Paramount admits streaming profits at CES

by Paul William Tenny

You know, this really is the best indictment of the AMPTP corporations I've seen to date, and hysterically, they have only their fat mouths and unrepentant greed to blame for it all. Long before negotiations began -- we're talking three months before October -- the WGA started peppering the press with what it called the two faces of the AMPTP.

When talking to the WGA about a new contract, management claimed virtual bankruptcy based on an uncertain future with dwindling profits and foggy prospects for new markets. Then they'd fly 3,000 miles east and tell Wall Street that revenue was soaring, profit was exceeding expectations, and how they were moving aggressively to capitalize on new media to suck up as much profit as humanly possible, because as everyone in NYC knows, there are tens of billions to be made with streaming ad revenue.
With CES presenting the perfect opportunity for these companies to again brag about how they are going to fill their bellies to the bursting point with cash from the streaming video revolution, queue the first nugget of truth to come out of an AMPTP company since the strike began: "There is revenue being created today," said Paramount digital prexy Tom Lesinski. "It's not a lot, but we're not losing money."

While the AMPTP insists that the streaming market isn't viable, isn't making them any money, and needs to be studied for at least three years before any judgments can be made, one of their more prominent members has been at the forefront in trying to exploit it for every penny it's worth.

NBC launched a streaming video portal in partnership with Fox ( which features both networks biggest shows, making entire seasons available for free if you can deal with commercials. That in addition to NBC previously streaming full-length episodes from its own website, and a second download-only service (also free except for commercials) just a week or so after the strike began.

While sitting at the negotiating table (which the AMPTP has walked away from twice) the consensus is that there is no new media market and that writers can't be paid for something that doesn't exist. But what have they been saying at CES?

According to Variety, ABC, Fox, Warner Brothers, Paramount, Sony, and of course NBC are all getting in the game as fast as humanly possible to exploit that "nonexistent" and "unstable" market that "should be studied for at least three years" before any action can be taken.

Just to be safe.

You understand.

While most of the focus was on ad-supported content, panelists all agreed that download-to-own, particularly through Apple's iTunes, is a net positive for their companies. That may become even more important next week if, as expected, Apple unveils a movie rental service via iTunes and studios including Fox and Disney start including on DVDs digital copies compatible with iPods.

And of course the magic bullet in their own gut:

While all agreed that digital media revenue won't match income from traditional distribution in the foreseeable future, they were quick to react to an audience member's question about when they would start making money from their businesses.

"There is revenue being created today," said Paramount digital prexy Tom Lesinski. "It's not a lot, but we're not losing money."

That's the issue that matters most, and writers repeat it as often as possible: you make money, we make money.

So there it is folks, most have suspected that all the online ventures were already in the black since they were simply repurposing existing content, and now Paramount at CES has confirmed it.

There's simply no excuses left not to bargain with writers and make a fair deal.
in Digital Media, Labor, Streaming Video


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