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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Last year I presented my predictions in technology and media for 2020 in As one would expect, in some cases I was right on the nose, in other cases, I was a few steps behind, and in a few cases, I was just plain wrong. I will be publishing on, in a few days, my predictions for 2021, but lets look first at how I did in 2020. This will be a “self-graded” evaluation. The prediction is in normal case below and the evaluation is in italics.

1.   Grade: – A

Prediction: “Unity will be a very big, and successful tech IPO in 2020.”

Outcome: Unity was clearly one of the bigger and better tech IPOs in 2020.

While Snowflake (who had ever heard of them before?) and Palantir also had huge IPOs, exceeding that of Unity.

2.  Grade: – B

Prediction: “Home voice platforms will move toward ubiquity in the U.S. and many more services, content, gaming and other features will be offered through voice platforms.”

Outcome: Though rates of growth for voice assistants and smart speakers slowed down this year, the market continues to grow by at least double digits. While not ubiquitous yet, these devices are moving in that direction, at which time the applications for these devices will flourish.

3.  Grade: – A

Prediction: “The ‘no code movement’ will prosper in 2020. New tools enable the average consumer to make an app, game, or other software using creator tools from companies like AppOnboard, Roblox, Tongal, etc.”

Outcome: The “no code movement” is part of the creator economy – the idea that regular individuals can make profitable content with no professional education or training. Roblox is one of the hot examples of the creator economy where the development of games is so easy that thousands of people are regularly making new games for Roblox. Other companies such as AppOnBoard/Buildbox and Manticore have made numerous announcements of their growth and success this year, as well as AppOnBoard’s success with a number of the top games in the charts built on their platform.

4.  Grade: C

Prediction: The App Stores will encounter more competition from other companies as we have seen with Steam, Epic, etc. This year will be the beginning of the Post-App Store competition for Apple and Google.

Outcome: While Epic, Steam, and others are launching their own app stores and offering better revenue splits with the developers, the Apple and Google App Stores have had another great year. Perhaps this will be one of those predictions that needs another year or two to mature?

5.   Grade: A

Prediction: Everybody coming out of high school and college wants to be a start-up CEO.

Outcome: While it is hard to have data to prove this, ask anybody funding early stage companies, and it sure feels like everyone under 25 wants to be a CEO.

6.   Grade: C

Prediction: The best days are behind for Netflix.  They will see big challenges in 2020 from a wide variety of TV and film content services, including Disney+ who will be the SVOD winner in 2020.

Outcome: While I still believe that Netflix has some challenges (see my upcoming 2021 predictions), clearly this was another great year for Netflix, and I could not have been more wrong. I did, however, accurately note the big success of Disney+.

7.   Grade: A

Prediction: Snap will continue to dominate the social media usage of teens and young adults in the U.S. and other high-value countries.

Outcome: Snap had a great year, growing in users, and clearly dispelling the notion that they were a “one trick pony”. The Snap stock has risen dramatically this year – 250%!

8.  Grade: A

Prediction: Cord cutting will continue to grow driving skinny bundles, SVOD, AVOD, and other digital content.

Outcome: I was early, as an analyst, in predicting that cord cutting would become a major challenge to the traditional media companies. That has borne out to be true over the years and this year the cord cutting continued to intensify.

9.   Grade: A

Prediction: The Internet and the Web are all about video. People don’t want to write, but they love pictures and video. The Web will be the strongest video platform ever. And the phone becomes both a camera and a TV with more video content being consumed on smartphones.

Outcome: When you survey smartphone consumers you find many people watching video on a regular basis on their “small” screen. The smartphone has become a TV and on all devices consumers are voraciously consuming “old” and “new” video content.

10. Grade: C

Prediction: 5G will present amazing mobile opportunities for publishers and consumers. The phone will become increasingly central to the production and consumption of video and other content. 5G will be a game changer, especially in markets where traditional IP connections are slow.

Outcome: While not my fault, 5G has not rolled aggressively this past year and we will see how deeply 5G penetrates in the year ahead. Once 5G is ubiquitous the power of digital content and services will grow even stronger.

11. Grade: B

Prediction: AI will be central to most big data problems, prediction solutions, discovery solutions, and management decision. AI will be proven to be big business that delivers value now.

Outcome: Artificial intelligence is at the core of so many big data companies and deals today. It seems like most new technology companies speak to AI in one way or another. While this is still the early days of AI, it is apparent that the best technology in this area will drive very successful companies.

12. Grade: B

Prediction: Tech and media companies will be challenged by the US, European and other government efforts to control data privacy and protect consumers from fraud and privacy breaches. Efforts will grow to break-up Facebook, Google, etc.

Outcome: Anyone running a Website or a digital app knows that the laws and rules are changing and growing in regard to consumer privacy and security. Big and small digital companies are all working hard to meet the demands of the regulators and legislators. It appears that the demand for more privacy and security regulations will be even stronger in the near future. And there is no reason to believe that the U.S. Government is going to push hard to break-up companies like Google or Facebook.

For a final grade I end up with a 3.25 out of 4-point grade average. So I guess I will settle for a solid B in the predictions department for 2020.