically. Many companies pay some of the revenue from these creations to the “creators” – the people who make the items or content. And some companies offer “creator funds” where they can make “grants” to creators to produce their “assets” and they split the revenue between the company (the platform) and the creators. Good examples of this are Roblox, which had a very successful IPO earlier in 2021, as well as Overwolf – a private company with substantial venture funding that focuses on video game modifications and other software related to gaming. Overwolf’s creator fund was originally provided by Intel INTC -0.6%.

3. Disney+ and Netflix NFLX -0.8% are the absolute winners of the SVOD wars, particularly in the U.S. and it is unlikely that HBO/Warner Bros. or Paramount+ or any of the other services will come close to the success of Disney and Netflix.

4. Cord-cutting will continue and move into the double digits this year. This trend is accelerating and the traditional cable companies will need to depend on Internet service and other products for their future growth.

5. Some people have rumored that Apple will buy a movie and TV studio to add substantial programming heft to the Apple TV offering. I can’t imagine Apple would like managing a Hollywood studio, or tolerate their expensive operations. Rather I would expect Apple to buy movie and TV libraries and continue to enter into production deals with various producers and their companies.

6. Connected TV (smart TV and other ways to connect your TV to the Internet) will continue to grow dramatically as more and more viewers will start using the various “extras” on CTV not just watching the SVOD services or the standard “broadcast” signals. One growing area is free games on CTV, for instance.

7. We will see big increases in two types of digital advertising in the U.S. – Connected TV advertising (already becoming big money) as well as mobile advertising which is growing as demand for mobile advertising avails increases. This will include a growing presence of advertising inside video and mobile as a new means of reaching consumers and driving revenue to the game makers.

8. NFTs are not a fad, nor is blockchain, or cryptocurrency. These parts of the “new economy” are real and driving billions of dollars of transactions around the world. People love to collect and trade items, probably since the days of the earliest human precursors. NFTs will be used to digitally identify and trade “objects” or virtual goods – which could be items in a game – or could be a partial ownership over a digital (or a real world object) like a piece of art. NFTs bring collecting and trading to the digital space and games are emerging as one of the primary early applications of NFTs in the digital world.

9. Audio advertising is getting a revival due to the growth of podcasts and live streaming. In an “ad product” that harkens back to the early days of radio, much of the audio advertising found on digital services are live ads delivered by the podcaster and/or the streamer (live streaming content like esports game play). For example, a streamer might say “When I am done with this podcast, I am going home to a Bud Lite”. A great example of this growing approach is from StreamElements where they offer a digital platform for advertisers and live streamers to match-up. Live, audio ads are another way to break through the clutter and reach consumers using digital platforms.

10. Web 3.o – It seems like this is the year that Web 3.0 will be defined. It appears that the “digerati” are heading towards considering “The Metaverse” to be Web 3.0. Many of the analysts I respect see the metaverse more as a “style” of digital interaction rather than one central location (like Disney World). There are in fact already many “metaverse-y” type digital events – concerts in Fortnite by Epic, a kids “teleport” in a game by Toya (Miraculous LadyBug) from Roblox that took these kids to a Netflix kids “event” elsewhere in Roblox. All of the virtual worlds, including older ones like Second Life, which is very profitable, are examples of elements of what the Metaverse is and what the Metaverse can be. Web 3.0 will become known for decentralization, further AI decision-making, interoperability across items and digital services, and an expanded version of community and identity.

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Apollo, the well-known private equity/investment firm bought Yahoo and other media assets of Verizon in a deal valued at $5 billion in a deal that closed on September 1 of this year. Less than two weeks later Apollo and Yahoo have announced that they have named a new CEO for Yahoo (which also includes AOL), Jim Lanzone, mostly recently CEO of Tinder, the popular dating/meeting app.

Yahoo is still a major player in the digital world and drives significant advertising revenues in particular. They report that they have 900 million users worldwide. Verizon bought Yahoo in 2017 and AOL in 2015 for a combined $9 billion.

This will be a big turn-around situation for Lanzone considering the assets were not successful for Verizon. As a stand-alone private company, owned mostly by Apollo, Lanzone may have the time and resources to revitalize Yahoo’s advertising and other revenue opportunities, their content monetization, and their overall relationship with the digital consumer.

Lanzone would certainly be on my short list to head up the new Yahoo. His background is impressive from a joint MBA/JD degree from Emory University in Atlanta to a very small and before its time start-up, called, that was bought by Ask Jeeves, the predecessor to, which is now part of IAC. Jim ultimately became the CEO of after it was acquired by IAC. He later founded Clicker, which was bought by CBS in 2011. Until his departure from CBS in 2019, Jim led the digital operations of CBS Corporation as Chief Digital Officer and Chief Executive Officer of CBS Interactive.

Marc Debevoise who ran digital at CBS for a number of years, while reporting to Lanzone, said “Jim is a tremendous leader, a great builder and motivator of teams, and a veteran and expert of effectively all the businesses Yahoo participates in. It’s going to be really fun to see what he does with this leading set of assets.”












Lanzone is also a member of the board of directors of GoPro and has been an entrepreneur in residence with one Silicon Valley’s most well-regarded venture capital firms, Benchmark. Lanzone will be leaving his position as CEO of Tinder to assume the leadership of Yahoo.

“I am so honored to have the opportunity to lead Yahoo and represent such an iconic portfolio of brands as we enter a transformational new era for the company,” said Lanzone in the official press release from Yahoo.

Lanzone went on to say “I look forward to working with the exceptionally talented Yahoo team, globally, as we create and innovate daily on behalf of our millions of users and advertising partners worldwide. With our unique assets, resources, and lineage, we are one of the few companies positioned to tap into the many new opportunities appearing in the categories where we’re strongest. I cannot wait to hit the ground running with the Yahoo leadership team and Apollo to help grow the business exponentially in the years ahead.”

The current Chairman of Yahoo and Partner at Apollo, Reed Rayman, heralded Lanzone’s arrival at Yahoo. “Jim has a remarkable track record of leading and growing innovative businesses in our industry, and we are thrilled to welcome him on board. With his experience and proven management skills, we are confident Jim is the right leader to steward Yahoo through a transformational new phase that can leverage the best of Yahoo’s platform and performance to reach new heights,” said Rayman.

The previous CEO at Yahoo, Guru Gowrappan said in the Yahoo press release “Now as a standalone company, Yahoo is well positioned to continue to capitalize on key expansion opportunities and I am confident that Jim, Apollo and the entire Yahoo team will work together seamlessly to build on this momentum.”

Drawing a horse racing analogy, Miller said, “Jim’s appointment is a trifecta. He’s got a great combination of long-standing real experience, deep and current knowledge of the digital markets, and the ability to manage a significant organization.

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