The changing landscape appears to have upset the entertainment finance system as we have known it for decades. It seems that fewer motion pictures are being made independently. The reasons seem to support the observation that the “old” system is no longer working. That is actually not quite correct. Because, at the end of the day, content is still needed. In fact, with more networks and more streaming platforms, there is actually more content needed today than ever before. If networks want to attract more eyeballs, they have to offer new, fresh content.
The audience today is more sophisticated, more educated and not easily “charmed” just by pretty pictures, and pretty faces. They are educated through “binging.” “Binging” a multi season-series story-line educates the viewer because he/she “learns” how twists and turns of story and character are being reinvented. Exciting stories make the viewer hold on to a show and stay glued to the screen. It’s fun to see how far storytelling has come and how daring stories are today. Flawed characters develop in forms unimaginable just even a few years ago. Storytelling changes in ways that make the “lazy” flashback storytelling style appear like a genius storytelling method, just by itself. Be honest, who of you did not get lost by the various Bernard’s in “Westworld“…
Quality is more important than ever. It’s an amazing time for those who dare. We all surely remember the days when a cheap TV movie with a c-level actor made millions in worldwide distribution (while being produced for a much lower price). Sales agents and producers got rich doing this without spending too much time with the scripts. Those projects appear to be impossible to be financed and distributed today.
So yes – things have changed.
But, what didn’t change is the fact that projects are still being funded the way they have been for decades. Which is:
- a) A studio / or streaming service/network station buys all rights and pays for the production, in which case the producer goes home with a (hopefully nice) fee and will likely not hold any rights.
- b) A producer pre-sales a few territories, and/or does a split–rights deal with the studio/streaming service/network, secures soft money and some banking and/or equity and handles the rights him/herself.
So what has changed in regards to the “old” financial models? In essence – nothing.
What has changed:
- The players. Streaming services step into the shoes of network stations and studios.
- The level of pricing. Unless a producer gets a sizable check from a streaming service, he/she needs to adhere to pricing that is affordable by the buyers and distributors today.
- Cast availability. Motion picture producers have a harder time attaching A-level theatrical cast because they are busy doing TV series.
So – yes a few things have changed, but the basic financial model is not one of them.
It’s how you play and with whom you play that has changed. Adapting to change is what matters.
There is an opportunity for success in the entertainment industry if producers dare to deliver quality while optimizing costs.
Here are a few testimonial snippets from the veterans of the industry and emerging producers from our UCLA Entertainment Finance courses: https://youtu.be/kSb-5a7m81A
A BIG Thank you again goes to our distinguished guest speakers for their support and to the course participants for their generous patience with my German accent and Hollywood stories …
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