According to a well-known Indian poem, the blind man can’t give you the elephant’s height and weight, but he can tell you the animal feels like it must be really, really big.
The same dynamic applies to producer Jerry Bruckheimer’s backend portfolio, for which the specific dimensions are open to debate but the description “huge” is certainly applicable.
Distribution of early hits like “Beverly Hills Cop” and “Top Gun” on VHS, and later pics including “Pearl Harbor,” “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “National Treasure” on DVD and pay-per-view undoubtedly make him one of the top royalty earners in the home entertainment realm.
Meanwhile, weekend syndication and cable sales of such television mainstays as the three “CSI” series as well as fellow CBS procedurals “Without a Trace” and “Cold Case” will likely generate billions of dollars more by the time their respective cycles end, positioning Bruckheimer as one of the top potential off-net revenue earners in TV history.
“Everybody knows about Jerry’s tremendous creative abilities, but Jerry is also a phenomenal business person with a keen sense of what audience members want and how best to approach them through marketing,” notes Bob Chapek, president of Buena Vista Home Entertainment. “And his brand brings a lot to the party.”
In this regard, Chapek notes that Buena Vista makes a point to package Bruckheimer-produced DVDs so the producer’s name appears clearly to the shopper.
As for how much this wherewithal has benefited the producer himself is a mystery to everyone except perhaps Bruckheimer and his accountant.
“I’m really well paid,” says the producer with characteristic understatement.
For their part, the entertainment executives who’ve partnered with him over the years to release his content into the aftermarket certainly don’t think the figure is too high.
“He’s the best in the business — quite frankly, the best of all time,” says King World topper Roger King, who has overseen the off-net and cable TV sales of all three “CSI” series. “I believe these franchises can run for the next 50 years.”
For “CSI,” the here and now isn’t too bad. The flagship series, “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” was licensed by Spike TV for $1.6 million an episode — a cable sales record before Spike itself upped the ante in 2004 by paying a reported $1.9 million per installment of “CSI: NY.”
In fact, with their self-contained storylines and robust primetime ratings, most of Bruckheimer’s procedurals have found lucrative off-net homes on cable, where they’re “stripped” in every-weekday rotation. The middle “CSI” sibling, “CSI: Miami,” was licensed by A&E for $1 million per episode, while “Cold Case” and “Without a Trace” were both taken in by TNT for $1.4 million a show.
“Each of these series has over a hundred episodes, and you can do the math,” notes Bill Carroll, VP and director of programming for station rep firm Katz Television.
And most of these series still have their weekend broadcast syndication runs ahead of them. So far, the only Bruckheimer-produced series to bow in this realm, the original “CSI,” has been an unqualified hit, garnering the second highest ratings among weekly syndicated skeins this season with a 4.9 average audience household number.
” ‘CSI’ has been the most successful weekly syndicated show since ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation,’ ” adds Carroll, noting that international sales of Bruckheimer’s series net many millions of dollars more.
Then there’s homevid, where Bruckheimer-produced action-thrillers have been some of the best performers on tape and disc. The homevid window for the 2004 Nicolas Cage starrer “National Treasure,” for example, eclipsed the pic’s $173 million domestic theatrical take with combined rental and sales revenue of $219.5 million, according to Rentrak Retail Essentials and Home Video Essentials. Again, international disc sales accounted for millions of dollars more.
In addition to Bruckheimer’s feature library, his TV series are also now generating DVD coin; “CSI: Miami,” for example, has taken in $6.4 million on disc sales, according to Rentrak.
Going forward, Bruckheimer’s extensive library will undoubtedly be leveraged again on next-generation platforms like Blu-ray Disc — the high-def packaged media standard that Disney is supporting — as well as by emerging digital download services.
“His properties will lend themselves to (Blu-ray) to the utmost extent,” Chapek says. “And he’ll undoubtedly find ways to reach consumers in a new digital media world.”