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Hollywood’s Worsening Catch-22

Zaslav, saddled by that $50 billion-plus in debt, feels like he’s ready to do anything to save money, short of putting Bob Evans’ house on Airbnb. Photo: Santiago Felipe/Getty Images
Matthew Belloni
November 3, 2022

“What the eff do these people want?” I was on the phone yesterday with a friend on the corporate side at Paramount Global in New York, getting his read on the latest shellacking of the stock despite the fact that the company grew its streaming business to 67 million subscribers. It was easy to comprehend his frustration—and the anger that everyone is feeling around Hollywood. To many, the streaming-video clown car that we all feared would drive off a cliff now sees that cliff squarely in the rearview window, and it’s getting smaller and smaller.

How bad are things? It’s odd because, arguably, the fundamentals of the content business are still pretty strong. This is just a transition period—linear to digital—and the companies that invest enough to cross that bridge without going bankrupt (or getting gobbled up) in the process will thrive on the other side. So let’s avoid the temptation to become hysterical about this stuff. But… the market is pretty ugly out there. With Disney’s earnings still to come next week, let’s check in on the year-to-date stock declines of some of the biggest content players, ranked from kinda depressing to Where’s my noose?