To what extent does media ownership have an impact on the successful distribution of media products in the media area you have studied 2015
Todays film industry could be described as an oligopoly as the 7 largest film companies own 90% of the total market meaning the influence and power they have in releasing and distributing their products is huge when compared to smaller independent companies methods. The Big 6 is a term to the seemingly monopolised film industry that involves merely 6 conglomerates, those being; GE, News Corp, Disney, VIACOM, CBS and Time Warner. The Big 6 have developed a routine method of releasing their films regulated by the “release windows”. The release windows system was first conceived in the early 1980s, as a strategy to keep movies from competing with each other, allowing the movie to take advantage of different markets such as cinema, home video and TV at different times. While The Big 6 loosely follow this model for almost all of their releases, they can do this purely due to the immense amount of wealth they hold, whereas smaller independent film companies have to develop their own unique ways of distributing their films.
Channel 4 as a whole is worth £1B which although is a respectable figure for a businesses worth, but it is a drop in the ocean for the conglomerates. Because of the relatively small company worth they have had to develop unique ways of distributing their films. An example of a small company being able to successfully distribute their film is Channel 4’s A Field in England directed by Ben Wheatley. With such a small production cost of £300,000 the film was able to spend money elsewhere which included getting the film distributed to as many outlets as possible while still keeping the costs low. One way Channel 4 achieved this was by developing a symbiotic relationship with Film4 and Picturehouse who had previously created a synergy of their own. Film4 and Picturehouse decided to create a synergy in order to lower the risk of losses due to the risky nature of the film. Both sets of companies benefited from the symbiotic relationship as it provided exposure from one fan base to the other. By distributing the product this way not only could they show their film on their own platform boasting an impressive audience of 13.1m, but they could also release it on film4’s platform. This method was successful as on the opening weekend, for the non theatrical viewing, the film attracted 367,000 people as well as an additional 714 on Film 4’s VOD platform, Film 4OD. In terms of theatrical release, that is where Picturehouse comes into the equation. Due to the exclusiveness of the film and the reputation Picturehouse has of the films it chooses to show in cinemas, they were able to sell the tickets for a high price which not only helped them financially but it also helped channel 4 gain more discussion and exposure of the film. Working with Picturehouse was also a success as it tuned over it projected earnings of £35,000. This unique way of releasing the film was overall successful as it made profit of £50,000 and proved that the involvement of conglomerates were not needed in order to distribute a film successfully.
A successfully distributed film owned by a conglomerate would be Warner Brothers’ Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Due to Warner Brothers Studio being owned by Time Warner which is 1 of the “Big 6” and is worth £47 billion, the film was completely self funded on a budget of £140 million. Convincing the studio to spend £140 million on the film was relatively easy as they had previously worked on the Harry Potter franchise which grossed £5.9 billion in the 8 movies made. Not only was the franchise proven to make almost £750 million per movie but it was guaranteed to pull a wide range of audience due to the amount of exposure the company is able to give the film. For most of Time Warners films, they use Horizontal integration, however for the Harry Potter franchise their is an exception in which they use vertical integration due to Heyday films being independent yet still affiliating themselves with the harry potter franchise. Although this means Time warner has to share some of the profits to a company that isn’t owned by them, they benefit more than they lose as they get exclusive access to their prestigious studios that all of the previous Harry Potter movies have used. Distributing the film is an easy task as a conglomerate as the film just having the logo attached to it, means it is able to be widely distributed. The film followed the classic release windows system in which they theatrically released it first in cinemas to over 1000 IMAX theatres and over 3000 regular theatres world wide. After the films views stagnated in the cinemas, a few months later the film arrived on digital platforms such as Google, AmazonPrime and Channel 4 as they had a promotional agreement. DvD’s were then released on the 28th of march and included additional features such as deleted scenes and virtual tours around the studio. Overall the film grossed £630 million through distributing the film in this way.
Although the profit margins between the small company and the conglomerate is huge, it is undeniable that their methods of distributing their films are both successful. It could be said that in order to have a risk free and 100% successful distribution of a movie, you need intervention of a media conglomerate due to the purchasing power and market control that they posses. However, as shown by A field in England‘s release, it is still very possible to distribute a film successfully due to symbiotic relationships they are able to form and synergy that occurs. Media ownership is no longer completely accountable to a certain extent, for a successful film in the ever changing film industry. A field in England‘s release is an example of a step in the right direction for independents and it could be possible that we see the conglomerates control of 90% of the market drop in the coming years if independents can carry on distributing their movies in the unique and successful way they are doing so.