The Briefcase

a podcast by Benjamin Welch

Ari Emanuel vs. The Internet

15 Jul 2012

For those that haven’t heard of Ari Emanuel, here’s a little bit from his Wikipedia entry.

Ariel “Ari” Zev Emanuel (born March 29, 1961) is an American talent agent and co-CEO of William Morris Endeavor (WME), a leading entertainment and media agency. He was a founding partner of the Endeavor Agency and was instrumental in shaping its June 2009 merger with the William Morris Agency.

Emanuel is a big time bigwig agent in the entertainment industry. He was interviewed for All Things D recently and I encourage you to watch the whole thing if you can stomach it. I don’t pirate anything but watching this guy speak so smugly about “Premium Content” is almost enough reason to start.

In a nutshell, Emanuel supported SOPA and would love for Google, Twitter, and Facebook to remove all links to illegally distributed copyrighted material. Let’s try to forget for a second that it would be almost impossible for Google or any other company to do so effectively. It wouldn’t do a damn thing to stop piracy. And it would give the power to regulate the most important communications tool ever to the entertainment industry.

The opposing side, and by opposing I mean the people currently paying for content and making it possible for the entertainment industry to exist, just want a better experience. They want to be able to see Game of Thrones without having to pay $90 - $120 a month to Comcast for a bunch of stuff they don’t care about. And personally, I’d rather not wait until season 2 is airing before I can watch season 1 on iTunes.

This feels completely broken. And if anyone in the entertainment industry is looking for a way to side step this land mine, just make it a better experience for those trying to pay you. HBO has the right to set these terms. I’m not arguing that. I’m simply pointing out that more and more, everyday, these terms are becoming bad business.

Ari (can I call you Ari?), you should be afraid of piracy. But there is something far more dangerous to your bottom line. The internet and digital media has dropped the cost of copying and distributing movies, TV, and pretty much anything, to basically zero. But it’s also making the creation and distribution of content much more accessible to everyone. More people are making awesome stuff than ever before. It’s the most exciting time to be a maker of things. And this is what you should be afraid of.

A short term threat to the “entertainment industry”, but the bigger threat is the onslaught of high-quality (and not so high-quality) independent media that is coming in the next 5 years. Your audience is about to get 500 new things to watch, read, and play. You only need to browse Kickstarter to catch a glimpse of what the future will look like. People will pay for “Premium Content”. They just won’t be paying Ari Emanuel.