ScarJo ( Scarlett Johansson) versus Disney, The Business of Content!
So, the streaming wars are raging on, in Australia and abroad. I have always been a fan of Stan, which was launched a couple of years back. During those days there was another one, Presto. I suppose Presto was one of the early casualties, as it disappeared from the market after a short run. Fast forward to 2021 and in the Australia Market, we have Stan, Netflix, Disney plus and many others. I consider Youtube Premium, a silent Assassin, though its not often talked about a lot. There is a generation that consumes Youtube and has little if at all appetite for all things Free to Air. Ten All Access has just been made redundant, in favour of Paramount Plus, which is a new offering launched a few days ago. Ten All Access was a paid streaming service, owned by Ten, and many people questioned its viability as it had hugely old shows. I’m pretty sure, many loyalists of the network, will be keen to try the new offering. Lets see how it fairs on the market.
With streaming wars, comes the battle for content. Content is King right? This is seen with signficant investments by companies like Amazon on the local market. Earlier in the year we saw Amazon Prime, commit resources towards local content and production. Of course, Amazon bought MGM, the parent company that owns the James Bond Franchise etc. Clearly Amazon, knows what its doing, they know the currency and potency of content. Fresh content and all the time less clasics that can still lure and maintain millions of viewers.
With content creation, comes content distribution. Enter Scarjo Versus Disney. Well news last week came that ScarJo is suing Disney after the release of The Black Widow via streaming as opposed to the Box Office. Well the argument is that part of her pay was going to be dependent on the perfomance of the movie in movie theatres etc.So clearly, allowing the movie to be available prematurely via Disney plus means she is being short changed. Well, Disney responded, they claim she was given $20 M, and she will get more. That maybe the case, but what counts is the original agreement, if Disney are in breach, then as it seems, she has a case.
This brings me to that issue of Content Distribution. With the onset of the pandemic, some movie executives are fast fowarding movies to be allowed to be streamed. While, most movies, are launched in movie theatres first, then after a few months or so, they become available via digital platforms etc. Things are changing, and thats true, major issue will be how were the deals structured and the agreements etc and the impact of those changes when it comes to distribution, down the ‘’food chain’’. In Unleash the Book Within, I talk about the power of technology in turning industries upside down. Sometimes its not an issue of change in technology but the rate of change. We are currently in a season where we are seeing major changes across the entertainment industry being driven by technology.
Well, if the backend deals are structured around box office sales, then it means a lot of movie actors etc are short changed. That is basically shifting the goal posts. Whilst the average person on the street, may be happy with an upfront large sum, the truth of the matter is that those back end sales are signficant. This is why its important to have Talent Managers etc who know how the business works. Producing content is only one part of the equation, content distribution is a signifact factor of the equation.
If the deal is that an actor or whoever gets a lump sum and thats it, it means all the back end sales etc they forfeit. Many musicians and many in the arts industry have been short changed time and time again. We have seen young men and women cry foul when it comes to shows like X Factor, Australian Idol etc. These young people go on these shows, however issues around ownership of the content, after they perform means they often get nothing no matter the sales of their actual recording as part of the shows. We know most of the perfomances are ending up on Youtube etc gaining traction for the relevant networks. Of course, a few musicians do get recording contracts after the shows, which is something separate all together.
Well a few days after ScarJo sued, then Gerard Butler is also suing another company on different grounds etc. I find this interesting. Emily Blunt has a movie ( Jungle Cruise) which was also released simulatenoulsy across movie theatres and also on Disney plus, and is said to be considering her options. In a separate incident, she was in a pay dispute for a movie that was released prematurely via digital channels, ‘’A Quiet place 2"”. The movie was meant to be in cinemas for at least 90 days before streaming could be allowed. For some reason, Paramount, decided to cut that short to 45 days, this obviously, created problems as reported by Bloomberg. Of course, Paramount did that as well in a bid to promote their own streaming service, Paramount +. Well, Paramount did send off some of their movies to streaming services, for example, Coming to America was released via Amazon.
Well all this highlights the fact that the landscape has changed.Deals can no longer be done as per 20 years ago or even 5 years ago. The world has changed. Creatives, be they directors, creative writers etc they must get whats due to them. This obviously requires better negotiation, and standing firm to what is duely theirs. Some company bosses will pay huge chunks upfront in a bid to buy out those actors and actresses etc This means they will have no claim to the back end sales, again, this will depend on many variables.
In a nutshell, the world has changed. Content Creation and Content Distribution are twins that are heavily correlated and those in the entertainment industry must be prepared to engage in those conversations and be prepared to lift the kimono when it comes to certain contracts and deals. Who is really benefitting, and is talent being exploited or its an ideal scenario where studio executives are happy and everyone on the production chain is happy? This also applies to certain music contracts deals, sometimes its a good idea to lift the veil and not just remain at face value! Many musicians are crying foul despite having made it ‘’big’’.
In the world of books, books are coming in many forms which include ebooks. Audio books too, and then of course some books have been turned into movies. There are run away success stories like Suzanne Collins’’ Hunger Games, and then of course middle of the road successes. Whilst the world may pay attention to mega successes, the reality is that there are books that have made a dent on the movie and theatre circuit. This of course, simply echoes my earlier points about conversations around content creation and distribution. Earlier in the year, I watched, “The Dry’’ starring Eric Bana. This is a beautiful story written by Australian International Best Selling Author, Jane Harper. Whether you are aware of the movie or the book, the most important thing I want to stress is that its commercial appeal cant be denied. The book is available in print and also in Audio format.
In conclusion, the world has changed. If ‘Content Creation’, is a thing, then Content Distribution and Ownership are a thing too. Of course the world of entertainment is watching closely how things will unfold as it relates to ScarJo, and any other lawsuit that pops up. Whether big production companies have too much power that allows them to bully anyone by intentionally breaching contract terms to no consequences, that will be revealed through time.
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Wisdom V Mupudzi (Book Coach, Digital Publisher, and Award Winning Author )