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Distribution Revolution

Distribution Revolution: Conversations about the Digital Future of Film and Television

With a Foreword by Kurt Sutter
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: 1
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    Distribution Revolution
    Book Description:

    Distribution Revolutionis a collection of interviews with leading film and TV professionals concerning the many ways that digital delivery systems are transforming the entertainment business. These interviews provide lively insider accounts from studio executives, distribution professionals, and creative talent of the tumultuous transformation of film and TV in the digital era. The first section features interviews with top executives at major Hollywood studios, providing a window into the big-picture concerns of media conglomerates with respect to changing business models, revenue streams, and audience behaviors. The second focuses on innovative enterprises that are providing path-breaking models for new modes of content creation, curation, and distribution-creatively meshing the strategies and practices of Hollywood and Silicon Valley. And the final section offers insights from creative talent whose professional practices, compensation, and everyday working conditions have been transformed over the past ten years. Taken together, these interviews demonstrate that virtually every aspect of the film and television businesses is being affected by the digital distribution revolution, a revolution that has likely just begun.Interviewees include:• Gary Newman, Chairman, 20th Century Fox Television• Kelly Summers, Former Vice President, Global Business Development and New Media Strategy, Walt Disney Studios• Thomas Gewecke, Chief Digital Officer and Executive Vice President, Strategy and Business Development, Warner Bros. Entertainment• Ted Sarandos, Chief Content Officer, Netflix• Felicia D. Henderson, Writer-Producer,Soul Food,Gossip Girl• Dick Wolf, Executive Producer and Creator,Law & Order

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95908-8
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. vii-viii)

    Digital delivery of film and television, like most hasty births, has been clumsy, painful, and at times bloody.

    But once the schmutz is wiped off, the cord cut, and the babyʹs mouth wrapped around a teat, one can appreciate and marvel at the new life.

    I know being a male and a failed gentile, I have no right using childbirth as a metaphor or the word ʺschmutzʺ in a sentence.

    But curbing impulses—not necessarily my strong suit. Like the digital new age, I can be entertaining, unpredictable, and a bit scary.

    I believe DD is the future of film/...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Introduction: Making of a Revolution
    (pp. 1-18)
    Michael Curtin, Jennifer Holt and Kevin Sanson

    In the past five years, the scramble to manage the digital future of film and television has sparked both turmoil and transformation, forcing industry leaders to reconsider established maxims about how screen media are created, circulated, and consumed. We see it almost every day in the headlines of trade papers and the mainstream press. For example, the 2007 Writers Guild strike hinged on payments and residuals for network and cable television content being streamed online. After a long and bitter conflict, the writers finally settled when the studios agreed to pay them more for digitally distributed work. Although the strike...


      (pp. 21-24)

      In what has been called ʺa new golden age,ʺ particularly for television, the media industries have also been experiencing a period of tremendous change and uncertainty. Developing technologies and new distribution platforms have necessarily required innovation and new creative strategies on the part of content providers in the digital era. The distribution revolution has indeed presented a host of new challenges for the studios, from engaging the ever-elusive online audience to the art of revaluing content for a digital marketplace. These challenges are among some of the topics discussed by six executives from Sony, Warner Bros., Fox Television, and Disney...

    • Gary Newman, Chairman, 20th Century Fox Television
      (pp. 25-36)

      Gary Newman has been chairman of 20th Century Fox Television since 2007 and has overseen the television studio with Dana Walden since 1999—with great success. Some of the studioʹs recent hits includeModern Family, Homeland, Glee,andSons of Anarchy. Twentieth Century Fox Television also is responsible for24, Family Guy,andThe Simpsons,the latter now the longest-running prime-time show in television history.

      Newman began his career as an attorney and worked in the legal and business affairs departments of Columbia Pictures Television and NBC before joining 20th Century Fox Television. After rising to become the studioʹs executive...

    • Richard Berger, Senior Vice President, Global Digital Strategy and Operations, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
      (pp. 37-46)

      Richard Berger sat down with Media Industries Project (MIP) for an interview in Sonyʹs Culver City offices to talk about how digital technologies have been used to distribute Sonyʹs content. As senior vice president of Global Digital Strategy and Operations for Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Berger is in charge of developing digital strategy and overseeing digital distribution operations. He also evaluates emerging platforms and ʺdisruptiveʺ technologies that create new digital business opportunities. Our conversation focused on the emerging digital locker service, UltraViolet, and some of the complex choices consumers are facing as the viewing context grows increasingly mobile and fragmented....

    • Kelly Summers, Former Vice President, Global Business Development and New Media Strategy, The Walt Disney Company
      (pp. 47-58)

      Kelly Summers is a former vice president of Global Business Development and New Media Strategy at Disney, where she led content commercialization for new media distribution platforms, created new product concepts, incubated new ventures, and oversaw technology commercialization efforts for the studio. She currently manages her own consulting firm, Bella Rafe Media, advising start-ups on digital distribution strategies and digital product development.

      Summers began her career working with entrepreneurs in start-up environments and first explored digital media distribution in 1997 when seeking to commercialize price discovery technology and develop online transaction markets. After business school, Summers joined the Walt Disney...

    • Thomas Gewecke, Chief Digital Officer and Executive Vice President, Strategy and Business Development, Warner Bros. Entertainment
      (pp. 59-73)

      As the first chief digital officer for Warner Bros. Entertainment and executive vice president of Strategy and Business Development, Thomas Gewecke is the point man for one of the most challenging aspects of the studioʹs business strategy: how to position the company for success as digital distribution threatens to cannibalize Hollywoodʹs traditional business models. Gewecke now coordinates all of the studioʹs various digital and global business strategies. If that werenʹt enough, he also oversees WB Home Entertainmentʹs Direct-to-Consumer, Business Development, and Flixster groups. He is not a man with a lot of spare time.

      This is a brand-new position established...

    • Mitch Singer, Chief Digital Strategy Officer, Sony Pictures Entertainment
      (pp. 74-84)

      Mitch Singer is the chief technology officer for Sony Pictures Entertainment and executive vice president of New Media and Technology for the studio. He is responsible for coordinating digital policy across all of Sony Picturesʹ businesses and staying ahead of the technological curve. In addition to developing strategies for engaging consumers with content across platforms and devices, Singer also coordinates Sony Picturesʹ anti-piracy activities worldwide.

      Singer has been involved in digital rights management since the initial launch of DVD technology and has been the lead negotiator for Sony Pictures in content protection technology licensing. In June 2008 Singer became president...


      (pp. 87-90)

      Some media executives understand innovation as an end to established business practices and professional relationships: What was once familiar melts into the ether as digital platforms and services ʺthreatenʺ more traditional ways of making, selling, distributing, and consuming content. In this sense, innovation, which is often labeled ʺdisruption,ʺ replaces widely accepted truths with emergent realities and overwhelms veteran industry players with an impending sense of complete and total change. Both Gail Berman and Jordan Levin, who are television industry veterans, frame this particular perspective as generational. ʺI think that if you are an older executive,ʺ Berman says, ʺYou are just...

    • Gail Berman, Founding Partner, BermanBraun
      (pp. 91-100)

      In 2007 Gail Berman cofounded (with former television executive Lloyd Braun) the independent production company BermanBraun, which develops content for broadcast and cable television, feature films, and the web. BermanBraun enjoys a first-look deal with NBC Universal Television, but its partnership with Microsoft has produced its biggest success: the celebrity-focused website Wonderwall, which generates more than 15 million unique visitors a month. Other web properties have followed and include partnerships with such tech companies as AOL and YouTube.

      Berman admits that her new venture often requires her to translate the basics of entertainment for the engineering culture with which her...

    • Jordan Levin, President, Alloy Digital, and Chief Executive Officer, Generate
      (pp. 101-110)

      Jordan Levin has been instrumental in launching many high-impact entertainment franchises for more than two de cades as a network and studio executive, producer, director, and new media entrepreneur. Levin joined The WB (Warner Bros.) as part of the founding executive team launching, building, and branding Americaʹs most successful broadcast network that targeted younger audiences. As the youngest CEO in broadcast television history, he helped launch hit shows such asDawsonʹs Creek, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Felicity, 7th Heaven, Gilmore Girls, Smallville,andOne Tree Hill.

      In 2006 Levin partnered with other leading media executives to launch Generate, a modern...

    • Betsy Scolnik, Founder, Scolnik Enterprises
      (pp. 111-120)

      Betsy Scolnik is a consultant who specializes in global content, distribution, and communications strategy for the media and entertainment industries. Her company works with the worldʹs leading organizations, from commercial to philanthropic, and has a proven track record of increasing distribution and awareness through building online and offline communities. Her clients have included TED, the Paley Center for Media, National Geographic, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and AOL Time Warner.

      Scolnik also works closely with Wolf Films. She created the firmʹs first online presence, focusing on extending theLaw & Orderbrand across YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. She nearly doubled the...

    • Christian Mann, General Manager, Evil Angel Productions
      (pp. 121-131)

      As a thirty-year veteran of the adult entertainment industry, Christian Mann has worked in various capacities, including magazines, mail order, production, and sales and marketing. As owner of Video Team, he pioneered niche marketing with the popular all-girl seriesNo Manʹs Landand the urban seriesMy Baby Got Back. In 2008 Mann took a position as general manager of Evil Angel Video.

      Mann is no stranger to the challenges inherent in marketing adult products for adult consumers. He was indicted in 1989, withstood a federal obscenity trial in Texas, and was eventually acquitted of all charges. Over twenty years...

    • Ted Sarandos, Chief Content Officer, Netflix
      (pp. 132-145)

      With more than 36 million subscribers in forty different countries, Netflix is one of the leading subscription streaming services in the world, especially in the United States (HBO, for comparisonʹs sake, only boasts 27.8 million subscribers). In the past few years, itʹs also emerged as a potentially serious player in the game for original content, shelling out $100 million for its first outing, a two-season commitment for an adaptation of the BBC miniseriesHouse of Cards,which premiered to critical praise on February 1, 2013. Original seriesHemlock Grove, Arrested Development,andOrange Is the New Blackhave followed with...

    • Anders Sjöman, Vice President, Communication, Voddler
      (pp. 146-156)

      Anders Sjöman is head of corporate and consumer communication at Voddler, the Swedish-based video-on-demand (VOD) provider, which he joined in 2010. He has experience in public relations, as a researcher for the Harvard Business School in Paris, and as head of production for, an online language school.

      But Sjöman says his current post at Voddler provides him special satisfaction. Having been raised in a family where all members were and are active in the cultural and entertainment business (his father is the legendary Swedish film auteur Vilgot Sjöman), he was excited to return to film and television, especially in...


      (pp. 159-163)

      Discussions about digital distribution tend to focus on the challenges that media companies confront as they scramble to develop compelling new services. Another topic that draws lively speculation is the proliferating number of media choices enjoyed by consumers via cable, online, and mobile devices. Less attention has been paid, however, to the profound and pervasive changes experienced by creative talent at all levels. This section focuses especially on writers and directors, largely because they have been at the center of recent struggles between the major media companies and their employees. In 2007 these tensions erupted into a labor strike called...

    • Scott Frank, Screenwriter-Director
      (pp. 164-174)

      Scott Frank moved onto the A-list of Hollywood screenwriters withLittle Man Tate,a 1991 film starring Jodie Foster that earned critical praise and scored solidly at the box office for Orion Pictures. Four years later,Get Shortywas Frankʹs first film to crack the $100 million mark at the box office, and he has scored solid hits with features such asOut of Sight, The Interpreter,andMarley & Me. Out of Sightwon awards for ʺBest Adapted Screenplayʺ from the Writers Guild of America and the National Society of Film Critics. It was also nominated for an Academy Award...

    • Paris Barclay, Director-Producer
      (pp. 175-188)

      Paris Barclay has been directing and producing television shows for over twenty years, earning two Emmy Awards for his work onNYPD Blueand a host of other distinctions along the way. He started his career composing musicals during his college days. He then landed a job as an advertising copywriter, before working his way into the directorʹs seat making commercials for leading national agencies. He moved on in 1989 to music videos, where he caught the eye of such top performers as Janet Jackson, Bob Dylan, and LL Cool J.

      Barclayʹs first big break in television came with two...

    • Felicia D. Henderson, Writer-Producer
      (pp. 189-199)

      First and foremost, Felicia Henderson considers herself a writer with a diverse skill set who has worked successfully on television sitcoms and dramas as well as feature films, comic books, and stage productions. She also has succeeded as a television producer, showrunner, and executive producer, and most recently she has taken turns in the directorʹs chair.

      Henderson began her television career with television comedies such asThe Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Family Matters,andMoesha. In 2001 she developed, wrote, and served as executive producer for the Showtime dramaSoul Food,which during its four seasons earned the distinction...

    • Stanton ʺLarryʺ Stein, Partner, Liner Law
      (pp. 200-208)

      Successful writers and directors are represented by talent agencies that help them secure work and legal firms that oversee negotiations with their employers. Of the latter, transactional lawyers represent clients during contract negotiations, while litigators help ensure that the terms of the contract are honored. Larry Stein is recognized as one of the leading litigators in the field of entertainment law and is a senior partner in Liner, Grode, Stein, Yankelevitz, Sunshine, Regenstreif & Taylor, commonly know as Liner Law.

      Early in his career, Stein showed interest in civil liberties cases, representing the little guys pitted against the system. From there...

    • Patric Verrone, Writer-Producer and Former President, Writers Guild of America, West
      (pp. 209-220)

      A 1981 Harvard graduate, Patric Verrone was a history major and an editor of theHarvard Lampoon,one of the most prolific incubators of American comedy talent. Yet Verrone headed to law school instead of the comedy circuit, which was perhaps more amusing, at least for a while. In 1986 he landed a writing gig on theTonight Show,where he cut his teeth in one of televisionʹs most distinguished writersʹ rooms. Subsequent work with the Jim Henson Company and the Cartoon Network earned him writing credits on such shows asRugrats, The Critic, Muppets To night,andPinky and...

    • Dick Wolf, Executive Producer and Creator, Law & Order
      (pp. 221-234)

      Itʹs fitting to conclude this section of interviews with Dick Wolf, for in many ways he is the exception that proves the rule—a writer/producer that continues to excel with series television, despite the significant changes wrought by the digital distribution revolution. As mentioned earlier, Wolf is creator and executive producer of threeLaw & Orderseries that have proven exceptionally lucrative in the world of network and cable broadcasting, especially in syndication. This has allowed him to establish Wolf Films, a production and development unit that overseas the companyʹs current productions and cultivates new shows that it shops around to...

  9. Appendix: Interview Schedule
    (pp. 235-236)
  10. Glossary
    (pp. 237-242)
  11. About the Editors
    (pp. 243-244)
  12. Index
    (pp. 245-262)