The second day of MipCom 2007 ended on a very energetic note with Paula Wagner, CEO, United Artists, and Ben Silverman, Co-Chairman, NBC Entertainment and NBC Universal Studio, taking the audiences through their perception of the media and the entertainment industry, and more importantly, what they thought, separated the positive P&Ls from the negative P&Ls.
Wagner, whose career line has seen her move from an agent to Hollywood actors to a producer to now a co-owner of United Artists, actor Tom Cruise being the other owner, set the ball rolling when she spoke about the challenges that the motion pictures industry was facing. Wagner said, “The industry is not very easy with the changing market dynamics. But there is a solution. We have seen that if you have compelling content, the consumer will come.”
She further said that often studios chased formulas to ensure that they were making successful movies, but all their chases only showed that formulas didn’t always work. She asserted, “You have to make the right choices, but you also have to take risks. The casting of Tom Cruise in ‘Risky Business’ and ‘Rain Man’ were risks taken at that point, and the results are for all to see. We see United Artists as content creators more than anything else.”
Wagner gave the example of Shakespeare stating that he had figured it all out hundreds of years ago when he said ‘If you tell gripping stories, which make people laugh or cry or yell in anguish, or better, makes them do all of these things, you will find an audience.’ “The fundamentals still apply, everything else can change,” she added.
Wagner took the audience through the first two projects of United Artists after Cruise and Wagner took charge of the operations, and culminated her presentation saying, “Irrespective of what people around you are saying, you have to stay focussed and keep perspective of the job at hand, because in our business, end of day, it is the work that counts.” For her, the secret weapon was great content, which could be consumed through any platform, but its success would come in its quality.
In his session that followed Wagner’s, Ben Silverman didn’t differ too much. However, he took the discussion a step ahead and said that content next was content global.
He used the platform to make some announcements like the NBC-Universal acquiring Oxygen Channel in the US, and that the Network was bringing back the ‘Knight Rider’ franchise in February 2008. Silverman was very clear on the way ahead for NBC-Universal.
“If you stop fostering creative vision, or stop servicing creative voices, you might as well get out of the profession,” said Silverman, adding, “The road ahead is simple – get the best programming idea and make it as big as possible. We are going global. We have English actors in lead roles, we have shows that have Japanese, Indian and French actors, and the success that shows like ‘Heroes’ have seen is only an indication that global content is the next step.”
Silverman further said that in the changing broadcasting sphere, the domain did appear to be challenged by new technologies and the manner in which these technologies were impacting consumer media consumption behaviour. However, if the content strategy was right, the same viewer would pay to watch that content.