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paidContent 50: The world’s most successful digital media companies

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31. Universal Music Group

Music, United States (Public)

Last year’s rank: #17

Digital Content Revenue

$1,385,228,400 (26% of total)

Digital Snapshot

A familiar story: digital music sales growth of 9.6 percent couldn’t offset a 15.9 percent dip in physical sales last year. Digital tracks, cheaper than plastic, made up just a third of UMG’s recorded music sales – but, spurred by ongoing physical decline and the emergence of new subscription digital music income, the label and its peers are now on the cusp of the tipping point. UMG label acts include Maroon 5, Rihanna and The Killers.

Key Move

All change and a big shake-up in the music business. Universal owner Vivendi successfully bid £1.2 billion for EMI Music, condensing four majors in to just three. But the buy-up must clear regulatory hurdles, and the corporation had to shed €500 million in “non-core assets” (notably, three percent of its Activision-Blizzard stake) to finance the deal. That’s a significant makeover – is EMI, whose biggest acts include Coldplay and Kylie Minogue, worth it?

Our Methodology

Vivendi’s 2011 annual report disclosed this figure in digital music sales.

Source: Vivendi 2011 annual report, p 148

— RA

21 Responses to “paidContent 50: The world’s most successful digital media companies”

  1. Good Job Mr. Robert

    I am a freelancing SEO and SMM professional. The recent update of google penguin and panda has changed the SEO pattern radically.

    And google has done this algorithm change to spread their digital ads business nothing than this.

    I really hate this because, making loss to others for their own profit is a Digital Crime and Weak Business policy from my view. Check my site Arsenal Highlights

  2. ciaranj

    If you want to rank things on revenue, fine. But then don’t call it the ‘Most Succesful List’: Microsoft might ‘make’ $3.9b on digital content, but it also loses around $3b every year too.

  3. Abdallah Al-Hakim

    I think this is a terrific list despite any reservations some people have about the methodology. It really demonstrates the huge growth potential of digital media companies in some of the emerging markets. Also, as a scientist – I note Elsevier being top 5 in revenue (Elsevier is publisher behind many of the top scientific journals).

  4. Mindbendingpuzzles

    What about Valve and their digital games platform: Steam. I know they are a private company and figures are hard to come by but in 2011 Forbes reckoned they have more than 50% of the 4 billion dollar PC games download market. That is huge.

    I would really love to see Paid Content do some investigation on Valve because they are an incredibly innovative company who really push digital retailing to its limits.

  5. Groupon and Monster are’t really media companies. I’m not even sure that ad agencies should qualify in the same category as Viacom or Time Warner. Totally different business model.

  6. Brendan

    Why is eBay not in this list? They have an ad business on and their classified sites, and the seller fees they collect are essentially paid ads since the platform doesn’t handle the items. This list is also missing Alibaba Group from China (including Taobao), and Gree from Japan.

  7. Zato Gibson

    “Creating this list wasn’t easy.”

    I can imagine. Manipulating the numbers to get Microsoft into the top 10 must have been really tough.