Background Note | HBS Case Collection | November 2000 (Revised December 2000)

Online Content Providers

by Thomas R. Eisenmann and Alastair Brown


Describes the business model for online content providers, companies that distribute copyright content via the Internet. Focuses on their revenue and cost drivers and on the ways that online content providers create value for consumers. Also investigates the benefits and risks of pursuing aggressive growth strategies and hybridizing this business model with others, such as online retailers and portals. Tackles other strategic and management issues such as: 1) the effects of the advent of broadband, 2) the tradeoffs involved with syndicating content, and 3) the challenges offline content providers face in moving their content online. Provides an in-depth analysis of online content providers, supplementing case studies used in an MBA elective course that examines various Internet business models. Additionally, provides a thorough explanation of the strategic decision such a company faces and a framework for making those decisions.

Keywords: Online Technology; Customers; Value Creation; Business Model; Internet; Cash Flow; Risk and Uncertainty; Growth and Development Strategy; Problems and Challenges; Decision Making; Profit; Revenue; Information Industry;


Eisenmann, Thomas R., and Alastair Brown. "Online Content Providers." Harvard Business School Background Note 801-261, November 2000. (Revised December 2000.)