Morgan: Springtime for Media Industry

NEW YORK ( TheDeal) -- What's that? Recorded-music revenue actually rose last year, ending a 12-year losing streak? And after seven years of cratering, the similarly pirated home-video market also eked out a legitimate gain?

As if that's not enough to process, Warren Buffett continues to scoop up newspapers as if they're M&A targets suitable for the likes of investors as sophisticated as, well, the Sage of Omaha.

Didn't Buffett get the memo, the one saying media and entertainment properties are dead, dying or still waiting to be disrupted? Or could it be we're beginning to experience those green shoots we have been hearing about forever but have never actually seen? I, for one, really hope it's the latter.

This business of covering M&A in M&E has been a little more meta than I had in mind on joining The Deal in advance of its inaugural edition 13 years ago. We started out as a dead-tree daily newspaper -- one of the last launches of its kind, to be sure -- and we've subsequently changed no less dramatically than our M&E counterparts in other sectors. We're now completely digital, having abandoned not only our daily print run but, later, an extended run as a weekly-magazine-cum-website.

The overarching theme throughout, for me as a reporter as well as for me as an employee, has been disruption. The havoc it wrought was inconceivable until, of course, it became inescapable. Bankruptcy of the music company that gave us the Beatles: Check. Not one but two immersions in Chapter 11 by once-rich magazine publisher Reader's Digest Association Inc.: Check and check. The decades' long roar of Leo the Lion reduced to a whimper by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc.'s creditors: Check again.

The list goes on and on ... even before the liquidity crisis. The latter, however, did skew our M&E coverage, as filtered through our M&A prism, even more toward restructurings, distressed sales and issues of corporate governance. The inside joke for a while was, if The Deal didn't have such a good business covering bankruptcies, we might have gone bankrupt ourselves.

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