Sharing TV, Movie Assets Is A Growing Problem For Media Companies

The battle over theatrical movie “Spider-Man”— involving Sony Pictures and Walt Disney — is part of a ramped up control over intellectual property (IP) media companies now have in the digital age.

But what really sticks?

Years ago, the two studios agreed on the bright idea of adding Sony’s Spider-Man character to Disney’s Marvel Studios “Avengers” franchise. Bulking up the Avengers’ cadre of super-heroes turned out to be a nice cross-studio theatrical effort for both companies.

In turn, Sony also benefited when producing its own movies under the "Spider-Man" franchise. For example, this year’s “Spider-Man: Far From Home” has been the fifth-best U.S. film with $378 million in box-office revenue.

Disney has done even better with its “Avengers” franchise. It took in $858.2 million for this year’s “Avengers: Endgame” film, the top film of the year to date.



It wasn’t always this way. "Spider-Man" movies in 2012 and 2014 were deemed in need of a refresh. Then Kevin Feige, Disney’s Marvel Studios president, had the idea of sharing the Spider-Man character in the “Avengers” movies.

You can imagine Sony was thankful for that. But up to a point.

For its part, Disney now feels it deserves more — especially when it comes to much improved box-office revenue results for Sony produced "Spider-Man" movies.

The current deal only gives Disney a 5% box-office piece of those Sony-produced movies. Now, according to reports, Disney wants a big 50-50 split of those forthcoming Sony-produced “Spider-Man” movies.

Sony, according to reports, says no way. The two appear to be going their separate ways. The overview here is that all studios want to maximize their IP — or what they believe, in part, they are responsible for increasing in value.

Now let’s talk about TV. Selling the rerun rights to Netflix for popular TV shows — NBCUniversal’s “The Office” and WarnerMedia’s “Friends” — falls into a similar category.

Deals made for those comedies were struck year ago. But the growth and dominance of Netflix is now an issue — especially as both comedies have higher viewership at the subscription VOD service.

NBCU and WarnerMedia now want to keep their most-prized TV properties closer to home base — especially since they are starting new direct-to-consumer (D2C) streaming services. For its part, Netflix might say: “Hey, we helped keep your old comedies popular. What do we get?”

No matter. Future valued entertainment assets for major media companies will continue to have a short leash when it comes to a new era of D2C entertainment businesses of all types.

Like Spider-Man, the hope is to find some large stickiness when it comes to swinging from one entertainment business to another.

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