“Netflix is less attractive to me,” MGM TV and Digital Group president Mark Burnett said today at the Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills. “I want to own my IP around the world,” he added, touting his preference for overseas sales and franchising as opposed to a single worldwide license fee like the one offered by the Reed Hastings-run streaming service.
Coming off another Monday where Burnett’s NBC singing competition series The Voice was primetime’s top show, Burnett was joined onstage today on the Milken panel “Defining Your Brand in the Modern Media Landscape” by Paramount Pictures boss Jim Gianopulos, Lionsgate TV Group chair Kevin Beggs, YouTube Original Content chief Susanne Daniels and NBC Entertainment chair Robert Greenblatt.
Attractive or not to Burnett’s bottom line, Netflix was the big player in the Beverly Hills Ballroom – even in absentia.
“I have paid for Netflix for a decade but I have no relationship with them emotionally as a customer,” Burnett said, pondering what kind of connection content creators can have with consumers in a fast-changing marketplace. “In the future, how do you get that relationship with customers? The closest example in our world is Amazon, I guess.”
As in past years when industry bigwigs have participated in the Milken event, Tuesday’s panel leaned fast and heavy into what’s next for film, television and media – with a 2018 emphasis on the international market and those new-ish platforms. “More people associate Carpool Karaoke with YouTube than CBS,” said Daniels about the well-heeled audience of the James Corden spinoff. “The show’s the thing.”
“It’s all show by show — some shows are not going to be for an international market but perfect for a streamer,” Beggs noted, calling out Lionsgate’s Orange Is The New Black on Netflix as one example. Pulling back the veil on Netflix’s close-held viewership numbers, Greenblatt revealed that The Office is “the most valuable acquired show” the streamer has.
In a similar vein, Gianopulos focused on the $50 million deal Netflix paid Paramount for a surprise release of The Cloverfield Paradox on Super Bowl Sunday. “It was one of those unique moments in the confluence of interests we have,” the studio head told the Milken crowd,” but not something we’d do every day or maybe ever again.”
Touching on a number of topics briefly, the conference panel also took a shift towards the challenges of marketing in today’s landscape, with the Lionsgate-owned Step Up franchise and its new life on YouTube as one example. “We know how to speak to people we never knew how to speak to before,” said Beggs. “Much of that is digital.”
“We are not in the world of just throwing money and hoping it finds people,” added Burnett. “We have data analytics now…we’re in the sales business.”
“Most people want their share in the foreign outcome,” Burnett asserted earlier as his fellow panelists nodded in agreement. “You’ve got to create hits and that creates leverage,” the Survivor creator went on, emphasizing the point with jokes about “buckets of money” available for the right product and the right deal around the world, repackaged or not. “What we do for a living is try to connect emotionally with millions of people,” the MGM exec said, “but if you don’t have the hits, you are doing the wrong thing.”
His Voice partner had a global event horizon in mind as well.
“In the old days, the broadcast networks were international,” NBC’s Greenblatt told the less-than-packed ballroom. “We know that world has changed …and that just makes us raise our game. Our company needs to grow our international footprint. Of all the companies here, we are probably the most domestic, and in the next few years you are going to see that change.”
“It’s a good time to be in the content business,” Gianopulos proclaimed.
The 2018 Milken Institute Global Conference wraps tomorrow after another full day of big-name participants.