I’m kinda sick of ragging on Brooks Barnes.
The clear answer to any questions about his skill/insight covering this beat is that the New York Times doesn’t give a flying flip about whether their coverage of the film and TV industry is any good, so long as they keep selling ads and getting cross-promotional opportunities from the studios.
So I wasn’t looking forward to reading his Kevin Tsujihara piece over the weekend, but it was really quite shocking. And I have been further surprised by how many people noticed how much it read like a long press release, not the result of 90 minutes with one of the 2 or 3 most powerful people in Hollywood.
Instead of ripping Brooks apart… again (like shooting fish in a barrel, after a while the gunman begins to feel like a troll)… I thought I would just offer a few useful questions that a paper as powerful as the New York Times might have bothered to ask when they are given truly unique access.
For instance… if WB is so bullish on theatrical, what do they see as the best ongoing model for funding films? Will there ever be another Harry Potter-type series, in which the studio takes the total risk on a franchise play to the tune of a $300 million investment or more in the launch film (production and P&A)? Does the studio intend on solo funding the next round of Potter-related films now being touted?
How does Tsujihara see the balance of revenues looking now, in the 5 years, and in 10 years? What percentage from domestic theatrical? What percentage from international theatrical? How much purchased post-theatrical? How much post-theatrical revenue coming from aggregators like Netflix, HBO, Amazon, etc?
Time-Warner/WB owns Flixster, which they have used – in part – as their frontman on streaming. How many years are we away from an in-house streaming website being able to make a significant amount of revenue, perhaps more than be made by selling to aggregators? How is the Warner Archive experiment working?
Disney has made a deal with Netflix that hasn’t launched yet which crosses the TV and film lines. As one of the industry’s most prolific TV producers, does Tsujihara anticipate that streaming deals will be made through the networks distributing the shows on broadcast/cable or will WB start to retain those rights for their own uses moving forward? Is there any kind of rough timeline about when the value of holding onto those rights might equal or surpass the opportunity costs of not allowing the b’cast/cable network distributors to have them as part of the initial distribution deals?
WB is bullish on theatrical, but what is the mix of large and small that Tsujihara finds attractive? Are there too many films in the marketplace? Does he see niche increasing and 4-quadrant decreasing?
Anyway… this is just a starter list… and not even a particularly aggressive one.
There are few things more aggravating than wasted journalistic opportunities. But more and more, even with 90 minutes to do an interview, journalists are accepting themselves as extensions of press offices, more proud of the get than of the work done in the room with the subject. Damned shame.