Empires of Entertainment and Distribution Change

In her book Empires of Entertainment by Jennifer Holt, she covers the span of 15 years in which media companies gained the freedom to merge into giant “Empires of Entertainment”. Holt Focuses mainly on the 1980’s detailing what she believes is the beginning of empires. Stating that Ronald Reagan had influenced the beginning merge of film with television. Reagan started removing government influence over the film studios thanks to deregulation of media laws, which let them own television networks. Holt finishes in the last chapter with the early to mid-1990’s describing 4 big mergers and the Telecommunications act of 1996, connecting film and cable together. In this sense the distribution of media/entertainment was uniform and in the hands of the film studios. Any other form of distribution would threaten that established order causing profit loss for the studios. The development of Web 2.0 is an example in change of distribution and facilitation.

Freeing the media companies from government influence in the 1980’s, was in line with capitalism and the free market but not necessarily in benefit to the public. Even with the end of the Cold War in sight communism definitely had an influence over Reagan’s decisions as well as his early career as an actor in Hollywood and radio broadcaster.

The 4 mergers between 1993, 1995; Paramount-Viacom, UPN-The WB, ABC/Disney and Time Warner-Turner; where consolidation of power between the specific two large media companies which led to the telecommunications act in 1996. Effectively these mergers granted ownership to their CEO’s over the majority of the broadcasting and film industry. With each subsequent merger, and broadcasting belonging to the film studios, the telecommunications act was the last piece the “Empires of Entertainment.” Indeed, the Telecomm Act unleashed another era of structural convergence that created brand new power struggles in the media industries (Holt 21). VHS and later DVD’s were forms the film studios could control and gain from economically because prior to Web 2.0 piracy was harder.

A market controlled by a few giant conglomerates that keep the power to themselves might be free but this scenario is not very diverse. In addition they don’t need to compete with each other since they have already divided the market amongst themselves sharing in the massive profits from distribution that benefits solely them.

Bennett editorial cartoonThe fact that before deregulation the film studios were not allowed to own television networks created competition in the distribution. Audiences had access to entertainment both at the cinemas and on television. Deregulation provided the film studios to own both forms. In this sense the 1980’s saw a return to early forms of distribution, when theaters owned by studios where the only means to see the films. With development of Web 2.0 new forms of media distribution get created such as YouTube and later Netflix. Along with free streaming online and easier ways to download and copy films. The film studios don’t know how to react and it creates problems for them. However the trade for the new forms of distribution is drop in quality in exchange for increase of quantity.

Holt, Jennifer. Empires of Entertainment. New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 2011. Print.


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