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What will TV look like in three years? These industry insiders share their predictions



Illustration by Elham Ataeiazar

The media industry is in the middle of change. There’s little doubt legacy cable TV will continue to bleed millions of subscribers each year as streaming takes over as the primary way the world watches television.

Still, the details of what’s about to happen to a transitioning industry are unclear. CNBC spoke with more than a dozen leaders who have been among the most influential decision-makers and thinkers in the TV industry over the past two decades to get a sense of what they think will happen in the next three years.

CNBC asked the same set of questions to each interviewee. The following is a sampling of their answers.

In three years, will legacy TV effectively die?

Peter Chernin, The North Road Company CEO: It will continue to be in decline. It will be crappier. Budgets will get cut. More scripted programming will migrate away to streaming. There will be more repeats. But it will continue to exist. One of the really interesting questions here – this will be fascinating – the core of linear TV is sports rights. The NFL deal starts next season and is double the price of the previous one. That will suck even more money out of programming budgets. Then you’ve got the NBA deal, those renewal talks will happen this year. That will probably double in price. So you’ve got increasing prices of the most high-profile sports and declining number of homes watching. That will eat away at everything else.

Peter Chernin

Getty Images for Malaria No More 2013

Kevin Mayer, Candle Media co-CEO: It only has a few years left. It’s nearing the end. For entertainment that has no need to be viewed at any specific time, that’s already done. It’s already largely shifted to streaming. Next will be the end of scripted programming on broadcast networks. There’s zero need for that. That’s going to come to a close in the next two or three years. When ESPN finally pulls the plug, the bundle is effectively over. And that will happen relatively soon. Linear TV is in its final death throes.

Barry Diller, IAC chairman: It’s dying, but while syndication is around, even if its diminished, it will still be here. The tail end of these things lasts much longer than anyone predicts.

Ann Sarnoff, former Warner Bros. chairwoman and CEO: The linear bundle will definitely be around in three years, but the number of subscribers will continue to decline, and the average age of the viewers will continue to increase steadily. One big X factor regarding how the cable channel universe evolves will be sports and how big a role streaming services play in sports. The fragmentation of sports rights is good for the leagues but confusing for consumers. The most passionate sports fans will subscribe to everything and find their sport wherever it is, but fragmentation creates a delicate tightrope for the leagues to walk in terms of maintaining mass appeal and engagement, which have driven a stellar sports advertising business.

Bill Simmons, The Ringer founder: Three years feels way too short to me. I think it’s going to play out like it has with terrestrial radio and digital audio. Five years ago, you could have said radio would absolutely be dead soon, and nobody would have challenged you. But it’s still limping along even with much heavier competition from podcasts, streaming, TikTok and everyone else. Even with ad markets dwindling and the advertising being much more localized, it’s not close to being dead yet. It’s like when Michael Corleone says how Hyman Roth has been dying of the same heart attack for the last 20 years. That’s radio. And linear TV will be the same way. It will have a Hyman Roth death, not a Sonny Corleone death.

Bill Simmons at the 2017 Code Conference on May 31, 2017.

Asa Mathat for Vox Media

Jeff Zucker, former CNN president: It will continue to exist. Obviously it will have fewer subs than it does today. News and sports will keep it alive.

Richard Plepler, former HBO CEO: While linear is obviously not the wave of the future, cash flow is cash flow, which means it still hangs on to some form of life.

Bela Bajaria, Netflix chief content officer: Since I started in this business in 1996, people have always talked about linear TV dying. Definitely the pie will be smaller in three years. But there are so many people who watch linear TV, especially sports and news. It will be smaller, but not gone.

Kathleen Finch, Warner Bros. Discovery U.S. networks chief content officer: Linear TV will absolutely still be here. When you look at the size and scope of the linear TV business, it’s huge. People still like to sit down as a group in front of the TV. It’s very communal. And advertisers love it — whether they’re selling a new movie coming out or launching a car sale. The linear TV business will be healthy for a long time. Obviously people’s habits are changing, but as a business, it’s a large, robust, high-margin business. One of the other things so important about linear is it provides the financial ecosystem to feed a lot of streaming platforms. In our group at WBD, it makes about 4,000 hours a year of content, and it’s a huge amount of content that we make to feed the networks. A lot get a second life on streaming – or a first life based on what we determine. To fund the content just for streaming is a bit of a challenge. But because we really have a great margin with a dual revenue system, we super serve that audience on linear.

Byron Allen, founder, chairman, and CEO of Entertainment Studios and Allen Media Group, speaks during the Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California, on May 2, 2022. 

Patrick T. Fallon | Afp | Getty Images

Byron Allen, Entertainment Studios founder and CEO: I think linear TV will exist for a very, very long time. I believe that all of these various platforms – they’re not instead of, they’re additive. Look at human behavior and how we consume content, we’ve only made a richer landscape. When there was the industrial revolution, it was fueled by oil and gas. This is the digital revolution, and it’s fueled by content. Local TV will still be here and much needed. You need local news. And let’s not forget the networks — ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, the big four broadcasters — have locked up the true religion of America, the NFL, for the next 11 years. So you will be watching those networks for sports. Not just on streaming. I think that contract tells you the bundle is here for a while.

Wonya Lucas, Hallmark Media president and CEO: I don’t think this is the death of linear. I just don’t. I think that linear will still be alive and thriving. I do think there will be some shakeout in terms of which services survive and which ones don’t and which ones are bundled together, and there will be some consolidation. I don’t think everyone can have independence. But I think when we start bundling the cost of all the streaming services, you’re looking at the same cost of a cable package at some point.

Chris Winfrey, Charter Communications CEO: It won’t be effectively dead, but it will be significantly more expensive and have fewer subscribers. A lot of that has to do with the rising cost of sports rights. The new NFL rights extension deal will generate about twice as much cost per year starting in the 2023-24 season. That cost is now being distributed over an increasingly smaller base of subscribers, which is pushing up the overall cost of content. But in the next three years, there will still be customers who can afford it. It’ll just be much, much smaller and more expensive. Eventually there will have to be a restructuring of the business.

In three years, which major streaming services will definitely exist?

Ex-CNN boss Zucker: Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Apple and the Disney suite [Hulu, ESPN+ and Disney+]. The fifth could be a combo of the remainders: HBO Max, Paramount+ and Peacock.

Jeff Bewkes, former Time Warner CEO: Netflix, Amazon, Disney, HBO Max. Maybe one more that doesn’t make much money or is about break even and hovers near death.

North Road’s Chernin: All of them with the caveat that there may be some combination of Paramount, Peacock and HBO Max. The big guys don’t want to buy any of them with exception with HBO.

IAC’s Diller: There’s only one streaming service that’s dominant, now and forever, and that’s Netflix. But many others will exist.

Chairman and Senior Executive of IAC/InterActiveCorp and Expedia Group Barry Diller walks to a morning session at the Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference on July 07, 2021 in Sun Valley, Idaho.

Kevin Dietsch | Getty Images

Jeffrey Hirsch, Starz President and CEO:  Disney, Netfilix, Warner Bros. Discovery, Amazon … and of course, Starz.

Candle Media’s Mayer: Apple TV+, Disney+, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Max, probably. Paramount+ will be folded in, Peacock will folded in. Maybe they’ll be combined with a smaller service like Starz.

The Ringer’s Simmons: You have Hulu, Peacock and Paramount out there as candidates to get swallowed up by a bigger streamer, but who’s doing it? Apple never does anything. Amazon doesn’t need to do anything. HBO/Discovery just went through two mergers in six years. Netflix never does anything. Disney/ESPN seems more likely to shed stuff than buy stuff. So unless Comcast goes on a crazy spending spree, I don’t see anything changing — I think everyone will still be around, just with less employees and way less original content.

Netflix’s Bajaria: Netflix, of course. Disney+ has such a strong library. Many of the others will be interesting. You’re already seeing Showtime and Paramount+ come together. Does Hulu stay in Disney, or does Comcast buy their share out? Does Warner Bros. Discovery stay with Discovery+ and HBO Max, or does it merge with another company? There will be a lot of movement and changes in the streaming landscape. 

Will there be a cable-like bundle of several major streaming services?

Candle Media’s Mayer: Yes, I think so. I don’t know if we’ll see bundles between entertainment companies, but there will be some version of a bigger bundle of content you’ll be able to buy at your choice.

Aryeh Bourkoff, LionTree chairman and CEO: It’s more about self-bundling content and other offerings to generate platform and brand loyalty from the consumer. What I think you will also see is the eventual release of exclusive premium content to multiple platforms to better monetize the best content, but the most successful platform relationships will be self-bundled.

Ex-Time Warner boss Bewkes: I doubt it. I don’t see why you’d need it. Any aggregator’s role would be taking any of the leading streamers and attaching what are laggard, subscale channels. I’m not sure it’s compelling.

Randall Stephenson, then-chairman and chief executive officer of AT&T and Jeff Bewkes, then-chairman and chief executive officer of Time Warner, a few days after the AT&T acquisition of Warner was announced in October 2016.

Patrick T. Fallon | Bloomberg | Getty Images

IAC’s Diller: I do think there will probably be a more efficient way of buying more streaming services, but I don’t think it will be analogous to the cable bundle. One central warehouse who deals with all players and sends one bill — that I don’t think is going to happen. I think it will be somewhat chopped up. But there may be multiplicity, where there may be a much easier way to access a group of streamers than dealing with them individually.

Naveen Chopra, Paramount Global CFO: I think it’s very possible but not necessarily inevitable. On one hand, bundles have tremendous value in terms of increasing acquisition costs, lowering churn and the convenience for consumers. It’s something we definitely embrace. We’ve done a lot of bundles and partnerships that we’ve been very successful with, whether that’s with Sky in Europe or Walmart or T-Mobile in the U.S. A broader bundle that incorporates multiple streaming services could offer some of the same benefits. But there are two really big things you have to solve in trying to effectuate that kind of bundle. The economics is one dimension, and the other is the user interface and customer relationship. Today, streaming services have independent user interfaces and streamers like to own the relationship with the customer. So, you have to give up some economics to be part of that bundle and still have a way of sharing information and enough control over the UI to help build and maintain audiences around the content. There is some experimentation going on with all of these things, and with all sorts of challenges. But I definitely think there’s a possibility of a cable bundle with streaming. It takes time to evolve.

Ex-Warner Bros. boss Sarnoff: It’s hard to understand the economics of how that will work. Can there be an aggregator so people wouldn’t have to subscribe to a bunch of different offerings? The problem is always who goes in the middle. That’s the thing: most media companies have wanted to move away from someone controlling their audience, like cable operators, and determining the value of the programming. Bundling makes sense from a consumer perspective, but as a supplier, it’s much more complicated. Paying one rate is simpler, but there’s an imperfect value equation in there for the content supplier/programmer.

Ann Sarnoff attends the 32nd Annual WP Theater’s Women of Achievement Awards Gala at The Edison Ballroom on March 27, 2017 in New York City.

Mike Pont | WireImage | Getty Images

North Road’s Chernin: I don’t know. A full-blown stand-alone bundle is hard to do. There’s not an obvious aggregator who is going to benefit. Whose best interest is it to subsidize losses to bundle these things together? It’s pretty tough to figure out the economics. The big guys won’t want to take a discount. It would take very complex negotiations.

Mark Lazarus, NBCUniversal Television and Streaming chairman: I think bundles are definitely in the future. It’s sort of already headed in that direction. What’s not there is the ability to replicate the cable bundle user experience. It’s cumbersome, to have to go in and out of every app. It’s buffering. You can’t flip between any two channels, which is instantaneous. It needs to get to a point where the user interface or user experience lets you seamlessly enter or exit content if we’re going to live up to consumer expectations.

Starz’s Hirsch: Yes. In 18 to 24 months, you’ll start to see a repackaging of the linear business into the digital business. The value of aggregation is really important. You’ll start to see more people partnering up. Right now, everyone is seen as a channel. Ultimately, the big folks will become platforms, much like Amazon is doing today. The big guys are going to become platforms. You’re seeing it now with Showtime as a tile within Paramount+. Other companies’ content will become branded tiles within the larger streaming platforms.

Starz CEO Jeffrey Hirsch

Source: Starz

Which companies will dominate as the main hub of streaming?

The Ringer’s Simmons: I believe Apple will be the dominant platform because of its connectivity to user behavior through Apple TV and our phones. They make it so goddamn easy; their main page allows you to order movies, see all the new releases, see where you left off on any show or movie you were watching on every other platform … it’s amazing. That’s the only streamer that acts like a one-stop shop for everything I care about. And they will get better and better at perfecting that. Plus, you can keep logging into your different platforms on there through your iPhone. It’s really smart. All roads lead through Apple.

North Road’s Chernin: YouTube, Amazon and Apple.

Candle Media’s Mayer: There will be three categories. The cable guys could repackage streaming offerings. They’re already doing that with their linear offerings. You’ve got the telcos (T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon), and then you’ve got the big digital players — Google, Apple and Amazon.

Kevin Mayer, co-founder and co-chief executive officer of Candle Media, chairman of DAZN Group, speaks at the Milken Institute Asia Summit in Singapore, on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022.

Bryan van der Beek | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Starz’s Hirsch: You’re seeing Amazon become a platform, and Warner is now starting to become a platform. In the next three years, we’ll also see compression technology that will allow wireless companies to be true aggregators of streaming services — T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon. They’ll become real challengers.

Charter’s Winfrey: There are a number of platforms — Roku, Apple TV and Amazon Fire — that are trying to aggregate streaming content. But I think cable has a real advantage. It’s what Comcast and Charter are putting together with our joint venture, Xumo. We will take the voice remote from Comcast, the technology assets from Sky and Xfinity, the leading live video app in Spectrum TV — you combine all that with the fact that Comcast and Charter have a much broader array of programming relationships than anyone else in the market. We also have a powerful distribution channel to deliver this operating platform, both to existing customers who pay for broadband and TV and new sales from our different sales channels — stores, platforms — to put these boxes and smart TV sets in customers’ hands. I think we have the best set of assets and existing relationships to be able to put it together that none of these other platforms can do.

LionTree’s Bourkoff: There hasn’t yet been an aggregator that has incorporated all of video, audio and gaming content — and we don’t foresee one anytime soon. That would be the beacon for consumers in their search for entertainment, in the broadest sense. Absent that, any other aggregation tool would have a different definition for different customers. For example, younger demographics are increasingly moving towards short-form content on TikTok, YouTube and other platforms. Would that be included? The definition of content we want to consume and where we consume it is always changing, particularly in a mature, scarce environment.

Entertainment Studios’ Allen: I don’t know if there will be a primary aggregator of this content, but I do believe the consumer is very smart and resourceful and will figure out how to get their needs met at a very efficient price. The key here is to look at the world’s biggest streamer, which is YouTube, and how it is completely free. Good luck putting something in that search bar and it doesn’t come up.

What happens to cable entertainment networks? Will they be sold? Shut down? Or will it look the same?

Paramount’s Chopra: I do think there’s the potential for additional consolidation of cable networks over time. I think in the near term, we’re going to see an evolution of the type and mix of programming you see on cable networks, given the audience declines in that area. The economics of producing expensive original content isn’t going to work for every cable network. They will have to look at different formats, relying on more lower-cost content, library content, etc., but it will definitely evolve.

Ex-Time Warner boss Bewkes: If you’re a network with news and sports, those can last. General entertainment network subscribers and cash flow will decline. Some might get sold to private equity to harvest cash flow in the three or four years. It’s not like they’ll go bankrupt, but they’re not good for public equity ownership.

Warner Bros. Discovery’s Finch: It’s hard for me to say because things seem to change so quickly in this industry. One of the most valuable things is a brand that stands for something. Brands really, really matter. A more generic cable network that lives on older content doesn’t necessarily offer something to someone on a nightly consistent basis. People don’t surf the way they used to. That’s not really how people are wired to watch content anymore. They come to a decision based on how they feel. So it’s true it is more challenging if you’re more of a general entertainment network. You need highly specialized content. Without it, you can’t survive or drive the kind of ad revenue that we can. When you have a HGTV you have endemic advertisers. If you’re Home Depot or Lowe’s, you have to be on HGTV.

Charter’s Winfrey: The question comes down to what is the value of the content they’re providing? If they’re providing reruns but you can’t find it elsewhere, then it still provides value to the customer. But what you have today is programmers selling us content at increasingly higher prices and asking us to distribute that to largely all of our customers, and at the same time, selling that exact same content either into streaming platforms or creating a direct-to-consumer product themselves at a much lower cost. And many of those services have a much lower security threshold than cable, so customers are able to share passwords and access the same content for free. So, our willingness to continue to fund that for programmers when that content is available for free elsewhere is declining. That means within the linear video construct, you’ll see an increasing number of distributors deciding it no longer makes sense to carry certain content, because customers are already can access it either for free in a pirated fashion or just paying for it at a lower rate.

NBCUniversal’s Lazarus: I don’t think it’s a one-size-fits-all strategy in the future. I think we’ll see some networks combine, like we’ve done. Some will close down that don’t make meaningful contributions to the bottom line. There’s so many networks today. Even with the erosion of the pay-TV bundle down to 50 million, these networks are still a meaningful contributor of revenue and EBITDA to companies like ours. So closing them isn’t necessarily a great answer because you’re giving up profit. Even if it’s a declining profit, it’s still profit. I think that part gets lost a bit in the conversation now. Yes, we are managing a decline and streamers are there to make up for lost revenue and profitability, but those businesses still kick off, in many cases, hundreds of millions of dollars in profit. Companies just don’t give that up.

What’s one thing that will become a TV standard that doesn’t exist today?

North Road’s Chernin: Windowing. That’s the most likely change. Right now, the current economic model is two things: pure vertical integration, where you produce and own everything, and long-term exclusive licenses. Neither make sense. You can’t produce enough good content and it’s wildly overexpensive. What’s the value of 5- to 10-year-old shows? Right now, a huge amount of money is spent for those shows. Media companies would be better off doing three-year licenses and saving 20% to 30% on the cost. Cable networks will be interested in buying old reruns from other streaming platforms. It’ll be brand-new programming to a different audience. What defines programming is what’s new. When “Sopranos” aired in syndication on A&E, it’s didn’t make HBO any weaker. You’ll see streamers start selling programming to cable and to one another, and it will produce value both to the company that owned it and the company that bought it in syndication.

The Ringer’s Simmons: I believe Apple, out of nowhere, will start making their own awesome televisions that have Apple TV embedded in them. It’s kind of incredible that this hasn’t happened yet. They have every other piece of the streaming puzzle in place — literally, all of it — except for the actual TV. Why would they want Samsung, LG and whomever else to keep innovating on their smart TVs and eventually cut Apple out of the entire ecosystem? They’ll just make a better TV and crush them. I wish I could bet on this.

Ex-Warner Bros. boss Sarnoff: A “metaverse” which offers commerce, gaming, social interaction, sports, news and entertainment is inevitable, but I think we’re quite a ways from that being the primary way people consume media. It will be interesting to watch the metaverse evolve in parallel to streaming and other direct entertainment offerings. The offering that best engages and entertains the consumer will win.

Chairman, WarnerMedia Jeff Zucker attends CNN Heroes at American Museum of Natural History on December 08, 2019 in New York City.

Mike Coppola | Getty Images

Ex-CNN boss Zucker: The ability to bet and/or gamble while you’re watching sports on TV will be much easier. You’ll be able to go through the TV to place a bet with a remote control, or your voice. It requires partnership from the betting companies, but that shouldn’t be a problem.

Starz’s Hirsch: Content without borders. Artificial intelligence technology will make subbing and dubbing of content simple. AI will allow you to watch content in your home language without a third-party dubbing it for you. The world shrinks that way from a content perspective.

Netflix’s Bajaria: More people will have access to incredible global stories on demand. The average person will gain access to more content than ever before.

Entertainment Studios’ Allen: I think we’re going to see more AI integrated into content, and it’s going to be more intuitive, so when people watch the content it’ll be far more advanced in recommending content for you. I think AI is going to help understand the touch points in content and how to make it better and more compelling and engaging.

Charter’s Winfrey: Unified search. You’ll have a discovery and recommendation engine combined with a voice remote that allows for a seamless experience for the customer living inside a single platform. That will allow a viewer to pick and choose what content they want month to month — either live video or streaming.

LionTree’s Bourkoff: Sports is being unlocked in a big way. It’s the last major bastion of content that must be watched live, which begs a different approach. As owners of valuable IP, professional sports leagues may increasingly go direct, either on their own or via a partnership model, and monetize in other ways — from advertising and sponsorships to commerce and experiences, including gaming and sports betting. We are witnessing early stages of this dynamic with deals like “NFL Sunday Ticket” on YouTube and the MLS deal with Apple TV.

Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler, center, runs for extra yardage while Tennessee Titans linebacker Monty Rice, left, and safety Andrew Adams (47) attempt a tackle during the second half at SoFi Stadium on Sunday, Dec. 18, 2022 in Los Angeles, CA.

Allen J. Schaben | Los Angeles Times | Getty Images

Warner Bros. Discovery’s Finch: There is something that is beginning to exist now that I’m absolutely fascinated to see where it goes. It’s the technology that allows viewers to choose the content they watch as they are watching. Like the Netflix show “Kaleidoscope.” Handing the editorial decision-making to fans is so seductive. It’s an opportunity for a piece of content to be watched multiple times. There’s just a few pieces of content that’s tried this, but the technology is there, and it’s an exciting new development in content creation and consumption. It gives the audience an interactive way to view these things. It’s just beginning to be utilized and a lot of people are experimenting.

NBCUniversal’s Lazarus: Much of TV consumption is being done on the biggest, best screen in your home. It’s all coming through your living room flat-screen TV. What we see, and I think will change over the next three years, is the amount of customization people are able to have to curate their own abilities and to bundle themselves. How do you order your streaming apps? While it’s not a seamless user experience to go between Peacock and Netflix or something else, you can place them in whatever order you want on the screen. The degree of customization is there. That’s coming to the individual streamers, too. We’re working on a lot of customization for our consumers. Consumers would like to have that interactivity. If you’re on a live sports channel, you can curate your own replays and then bounce back to live. It’s the next iteration of interactivity.

WATCH: CNBC’s full interview with IAC Chairman Barry Diller

Watch CNBC's full interview with IAC chairman Barry Diller

Disclosure: CNBC is part of NBCUniversal, which is owned by Comcast.

Business News

Secondhand resale is getting cutthroat as platforms such as Depop and Poshmark boom



The Depop application on a smartphone arranged on Wednesday, June 2, 2021.

Gabby Jones | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Six months after launching his secondhand clothing shop on digital marketplace Depop in 2020, Blake Robertson, a 15-year-old high schooler at the time, received a death threat from a customer.

It came via Instagram, from someone who had not received her purchase in time for Christmas.  

“Nothing happened, but I don’t know, it just opened my eyes to the fact that some people, they just really want their items,” said Robertson.

Demand for secondhand resale online has been booming since the early days of the pandemic, generating a culture shift within the indie marketplaces where it began. Customers, many of whom have been feeling the squeeze of inflation, are fiending for lower prices, leading to more heated negotiations and occasionally ruthless bidding wars.

Meanwhile, independent resellers are turning their onetime hobby into a job, sometimes even upselling items to take advantage of demand spikes. Users on platforms such as Depop and Poshmark set up online shops to list vintage, secondhand or unique items for sale and generate notable followings of loyal shoppers.

Robertson is now 17 and says the growth of resale has allowed him to turn his Depop shop, which now has more than 19,000 followers, into a part-time gig. He told CNBC he juggles the hustle of reselling with his high school studies.

Blake Robertson, 17, poses with his closet, some of which is up for resale on his Depop shop.

Courtesy: Blake Robertson

He’s become accustomed to the occasional hate message or dayslong negotiations over a single item. More than anything, he has been pleasantly surprised by the growing reach of his shop, which used to just serve his friends as patrons.

“I get these messages from total and complete strangers, which just makes me think how much this app genuinely has grown,” Robertson said.

The back-and-forth

To be sure, death threats against resellers are not the norm. Beaux Abington, 49, says that overall, she’s had “really fantastic, phenomenal customers.”

But she’s also noticed more buyers hunting deals and has felt insulted by recent offers for her products that are sometimes less than half her asking price.

“There’s definitely a price-consciousness that wasn’t always there,” said Abington.

About 53% of people polled in an October 2022 Depop survey of more than 2,000 U.K. consumers said that they have been turning to secondhand shopping more in order to save money as living costs rise. The result, sellers say, is more frequent negotiations and intensified bidding wars.

“There’s a lot more negotiation happening. Even in the last year, I’d say it’s kind of skyrocketed for me,” said Josefina Munroe, 27, a Depop seller with more than 30,000 followers. She started her shop five years ago and decided to make it a full-time job after she graduated college in 2020 and demand for online resale expanded.

Then there are the de facto bidding wars. Munroe recalls purchasing an item on Depop only to have the seller cancel her order after realizing that another customer was willing to pay more. Other Depop shoppers say that is not an uncommon experience.

“It’s completely separate from real-world shopping because that would never happen in a store,” said Munroe. “I think people have gotten very comfortable with the whole back-and-forth.”

Beaux Abington, 49, models some of her own Depop items.

Courtesy: Beaux Abington

Platforms such as Depop and Poshmark are leaning into the competitive consumer zeitgeist.

Last January, Depop launched a new “Make Offer” option — a feature that has streamlined the negotiation process, which used to take place informally via direct messages. Resellers say that the new button has made customers more comfortable haggling.

“The offer feature on Depop has definitely created a new dynamic in terms of being hounded with low-ballers and also being expected to sell things cheaply,” said Pascale Davies, 28, who runs a Depop shop with 59,000 followers.

But Depop has yet to institute a formal function for bidding battles — like the original online reseller, eBay, offers. Depop also shut down comment sections on product pages where customers used to ask questions and sometimes get in arguments, according to users.

“We found that comments on an item did not directly help buyers with their decision-making,” a Depop spokesperson told CNBC when asked about the change.

Going bigger

In September, Poshmark launched “Posh Shows,” which allows sellers to hold livestreamed auctions to sell and promote their inventory.

Stephanie Dionne, 44, who has been selling on Poshmark for about two years, said the live shows are “all kinds of crazy and chaotic,” generating a fast-paced, ruthless selling environment.

“When it comes to the live shows, people will kind of steal it out from under you at the last second,” she said.

Since she launched her secondhand market with her two sisters, Dionne’s business keeps getting bigger and bigger — so much so that one of her sisters reduced her full-time day job to part-time in order to focus on the Poshmark shop.

Last year, the Dionnes made between $4,000 and $5,000 in profit. Just a couple months into this year, they have already surpassed that.

But now, sellers such as the Dionnes are not only competing with Poshmark and Depop peers but also major retailers such as Target and H&M that are trying to cash in on the resale boom.

Last week, H&M announced its most recent collaboration with the online thrift store ThredUp, which will now cross-list about 30,000 pieces of secondhand clothing on H&M’s website. Target has launched several ThredUp partnerships of its own, and Etsy bought Depop in 2021. In January, Poshmark was acquired by South Korean web giant Naver.

But some independent resellers doubt that the unique, curated experience of indie resale can be scaled.

“Although bigger companies are trying to occupy this space, I think they miss the mark when it comes to the personal element of vintage,” Finn Thomas, a London-based Depop seller, told CNBC.

“Part of the charm of buying vintage is the one-on-one interaction between the buyer and seller, the unique story behind each piece and the general curation behind a store, something I can’t see the larger companies like H&M achieving,” Thomas added.

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Business News

How Ford plans to turn a profit on EVs in under four years



John Lawler, Chief Financial Officer of Ford, rings the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), March 23, 2023.

Brendan McDermid | Reuters

Ford Motor disclosed Thursday that its electric vehicle unit, called Ford Model e, lost $2.1 billion in 2022 — and could lose as much as $3 billion in 2023.

But the company also forecast a drastic turnaround, reiterating that it expects its EV business to be solidly profitable by the end of 2026. So how will it pull that off?

The automaker’s answer started with a single slide it presented during a “teach-in” for analysts and investors in New York on Thursday.

On an earnings before interest and tax, or EBIT, basis, Ford Model e had a profit margin of roughly negative 40% in 2022, it said. Ford is targeting a positive EBIT margin of 8% for the unit by the end of 2026.

“We’re already seeing green shoots of the improvements in the profitability of Model e,” Ford CFO John Lawler said Thursday during the investor event. “From a contribution margin perspective, we expect Model e to approach breakeven at the end of this year, and, in 2024, we believe our first generation products can be EBIT margin positive.”

But Model e as a whole won’t be profitable for a while yet, Lawler said, because of the heavy investments Ford will be making to scale up production and roll out more new EV models. Here, step by step, is how Lawler said Ford expects Model e to get to a positive 8% EBIT profit margin in under four years:

  • Scale. Simply put, building more EVs and allowing the supply chain to mature will yield greater economies of scale. Ford expects to have the capacity to build EVs at a rate of 2 million per year by the end of 2026. That alone will provide roughly 20 points of margin improvement, according to Ford’s projections.
  • Design and Engineering. Lawler said Ford is “obsessing over energy efficient designs because they will allow us to significantly reduce the battery size and cost.” He said such designs will lead to “ultra-high simplicity of manufacturing and platforms that maximize commonality and reuse,” which will yield another 15 points of margin improvement.
  • Battery. While costs have come down, batteries are still the most expensive part of an EV, especially if the automaker is buying them from third-party manufacturers, as Ford has been. To make matters worse, or at least more costly, Ford’s EVs have so far used relatively expensive lithium-ion cells, rather than the cheaper lithium iron phosphate, or LFP, cells used by Tesla in its less expensive models. Ford’s plan to bring those costs down further centers on bringing battery-cell manufacturing in house, either directly or via joint ventures with battery makers. In addition, it will soon begin offering LFP as a lower-cost option on some of its EVs — starting later this year with cells bought from Chinese battery giant CATL, and from a new Michigan factory that will come online in 2026. As those efforts scale up, Ford expects to gain another 10 points of margin improvement.
  • Other. Ford also expects to find incremental gains by selling software and services, such as driver-assistance system BlueCruise, to EV owners, via benefits in the Inflation Reduction Act, via improvements in raw materials costs, and with other tweaks here and there. But pricing — specifically, the need to stay competitive with a fast-growing number of EV rivals — may offset all of that to some extent. Ford thinks the upshot will be about 3 points of margin gain, just enough to bring it to that targeted positive 8% by the end of 2026 — if all goes according to plan.

Not all of those margin gains will take years to materialize. Lawler said that Ford thinks it can still reduce the costs of making its current first-generation EVs — the Mustang Mach-E crossover, F-150 Lightning pickup and E-Transit van — by incorporating lessons it’s learning as it engineers its second-generation models, which are due to launch over the next few years.

Despite the considerable detail that Ford provided Thursday, some Wall Street analysts are still skeptical that Ford can achieve an 8% EBIT margin on EVs by 2026.

“We believe investors are likely to remain skeptical on the path to appropriate margins, especially amid inflationary headwinds and price declines,” Barclays’ Dan Levy said in a note following the event.

Wells Fargo analyst Colin Langan shared similar thoughts in an investor note Thursday morning: “It’s unclear how Ford expects to get to its 8% 2026 target margin for Model e” as long as sales expectations remain the same.

Part of that near-term help may come from the Inflation Reduction Act, which provides company-level credits for making batteries and vehicles in North America, as Ford plans to do with the EVs it sells here. But as Deutsche Bank analyst Emmanuel Rosner pointed out Thursday, Ford’s 8% margin goal was announced “well before IRA.” That means any benefit realized from the legislation should be in addition to that goal, he said in an investor note during Ford’s presentation.

Rosner, prior to Thursday’s event, called the 8% margin target “especially optimistic” when compared with crosstown rival General Motors, which is only targeting low- to mid-single digit margins on its EV business by 2026, excluding any IRA benefits.

Lawler said the company will provide more details on Model e’s path to profitability during Ford’s annual capital markets day on May 22.

“We are laser-focused on building an industry leading portfolio of highly differentiated EVs that inspire our customers and play to Ford’s strengths in pickup trucks, vans and SUVs,” Lawler said.

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Ford is about to break out big EV losses for the first time



Incoming Ford CEO Jim Farley (left) and Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford Jr. pose with a 2021 F-150 during an event Sept. 17, 2020 at the company’s Michigan plant that produces the pickup.

Michael Wayland | CNBC

DETROIT – Ford Motor is about to tell investors what they’ve long wondered: How much is the transition to electric vehicles costing?

The automaker on Thursday plans to begin reporting its financial results by business unit, instead of by region, ushering in the new reporting structure with a “teach-in” for analysts and media — on the theme of “Ford Refounded” — and releasing revised versions of its financial results that will reveal how the new business units would have performed in 2021 and 2022.

Those new business units include “Ford Blue,” Ford’s traditional internal combustion engine business; its “Model e” electric vehicle unit; the “Ford Pro” commercial and government fleet business; “Ford Next,” which includes nonautomotive mobility solutions and other future tech; and its existing Ford Credit financial services subsidiary.

The changes amount to the most detailed look yet by any legacy automaker into the finances behind the EV business.

The carmaker is expected to release profits and losses, revenue, margins and earnings before interest and taxes, or EBIT, for each of the units – giving investors and analysts a baseline for comparisons as the company’s transformation unfolds.

As part of a sweeping rethink of its business under CEO Jim Farley, Ford decided last year to separate its primary profit engines – internal combustion vehicles and its commercial fleet business – from the company’s emerging all-electric vehicles, which are not expected to be profitable for at least a few years.

Farley and other executives have emphasized that the reporting changes aren’t just about disclosure: The new format reflects the way Ford’s executive team thinks about and runs the business.

“The changes are significant. It’s not the first time Ford Motor Co. has had to reimagine its future or form its own path that’s different from other companies,” Farley said when announcing the new business units on March 2, 2022. “Is this about winning? 100%.”

Wall Street is taking a wait-and-see approach to the changes. Analysts on average maintain a hold rating on the stock with a $13.50 price target, according to ratings compiled by FactSet. The shares traded Wednesday for about $11.70 per share.

Shares of Ford jumped by 8.4% the day executives announced the new businesses, but the stock is down 35% since then, dragged lower by changing market conditions, supply chain issues and underwhelming quarterly earnings.

The company will report its first-quarter results under the new format on May 2 and will host a capital markets day on May 22.

EV losses

Farley argued last year that Ford’s stand-alone EV business will “produce as much excitement as any pure EV competitor, but with scale and resources that no start-up could ever match.”

Still, he described the legacy business as “a profit and cash engine” for the 120-year-old automaker. As with other automakers and EV startups, investors should expect deep losses when it comes to Ford’s electric vehicle business, according to Wall Street analysts.

Model e is expected to include the company’s EV platforms, electronics, batteries, motors, and embedded software and digital experience.

Morgan Stanley’s Adam Jonas expects Ford Model e to have negative gross margins of between 10% and 20% with adjusted EBIT margins of between negative 20% and negative 30%. Both would imply significant losses.

Ford has said it expects 8% margins on its EVs — along with 2 million units in annual production of the vehicles — by 2026, helping to boost its overall adjusted profit margins to 10%. The company’s adjusted profit margin last year was 6.6%.

Deutsche Bank analyst Emmanuel Rosner believes Ford could be incurring gross losses of about $9,000 per EV sold. The analyst expects Ford to reveal Thursday Model e operating losses of $6 billion for 2022. That’s after accounting for significant research and development investments — roughly 65% of the company’s total R&D — into the EV unit.

Why Ford's Mustang EV is dethroning its competitors

“The EV business could report much deeper losses than investors expect, which could make Ford’s target for 8% EV EBIT margin by 2026 particularly difficult to achieve,” Rosner said Monday in an investor note.

Aside from EV leader Tesla, no major automakers are expected to generate meaningful profits from electric vehicles for at least several years, as the industry works to increase EV output and manufacturing scale. That’s particularly true of EVs like Ford’s, as mass-market vehicles typically generate lower profits than luxury models.

Profit engine

Ford’s current bread and butter is vehicles with internal combustion engines, specifically its F-Series pickups, which have topped U.S. sales charts for more than 40 years.

The large pickups fuel the company’s operations and are expected to for “years to come,” Farley said when announcing the split last year.

Deutsche Bank estimates the Ford Blue traditional business could show an EBIT margin of 7.3% for 2022, more than offsetting last year’s EV losses.

Morgan Stanley’s Jonas said Ford’s new reporting structure should “confirm our view that the ICE business (Ford Blue) is highly cash flow generative and currently funding the capital consuming EV business.”

However, “Investors may question how long this can continue,” he said.

2023 Ford Super Duty F-350 Limited


Ford’s plan is to cut at least $3 billion in structural costs largely out of the traditional business by mid-decade to boost margins. Kumar Galhotra, head of Ford Blue, said the company expects to do this by reducing complexity, quality and structural costs over the next two to three years, he said in March 2022.

“Nothing is going to be off the table,” Galhotra said last March. “Our complexity needs to be radically simplified; our warranty costs need to be substantially lower. Our advertising cost needs to be what we do when we invest in our products. Those investments need to be made at world-class efficiency.”

Ford Pro surprise?

The pleasant surprise on Thursday may be the profitability of Ford Pro, the company’s fleet unit. Deutsche Bank estimates that Ford Pro would have been the company’s most profitable automotive unit in 2022, with an EBIT margin of 23.5%.

Ford has long been a significant player in the commercial fleet markets in North America and Europe with its deep expertise in pickups and its huge-selling line of Transit vans. More recently, it has looked to increase the profitability of its fleet operations with software and services that draw on its decades of experience serving fleet operators – and that take advantage of the connectivity and new technologies built into its latest vehicles.

Thanks in part to those new technology-enabled offerings, Ford Pro’s recent profit margins will almost certainly impress. But will they be sustainable? Deutsche Bank’s Rosner, who has a sell rating on Ford’s stock, wrote that he wonders if Ford Pro’s profitability “could come under pressure as the segment ramps up vehicles with expensive electric powertrains.”

Sales of EVs are expected to be a significant part of Ford Pro’s business in the coming years as the company introduces additional electric models tailored for its fleet customers. That will almost certainly hurt Ford Pro’s margins as Ford’s EV production ramps up. (In 2022, the numbers were still small: Only 6,500 of the roughly 105,000 Transit vans that Ford sold in the U.S. last year were EVs.)

Still, Ford Pro CEO Ted Cannis says fleet electrification offers new opportunities for Ford Pro.

“Our commercial customers are confused [about EVs], and they want a lot of help,” Cannis said at an Evercore utilities conference in January. “The key part for us to accelerate the move to electrification is to make it easier.”

Ford CEO Jim Farley responds to rough quarter and carmaker losing $2 billion in 2022
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