Tuesday, 5 August 2008

The NYT,Film, TV & IHTV

My last post was about Rupes' happiness with the overall state of television advertising.

Indeed, according to the NYT, Rupes is going to deepen News Corporation's extensive presence in Indian media, announcing on Monday that the company would invest $100 million in six new regional television channels there.

Incidentally, here's where Rupes is on India otherwise:
Dow Jones had already announced plans to increase greatly its coverage of India’s economy, one of the fastest-growing in the world. Joining Mr. Murdoch at the news conference, Robert Thomson, managing editor of The Journal, said that the newspaper and Dow Jones Newswires have a total combined staff in India of 25, and would increase that to 70.

I don't think the NYT is quite up to that level yet on 'one of the fastest-growing economies in the world'. India interests me. Why aren't I also subscribing to the WSJ, I ask myself?

Anyway, back to moving pictures instead of print and text: a great deal of attention is being placed at the NYT on the Internet - basically if you like good old www.iht.com you can forget it soon, it's about to be rolled into www.nytimes.com

How that will look or work we wait to see.

But given the relatively low CPMs on the Net, perhaps the main focus should be on TV, and indeed film.

What I learnt from a recent article in Variety, and didn't know before, is that the NYT is already in this game, at least partly.

New York Times has been involved in 15 option deals based on its articles since signing for representation with ICM two years ago,

There is another 'time-related' outfit also interested in film.

According to Variety, Times Inc is moving not just into selling option deals on stories but into the production of in-house films.

"Time Inc. Studios, together with management-production company the Collective and XYZ Films, will produce features and documentaries based on articles published in Time Inc. publications such as Time, Sports Illustrated, Fortune and Life.
The company has identified its first project, optioning the April 14 Sports Illustrated article "Breaking the Bank." Written by L. Jon Wertheim, the feature covers the alleged criminal exploits of Ultimate Fighting Championship competitor "Lightening"
Lee Murray, who is suspected of masterminding the largest cash heist in history in 2006.
XYZ Films said it will contribute a seven-figure development fund that will option articles, hire screenwriters and tie talent to packages that can then be shopped to studios. It doesn’t cover TV projects.
XYZ is a production company that finances rights acquisitions, script development and bridge lending. It has sold films at festivals and most recently produced the 2009
Lionsgate release "Love, Pain & Vice Versa."
The venture is being spearheaded by Time Inc. Studios president Paul Speaker
whose previous film gigs included exec stints at RKO Pictures, RKO Films and Shooting Gallery. He will be a producer on the films, along with the Collective’s Aaron Ray and XYZ Films partners Nate Bolotin, Nick Spicer and Aram Tertzakian.
While some of the film deals are expected to derive from new stories in Time Inc. mags, the architects also hope to leverage the conglom’s historical assets through archived articles and photos from Time and Life that date back to 1923, including some of the most famous photographs of the last century. The company publishes 120 magazines globally and generates up to 3,000 articles each month; the venture gets a first look at all of those articles.
The deal marks the latest example of a publisher trying to broaden its revenue stream by participating when its articles are optioned for film projects. This recent movement ranges from graphic novel publishers that are routinely at the center of movie deals to the New York Times
which has been involved in 15 option deals since signing for representation with ICM two years ago.
Time Inc. will be a proactive partner because of the fund supplied by XYZ, which will house three staffers who will pore over the magazines’ archives to find movie properties. Mag editors will also be relied on to identify in-the-works articles with feature potential. The conglom benefits financially through option deals, producing fees and other potential revenue-sharing on box office hits.
The organizers said plenty of films were seeded by articles, including "Dog Day Afternoon"
(a Life article) and "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room" (Fortune). James Cameron is developing to direct "The Dive", a Sports Illustrated article about free-divers.
"For the first time, talent has direct access to stories and material from the company that has produced proportionately the finest journalism for years," Ray said. "Before, you had to chase the rights, but now, a filmmaker can sit across the table, describe their plans, and we can be in business the following week. We’re cutting right through studio and other barriers."
Speaker said the editors of the magazines signed off on the venture, all the way up to Time Inc. CEO Ann Moore.

"This was organized at the highest level, to be sure we do this wisely and correctly," Speaker said. "We will have full access and support of editors to identify the best properties to tap into the fund. The goal is to benefit both the writers and Time Inc. The archive was underexploited, and it is a vast resource."

A good example of the perils of being an early mover: NYT two years-ahead of the curve is selling options on articles; Time Inc sits back and watches and jumps an entire step, or several, ahead, and moves into co-production.

On the subject of early adopters, whatever happened to Alan Friedman, ex-IHT journalist and Italian media star walking off with the rights to use the IHT for IHTV? Must look that up.

I do remember going to a couple of meetings in Rome with Alan about this, and the then publisher getting me to get a mate of mine, an ex-BBC Newsnight producer, to do an evaluation of their programming (his conclusion: amateur hour crap, more or less - I'm sure it's much better now if it still exists).

I don't think the then publisher, Goldmark, shared my mate's report with the higher-ups in NY (and Washington at that time) as I have reason to believe Alan got a steal of a deal, so low was the interest or belief in the potential of IHTV from the IHT's then owners.

Alan will probably end up selling back the TV rights for a fortune, if he hasn't done so already! Not that he hasn't made another one off the IHT's back already.

Now there is a man who was ahead of his time. He saw the future of journalism and grasped it with both hands: ego+contacts+good journalism+need for talking heads and filler for cable channels+brand name of employer = start my own company = money making opportunity. Forget all this silly wages nonsense.

He also reminds me of a great bloke who was the IHT's technical guy once - sorry, I've forgotten his name - who proposed a whacky idea back in c1998/9 to create an IHT spin-off acting as a global ISP. What a fab idea I thought! A community of readers emailing around the world from X@iht.com.

However no one knew or could understand properly what he was on about, a great opportunity went by, and he promptly left the company. So much for foresight.


International Herald Tribune
New York Times

1 comment:

OPL said...

IHT-TV was a strange beast. I caught it a couple of times in its dying days on the Italian public news channel "Rai News 24". Distribution at its best I seem to recall was very scarce (a few airlines, Indian TV channels...).

Alan Friedman is still pretty big in Italy (so much so, that he is regularly impersonated: http://www.la7.it/intrattenimento/dettaglio.asp?prop=crozza&video=4736). His company (co-run with ex-CNNer John Defterios) seems to be more focused on content for News Corp's Italian news channel "Sky News 24" nowadays as well as branded content (fancy infomercials?) for CNBC Europe and other broadcasters. But that's according to their website that doesnt seem to have been updated since 2006 (Fact Based Communications: http://www.fbcmedia.com).