The streaming wars took an interesting turn last week, as it was announced that Scarlett Johansson is suing Disney over its online distribution of new film, Black Widow. We’ll also mark the end of the X-Factor era, the start of a new one for a new PPA CEO, and take a look at two innovative new industry announcements for Ringier and Forbes. All that plus a flurry of new initiatives to tell you about from FIPP itself… what better way to kick off your media week!?
Black Widow strikes
There was a rupture in the Marvel cinematic timeline last week, when Scarlett Johannsen’s agent revealed that the actress was suing Disney for streaming her latest film, Black Widow, at the same time as it received its cinema release. Needless to say civil war broke loose, and Disney hit back by saying that Johannsen’s action was “especially sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the Covid-19 pandemic”, before being subsequently fired-upon themselves by a number of groups including Time’s Up, who accused the company of perpetrating a “gendered character attack” on the actress.
Intricacies of this specific case aside, it does highlight a tricky period in the wider evolution of film content right now, where the balance of distributionary power – in a trend accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic – appears to be shifting from public to private screenings. Matt Damon, in an unrelated – but related – interview with The Sunday Times yesterday, said: “Movies as we know them aren’t going to be a thing in our kids’ lives, and that makes me sad.”
Meanwhile, news breaks this morning that the Hollywood consortium behind hits such as Zoolander and La La Land is planning to build a £700m film and TV studio complex, creating 4,500 jobs and the first ever Sunset Studios operation outside of the US. So in whatever form it takes going forward, it looks like the show will go on.
Simon Cowell loses his X-Factor
One show that will definitely not be going on however is the original UK X-Factor. After 17 years of success and numerous spinoff incarnations around the world, Simon Cowell’s original offering was officially put to rest over the weekend. It was a behemoth of modern media – at a time when media journalists were still using the phrase ‘behemoth’ to describe big tings – that elegantly combined elements of television, the traditional music industry, live shows and tours, tabloid press generating PR, and of course online bantz.
In a fittingly emosh-yet-astute summary of how the show had meandered its way to its final resting place during the course of its twilight years, Guardian and Observer Columnist Rebecca Nicholson wrote: “Apart from the fact that it is pub-quiz-tiebreaker-tough to name anyone who has taken part in the show since 2012, it is a sign of how rapidly and dramatically the cultural climate has changed that it is impossible to imagine The X Factor on television now.”
And as if that wasn’t enough of a sendoff, here’s a first class fan thread compiling some of the greatest ever show moments over the years.
From endings to beginnings, as the UK Professional Publishers Association (PPA) announces that its new Chief Executive will be Sajeeda Merali, who joins from the New Statesman Media Group, where she was Chief Revenue Officer. The appointment comes after what the association calls “a competitive recruitment process”, following the departure of previous CEO, Owen Meredith, in May.
“I am hugely excited to be appointed CEO of the PPA and to be given the opportunity to be an advocate for an industry that I feel so passionate about,” said Merali. “Especially at this point in the transformation curve, bringing together individual and collective experiences has never been more important. As a leader from the sector, I have a keen understanding of the challenges of today and the pace at which publishers are having to adapt. I’m honoured that the Board of the PPA is allowing me to drive this new phase in its mission of advancing the UK’s publishing industry.”
Full article here.
Ringier buys out Springer
There was also a big time deal in the magazine media sector last week, when Swiss media group Ringier AG acquired 100% of the shares of Axel Springer in Hungary, Serbia, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The joint venture between the two companies in Poland will stay in place, while Springer will remain a minority shareholder in Slovakia.
The deal allows Ringier to expand its activities in Eastern Europe and enhance its international portfolio. For Axel Springer, the moves further cements the company’s intentions to focus on core markets and establish itself as a global leader in digital journalism and digital classifieds.
Full article here.
Forbes takes serious steps into e-commerce
Another hugely innovative and arguably slightly out-of-left-field announcement to hit our desks last week, was the news that US business media brand Forbes has ramped up its e-commerce ambitions with the launch of Forbes Store, an online destination for branded merchandise. In addition to a core collection of clothing and other products, the company will focus on limited edition collaborations relevant to some of its key franchises such as Under 30, ForbesWomen, and For(bes) The Culture.
“The Forbes Store is designed to provide our loyal communities with merchandise and apparel in an effort to connect with our audiences on a personal level,” said Emily Jackson, Vice President, E-Commerce, Forbes. “These exclusive Forbes designs are tailored to celebrate and champion entrepreneurs, women and millennials and through our unique collaborations, we will provide one-of-a-kind apparel that resonates with our audiences around the world.”
Full article here.
As for FIPP…
We’ve got a lot coming up on the training front, including Digital Immersion Week – an exclusive, 5-day programme for magazine media in partnership with the Google News Initiative and Financial Times, that begins on Monday 30th August. That will be followed by a new course on ‘How to implement and build a successful e-commerce model around content’, beginning on Thursday 9thSeptember. We’d also encourage people to check out the 2021 New Media Writing Prize (NMWP) – a programme that is now open for entries and open to all aspiring writers, whatever their level of previous industry experience!