What ‘GAFAN’ Is The Most Dangerous To Traditional TV?


MIAMI BEACH — If you think one of the world’s biggest social media companies isn’t serious about entering the over-the-top (OTT) video programming distribution fray, think again.

Today at NATPE MiamiFacebook Head of Global Creative Strategy Ricky Van Heen unveiled a trio of new shows coming to Facebook Watch, including a program featuring noted outdoors adventurist Bear Grylls.

The announcement provided the perfect context for a “View from the Street” discussion on what “FANG” (or “GAFAN,” to use current Silicon Valley parlance) is most dangerous to traditional media. The answer from financial analysts who cover media stocks may surprise you.

Coming to Facebook Watch are Bear Grylls: Face the Wild, Fly Guys, and a show with the working title Sacred Lies.

The Grylls-helmed docu-series bows March 21. Fly Guys will get the earlier debut date of Feb. 2, and is a non-scripted 10-episode series that follows a crew of top European acrobats and pro stunt performers.

What is presently called Sacred Lies is based on the classic Grimm Brothers tale “The Handless Maiden” and the novel “The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly” by Stephanie Oakes. No debut date has been announced.

With Tuesday’s announcement from NATPE Miami, Facebook Watch is now an OTT player.

Wall Street has had its eye on Facebook for some time, and it is one of the “most dangerous” digital threats to traditional media. The “GAFAN”s are defined as Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple and Netflix.

Of those companies, which one is the biggest threat to broadcast and cable TV?

Analysts say it is Amazon.

It’s an interesting pick, given many executive changes at Amazon Studios seen in the last year. However, there’s money to be invested, and given Amazon’s breadth as a company, they are viewed as the No. 1 entity to strike at the heart of TV’s golden ticket — sports.

Michael Nathanson, partner at MoffettNathanson, opines, “Which of those four companies will disrupt our sports world? Even Apple could get in … The glue that we believe in could be slightly peeled away from our world.”

Ben Swinburne, Head of Media Research and a managing director at Morgan Stanley, adds, “Amazon has not gotten its return on its spend that it has been looking for so far.”

Ahead of the Facebook Watch announcement, he noted that Facebook “doesn’t know what it is doing yet with its Watch.”

That sentiment could still ring true, as one program has no debut date, and two others are reality-based shows mirroring content widely available on over-the-air and MVPD-distributed channels.

But, Swinburne wouldn’t put Amazon Studios at the top of the list of broadcast and cable TV disruptors. In his view, Alphabet’s Google and YouTube are at the top of the list. Nathanson agrees.

For Macquarie analyst Amy Yong, Chinese operators Tencent and Alibaba deserve closer attention. But, she believes one beloved tech brand born in Silicon Valley is ready to strike at the heart of Hollywood.

She says, “Apple is one to watch as the one to destroy the traditional media industry.”

RBR+TVBR will be on-site at NATPE Miami through Thursday, Jan. 18.