Misc. News: 2/21/07

Oh look! A whole bunch of news stories that I can put into a little bulleted list because I don’t have the time to write them up individually! Amazing!

  • So XM and Sirius are apparently serious about merging. Does no one else see that this doesn’t have the slightest chance of passing regulatory approval?
  • “Studio 60” is about to get the axe. Thank you to everyone who has spent the last four months ragging about how much you hate the show, you now get to be as smug in your superiority as you complained the show was.
  • Harlequin Romance and NASCAR have entered into a partnership. Yeah, this will turn out well.
  • There’s no way (I think) they could make getting around O’Hare Airport worse so it’s nice to see that Chicago is looking at improving the traffic flow.
  • Oh dear….The FCC is actually looking at regulating violence on TV. There’s no way this turns out as anything other than a disaster. I mean what’s violence? Hard to answer, at least in a way that doesn’t eventually wind up counting everything on every news program. I’m almost paranoid enough to think this is a Bush Administration move to halt almost all coverage of violence in Iraq. Almost.
  • Yahoo has added the publisher of The Daily Herald series of pubs to its publisher advertising network.
  • The White Sox have launched a new campaign for this season, one that encourages all fans to streak the field and beat up a first-base coach at least once during the season. Alright that might not be true. But it’s not too far off either.

Everytime someone says “Scooter” an angel gets his wings

CIA leak case goes to jury – CNN.com

Goodbye Carson’s

Last day for a State Street shopping icon | Chicago Tribune

It’s interesting that there isn’t the public outcry over the closing of Carson Pirie Scott’s on State Street like there was when Macy’s took over Marshall Field’s. Maybe because it’s just closing and not being remade into something else. Either way, Chicago loses another retail icon, pretty much leaving Sears as the last survivor now that Carons, Field’s and Montgomery Ward have gone away.

God and “Studio 6”

Looking for the Best Christian on TV – STUDIO 60

The Wittenburg Door religous satire site has a great recap/post-mortum of “Studio 60” with a special focus on the portrayal of religion in the form of the Harriet Hayes character. It’s along the same lines, though much better researched and written, as a post I wrote at TV Squad a few months ago.

What does it cost to market an Oscar contender?

Both MediaPost and the New York Daily News have articles up today about the marketing costs of movies that have been nominated for Academy Awards this year. Here’s a quick list:

  • The Departed: $40.3 million from January thru November
  • Little Miss Sunshine: $11.9 million
  • The Queen: $14.5 million
  • Babel: $16.4 million
  • Blood Diamond: $19.9 million
  • Pursuit of Happyness: $10.6 million
  • Devil Wears Prada: $22.4 million

Now keep in mind those numbers are full the full year and just go through November, so the campaign for Letters From Iwo Jima aren’t included there. The NYDN then states that Oscar nomination-specific campaigns can routinely run $25 million and you’re talking some serious money.

Let’s look deeper at The Departed. According to IMDb, the production budget for the flick was $90 million. Add to that $40 million for marketing and let’s also add the $25 million average Oscar spend (since it competed for a number of categories) and we get a grand total of $155 million in productions and miscellaneous marketing expenses. MediaPost reports that the movie has grossed $130 million to date at the box office, but that doesn’t include (I suspect) the recent DVD release. So the movie is likely just about to or just recently has broken even for Warner Bros.

Of course Oscar nominations/wins can boost box-office revenue and now DVD sales as people check out the movie to see what all the hubbub is about. The NYDN cites American Beauty as a movie that received a second wind thanks to the Awards. I’d like to see an example, though, that wasn’t eight years old.

And I agree with the one person who says that the Awards ceremony is the equivalent of a 3-4 hour infomercial for the movie industry, but is it a needed one? After all, this is now an industry that thrives on the celebrity culture that’s been built up of gossip rags and entertainment websites. The stars are never out of public view for long, effectively extending indefinitely the marketing campaign for any given movie since, if someone links to Jack Nicholson’s IMDb profile, the visitor then has the potential to be reminded of any of a number of Nicholson’s films.

There’s one quote from Jeff Wells that I disagree with:

“It’s a conversation with viewers,” says Hollywood blogger Jeffrey Wells, “and keeping certain films in their mind as they mull over possible winners.

These marketing campaigns are almost never conversations, at least not as the online marketing world now defines the term.  Conversations are two-way communications tools and these campaigns are very much one-way lectures about how the audience needs to see this movie. It lacks the give-and-take process that allows the audience to participate. This is a necessary component of a conversation.

Awards are great but the end goals of any movie should be to entertain the audience and make money for the producers. If you fall short of that you have not succeeded. You can either spend a lot of money in the hopes that a movie will get an award so that it can finally recoup all the money you’ve spent or you can make quality movies that will appeal to interested parties and market them in a smart – and cost efficient – manner by appealing to that audience. The latter gives you an opportunity to actually engage in the conversation with the audience by making them stakeholders in the film’s success.

Spend and market smart in support of smart films that, because they’re not being held back by a distribution model that originated during the studio-controlled system of the early 20th century, can be seen by anyone at a time of their choosing and I think you’d find that movie revenue will go up and the niche markets will support the films that appeal to them.

TV vs. movie quality

I have to say that I agree with the assertions linked to by Jeffrey Wells that TV is kind of eating the movie industry’s lunch when it comes to producing quality content. Whereas most movies I’ve watched recently are overlong and ill-thought-out, the TV shows I’ve been seeing are tight and, while a little stretched sometimes, are at least doing some innovative stuff. Don’t get me wrong, there are still some great movies being put out, but overall I think that there’s more original thinking going on among TV producers and writers right now.

It’s the end of the YouTube as we know it…unless it’s not…either way I’m fine

Seems that NBC Universal is the latest big media company to demand that its content be pulled from YouTube. That comes as an expansion of the deal between it and CBS seems to have hit a snag and just a couple weeks after Viacom demanded the site take down all of its videos. Viacom, for its part, has signed a deal with Joost, a deal that includes Viacom getting a cut of the advertising revenue from the videos. Here’s my favorite part:

The basic idea behind Joost is to get as close to possible to replicating the television viewing experience on a personal computer.

Is this really what consumers are looking for? Personally I think internet video, if it’s really going to add value to the viewer experience, needs to be more than a simple repurposing of TV material. Think beyond this to videos that are really going to attract an audience. TV can be viewed on TV. If you’re looking for new ways to get TV content to people, then let’s rethink TV, not make the same mistakes on the internets.

That being said, it can be useful for companies to have their own, approved outlets for online video. It can help build brand loyalty, provide for copyright control and allow marketers to collect useful data on the users who watch it. But it would be best to find a strategy that allows for both corporate control and the ceding of some control to users.

If companies decide that the hording of control is more important and continue to pull their material from venues where it’s the user that’s in charge it simply means there’s more exposure to by gained by non-professionally produced material. Users will not abandon their favorite sites because a media conglomerate has decided to work against and not with the community. It just means they’ll continue to use it and not be exposed to the professional stuff.

Of course all these moves could, as some have suggested, be bluffs and maneuvers as companies negotiate business deals with YouTube, in which case the content will be back but with ads or some such. It’s important for all companies to figure how best to utilize online video in a way that makes sense for them. But don’t forget that a lot of people are out there spreading the word for you on these sites, efforts that mean extra exposure for you at little to no cost. Don’t get in the way of them doing so.