The last few years have been volatile for the media and entertainment industry, and the threat of an economic recession has many worried about what is in store for 2023. With challenges, though, come opportunities. Below, finance leaders of prominent production companies provide what trends they see on the horizon. Here are their top predictions when it comes to content, production, distribution and profit participation.


Given current economic conditions, streaming companies and studios are focusing on cost containment and cash flow preservation and, therefore, may be less committed to projects upfront or purchasing less in the foreseeable future. At the same time, although the theatrical business is back, it is not as predictable and still under pressure. As a result, production companies need to build and maintain relationships with key buyers to increase the chances of landing the project at a streamer and/or a traditional theatrical distributor.

“The bubble in content production fueled by the streaming wars over the past several years has subsided,” said Ron Hohauser, Chief Financial Officer for Legendary. “While quality content is still in demand by the ultimate consumers, production companies need to adapt to this new more competitive world to create compelling content, seek alternative distribution avenues and maintain control over cost and cash flow for their long-term success.”

While great stories will always succeed in the marketplace, content buyers have greater interest in those based on branded or known elements. They can take less risk by leveraging consumer awareness of brands. Consider the success of Wednesday or Better Call Saul: Opportunities for content producers are massive if they can find creative ways to take less risk by leveraging consumer awareness of intellectual property (IP) in more creative ways than a remake, sequel or prequel.

“Production companies with substantial libraries have an opportunity to sell compelling new stories based on known elements from their existing IP to create new sub-universes of stories and characters,” said Robert Corzo, Chief Financial Officer for Village Roadshow.

Live sports continue to dominate television ratings. Super Bowl LVII brought in 113 million viewers, making it the third-largest television program of all time. In addition to the popularity of live sports, production companies can take advantage of producing scripted and non-scripted content set in the sports world. Examples include Winning Time (HBO, scripted) and Legacy: The True Story of the LA Lakers (Hulu, unscripted).

“There is an opportunity for production companies that can provide high-quality sports content to complement live event programming that has recently been secured by streaming platforms,” said Larry Wasserman, Chief Financial Officer for Skydance.


Production is not immune from the impact of price increases across the board and subsequent budgetary concerns. This squeezes net margins, particularly with the pressure from streamers to keep their costs down.

“Production budgets are challenging to maintain in the current inflationary environment,” said Seth Brodie, Chief Financial Officer for Anonymous Content.

These concerns may lead content buyers to cut back on in-house development and production capabilities, choosing instead to rely more heavily on third-party partners. Production companies should look to leverage relationships with content buyers to fund development costs on projects, if possible. In the current environment, production companies may need to tighten control over development costs.

“While development costs are essential to pitching and selling projects to studios, streamers and networks, production companies should keep spend to a minimum through streamlining and standardizing the development process,” Corzo said.

Taking advantage of international opportunities can also provide cost-saving benefits. Joint ventures to develop content may be more appealing for local territories by the global streamers, and there may be options for lower costs of production through labor or tax credit programs.

“International production is likely to increase given the future prospects of the U.S. dollar and related local tax incentives in addition to the other efficiencies gained,” said Darrell Cross, Chief Financial Officer for MarVista Entertainment.

Pivoting from the financial aspects to new approaches to production, production companies have an opportunity to embrace diversity in storytelling, cast and even production company ranks, as they look to the foreseeable future.

“Cultivating and promoting diversity in Hollywood nurtures creativity and breadth of thought and ideas, leading to better quality content from around the globe,” said James Roiz, SVP Film Finance and Business Operations for Participant. “Seeking out and encouraging underrepresented voices is part of Participant’s model and needs to be further embraced and supported.”


Overall market conditions — including competition, economic factors and an overall declining stock market — have put pressure on streamers. This has resulted in streamers “tightening their bootstraps” and spending more conservatively. Moving forward, these same conditions may encourage further consolidation in 2023, presenting a challenge to production companies from a business and cashflow perspective.

“Streamers have started ordering fewer shows and focusing more on controlling the budgets for shows they do end up ordering,” Wasserman said. “There will always be a market for premium content, but production companies may not be able to get the approved budgets that they used to be able to.”

Although the theatrical business is resurging post-COVID, it is less predictable and still under pressure. Recent successes like Glass Onion have some companies considering whether a hybrid model with streamers may be more economically feasible. Production companies should build and maintain relationships with key buyers to increase the chances of landing the project at a streamer and/or a traditional theatrical distributor.

Streamers (and other buyers) are looking for premium content to maintain their competitive edge in a crowded SVOD and AVOD space. “Premium” may include elements such as genre (which differ depending on the buyer) or exclusivity (of talent or period of availability). Those who can put together a package that is appealing to potential buyers may have a unique opportunity in this marketplace.

“Although streamers may be under financial pressure to deliver on their bottom line to investors, they are still on the hunt for quality premium content, which production companies can take advantage of,” Brodie said. “With one of Anonymous Content’s core lines of business focusing on producing branded content, Anonymous has a competitive position in the marketplace, taking advantage of the growing importance of advertising to sustain the streaming business.”


The economy, increased costs and subscriber churn have also slowed the buyer market for content. Fewer programs are ordered as a result, and there may be higher scrutiny on the financial terms of the underlying deal for those who are selected.

“Production companies need to adjust for a reduced number of productions in the current market,” Brodie said.

Despite economic concerns, collaboration may provide a pathway to success. Backend participation aligns the storytellers with the financiers and distributors, further strengthening their vested interest in the project’s performance. This contingent compensation could potentially become more attractive than buyouts, partly due to increased valuations of content creators (who may not necessarily own their IP) as well as industry chatter about a shift in how the talent and production companies get a share of the net profits.

“Backend participation promotes entrepreneurship, equity and creativity, which ultimately benefits everyone, including the buyers who don’t have to pay a premium on all projects,” Roiz said. “The industry may be seeing a shift to less guaranteed cash upfront and more sharing of ultimate success.”


The motion picture and television industry is far from immune to factors such as a recession, but consumer demand for content is not going anywhere. Just as pressure creates diamonds, innovation during times of economic uncertainty can provide new opportunities moving forward. One thing seems like a safe bet: 2023 will be another year of excitement and transformation for media and entertainment.

To hear more insights from industry experts, listen to the Media Clips Podcast.

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Ilan Haimoff

Ilan Haimoff, CPA, CIA, CFE, CFF, is the Entertainment Practice Leader at GHJ. His specialty includes profit participation and forensic accounting on behalf of talent, investors and co-producers at both the major and mini studios. Ilan has over 30 years of accounting experience in public accounting…Learn More