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Saturday, October 14, 2006

Film financing in the NY Times ... YouTube removing 1,000 clips a month from NBC alone

- Laura Holson of the NY Times reports today on some of the financing deals that producers like Joel Silver and Ivan Reitman are cutting directly with deep-pocketed investors. She writes:

    Joel Silver, the producer of the “Lethal Weapon” and “The Matrix” movies, is the latest and most important Hollywood figure to cut a big deal with Wall Street.

    He has just joined forces with a consortium of financiers who have agreed to provide $220 million to produce 15 films over the next six years. Mr. Silver will not only have creative control, he will own the movies outright.

    “I’ve spent 20 years working for studios,” Mr. Silver said in a recent interview beside an L-shaped azure swimming pool at his Brentwood mansion, a home he referred to as the house ‘The Matrix’ built. “It was always their call.”

    To his new partners, Mr. Silver seems like a good bet. In more than two decades as a producer on the Warner Brothers lot, he has produced 46 movies, which have generated $5.6 billion in global ticket sales.

    Ivan Reitman, the director of “Animal House” and “Ghostbusters,” struck a $200 million deal with Merrill Lynch in August to produce 10 low-cost films. Tom Cruise and his producing partner, Paula Wagner, after splitting with Paramount Pictures over the summer, are in discussions with potential investors, as are several other producers.

- The Journal reports on some legal "saber-rattling" the major media conglomerates, including News Corp., Viacom, and NBC Universal are doing with regard to YouTube. They're threatening to seek damages of $150,000 for every copyrighted video posted, apparently in an attempt to pressure the site into offering them more favorable revenue-sharing deals. But most legal experts think the suits won't have much merit because of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998.

From the piece:

    YouTube has been negotiating with content owners throughout the year as it tries to reach licensing pacts with them and head off any copyright lawsuits. So far, YouTube has struck deals with TV companies NBC Universal, CBS Corp. and with most of the major music companies, including Warner Music Group Corp., Vivendi SA's Universal Music Group and Sony Corp.'s and Bertelsmann AG's joint venture. YouTube is building a system that would help automate identification of videos containing copyright material on its site, and allow the content owners to get a portion of any related ad revenue.

    The negotiations leading up to those pacts have sometimes included public criticism of the video-sharing site. Universal Music CEO Doug Morris told investors last month that YouTube violated copyright laws by allowing users to post music videos and other content. Universal Music had considered taking legal action against YouTube over that issue prior to announcing its pact with the video site Monday, say people familiar with the matter.

    The media companies now contemplating legal action have generally turned a blind eye to YouTube's use of their video. One reason for such tolerance is that the site guarantees their programs a degree of exposure hard to find elsewhere on the Web.

    In June, NBC inked a deal with YouTube to make available promotional video clips for some of its popular programs, including "The Office" and "The Tonight Show." But NBC has had repeated run-ins with YouTube over its use of videos the company hasn't approved. It has been asking the site to take down as many as 1,000 clips a month, according to a person familiar with the matter.


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