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Spreading the Love and Dollars

19 Apr, 2006 By: Erik Gruenwedel

A strange thing happened recently in the cutthroat world that is Hollywood: A media conglomerate remembered its soul.

Instead of implementing some innovative scorched-earth strategy, Fox Broadcasting actually paid homage (in theory, anyway) to a corporate mission statement when it announced it would work with local affiliates and share revenue from pending plans to broadcast up to 100% of its primetime network programming on the Internet within three years.

Rival networks CBS, NBC and ABC have all but turned a cold shoulder to affiliates when it comes to repurposing programming.

“Our affiliates will be partners with us, so our relationship will be substantially more collaborative,” Peter Levinsohn, president of digital media for Fox Entertainment Group, told the Los Angeles Times. “Everyone will be working toward the same goal, which is to maximize the value of our content.”

Lest you think I'm a fan of TV affiliates, I'm not. Anyone who has endured local TV news deliver breaking news in the form of a car chase, or the morning traffic report delivered from the Olympics, should applaud the potential demise of these stations and their bloated, over-hyped news departments.

One wonders, however, if Fox's altruism extends to retail. It is, after all, the retailer of DVDs who has helped studios generate revenue, relegating theatrical's role to that of glorified DVD marketer and enabler of archaic traditions.

Does Fox's new digital future include a purchase-download option via branded kiosks at retail? It has approached cable companies (OK, their own) and telcos about the prospect of high-def “rental” for $25 to $30 per title 60 days after the theatrical release.

Brick-and-mortar retail could use similar studio love. Best Buy and Circuit City reported quarterly same-store sales declines of packaged media, including movies and music.

That is not good news, regardless of your position on Tinseltown's food chain.

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