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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Last week, I wrote about the race to own the future of TV, focusing largely on efforts by technology companies to invest in mobile and streaming video, and noting legacy media networks were largely behind.

The bottom line: The consensus among most analysts is that many networks don't at this point have the scale to compete directly with some of the streaming giants, in large part because they spent years as wholesalers with no direct-to-consumer relationships.

  • The other side: That could change as networks consolidate, and they may not want to. The future of TV likely won't be a "winner take all" scenario, so not everyone has to compete directly with Netflix to succeed by their own measures.

I chatted with Alan Wolk, leading TV industry analyst and co-founder and lead analyst of TV[R]EV, on his take. He thinks the networks "are starting to hit back a little harder," with more innovative distribution and bigger investments, but will struggle to compete with some of the big tech companies who can promote their content to audiences over a much larger geographic window.

  • Still, Wolk says, talent at the networks could come back to bite some of the tech companies, who haven't proven the ability to produce quality programming at scale, despite investing heavily in poaching talent and buying franchises.

The big picture:

  • CBS has created a few direct-to-consumer streaming products like "CBS All Access," which has over 2.5 million subscribers. It's also increasing programming investments for its free ad-supported services, "CBSN" and "CBS Sports HQ."
  • NBC recently launched a free, rewards-based streaming network that's a promotional tool for its programming. NBC News says it's building an online streaming services catered toward younger viewers. It's invested heavily in its Snapchat show, Stay Tuned, which has migrated over to other social platforms.
  • ESPN said recently it had over 1 million subscribers signed up for its ESPN+ app, and that the majority weren't pre-existing "ESPN Insider subscribers."
  • Fox News recently unveiled plans for its subscription streaming network "Fox Nation."
  • Viacom has had some success with its preschool streaming platform, Noggin. Its CEO says it's looking to stay niche.
  • Dozens of other TV networks, digital media companies and even retailers are launching their own streaming networks.

Between the lines: Disney (+Fox) and WarnerMedia are better positioned to compete with some of the tech companies by scale now that they've negotiated mergers:

  • Disney is positioned to be competitive to some of the big tech streaming platforms because of its library of exclusive content and its majority ownership in BamTech, a leading streaming tech company.
  • WarnerMedia (formerly Time Warner), is now owned by AT&T. It's positioning its new streaming efforts to be a competitor to Netflix, although the bulk of its exclusive programming through HBO is still now accessed through Pay-TV packages.

Go deeper

Exclusive: Biden administration raises minimum wage for federal employees to $15

A poster demanding a federal $15-per-hour minimum wage seen near the White House in Washington, D.C. on Feb. 26, 2021. Photo: Erin Scott/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Federal agencies are being directed to raise the minimum wages for government employees to $15 an hour, according to new guidance from the Office of Personnel Management shared first with Axios.

Why it matters: The guidance will impact almost 70,000 federal employees, most of which work at the Departments of Agriculture, Defense and Veterans Affairs. OMP is directing agencies to implement the new wage by Jan. 30.

Kate Marino, author of Markets
51 mins ago - Economy & Business

The Federal Reserve is open to creating a digital dollar

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The Federal Reserve finally released a much-delayed paper yesterday opining on the pros and cons of developing its own central bank digital currency (CBDC), but without coming to any firm conclusions.

Why it matters: Around the world, there are now 23 CBDCs either in pilot or formally launched. They have morphed from a theoretical concept into real-world digital cash, changing the way governments and millions of people use money — but not in the U.S.

52 mins ago - Health

The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Omicron's blitz around the world has underscored the need for a new arsenal of COVID vaccines and therapeutics, experts say — and that may require an effort akin to Operation Warp Speed 2.0.

Why it matters: The virus will continue to evolve, potentially in a way that further escapes vaccine protection, and the best way to prevent more global disruptions to everyday life is to have tools ready to combat whatever comes next.