8 minute read 15 Dec 2023
M&E trends 2024

Key trends to watch in the media and entertainment industry in 2024

By John Harrison

EY Americas Media & Entertainment Leader

Transformative leader with a passion for media and entertainment. Identifying the opportunities afforded by convergence and disruption. Executing strategies to succeed in a fast-moving market.

8 minute read 15 Dec 2023
Related topics TMT Media and entertainment

Close up: 2024 media and entertainment trends

  • Where are media and entertainment (M&E) executives focused as we enter 2024?
  • What can M&E leaders expect from macro influences, the efficiencies and changes being brought by GenAI, and the deal landscape in the coming year?

As we wrap up 2023, many media and entertainment executives are already looking ahead and focusing on growth opportunities in an increasingly complex and fluctuating landscape. Amid shifts in consumer viewing and media consumption trends, and as new technologies and legacy platforms battle for dominance, what should leaders expect in terms of macro influences, deal opportunities, and the specter of generative AI (GenAI) bringing efficiencies and more change? Let’s take a closer look at the trends to watch in 2024 and where opportunities may exist to unlock value and gains.

1. Carriage agreements become change agents

A long-standing gripe of consumers purchasing the classic pay TV bundle is having to pay for dozens — or even hundreds — of channels that are never viewed. The advent of streaming enabled households to “cut the cord” and sign up for direct-to-consumer (DTC) services filled with the programming they wanted, while reducing their monthly bills.

Now, media companies operating networks and streaming services are attempting a high-wire act, trying to extend the life of their profitable linear broadcast and cable network assets while also pushing programming to streaming platforms to drive subscription growth, engagement and, increasingly, advertising revenue. At the same time, distribution companies are growing frustrated by the ever-rising rates demanded by linear network owners — even as viewership slides and the same programming content available in the legacy bundle also appears on streaming services. This dynamic is encouraging cord-cutting and devaluing what has been a decades-old symbiotic relationship.

In 2023, the outcome of an intense carriage negotiation between two industry heavyweights has reset the framework, and it’s about to serve as a template for others to follow in 2024 and beyond. Under the new model, a couple of things will happen. First, network owners will retain linear distribution for their most popular channels, protecting the still-sizable financial contribution from these businesses that fuels investment in streaming and content. And second, cable and satellite companies will, in turn, seek a rationalization of the network portfolio, eliminating from the bundle poorly viewed channels and their associated costs for consumers. More importantly, distributors will aim to package related DTC services with linear offerings to deliver a next-generation bundle of streaming and traditional broadcast and cable network content.  

Pay TV consumers who also stream will benefit by not having to pay for the same content twice. Distributors will simplify their offering (fewer low-value channels) and potentially slow the rate of cord cutting. And media companies will stretch the remaining runway of linear cash generation while also gaining access to new streaming customers, especially for ad-tier services that require subscriber scale for success.

2. Deals … or no deals?

Following the burst of mega-transactions over the last five years that created the industry leaders of today, market participants and investors are eagerly awaiting what could be a final round of media consolidation. On the surface, the rationale for mergers and acquisitions (M&A) remains intact: amassing content and sports rights, scaling DTC, cutting costs, and improving competitive positioning against the digital-native behemoths. However, hurdles exist that may slow any push to further rationalize the industry in 2024.

To crank up the deal machine over the next 12 months, executives and boards will focus on several key areas:

  • Long-tail networks

    The outlook for low-performing cable networks has shifted since the carriage agreement reset that took place in 2023. Simply put, these networks, which have been reliable cash flow contributors for many years, are now more likely to go dark as multichannel video programming distribution (MVPD) renewals occur, significantly diminishing their value today. Media operators contemplating their strategic future may force the issue by shuttering underperforming channels and reallocating content to ad-supported DTC platforms.

  • Pre-emptive portfolio maneuvers

    To position their companies for participation in major M&A, media leaders in 2024 will continue exploring opportunities to prune assets that are deemed non-core or that may be unattractive to would-be merger partners. Divestitures can also raise capital to repair stressed balance sheets or to redeploy into growth areas. While speculation has been rampant regarding various asset sale or spin-off scenarios, execution is complicated, expensive and uncertain.

  • Timing

    Only a few credible consolidation scenarios remain in big media. The “likely suspects” are known, and each brings to the table a unique set of attributes and considerations. Waiting for the optimal moment to act may result in the window of opportunity slamming shut as other players strike a deal. The risk of strategic isolation is real – so the key players should take steps to evaluate both whether and when to make a bold move.

  • Regulatory feasibility

    It’s no surprise that the merger approval process hangs like a cloud over the consolidation landscape. While impossible to predict outcomes in the current political environment, an extended regulatory review is likely, based on the experience of recent transactions in media and other industries. Media leaders pursuing big deals in 2024, an election year in the US, must get comfortable navigating through ongoing industry disruption during what promises to be a lengthy and uncertain sign-to-close period. 

The media industry has been built and rebuilt via M&A over many years. Looking ahead to 2024, company leaders will continue gaming out all strategic paths forward. However, pulling the trigger on a deal will require conviction to clear some very high hurdles.

3. AI adoption gains steam

Media companies in all subsectors are experimenting with tools and solutions infused with GenAI. In the year ahead, early stage proof-of-concept projects and use case evaluations will continue at an accelerating pace. While the excitement is palpable, executives will remain mindful of the corresponding spending, risk and quality control issues that can arise with the implementation of this emerging technology.

As artificial intelligence (AI) becomes more accessible, media leaders in 2024 will consider the technology through two primary lenses: unlocking productivity and propelling incremental growth. 

  • Unlocking productivity

    GenAI applications that enable faster and lower-cost execution of back-office and support functions are appealing to media companies facing pressure to reduce expenses. AI use cases in finance, customer support, IT, human resources, compliance, procurement and more are all in play. 

  • Propelling incremental growth

    For media companies, GenAI offers transformational opportunities in content creation, distribution and monetization. Pilot projects are underway in story development, video and audio generation, content editing, personalized content delivery, as well as throughout the advertising value chain.

While the potential benefits of GenAI are exciting, media industry participants will keep a close eye on associated challenges. Recent labor strikes in Hollywood were based in part on the job security threat posed by the introduction of GenAI to the creative process. Protecting intellectual property is also top of mind for studios, record labels, publishers, and all owners of content. Trust, accuracy, privacy and fairness will be major areas of focus as GenAI implementation scales up.

4. Box office recovery remains a work in progress

Feature films are tracking to a healthy 20%+ year-over-year growth at the box office, according to BoxOfficeMojo, further solidifying the storyline that consumers are eager to return to theaters to see the latest Hollywood release. Yet, despite decent performance in 2023, results remain 19% below the comparable pre-COVID-19 period. Overreliance on long-running franchises and a wide release slate that is lighter than historical averages are contributing to the slow recovery.

Studios are taking action. While acknowledging that the impact of the 2023 strikes will flow through the release calendar over the next couple of years, media leaders have reaffirmed their commitment to the first-run window. Talk of day-and-date releases in theaters and on streaming services is a relic of the pandemic era. Now, successful films are leveraged to drive streaming sign-ups after completing their theatrical runs. Quality and originality are under the spotlight, too. After the blockbuster results achieved by the “Barbenheimer” phenomenon and record-setting concert films from Taylor Swift and Beyonce – matched against lackluster performance from several franchise installments – commentary out of Hollywood points to a renewed emphasis on fresh storytelling and a focus on excellence in 2024.

Robust ticket sales for concerts, sporting events and theme parks indicate consumers are eager to gather to enjoy entertainment. As the movie business progresses on its path forward, box office results will follow.

5. Will consumers tap out?

Our final observation is about the rising cost of living and its impact on the outlook for consumer spending on media and entertainment: as inflation rates tick down, fears of a hard landing are abating. Yet, headwinds exist, and many consumers are feeling stretched. When just about everything requires a subscription, a movie night with the kids costs $100, and attending a game or a concert runs many multiples of that, industry leaders are keenly aware that a lot of entertainment spend is discretionary. In 2024, we will continue to see M&E companies strive to showcase the value of their offerings with creative packages, innovative commercial partnerships, exclusive features and dynamic pricing.


The year ahead promises to be another eventful one across the media industry. Leaders are already attacking growth opportunities, managing through disruption and positioning their businesses for a variety of potential end games in 2024 and the years that follow.

About this article

By John Harrison

EY Americas Media & Entertainment Leader

Transformative leader with a passion for media and entertainment. Identifying the opportunities afforded by convergence and disruption. Executing strategies to succeed in a fast-moving market.

Related topics TMT Media and entertainment