business news in context, analysis with attitude

I was reading an interesting interview conducted by New York Times writer David Pogue and posted on the “Circuits” email sent out by the NYT each week.

The interviewee was Todd Wagner, CEO of 2929 Entertainment, the company cofounded by Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. This company is experimenting with what in the movie business is called “simultaneous release” strategies – or the idea that a film could be released at the same time in movie theaters, on television, and on DVD – plus whatever new technologies might become available in the future.

While there are a lot of naysayers in the traditional, mainstream film business, Wagner tells Pogue: “We've learned a valuable lesson, I hope, from the music industry: if somebody doesn't give people what they're looking for, then someone else will fill that void. If I hear a song on the radio, they don't say, ‘Oh, and in four months you can buy the CD.’ Right? They say, ‘Hey, download it to your iPod today!’

“So all we're saying is, shouldn't we maybe learn from that?” Wagner says it almost doesn’t matter what the industry wants. “We've seen the lessons of the music industry,” he says. “We know how technology is today. We know that this generation wants things now. We know it's a digital world.”

Wagner says that he’s completely open to figuring out what this new business model will look like. For example, if the DVD of a movie is to be sold the same day as the movie comes out in theaters, maybe the theater owners should get a percentage of the DVD revenue.

“Do I think it can work?” he asks. “Yes. But how it all plays out, that's what we're gonna play with: Are the DVDs only available at the movie theater the first week, and then they're available to the retailers? Will it air on TV twice? Will it air at the same time? Will the DVD be priced at a premium? How much of a premium?

“You know, I could sit here and say, ‘Oh, this is how it'll play out. We'll do this and this and this.’ But if there's one thing I'm certain of, it's that we don't know yet. And I wouldn't wanna lock ourselves in to say, ‘This is the model.’ That, to me, would be as shameful as saying the old model's right.

“I'm just saying, let's experiment. Let's be entrepreneurs and try these things. And if the response is there, if the number of DVD units is increasing for a movie of this type over what they might normally be, and yet the theater attendance is normal for a movie like that, maybe we've learned something.”

This strikes me as an incredibly smart approach to business. In a changing world with an evolving and shifting consumer base, there is no reason that a business model has to be set in stone.

“If there’s one thing I’m certain of, it’s that we don’t know yet.”


Words of wisdom to apply to all our businesses in the coming year.

I can understand why Boston Red Sox fans are upset at Johnny Damon. Leaving the Sox for a better offer is one thing. But taking up residence in Yankee Stadium’s storied center field is unforgivable.

There is just one question I’d like to ask, though.

The Red Sox offered $40 million for four years, the Yankees $52 million for the same period. (Insane numbers, I grant you, but let’s get past that.)

Here’s my question:

Who among us would leave $12 million on the table?

It isn’t like Damon only played for the Sox. He also played in Kansas City and Oakland. And it isn’t like the Sox haven’t been willing to let franchise players go when it suited their needs. (Anybody remember the Sox believing that Roger Clemens was finished – a decade ago?)

Who among us would leave $12 million on the table?

Actually, reports are that Paul Konerko did – resigning with the world champion Chicago White Sox for less money than he could have gotten elsewhere.

Go figure.

Roy Hobbs lives.

Great cover story this week in Time about the charitable efforts of Bill and Melinda Gates and Bono, all of whom were named the magazine’s “Persons of the Year” for 2005. They could all be just making more money, but instead they are dedicating themselves to ridding the world of poverty and disease. Which sounds absurd when you say the words out loud, but then you read about their efforts and it suddenly seems doable.

Hell, almost anything is possible. You get that message loud and clear when you read the second article in the magazine, about the “Partners of the Year”: former presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton, who have forged a remarkable friendship and alliance aimed at specific causes like tsunami relief efforts.

Doesn’t anyone else think that Jim Carrey simply isn’t funny? Because I can’t imagine any reason to see the remake of “Fun With Dick & Jane.”

I can’t even imagine what Tony Dungy is feeling right now. Suddenly, all the noise about an undefeated season looks just like that. Noise. And ultimately unimportant.

Actually, I always felt there was only one good reason for the Colts to go undefeated this year: to shut up all those aging Miami Dolphins who actively and vocally root against any other team to replicate what they did in 1972. if they had any class at all, they’d just say, “Good luck. We know how hard it is.” And leave it at that.

I don’t care what the critics say. I’m going to see the movie version of “The Producers.” And I’m going to enjoy it, damn it.

This is my last “OffBeat” column for 2005. I’m putting the site on hiatus next week, and will return on January 3 with an all-new edition of MNB.

In this case, “all new” has greater meaning than usual. Because MNB actually will be new and improved, with an entirely new site design that hopefully will be more user friendly…an archival system that works far better than the old one…an email program that will avoid some of the spam filters we’ve been running into… sponsorship features that we believe will be catnip to advertisers…and some other new and evolving features that I think are pretty cool.

But you’ll have to wait until January 3 to see what I’m talking about.

I’m particularly excited about another event planned for 2006 – my first book, entitled “Retail Wisdom, Wanderings & Wisecracks: The Best of MorningNewsBeat (& Some New Stuff).” This is intended to be more than a compendium of old columns and reports, but also a book that will put much of what I’ve seen and heard into greater context.

And, because such a book wouldn’t be complete without them, it’ll even have wine recommendations and some recipes! I’m thrilled and flattered that it also will have an introduction by Feargal Quinn, the legendary food retailer who saw huge success with his own book, “Crowning the Customer” (which, if you haven’t read it, you should immediately order from

I’ll have details as we get closer to publication…

If you celebrate Christmas, Merry Christmas. If you celebrate Hanukkah, Happy Hanukkah. If you celebrate Kwanzaa, then Happy Kwanzaa. And if you celebrate Festivus….well, you get the idea.

Whatever you celebrate, I hope you have a happy and safe holiday, and a prosperous New Year.


And, as always, Sláinte!!

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