Sunday, November 27, 2005

My Favorite Things: Who Owns What

One of my favorite things about a holiday weekend is sitting around with friends and philosophizing while we munch on leftovers. We talked about what careers we would choose today, given what we know about life. I said I'd be a writer, psychologist or archeologist.

Later, it occurred to me that all three careers shared the common trait of requiring a fair amount of research. Okay, I'll admit it; I'm a research whore. There's nothing I enjoy more than digging into some arcane subject--just for the joy of following a thread to its logical conclusion.

I say all this to introduce today's blog which started when I heard a casual reference on the news to the "six big media conglomerates." The newscast didn't name them so I tried to come up with all six, but found that I could only dredge up four.

I started by thinking of television and movies and named the first four pretty easily: Disney, which owns ABC and a bunch of production companies as well as radio and cable stations; Viacom, which owns cable and CBS stations along with Paramount Pictures; Time Warner, which owns CNN and HBO (among other cable stations) plus AOL and Warner Brothers production company; and Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, which in addition to newspapers owns Fox Broadcasting and Twentieth Century Fox.

I came up with a list of secondary companies (Belo, Clear Channel, Dow Jones and Knight Ridder), but knew that none of them qualified as a "big media conglomerate." I was forced to turn to research to identify the last two.

At this point, I want to credit the Columbia Journalism Review website ( for making my research so much easier. Much of the information that follows comes from the CJR media list. I also checked my information against Wikipedia.

The two remaining conglomerates were General Electric and Bertelsmann. GE owns NBC and Telemundo stations along with Universal Pictures. Bertelsmann owns German magazines, radio and television stations, BMG Music and Random House.

I was familiar with the name Bertelsmann since it owns one of the largest publishing houses. As it turns out, of the seven biggest New York publishers, my six media conglomerates own four. The rest of this blog will be devoted to the biggest New York publishers and their owners:

1. I'm going to start with Bertelsmann since that's where I left off. Bertelsmann (Germany) owns Waterbrook Press and Random House which has multiple subsidiaries. These include: Ballantine, Bantam Dell, Crown, Doubleday Broadway, Knopf and the Random House imprints.

2. Continuing with the big media conglomerates, Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation (Los Angeles) owns HarperMorrow Publishers, which includes over thirty imprints, including Avon, HarperCollins and William Morrow.

3. The third media conglomerate which owns a New York publishing house is Time Warner (New York), which owns a lot more than I listed above. They also own theme parks, magazines and Castle Rock Entertainment. The Warner Book Group owns Warner Books (including Mysterious Press) and Little, Brown and Company.

4. Number four is Viacom (New York) which owned a lot I didn't immediately recall: UPN stations, Infinity Broadcasting with its radio stations, and King World Productions. In addition, Viacom owns Simon and Schuster, which includes Scribner, Simon & Schuster and Pocket Books.

5. The fifth entity to own a large New York publishing house is a media conglomerate in its own right although it's not in the top six tier. Pearson PLC (United Kingdom) owns both trade and educational publishing subsidiaries. Among the trade publishing units are Berkley Books, Grosset & Dunlap, Penguin (including Jove and NAL), Puffin and Putnam.

6. The sixth company is another second tier media conglomerate, Reed Elsevier PLC (United Kingdom), which owns the Lexis-Nexis online service and a number of business publications. In addition, they own Harcourt School Publishers; Harcourt Trade; and Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

7. The final conglomerate to own a large New York publishing house is the only one not listed on the CJR media list: the Holtzbrinck Group (Germany) which owns Macmillan, St. Martin's Press, Pan and Tom Doherty Associates (which owns Tor and Forge).

I found it very interesting that of the seven large New York houses, three had their corporate offices in the United States (although Rupert Murdoch is an Australian), two were in the United Kingdom and two were in Germany. Publishing is truly an international business, and the Internet is shrinking the world even further daily.

Having gotten my research fix for the day, I'll get back to my holiday weekend. Hope yours is fun.

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