Friday, 15 August 2008

Hollywood Babble On & On #150: Synergy or Lethargy...


The Time-Warner mega-corporation has a twee bit of egg on its multi-national face. You see, they recently decided to bump back the release of the next Harry Potter movie to next January than the upcoming Fall season.

Now that should be an ordinary business decision, one of thousands made in Tinsel Town every day, and hundreds no doubt made at Time Warner alone.

But it isn't.

Because it looks like no one t
old Time-Warner's pre-eminent publication Entertainment Weekly, or at least told them too late to pull what appears to me to be a computer generated portrait of the bespectacled necromancer off the cover of their Fall Movie Preview issue.

Double oops.

Now this sort of things is not supposed to happen to Time Warner, they're supposed to have synergy.

You know, synergy, do you know what that is?


Okay, I'll explain.

Synergy's a buzzword sold by corporate consultants to media companies as a cheap excuse to spend billions buying or building other media companies.

Basically, the sales pitch is that a movie made by the movie division, can be fawningly fellated by the magazine division, and enjoy some crossover promotional sugar from the TV division, and vice versa.

Thus, in theory, turning the media business from a bunch of competing individual companies into one big happy corporate daisy chain.

In theory, communism works, in theory, as a wise bald man once said.

What happens is that the boards of big media corporations become obsessed, nay, drunk on the concept of synergy. They have a fever, and the only cure is more cowbell synergy.

So they buy up, or start up, as many media outlets they possibly can, and then they open up some more. Then some more, and more, and more....

And the quest to gain more synergy you end up creating lethargy. What should have been lean mean corporate muscle atrophies into saggy, corporate flag, topped with a layer of ugly multi-national cellulite.

The company becomes too big to manage, with one division having to read what's going on in the next division by watching the media outlets created by other companies attempts at creating synergy.

But when certain executives start clogging the arteries, the company starts running to the toilet for a little fiscal bulimia when what they need is a combo of strategic business liposuction, diet and exercise. New Line should have been spun off, with Time Warner keeping, LOTR/Hobbit, as well as a piece of the new company and first dibs on international distribution, while letting the new majority owners handle the remaining films in the New Line arsenal.


Because thanks to the implosion and subsequent consumption of New Line by the parent company, Warner Bros. has a glut of product, and producers with long histories at the company are shopping their movies with other distributors for fear of being lost in the rippling waves of flab.

So you can see why I'm not too hot about the whole concept of synergy.

My advice to Time-Warner. I'd suggest toning up, and getting fit, and that can only be achieved through action, not just cuts.


  1. You wrote January instead of July
    (Sorry bout the nitpick).

  2. Let me tell you about the reaction of my wife, who is not a movie business specialist nor a movie specialist at all, when I told her about the delay:

    "Uh-Oh, there's a problem..."

    That's not precisely the best way to launch a movie.