MEDIA ROUNDUP: Getting inside Hollywood's business

As interest in the business of show business rises, industry trades and general news outlets are devoting more effort to covering Hollywood's financial side.

As interest in the business of show business rises, industry trades and general news outlets are devoting more effort to covering Hollywood's financial side.

Long gone is the time when the ever-escalating price of a movie ticket was the only aspect of the entertainment business the general public cared about. Today, there's a strong demand for in-depth reporting on the dollars and cents behind show business. Part of the reason is that some of the highest-profile publicly traded global corporations, including Time Warner, Viacom, News Corp, and even Microsoft have some stake in the entertainment world, causing the business press to acknowledge the massive impact the entertainment business has on a myriad of other industries. But there's also the realization that a pop culture-related business story is still, at its heart, pop culture. And audiences still can't get enough of that. "With all the things going on - from digital piracy, to DVD, to entertainment on demand - I think the business of entertainment is definitely getting more attention in the business pages across the country," says Shawna Lynch, SVP with the LA-based Bender Helper Impact. Covering Hollywood by the numbers Many outlets now run the weekend theatrical box-office numbers every Monday. Most also put together columns of show-business items that include the salaries stars are commanding for movies or TV deals, as well as the production costs of big-budget films. Most publications draw the line there, but a few take the next step of adding a dedicated business entertainment writer. But Bob Dowling, editor-in-chief and publisher of The Hollywood Reporter, notes, "We see more publications such as Vanity Fair and GQ have assigned entertainment reporters who cover everything, including business. And like people in media everywhere, these reporters are looking for a different spin. So, all of sudden, everybody and their brother is picking over this business." Most Hollywood insiders tend to get their news primarily from six dailies: The Hollywood Reporter and Daily Variety on the trade side, and USA Today, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the LA Times on the business/general news side. Lynch says all of these outlets are important, and adds that choosing which one to target often depends on the size of the story and the impact of the news. For pure inside baseball about show business, it's usually The Hollywood Reporter or Variety, and Lynch notes these outlets have adapted as the business of show business has changed. "They used to be more piecemeal in their coverage," she says. "Now reporters are assigned a studio, so they actually understand the intricacies and infrastructure of a particular studio. Everything is more integrated because at the end of the day the end-user is more integrated." "We cover when the scripts get bought and go all the way through all the revenue streams," adds Dowling. "We have a film department, a tech department, a business department, and a TV department, and within these departments the stories get broken up. In the film department, we have someone covering the major studios and someone covering the independents. In TV, we have broadcast, we have cable, and we have syndication." While show business can take in any corner of the country, coverage of the business of show business is for the most part a West Coast phenomenon. New York remains the center for theater in the US, but Chris Boneau of Boneau/Bryan-Brown Promotions says there's not that much interest in the business of Broadway. "We don't get a lot of stories on the cost of doing a Broadway show because it's boring," he says. "When you say a show took in $400,000 in a week, a movie studio is noting their film is taking in $50 million. That's the story the Today show reports on Monday." General pitch rules apply Overall, pitching strategies for the entertainment trades don't deviate wildly from the approach a PR pro will bring to any other publication. The number-one rule is to know the publication. "The PR people who actually know the relationship between what we write about and the people who get our paper can be enormously helpful to us simply by editing what they call us about," Dowling says. "That tells us they've read the book, they know our people, they know the kind of stories we write, and are only giving us what's relevant." -----
  • Business entertainment coverage tends to be very departmentalized, especially at trades, so learn which reporter covers not just the category, but also the sub-category you pitch.
  • Look at the financial numbers and pitch interesting ways that money's being spent on a show-business production.
  • As a general rule, The Hollywood Reporter and Variety want the hard news, while general- interest titles tend to look for the longer-term trends, so adjust your pitch accordingly.

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