Weekly Column: What Strategy is Best, Distribution of Entertainment & Sports Content Entering a New Age

In his capacity as a Columnist for California Sports Lawyer®, Founder Jeremy Evans has written a column about the current and on-going strategies in entertainment, media, and sports content distribution among Hollywood and international industry titans.    

You can read the full column below.

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Distribution of content is now more important than ever as Hollywood studios, networks, and sports properties decide where to place their content. Some content creators and owners have gone the streaming route through licensing to other streaming platforms, while others have built their own streaming platforms. Then there is a third group that has sought wide distribution across many platforms and outlets, like traditional linear television, streaming, and even social media.

What is the right answer towards distribution strategy? As with many business decisions, there is no one right answer. In other words, there are many ways to get to profitability and success for both the bottom line and content creator happiness.

The three current distribution strategies include wide distribution, limited distribution, and some entertainment and sports properties that have found a place in the middle of the aforementioned. An example of wide distribution would be Warner Bros. Discovery and Disney, while limited distribution would be for Amazon, Apple, and Netflix—although the ad-based tier for the Los Gatos and Hollywood Netflix will expand that limited distribution by opening up to more consumers who can now afford the streaming service. Examples of entertainment companies that have found a happy place in the middle of the two strategies includes Viacom/Paramount—a company that has created a streaming platform (Paramount+) and is licensing content to other platforms and networks (particularly library movies and televisions series), albeit on a smaller scale then Warner Bros. Discovery.

One of the issues with limited distribution is that once a title is removed from the streaming platform or library, it is essentially lost in digital time. After an initial streaming and theatrical distribution, in whichever order that comes or how it is combined, staying power of the title is important. All entertainment companies will have to consider the availability of titles on platforms (either streaming or linear) long past their prime and it could be a difficult business-decision to make.

Warner Bros. Discovery has taken a renewed business approach to distribution and is focusing on sales. CEO David Zaslav has stated that the company is open for business, which translated means that Warner Bros. Discovery is looking at a wide distribution strategy and it has the content library to do so. For one, it could make new content exclusive to HBOMax or related platforms, while licensing legacy content to other platforms including competitors. Consumers watch content on multiple platforms and in different formats, and not all consumers have every platform. Therefore wide-distribution, if not watered down, could be very successful as a strategy because there is both exclusivity that drives interest and availability to catch interest down the line.

As more and more streamers enter the content space, and as licensing becomes more competitive and expensive, content ownership and management will become increasingly important.  

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About Jeremy M. Evans:  

Jeremy M. Evans is the Chief Entrepreneur Officer, Founder & Managing Attorney at California Sports Lawyer®, representing entertainment, media, and sports clientele in contractual, intellectual property, and dealmaking matters. Evans is an award-winning attorney and industry leader based in Los Angeles. He can be reached at Jeremy@CSLlegal.com. www.CSLlegal.com.

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Jeremy M. Evans is the CEO, Founder & Managing Attorney at California Sports Lawyer®, representing entertainment, media, and sports clientele and is licensed to practice law in California.