News out of Japan is that CAA has signed an artist cooperation agreement with Japan’s largest talent agency and leading production company, Yoshimoto Kogyo. Yoshimoto has none of the restrictions like the U.S. used to have when the Hollywood guilds prevented talent agencies from producing. But the guilds and the agencies have let their agreements lapse although there are threats from the unions to enforce the rules again. On the other hand, U.S. talent these days seem less worried about the potential for conflicts of interest and more about the lack of work. Clients may actually want agencies to package and produce. But the tenpercenteries are being careful about jumping in lest the guilds come after them.
Yoshimoto boasts 800 clients and produces upwards of 5,000 hours of terrestrial and commercial satellite programming annually, most of it satisfying Japan’s huge small-screen comedy boom. (It reps most of that country’s biggest comedy acts and developed a farm system for constantly developing new talent.) It also operates 5 legit theaters, owns TV recording studios, and does motion picture production. The 98-year-old firm has been a publicly traded company for 50 years as well as the majority shareholder (65%) in the nation’s largest domestic broadband network, Fandango, which recently went public. It’s also the principal shareholder in one of the region’s most prominent music imprints, Rojam. And, most recently, Yoshimoto Kogyo and the Santa Monica-based Bellrock Media are producing New Media content designed for delivery via mobile and broadband platforms and invested in the recently granted mobile license “e-mobile”. All these expansions will figure prominently in Yoshimoto’s plans to further exploit its talent pool and focus on branded entertainment (whereby corporate advertising is incorporated into showbiz content). Little wonder that the company is forecast to have 19% average annual operating profit growth over the next three years.
This has the potential to become a very big deal for CAA — Yoshimoto even has a financing arm — but also one that Hollywood guilds should intently scrutinize.