MGM topper: Lion’s got it right

Sloan outlines changes he's made at company

CANNES — MGM topper Harry Sloan thinks he’s the best thing that’s happened to the studio in a while — and he said so at the Mipcom TV mart Tuesday.

When asked what single new factor would be responsible for getting the Lion to roar again, he replied: “Can I be immodest? It’s me.”

But the times offer some tough challenges, Sloan said — not least because of the fact that, in his view, “the studio system is broken.”

A day after Google’s $1.6 billion acquisition of YouTube, the topper warned of a looming “battle between user and commercial content.”

“We’ve got to get the creativity to stand up against user-created content — because that’s what people are watching in my house,” Sloan, the father of a 17-year-old, told Daily Variety’s Elizabeth Guider, who moderated the panel.

“The TV is on in the background, behind him. He’s got two screens in front of him, one connected to friends and the other to play ‘World of Warcraft.’ ”

Investors have already understood the changes taking place, Sloane said.

In his keynote, Sloan predicted that 1 trillion dollars was being invested worldwide in new media platforms, of which half that sum was being spent in the U. S.

That, he continued, will mean n ever greater need for content and for expert marketing to steer consumers to what they want to experience.

“There’s a line around the block at MGM of films that are fully financed, looking for distribution,” Sloan said.

Evoking MGM’s recent overhaul, the topper outlined the changes he’d made at the company, based on the observation that studios are bad at certain things — development and production — and good at others –marketing and distribution.

“The best product is being made outside the studio system,” he said.

Sloan talked up the new distribution-orientated strategy he has put in place at the Lion, which will involve the studio’s producing only two or three tentpoles a year, while marketing and distributing around twenty independent films.

As a result of the changes, the company has shed 1,000 staff, down now to 400, and is saving $200 million a year.

“I think we have the model right this time,” he said.

MGM has five $100 million- $200 million tentpoles in the works.

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