Friday, Feb 19th 2021

The distribution paradox


In business and investing, "distribution" is often a misunderstood concept.

Sometimes, it's viewed as an advantage that can keep the good times rolling for incumbents for a while, but inevitably results in disruption as soon as a more customer-centric offering enters the picture.  

Other times, distribution is seen as the killer superpower for supercharging growth, with many prominent examples of large scale players leveraging their distribution advantages to beat nimble upstarts at their own game.

The truth is, a distribution advantage is not a silver bullet. It's actually a two-sided coin.

When it's used to entrench a dominant leader that has grown complacent and lost touch with their customers, distribution is more of a weakness than a strength to the extent it drives corporate complacency.  

Think: the cable & media business before Netflix stormed into the picture with its first streaming concept.

However, when distribution is used as a tool to create and add value for customers, it can be a killer source of underappreciated growth.

We've seen this many times across Titan portfolio companies, and actually saw rumblings of it this week, with Disney+ leveraging its distribution into nearly 100 million households to launch a new media brand called Star centered around non-children's content.

Will Star wind up becoming Disney's own HBO? Only time will tell.  

But to assess the potential value of any company's distribution advantage, you need to keep both sides of the coin in perspective and never divorce the concept of distribution from how it's actually being used.

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