Is content still king? Or is Less Moonves Bluffing while steering the Titanic?

A colleague at Newseum in Washington paosted on Facebook:

Daily skirmishes between Legacy Media and New Media. Should there be an LM/NM Scoreboard at the end of each news cycle?

Bigger discussion here really than I have time for – but I have blogged it extensively in the past – see my ear;lioer posts here  on

The issue in the article is that the reporter was too credulous to Moonves’ coyness:

Content creation IS moving away from central productions. Period. CBS has never been in films, only TV. And TV is diversified and dying as a mass distribution channel, only a few steps behind newspapers and magazines. I myself have not really watched TV in over 2 years. All my choices about how to spend my entertainment time come from online now. And I am almost ,well, more than 25  years old, think about what kids are doing?

Truth is, money in CA has always been in distribution, at least post-1947 Paramount decision. And so CBS is in a tough spot – they don’t control distribution in any channel at all – that comes from  Northern CA now, the apples, the googles, and other tech companies.

CBS (and others) can bet the farm, or even an acre or two, that they will be able to find a way to create mass interest in small-screen stuff, and deliver it somehow while keeping a share of the profits.

Good luck to them on that – from  a production side, in a post-youtube era, video production and finance is mirroring the earliest developments in the film industry circa 100 years ago. We all know how that turned out, but the key factor was the limited distribution and consumption points – the theaters themselves.

There is scant evidence that if the finance of production and production models themselves recapitulate history that the end result will be the same, or that CBS (or others) have any grand claim to knowing how to make it work out.

If anything CBS is caught in the middle – a classic Michael Porter strategic trap – they don’t have the customers at the big screens that the movie studios are working hard to keep by inventing 3d, and they don’t have any particular brand loyalty among the non-tv crowd, while tv watchers are fading away or dying off.

Bottom line: Content NEVER was king. What was and still is king is the social experience, the interaction with the content and other human beings that the distribution and content consumption points engendered.

Why? Those things scale exponentially with the number of viewers, while the content itself only scales linearly. Google, Apple, everyone in the Bay Area (and the rest of the online world such as India and Eastern Europe) is familiar with the unrefuted research in this area, and they are focusing their innovations accordingly. All the while, as the research predicts, groups like CBS are rapidly losing discretionary market share to other content sources.

I say Moonves is full of nothing but Hubris here n this article . In the end, he is bluffing, and I would say CBS has no special knowhow at all in anything. No technical advantage, no cost advantage, no creative advantage, no brand advantage, nothing. He has had a fine career, don’t get me wrong, but the end of it is going to suck if he doesn’t retire soon.

And I am not picking on him personally – he has probably dozens if not hundreds of peers in the same boat, in the US alone.

Just sayin’ :)

PS – I guess it wasn’t more than I had time for :)

Nuts & Bolts of Film Finance: Seminar with Real-World Financier on 2/21 in L.A

IIFF/LA Film Financing Workshop with Tricia van Klaveren

*** Review all details at ***

The Los Angeles chapter of the Institute for Int’l Film Financing (IIFF) continues its successful Film Financing Workshops with a powerful seminar about GETTING MOVIES FUNDED.  Don’t miss this intensive learning experience at the junction of filmmaking and finance!

Act now to take advantage of your SPECIAL DISCOUNT at -

Details and curse outline after the jump.

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The Stranger | Slog | Lies, Damn Lies, and the Religious Right's Statistics

Dan Savage writes abuot politicizing of film financials in the Wall Street Journal and elsewhere: Lies, Damn Lies, and the Religious Right’s Statistics.

I hadn’t heard of City of Ember or Fly Me to the Moon until I read about their amazing box office returns in “Houses of Worship.” It’s weird for films that pull in more than $70 million to escape my notice. But I did hear about An American Carol, a limp and unfunny conservative “send-up/take-down” of Michael Moore. And what I’d heard was this: it was an embarrassing flop. So I looked up the domestic box office figures for all four films:

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull cost $185 million to produce and took in $317,101,119.
Fly Me to the Moon cost $25 million to produce and took in $12,857,206.
City of Ember cost $55 million to produce and took in $7,873,007.
An American Carol cost $20 million to produce and took in just $7,013,191.

So, yeah, these four films together averaged—by my calculations—something like $84 million dollars at the domestic box office. But why on earth would you group these four films together? Two of the three films lost money; Fly Me to the Moon barely turned a profit when its foreign take is included. But An American Carol and City of Ember lost more than $50 million between them.

Sat, 2/14: "Pitching Your Movie to Investors" in SF.

Learn from ANGEL INVESTOR how to raise money!

The Institute for Int’l Film Financing (IIFF) continues its acclaimed Film Financing Workshops with a hands-on seminar about SUCCESSFULLY PITCHING TO INVESTORS. Join us on Saturday in San Francisco for this special occasion!

*** For all details, go to ***

Our expert instructor, Dr. Patrick O’Heffernan, is a real-world ANGEL INVESTOR and a seasoned fundraising expert who has raised MILLIONS OF DOLLARS in capital. A former Professor at a top university, he has written several books and won prestigious awards for his work as a producer, including an Emmy. Dr. O’Heffernan is an active member of two leading angel investor groups, FilmAngels and the Keiretsu Forum. He will spend a full, intensive day training film entrepreneurs how to RAISE MONEY FROM INVESTORS such as himself.

Learn more and secure your SPECIAL ONLINE DISCOUNT at -

Our friends at Academy of Art in San Francisco are making their facilities near 4th and King St. available for our event:

IIFF/SF Film Financing Workshop with Dr. Patrick O’Heffernan
Saturday, February 14, 2009
9:00 AM – 5:00 PM

Academy of Art University
466 Townsend Street
San Francisco, CA 94107

LIMITED CAPACITY. Avoid disappointment by registering now at -

The Workshop’s HIGHLY TOPICAL PROGRAM is based on IIFF’s proven formula for film financing success combined with Dr. O’Heffernan’s deep pragmatic insights and decades of experience:

* The 7 Reasons People Invest
* The 5 Kinds of Film Investors
* Finding Non-Investor Money & Leveraging It
* Making an Impression: Impression Killers & Builders
* Building Rapport: Pitching Your Movie Before You Pitch It
* Why Your Team Is Critical to Success With Investors

* How to Organize Your Pitch: Strategy, Timing & Content
* Budgets & Projections: Show You Can Be Trusted With Money
* Distribution Plans: Key to Selling Your Movie
* Talent Attachments: It’s All About Confidence in You
* Why “Comps” Are Needed & How to Assemble Them
* The Powerpoint: 5 Keys to Powerful Slides for Film Pitching

* The Critical First Minute
* Timing as a Way to Gain Respect & Build Trust
* The “Head” vs. “Heart” Approach to Pitching Investors
* Staying in Control: When (Not) to Allow Questions
* Problems = Opportunities: How to React When Things Go Wrong
* Following Up & Closing the Deal

THERE IS MORE! An expanded list of topics covered by this Workshop, as well as additional event details, can be found at -

Questions? Join IIFF’s community of filmmakers and financiers at for answers.

Don’t miss this unique opportunity to be trained by a WORLD-CLASS EXPERT who has successfully used the skills he teaches during years as an investor, fundraiser and producer. Over the course of his distinguished career, Dr. O’Heffernan has PERSONALLY RAISED more than $40 million.

Thomas Trenker
Founding Chairman, IIFF

P.S.: Other upcoming events include our “Nuts & Bolts of Film Finance” Workshop on 2/21 in LA – – and the new “Grants & Donations for Film” Workshop with fundraising guru Morrie Warshawski on 2/28 in SF – – as well as a Film Financing Townhall on 2/26 in SF –

P.P.S.: Care to bring your film venture to the attention of FilmAngels? Leave a project summary with IIFF’s registration desk on 2/14! This month’s FilmAngels investor meeting is scheduled for Wed, 2/25.

Pay TV providers fret over penny-pinching viewers

“This time there is a real, viable alternative” to cable.

But pay TV providers are right to be alarmed. Not only has a flood of TV shows and movies become available online, but the video quality has gotten better. Netflix is expanding its service that lets subscribers stream movies and shows from the Internet at no additional cost. And more and more people have home broadband — 57 percent of American adults, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project.

Throw in the worst economic slowdown in nearly a century and people question whether they still want to pay for cable or satellite. As of January 2008, the average monthly home cable bill was $84.59, up 21 percent from two years earlier, according to the Federal Communications Commission.

“You’ve got these factors aligning at the right time,” said Bobby Tulsiani, senior analyst at Forrester Research. “This time there is a real, viable alternative” to cable.

Ireland sets up tax incentives for filmmakers

Maryland is not the only place setting up and refining taz incentives. So is Ireland.

“Ireland’s film and television industry has received a welcome boost from the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, Martin Cullen. In a press release issued on 8 December 2008, the Minister outlined significant enhancements to the Section 481 relief for investment in film and television projects. The enhancements will be brought about by the Finance Bill (No. 2) 2008 that is currently being considered by Ireland’s houses of parliament.

Read  the rest of the details below.

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Making sense of Maryland's Film Finance Plans

Jay Hancock, Business Columnist for the Baltimore Sun, struggles to make sense of Maryland plans to be in the film investment biz:

Good thing for Maryland, too. Louisiana taxpayers had to pay the Benjamin Button producers $27 million, according to state officials. The sales tax from Cate Blanchett’s hotel bill and income tax paid by the key grip could not have come close to making up for that outlay.

“There’s no way you can say these things make money” for the state budget, says Greg Albrecht, chief economist for the Louisiana Legislature. Extra tax revenue generated by films, he adds, “is not going to come close to the direct payment you’re going to make. Basically, you’re just flowing money out of the public treasury into the private sector.”

I am a Baltimore native,Silicon Valley transplant, currently interested in film finance. In particular, I am interested in the different ways high risk, high reward ventures are funded between Hollywood and Silicon Valley when the products are becoming hard to distinguish from each other.
Read my complete opinion below.

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Film Finance News Today: 2009-01-13

MovieMaker Magazine

Navigating the New Independent Film Marketplace
MovieMaker Magazine – New York,NY,USA
He has served as counsel to numerous award-winning writers, directors and producers, as well as industry-leading film production, film finance and film …

Future cloudy for California solar farm
Los Angeles Times – CA,USA
It manufactures its own thin-film photovoltaic panels to supply solar farms that it develops and manages. Its biggest project to date is a 10-megawatt …
Films record the times they are made in: Shah
Times of India – India
… film festival on January 15 would be attended by state chief minister Ashok Chavan, Union civil aviation minister Praful Patel, state finance minister …
New York Times

Hollywood Night of Offbeat Choices
New York Times – United States
Many of the films that did well on Sunday night were made on budgets that would not finance the craft services budgets of the popcorn films that constitute …

Slumdog Millionaire: the first film of the Obama era – United Kingdom
Film 4 was able to develop and finance the film with Celador, the British company that created Who Wants to be a Millionaire? The film has had its setbacks. …

Bollywood’s on a roll despite slump
Economic Times – Gurgaon,Haryana,India
Two film funds that have been approved by market regulator Sebi — Cinema Venture Capital Fund (CCFV) and Vistaar Religare Film Fund (VRFF) — are on track …
Tungro’s Wall of Scribbles – Gym, part two
By Tungro
… eurofurence · eurofurence ef12 · facebook · faint · fainting · fc · film · finance · firefox 3 · flatscreen · flights · football · forest · frontpage html mess · funny · fur · furry · furs · fursuit · fursuits · further confusion …

Tungro’s Wall of Scribbles –
Vanessa Hudgens Auditions for New Moon? :
Home · About 60 Day Film Financing · Sitemap · Announcements · Events Calendar · Contact · Film Loans · Tax Monetization · Consulting · TV Biz · Box Office Biz · Featured Guests. Browse > Home / Box Office Biz / Vanessa Hudgens … –
Princeton University Press Blog » Blog Archive » Andrew Gelman at …
… Asian and Asian American studies · Astronomy and Cosmology · Awards · Business · Dawn of the Color Photograph · Earth Sciences · Economics · Election 2008 · Events · Film Studies · Finance · In the News · International Relations …

Princeton University Press Blog –
Raziur Rahman says he is the made SECP pro-active | Business …
He said he had submitted his resignation to the government several months ago and completed his three-year term, as the government wished. Finance Advisor, Shaukat Tareen has proposed making SECP Commissioner, Salman Sheikh as acting …

Daily Global News Headlines –
What do Indian film critics say about Slumdog Millionaire …
Most Indian critics are giving rather good reviews of the film. Many US critics are also giving average to good ratings, and there are a few US critics giving the film poor to fair ratings. Use the link below to read many reviews of the …

Mahalo Answers –

Hollywood: Show Me the Money! 2009-01-12

Dissident Voice – Santa Rosa,CA,USA
We see pleasant photos of four top donors, including international mega-billionaire George Soros, Hollywood uber-mogul Stephen Spielberg, and Hollywood
North by Northwestern – Evanston,IL,USA
There’sa great deal of financial strife associated with making films Hollywood hasn’t fully embraced. Aronofsky even had to put a portion of his union
Cinema Blend – USA
9:50 “As a kid I had all the Hollywood Foreign Press action figures… thank you to Will Arnett for the joke.” Tina’s doing great up there, (press release) – Salem,OR,USA
It ebbs and flows, like market prices and the careers of Hollywood actors. The fact that risk levels are dynamic suggests a connection. – United Kingdom
Door to door makeup sales firm Avon is attempting to lure new recruits by promoting financial independence during the difficult economic period.
GMA – Quezon City,Metro Manila,Philippines
The animation BPO firm owns 95 percent of 15-year old Toon City Animations Inc. Philippines-based Toon City has been providing services to Hollywood