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


42. Viacom

Broadcast, United States (Public)

Last year’s rank: #18

Digital Content Revenue

$1,000,000,000 (6% of total)

Digital Snapshot

Viacom has been among the most aggressive cable programmers when it comes to monetizing its content through digital channels. But the company has also taken some hits because of that. It’s widely suspected, for example, that the viewership nosedive at Viacom’s top-rated kids channel, Nickelodeon, is directly related to the wide availability of Nick shows on platforms like Netflix. Meanwhile, in balking at Viacom’s significant demands for affiliate fee increases, DirecTV has cited the ubiquitousness of Viacom’s shows in over-the-top channels.

Key Move

In response to a carriage dispute with number-two pay-TV service DirecTV, Viacom pulled most of its in-season programming from the streaming market. The question analysts are asking: With pay TV operators like DirecTV now challenging Viacom on the value of its programming, will that signal a more permanent pull-back?

Our Methodology

Viacom stated in 2007 that it had exceeded its yearly goal of $500 million in digital content revenue, driven by online extensions of TV brands including MTV and Comedy Central. Since that time, the company has entered into a number of licensing deals for online content distribution — it gets about $100 million a year from streaming shows on Netflix, for example. Viacom no longer breaks out digital revenue. But based on its streaming deals, we believe the company’s digital media revenue now exceeds $1 billion.

Source: FY 2011 earnings report

— Dan Frankel



Tripadvisor is all digital media and is around $750 M in yearly revenue and should likely be included on this list.

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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.


Thomson Reuters?! After Eikon failure & loss of half staff..? Are you mad.


What makes me wonder ist, taht there under th etzop 50 is not a single company from Germany. Germany is the biggest market in EUropa, but no German Hundefutter among the big player. I don’t buy that.

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).

Rick Noel

Google+ is a big strategy shift for Google and could, if executed well, become another digital revenue stream ti augment the search cash cow.


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.


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.


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.


Does this list distinguish between companies that charge users for access and those that do not, or was that weighted in the rankings?

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.


Yes, but they still should have had time to comment on the fact that MSN is no longer part of Microsoft and hasn’t been for several weeks. Sure that means they get to claim the revenue for this year but at least point out that they won’t have it next year.

Robert Andrews

The Microsoft profile page says: “Microsoft recently sold its stake in”
And the research period for all companies here predates that sale.
Any revenue change as a result will be reflected in next year’s pC50.

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