Learning Under Tentpoles: Look For Some Breathing Room

What do theatrical tentpoles mean for TV? Less head room.

Film executives at Paramount Pictures' "Mission Impossible: III" might put it a little more grimly to TV executives: there's less room to breathe.

"M:i:III" has been a logo fixture on TV in terms of its marketing campaign for seemingly months; after its first box office weekend of only $48 million, critics rushed to crush Tom Cruise. Of course, beating up Cruise has been a long-time game for many journalists. They are taking great glee that they had something to do with this slip.

Movie tracking research polls said the movie should have hit $60 million, which means it came in at a 20 percent discount. Looking across town to what Warner Bros. did yesterday, you'd find where much of this is headed. Warner made a deal with peer-to-peer download renegade; Warner Bros. will charge for downloading of its movies and TV shows.



Sure, this is not the first time any major media company has made a digital deal. Movie companies, also collectively, have their own downloading site for movies, But as Kevin Tsujihara, the president of Warner Brothers Home Entertainment Group, now told the New York Times: "If we can convert 5, 10 or 15 percent of the illegal downloaders into consumers of our product, that is significant."

That 15 percent seems close to Cruise's 20 percent drop.

It comes down to this. Consumers like getting stuff for free--free (albeit illegal) movie downloads, or, just like with TV, free programs that come with advertising.

At first media companies made deals for paid downloads of TV shows and content. But now recent research has suggested consumers don't mind advertising--as long as they can get content for free. So media companies have rushed to get free digital download businesses.

Film tentpoles won't away--just like that of pay TV networks such as HBO and Showtime. But they--and talent--are being tested for wind shear and air quality.

If Cruise is now only 20 percent the man he once was, that's still a good deal--even if the oxygen isn't as rich.

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