Joe Roth, former studio head and erstwhile producer, could not help but stage manage his keynote appearance at Variety’s Entertainment and Technology Summit on Monday, asking to move his chair up closer to the aud at the Loews Hotel in Santa Monica. He then held forth on a number of topics, stressing the benefit of marketing through social media. Before he was done, he also championed the notion that studios once again own theaters in the U.S. This has been a no-no for more than 60 years, but Roth, who got caught in the crossfire between Disney and international exhibitors over “Alice in Wonderland,” argued it no longer makes sense. My Variety story on the confab is here.
Top execs admitted they don’t know the answer to sweeping technological changes but said they can’t wait until the dust settles to figure it out. My report from the Milken Global Conference panel on the outlook for the entertainment industry.
Getty Images, which has been aggressively going after the U.S. entertainment photo biz since at least 2003, scooped up Hollywood stalwart Berliner Studios late last month. I was in charge of Variety’s event coverage when Getty came on the Hollywood scene and can attest to the turf battles between it and rival agencies. Variety, you see, had a deal with Getty, which was determined to get as much access as possible.
Variety also held a day long conference for BritWeek late last month. British reality king Nigel Lythgoe, who helped found the celebration, sounded off on his difficulty getting American networks to take his advice.
Who really wants MGM, and what are they willing to pay for it? Six years ago, the Sony-led consortium that bought the Lion overpaid for a library that had already been mined exhaustively. Not that many people were willing to admit it at the time.
Now that the DVD bubble has burst, however, people are taking a closer look at the troubled asset. Drowning in $3.7 billion debt, it is unlikely to draw anywhere near $5 billion it last commanded.
The next round of bids are due tomorrow, with Time Warner apparently still in the hunt. Relativity Media’s hedge fund backer Elliott Associates is apparently out, though it’s not clear to me how interested it was in the buy.
The bigger question is what film libraries are worth these days. The DVD glory days are over, with more people opting to rent rather than buy movies on disc. Video on demand is growing, but still very small.
Will VOD and other movie delivery technologies help make up for DVD declines? The future’s still unclear, the experts admitted at the Film Finance Forum earlier this month. But they also said that companies overreacted to the DVD decline, slashing valuations of individual film earnings too far.
Which leads me back to my original question: What, then, are film libraries worth?
The always provocative Michael Kinsley makes many good points about overcontextualized newspaper stories in the Atlantic but gives online stories a pass on their own failings.
Yes, many newspaper stories are too long and bloated with unnecessary quotes and qualifications, as he argues in the essay, much tweeted about today by fellow journos. But his claim that readers are abandoning newspapers for the Internet because online “news articles get to the point”? Dubious.
First, since when do online news articles get to the point? And who’s producing these online news articles? Kinsley never says: He deconstructs a few articles from the New York Times and the Washington Post, but never cites examples that meet his brevity standards.
There’s a downside to online writing: Without a news hole to worry about, editors aren’t necessarily compelled to trim copy. And with the ever quickening news cycle, they don’t always have time to shape stories before they’re published even if they wanted to.
So what we get online is a lot of flabby prose and half-digested analysis. In an ideal world writers and/or editors would revisit dashed off stories and polish them. But how often is that done? There’s always more news to process and report.
Another problem with online news articles? Certain sites tease stories about news developments but do not, in fact, reveal what they are, until after the reader has clicked through to another page. Want to know whether the ground hog saw his shadow or your favorite team won? That’ll be another click. So much for getting to the point.
Online sites do have advantages, but they are not immune to the same quality control issues as their traditional counterparts.
Why am I, sucker for all gadgets Apple, secretly hoping the company will NOT announce its rumored iTablet later this month? Because I just got a Kindle and don’t want it to be immediately upstaged by Apple grooviness.
This has happened before: I got a Creative Nomad Jukebox MP3 player shortly before iPod hit the market in 2001. That first generation iPod may look clunky today, but trust me, it was compact and sleek next to the Jukebox. It was no bigger, as Steve Jobs said in his 2001 media introduction, than a deck of cards. I held out for a little while before succumbing to the iPod.
But back to the Apple tablet rumors, which are flying fast and furious, with a March debut now predicted by the WSJ. I’m dying to see what Apple comes up with and how it matches other tablet prototypes I’ve seen lately. The magazine biz, and heck, the newspaper biz, could use a device that marries potent imagery with text in a way websites have yet to do. The main reason I got the Kindle was to subscribe to periodicals in electronic form.
So far I really like it. I’d just hate for it to become obsolete a month after Santa dropped it down the chimney.
I tried to write this story several times when I was at Variety, but it kept getting pushed back due to one exec departure after another. And frankly, at the time Yahoo was more interested in me writing a story about the success of “Primetime in No Time” than a broader one on its originals.
In the meantime, a new CEO has come into the company, a search outsource deal with Microsoft finally struck, and a renewed interest in reinventing itself as a media company. The company has been ramping up its original programming, both in terms of web shows and editorial content.
Rest assured, however, that Yahoo is NOT attempting to revive Lloyd Braun’s ambitions to create TV style programming for the Internet. For more, check out my Variety story here.
Who would you have guessed was the first Congressman to have a website? Al Gore, right? Nope, it was actually fellow Harvard alum, and decidedly old school pol Teddy Kennedy. This is my favorite factoid yet to surface in the wake of Kennedy’s death late last night.
Chris Casey, Kennedy’s system administrator in the early ’90s, explains the backstory on Matthew Yglesias’s site. Apparently, I am not the only one to marvel at this ancient web artifact. The grayscale background! Early Netscape browser! BBS systems and ftp! Check out the comments if you, too, remember those days.
Casey wrote a book about the efforts to get Congress online, “The Hill on the Net: Congress Enters the Information Age”; he uploaded this 1994 screen grab to Flickr a few years ago.
Blame it on my head cold if you like, but last night I misread news about YouTube’s deal with Warners to include full-length episodes of “Gossip Girl,” and was simultaneously impressed and pleased. Impressed because the CW has been so stingy with online streaming of “GG” and pleased because, well, I’m ridiculously fond of the show. Heck, maybe I just wanted it to be so.
Further reading today dashed those hopes, alas. But what really got me was YouTube’s insistence that it’s just fine with clips of Warner TV shows or news programs for now. Jordan Hoffner, YouTube’s affable dealmaker, told the NYT that the vid-sharing site is very happy the conglom is starting small, er, short, noting that is, after all, YouTube’s core business. “The important thing is to get them on the platform,” he said.
However, it’s not clear to me how useful those clips tend to be. Sure, they work as promotional devices — and they don’t cannibalize TV on DVD sales or iTunes downloads. This is why studios willing give the Google-owned site access to them. But the site has been beefing up longform video to entice advertisers, who tend to prefer Hulu.
Photo: the CW