Is ‘content king’? The Disney-Dish Network squabble provides insight.

Kent Kroeger
7 min readOct 7, 2022

By Kent R. Kroeger (October 7, 2022)

Photo by Pwmn (Used under the CCA-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.)

Though Microsoft founder Bill Gates is frequently given credit for popularizing the phrase ‘Content is King’ — the title of his 1996 essay about digital marketing where he argued that content would generate most of the money on the internet — this business trope had circulated decades earlier within the broadcasting and film industries

The late Sumner Redstone, a billionaire media magnate who got his start in the theater chain business, was perhaps the best known promoter of the ‘Content is King’ platitude as he often shared it with business associates and journalists when he noted that content (e.g., good movies) was more important than distribution mechanisms (e.g., theaters) when it came to the theater industry’s financial success.

Good food, comfortable seats, big screens, quality sound, and loyalty programs (etc.) are all important factors in attracting moviegoers, according to Redstone, but none of those factors match the importance of a movie’s appeal to audiences.

Of course, a movie that appeals to a large audience is not necessarily, by critical standards, a high-quality movie. No amount of persuasion will ever convince me 2015’s Furious 7 — starring the disputably talented Vin Diesel — was a good movie, despite its grossing over $1.5 billion worldwide.

The general assumption behind the Content is King adage is that audiences, not New York or Los Angeles critics, are the final arbiters in deciding what movies (or TV shows or websites, etc.) are good or not.

“Give ’em what they want,” 1940s comedian George Jessel once quipped about the large attendance at a funeral for a much disliked movie mogul. Jessel’s observation subsequently would be borrowed by other celebrities— Groucho Marx and Red Skelton, most notably — but more importantly would become the forerunner to the ‘Content is King’ business rule.

It is not preposterous to argue that Hollywood has built its worldwide dominance on this fairly mundane business premise.

Which is why the recent contract squabble between The Disney Company (a content provider) and the Dish Network (a distribution platform) over carriage fees is so…

Kent Kroeger

I am a survey and statistical consultant with over 30 -years experience measuring and analyzing public opinion (You can contact me at: