Here is the much-awaited third part of my interview with Peter Dekom, entertainment attorney extraordinaire. Make sure to read Parts 1 and 2 on my website, www.ericsherman.com.
Q. Do you think you can design movies for audience segments other than the most usual ticket-buyers, 15-25 years old?
A. There’s a big problem today. It used to be that a generation was defined as twenty years. Now it’s about three years. Ask a 27-year old what life is like for a 22-year old, and they have no clue. They’re not connected. They don’t live on the same planet. They don’t even speak the same language. They use different words to describe things. Therefore: different audience than we’ve had. So, that disconnect between audience segments requires you to create different marketing patterns if you’re going to have a broad-appeal movie. You have a lot of segmented markets – you don’t spend as much on any one ad buy, but you have so many more segments, and, therefore, so many more ad buys. And, therefore, more marketing dollars.
The cost of marketing movies has gone up 30-40% in the last five years. There are so many more calls on leisure-time dollars – it’s not just “Let’s go to the movies.” It’s “Should we go to a concert/a sports event/paint-balling/ etc?” So, on top of all these ad campaigns for each audience segment, the after-market revenue streams have gone down. You know, the titles where you say, “I’ll wait for it to hit TV/cable/Netflix…” It was adults who were supporting those after-markets. But because they’re no longer doing so at the same rate, there’s a seismic shift toward younger viewers, by definition. A movie, if it parallels where the audience attention is, can still be an exciting event!
But the idea of niche movies, niche programming, is finding its way into television, which has become a much more serious, much more relevant television. TV now is more dramatic, more real. The old concept of a television network is definitely dead. “Aggregator” is the new word of the day. It’s “that which groups together similar things from multiple sources.” People have to start thinking about “eyeball-aggregators,” “ad-sales-aggregators,” “subscription aggregators.” That’s the new sense of a television network. It’s no longer, “Let’s tune in to ALL IN THE FAMILY or GUNSMOKE.” But, rather, “Let’s watch the latest MMA bout. We’ll see what new video games are being sold…what new martial arts training devices are there…what are the current magazines, controversies, rivalries…”
Marshall McLuhan notwithstanding [author of THE MEDIUM IS THE MESSAGE], the medium isn’t the medium anymore! It’s much more “in the clouds.” The medium is, basically, aggregation. The word “aggregation” is what makes someone money, makes the model fly like an eagle. It’s not the fact that you happen to have cable bandwidth. Even with cable, the average American family receives about 118 channels, but only watches about 16 of them.
You’re watching right now a massive disconnect rate. In fact, Kagan [a well-known media researcher] projects there’s going to be a 10% disconnect rate on cable homes simply because they can get the same content for free online. Why pay those ridiculous cable fees for channels you don’t want to watch when you can go directly to the content some other way?
Q. Are there visionaries out there who (a) are aware of this, and (b) have the money to do something about it?
A. Of course. All the time. And there are visionaries being born in hospitals across America today! The idea of barriers to entering the game is absurd. Kids can grow their own businesses, can incubate them without any money at all, and generate a working model IF they understand how to program computers. They also have to understand Java and whatever other computer skills there are. They can create models and stuff that works. They don’t need investors. You wanna be a superstar in the music business? Five grand will do just fine. You wanna have your own 1080p camera [generating broadcast-quality images]? Three to five grand will do just fine!