Friday, 18 November 2011

Hollywood Babble On & On #839: Acknowledging Half A Problem Is Still Something

CBS Boss Les Moonves
There was a rare moment of executive honesty that was captured for posterity by the LA Times.  During a public talk about the TV and film business CBS honcho Les Moonves admitted that he was not proud of the movies put out by CBS Films, the media conglomerate's under-performing theatrical feature film division.

Here's some of what he said:
"I don't think it was the wrong strategy; it was the wrong films," Moonves said.  "Our corporation hasn't missed many. [CBS Films] is in the very early stages. We've only released five films and three of them have broken even. But they aren't movies that I'm proud of. I am proud of the content on CBS and I'm proud of the content on Showtime. I often say this, the TV business is a much better business than the movie business."
I can agree with most of what he said. There is a huge gap in the film marketplace between the mega-blockbusters aimed at teens and kids, and the smaller fare aimed at the indie-art-house crowd, and it's growing everyday.

The strategy of filling that growing gap with modestly budgeted genre films is a solid one.

However, tactically, there have been some blunders that go beyond their choice of films.  I've written about this before.... twice, but I think I should at least give you the gist of them again in case you're too lazy to click the links.

First there's the name:

Now I don't normally put much weight on the effect a studio's "brand" has on movies, usually putting said weight on the films themselves.

However there is an exception to this rule, when that "brand" conveys a specific message.

Let me give you some examples:

Fox Searchlight is an example of successful studio branding, because it conveys the message that they are using the vast resources of the Fox media empire to find the best independent films in the world and bringing them to you.

Fox Atomic was an unsuccessful brand, because the message it conveyed to its target audience of teens was that they were just an afterthought who are dumb enough to fall for something like "Atomic" which was last viewed as hip and futuristic in the 1950s.

Fox Searchlight is still chugging along, while Fox Atomic has gone the way of the dodo.

So let's look at the "brand" of CBS Films.

The message conveyed by the "brand" of CBS Films is "What on TV?"

That's not a good message for a company releasing theatrical feature films.

So kudos to Mr. Moonves for acknowledging the first half of the company's problem.  We'll have to wait and see if he'll do anything about the other half.

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