In the latest megadeal between entrepreneurs and a multimedia conglomerate, producer Quincy Jones and former Lorimar Telepictures prexy David Salzman Tuesday announced a seven-year multimedia co-venture with Time Warner Inc., under the QDE banner.
Though neither of the principals, both co-CEOs of the new company, wanted to discuss the bank-
roll in detail, sources estimated the new venture to be comparable in size to Michael Jackson’s $ 1 billion joint venture with Sony (Daily Variety, March 21, 1991).
The value of the deal is hard to pinpoint because many ambitious plans, including a projected 11 cable channels, could start off in as few as 1,000 homes, or be rolled out in 40 million homes right away.
“We’re thinking about channels for the technological superhighway,” Jones said. “We can become part of the tributary all this stuff gets funneled into.”
QDE fuses together most of the duo’s existing co-ventures with TWI and will launch a wide array of product, ranging from WB-backed features to interactive educational TV fare and magazine publishing.
The QDE partners hope to be the first to fully exploit the capabilities of TWI’s recent partnerships with U S West and Microsoft.
The already prolific Quincy Jones Entertainment Co. — a$ 25 million joint venture with TWI launched in 1990 as a “mini-studio” for pix, TV, music and other media product — now folds into QDE. Jones’ Qwest Records remains a separate entity under the WB Records label. Jones said all QDE exex will be announced soon.
When Salzman left Lorimar in 1991, he also sealed a co-venture deal with Warner Bros., where he produced the CBS-TV series “Dark Justice,” set to run through 1994. His future product, too, will now be stamped with the QDE label.
QDE has a first-look deal with Warner Bros. Studios, which made a preemptive bid for the duo’s services about two years ago. But they can still shop material around to other studios, and decide what financial approach makes sense for each project.
“We’re a guerrilla group with the battalion to back us up,” said Jones of the TWI cash kitty. “We’re our own banner and we’ll play by the rules of what’s a digestible deficit. We have the opportunity not to use the large bank account if we choose. We can take the longer view instead of cranking out product.”
QDE’s prospective feature slate includes a remake of Miguel de Cervantes’ classic novel “Don Quixote.”
Other projects in the QDE feature development mill of 14 titles include comic book artist/writer Todd McFarlane’s urban superhero pic “The Pulse,” as well as the biopic project “Hoover,” a Francis Ford Coppola co-production delving into the life of the FBI’s notorious director J. Edgar Hoover.
Also, two Mad magazine spinoffs, the Steven Haft co-produced “Alfred E. Neuman” and the Steve Tisch co-production “Spy vs. Spy” are planned. So is a new remake of “A Star Is Born” and the drama “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” the latter a co-production with Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Prods.
Jones’ hip-hop magazine Vibe, which had a one-issue test run last fall, receives a five-year TWI cash infusion under the new deal, which will also allow for two new magazines to be created. Eventually, Vibe will also be a television show.
An educational multimedia project, including a TV series, an accompanying book project and interactive material, will be “African Americans: Voices of Triumph,” which one of the networks plans to air in January 1995 as a six-hour prime time series.
Overall, pundits reacted positively to the new union.
Jones and Salzman “are really consolidating what they’ve already done successfully in the past,” said Peter Dekom, an attorney with L.A.-based Bloom, Dekom, Hergott & Cook. “This gives them more range and vision, and solidifies a big commitment to a long-term relationship with Warner Bros.”
Christopher Dixon, an entertainment analyst with PaineWebber in New York, said this deal could turn out to be a future blueprint for the majors.
“What they’re really doing is taking the indie prod model from the film world , broadening it, and applying it to other aspects of the entertainment industry, ” he said. “Be it Disney (which recently acquired Miramax) or Paramount, those are the kind of business models we’ll see being used to fuel the increasingly broad entertainment arena.”
“We’ve seen George Lucas (venture into multimedia deals with the majors),” Dixon continued. “But what you have here is a recognition by Salzman and Jones that ‘it’s the distribution, stupid.’ ”
Eric Braun, manager of consultation and research for Iowa-based Frank N. Magid & Associates, previously worked on the Lorimar Telepictures show “News Scope” under Salzman.
“What’s interesting here is that they are so different from each other,” Braun said. “Between them, they have brought so many interesting projects to the table. They really do embody multimedia. … Between them, they have touched pretty much anything except writing computer code. This is a really interesting marriage.”
At the New York Stock Exchange, Time Warner stock closed at $ 39 per share late Tuesday, up $ 1.25 from Monday.