Global media CEOs in high-anxiety mode

Davos survey shows customer focus, strategy doubts

Global media, like most players in business and finance, had a voice at the annual World Economic Forum in Davos — and it sounded worried.

It seems 75% of media CEOs around the world fret intensely about shifts in consumer behavior. That may not surprise except that it compares with less than 50% of CEOs in most other businesses, according to research by PricewaterhouseCoopers presented at the ambitious annual confab that wraps Sunday. (And except for the 25% who aren’t worried.)

The firm polled more than 1,300 chief execs in 68 countries. All 56 – or 100% –of the showbiz CEOs (from 23 countries) said consumers “somewhat or significantly” influence their business strategy, by far the group most tied to their customers.

It’s a trend that started presenting strongly in 2010, said Matthew Lieberman, director with PwC’s Entertainment, Media and Communications Practice. PwC has put out the survey for 16 years.

Over 60% of showbiz CEOs are concerned about the speed of technological change, 19% above the global cross-industry total.

“They’re much more worried than other industries about consumer behavior. The see new products and services as key to success, more than other industries,” Lieberman said. A disproportionate 84% of them anticipate changing their company’s strategy within the next year.

Worldwide, media CEOs peg opportunities for expanding in their existing domestic markets at about 20% versus 32% for the wider sample. That means even as U.S. companies continue to eye European assets, international buyers will keep looking Stateside, like China’s Wanda Group did.

Most CEOs, media included, were more upbeat on the global economy this year than last.

Europe is looking better. In media, emerging markets are robust. Anecdotal evidence suggests that digital revenue is finally starting to have a meaningful impact on the bottom line. And a plateau in the home entertainment market – as sales stopped falling for the first time — has raised sprits.