TV Execs Forced To Respect Web’s Authori-tah

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The phrase "revenue sharing" has not historically been in the media executive dictionary. An iron wall stood between the talent and the advertising money, whether it be television, movies, radio, newspaper, whatever. But our favorite libertarian equal opportunity offenders have managed to cement a 50/50 split of ad revenue with Viacom.

I like this New York Times revisiting of a famous CBS executive quote referring to the idea of sharing revenue with producers as "tantamount to letting the inmates run the asylum."

But South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone said it was about time Viacom let a little crazy into their machine. Through SouthParkStudios.com, Parker and Stone will continue the hit series through a 15th season, and collect half of the advertising money earned via SP material distributed on the Net, mobile, and in video games.

And that is a cue to something else: a sea change in mid swell. Information gatekeepers and media owners always enjoyed a certain amount kingship over the consumer and over the talent.

The Internet, though, has steadily chipped away at that sovereignty, first by allowing the consumer to create his or her own content cheaply and distribute for even cheaper. In effect, the consumer told the provider he wasn’t as necessary as he once was.

Already successful celebrities are starting to exploit this vulnerability as well, for whatever barriers there are to their creativity on TV or radio or at the box office, they are effectively knocked down with sufficient broadband.

Many will no doubt also cite Will Ferrell’s new website FunnyOrDie.com, or even MyDamnChannel.com, which launched recently with video and free-to-burn music.

The white-hairs in suits in the boardroom still object a little, though, saying that though the cardinal sin of revenue sharing has been absolved in some cases, it is an indulgence reserved for talent that has already made them a lot of money.

Well, as a former executive in that NYT piece put it:

“Talent will look at this and say, ‘Why not us?’ ” said Warren Littlefield, a television producer and former president of NBC Entertainment. “Unfortunately, what you’ll probably find is the response is, ‘We’ll tell you why not you: because you haven’t achieved what they’ve achieved.’ This is based upon a decade of proven success; it’s not a deal that’s made on the come, it’s not a deal made with an established creator who’s about to create something new. It’s 10 years in.”   

But rest assured, not every online success in the future will have a decade of Old School under their belt. If you’ve ever heard that old joke – "What will the preachers do when the Devil is saved?" – you might need to update it for executives and talent.

TV Execs Forced To Respect Web’s Authori-tah
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