The media landscape has been changing for years, but in the past few weeks, changes have gone into overdrive. Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) announced an updated Apple TV, Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX) debuted a new iPhone app (which I love), and Google TV appears close to becoming reality. These new products highlight a change in the way we'll devour content as the old DVD and TV model becomes extinct.

The iPad, iPhone, Google TV, Internet reruns, satellite, etc., give users options for where they're going to get content, but the content itself hasn't changed very much. We're still watching television shows and movies, but the location and price options may have changed.

Content is king
If content can move anywhere at the flick of a switch, I want to own the best content with the most bargaining power. Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA) is in a unique position as a cable provider making its move to content, working to add NBC to Versus, E!, and The Golf Channel,  among others. But Time Warner (NYSE: TWX) decided against that model and regulators might fight back as well. As more pure content providers go, Time Warner tops my list with HBO, TNT, CNN, and Warner Brothers studio. Here are the five big content providers and their key assets.


Market Cap

P/E Ratio

Notable Assets

Disney (NYSE: DIS)

$65.7 billion


ABC, ESPN, A&E Networks


$10.4 billion



Viacom (NYSE: VIA)

$22.5 billion


MTV, VH1, Comedy Central

Time Warner

$35.0 billion


CNN, TNT, HBO, Warner Bros.


$50.8 billion


E!, Versus, NBC (pending)

Source: Motley Fool and Yahoo! Finance.

The downside is CBS, which I think not only has some of the weakest content but also has the highest P/E of the five companies. CBS' revenue has declined in each of the past three years and earnings have fallen sharply from 2007 levels. Time Warner, on the other hand, offers 25% adjusted EPS growth over the past three years when you take out the Time Warner Cable spinoff.

Competition among devices and distribution methods may take some time to develop as customers decide how they like to watch content. But whether you use an iPad, iPhone, Google TV, or a transistor radio, I don't think content will change much because big networks and studios will continue to dominate our media landscape. May the best content ultimately win.

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Fool contributor Travis Hoium tries not to watch Netflix while driving and does not have a position in any company mentioned here. Walt Disney is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation. Apple, Walt Disney, and Netflix are Motley Fool Stock Advisor picks. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. True to its name, The Motley Fool is made up of a motley assortment of writers and analysts, each with a unique perspective; sometimes we agree, sometimes we disagree, but we all believe in the power of learning from each other through our Foolish community. The Fool has a disclosure policy.