Conde Nast Entertainment Dives Head First into Television
Vanity Fair and Vogue are slated to take Conde Nast Entertainment boldly where it has never gone before: television. In late July, Conde Nast announced the launch of Vanity Fair and VOGUE shows to premiere in coming months. Vanity Fair struck a deal with Discovery Communications for “Vanity Fair Confidential,” a crime documentary based on stories featured in the pages of Vanity Fair. The VOGUE deal will bring “Fashion Fund,” a show centered on a design contest that has already had two seasons on Hulu and the Vogue.com, to Ovation Cable Network.
The shift to television comes as no surprise to those with an ear to the pulse of consumer media. Consumers intent on binging on steaming video sites cry out in unison “show us the shows!” Digital content available on computers, tablets, mobile devices, continue to rise as the number of consumers with smart tools increases. Bob Sauerberg, president of Conde Nast, recognized the opportunity for published content to reach far beyond the printed page, and he is making his move to carve out a piece of the emerging market of print to television and film for his company.
“I saw a market void [for content], and that’s really the reason we got started,” Sauerberg told the Wall Street Journal.
Conde Nast currently publishes 18 consumer magazines, as well as four business-to-business publications, 27 websites and more than 50 apps for mobile and tablet devices. Adding the first installment of what is promised to be a large shift of its owned content to a brand new platform puts Conde Nast on the cutting edge of optioning content.
The publisher’s focus on new entertainment venues saw the creation of Conde Nast Entertainment (CNE) in October 2011. This year’s roll-out of digital video networks has included Glamour, GQ, Wired, Vogue, Vanity Fair and Teen Vogue. After two years of digital channel launches the publisher is announcing a decision to move forward with television. As many publishers are trying to discover the “best” route into the television market in order to bridge the long-standing gap between page and screen.
At the helm is Dawn Ostroff, president, Condé Nast Entertainment (CNE). Thus far, Ostroff has brought the same success she had at The CW Television Network to the brand in the launching new digital content for both magazine web site channels and on video stream sites like HULU and YouTube. Ostroff joined CNE with the intent of turning the brand into an all-platform colossus by raking in some of the profits that the company missed out on in previous opportunities. However, the means to holding onto more profit have forced the writers producing this content into a tough place as contracts become more airtight, withholding options for articles to be repurposed into television and film and distributing those profits largely back to Conde Nast.
New York Times reported in January, shortly after Conde Nast unveiled plans to launch multiple digital video channels as well as enter the television space that there would be new contracts for writer’s work featured in the pages of a Conde Nast magazine. These new contracts would force writers to give up their right to option or go to alternative sources to get television and film rights, and in some cases suspends them from anywhere between 30 days and a full year. This is all before any article is even published.
Conde Nast has missed out on large opportunities for profit from articles being optioned into larger television and motion pictures in the past. Most notably articles featured in Conde Nast magazines led to the films “Argo” (gross $166 million to date) and “Brokeback Mountain” (gross $178 million to date). So it seems only logical that a main focus of Ostroff and CNE is to find content with a marketable angle for television and film and retain as much of that profit as possible.
Conde Nast has opted to take a back road into the television platform by not partnering or acquiring a network to feed content from various publications into owned network rotation. Conversely, Hearst Television, Inc., which owns stake in television networks ESPN and most recently, struck a partnership with A+E Networks, has a streamline path to repurpose content for television and film.
Sauerberg decided to forego such a partnership or acquisition, diving into a battle with established technology and television companies. Instead, he focused efforts on seeking out premium content that has the potential to be optioned into television and film projects. Through this, CNE hopes to increase the value of the content they have already licensed and hold contacts on.
So with the launch of Vanity Fair and Vogue into the television realm, it spells trouble for writers wary of retaining the rights to the work they produce, but still at the mercy of the large publishers they need in order to put eyes to the page. Conde Nast is currently writing a new rule book for publishers bringing their content to screens big and small, and only time will tell if when push comes to shove if writers decide they need to find a new plan of publishing if they plan to have their work repurposed for any screen at all.
As this trend of publishers entering into the television space and pursue similar channels to develop content, the slices of the market will soon be filled up and the money will be harder to come by. The next course of action for writers, who are necessary to create the content publishers need, is uncertain. But with this power move, Conde Nast has established itself in the television market and shows no signs of slowing down.
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