Posted by: mutantpoodle | November 12, 2007

Taking Dictation

Picture via Getty Images

Picture via Getty Images

I don’t have a lot of time to get into this, as I must depart in a few minutes, but sometimes, you just gotta wonder.

Today, Scott Collins sits down with pen and paper and dutifully takes notes as Peter Chernin talks about how great the strike will be for Fox.

No, really, he took it all down.

Calling the strike “probably a positive” for the company, Chernin added: “We save more money in term deals and, you know, story costs and probably the lack of making pilots than we lose in potential advertising.”

Sure – and Merck would make lots more money if it spent less on that really expensive, you know, R&D thing. Surely, Collins will talk to someone who can point out the risks to Fox of a protracted dispute.

Or maybe not:

But here’s the thing: Chernin’s probably right. At least in the short term, News Corp. stands to benefit from the strike, largely because Fox is in a much better position than its rivals to weather the work stoppage.

Putting aside for the moment that “weathering” is not the same as “prospering from”, Collins seems to buy into Chernin’s bravado completely.

Peter Chernin’s a bright guy, and you can almost feel him winking as he says this. Of course there will be a benefit to not spending money now. And, as a reality powerhouse, Fox does have strike-proof programming. All that is, of course, largely besides the point.

Back when I was an MBA-wannabe, I went with a group of fellow entertainment hopefuls to Paramount Pictures, where Ron Nelson, who was then the head of Paramount Television, explained his job.

Every day, he said, I come to work and try to create assets.

Nelson helped create some of the best – Cheers (and, of course, a spawn of Cheers called Frasier), Family Ties, Star Trek – The Next Generation – you get the idea. The value of those assets over their lifetime is in the many billions of dollars – and they are all still helping to pay salaries at Paramount/Viacom.

The cost of the strike to media conglomerates isn’t what they will or won’t spend on assistants and office rent for writers under contract – it’s the assets that don’t get created for exploitation by ravenous distribution systems that need fresh product. Don’t believe me? Think how many people will be paying top dollar to have old American Idol shows downloaded to their cellphones.

Look – I get that the media companies are going to spin the strike, and they are, of course, free to do so. But you’d hope that a reporter would perhaps call someone up who might explain why the bold pronouncements of an interested party in this dispute (that’s Chernin) aren’t exactly the whole story. In this case, it isn’t what Chernin was saying that was wrong – it’s what he wasn’t saying.

With apologies to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, it’s what the dog isn’t barking about that you ought to explore.

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