Media Ownership Essay

To what extent does media ownership have an impact on the successful distribution of media products in the media area that you are supposed to have studied?


Media ownership has a fairly significant impacts on the successful distribution of films. The Big Six media conglomerates are responsible for 90% of all films produced; this means that the Big Six companies (Warner Bros, Paramount Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Universal Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment and Walt Disney Studios) hold the majority of power when it comes to producing and distributing films. The conglomerate companies achieve this high percentage of ownership over films through a method called concentration of ownership, which means that the Big Six buy the smaller companies which therefore results in them dominating the market. The conglomerates also use a method called symbiosis, which allows them to join together with another conglomerate in order to receive advantages and profits for both companies involved whilst also sharing the risk. The conglomerates also tend to release numerous smaller films alongside their release of a large tentpole film; this is to make sure that even if a smaller film fails then profits from the others will keep the company out of debt and ready to finance the next larger film. Therefore, the tentpole films produced by media conglomerates have a higher chance of becoming successful over films released by less financed and well known companies. This is due to the fact that the companies within the category of the Big Six are more financed than smaller companies. They also hold a high standard reputation and have more connections and opportunities when it comes to people involved with the film and advertising.

An example of a larger tentpole film is “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”. This tentpole film was produced using horizontal cooperation through New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The two production companies joined together in producing the film as they are on the same level of the hierarchy in the film producing industry and so could share the risk and finance through working together. By working together they could also receive more benefits. New Line became a unit of Warner Bros. Entertainment in March 2008. The company maintains separate development, production, marketing, distribution and business affairs operations, but coordinates those functions with Warner Bros. to maximise film performance and operating efficiencies. New Line produced the Oscar Award-winning The Lord of the Rings film trilogy, which generated a combined worldwide box office of almost $3 billion (and an additional $3 billion in consumer products and home entertainment revenue). This was followed by a trilogy of films based on The Hobbit, which is currently closing in on the $3 billion mark in global receipts. The film was distributed by one of the members of the Big Six, Warner Bros. When Warner Bros. decided to make J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit into movies, the gamble was a little smaller than usual; this is because Peter Jackson had already turned three Lord of the Rings movies into massive hits and a return to Middle Earth would certainly attract audiences. However, with a decade or so of new technology to work with, those movies were going to be expensive. They were going to be even more expensive when the decision was made to do not two, but three films in the series. However, due to the ownership of one of the main media conglomerates, this large expense was not a problem. A smaller film company would not have been able to produce a film on the same scale as this one without integrating horizontally due to the need of high finances. However, around the same amount of money spent on the production is often matched on the budget for the distribution. Warner Bros were able to finance this without integrating with another company due to their status of a conglomerate and the profits that they receive from other films.

However, for the remaining 10% of films produced and distributed smaller firms are in control. These smaller firms do not hold the same power and profit margin as the larger Big Six companies and so may distribute the films in different ways in order to overcome this problem. Often, when producing and distributing a larger film that would cost more, companies on the same level of the hierarchy join together in order to share the risk and achieve their goals to the best of their abilities; this is called synergy as without the co operation, the companies would not have been able to achieve what they could than when they work together. An example of this is the independent film, ‘A Field In England’. The innovative release method of ‘A Field In England’ meant that many companies were involved as the film was to be shown across various media platforms all on one day, the 5th of July 2013. These include Picturehouse, Channel 4 and Film 4. However, a very important ideal in making a method such as work successfully and fairly is the idea of co operation and equality. There was a fear of taking too much of the burden of risk, exacerbated by the fear of ‘cannibalisation’ of audiences when running alongside free TV. The strategy to deal with the concerns over ‘split rights’ was based on creating a ‘one pot’ derail, where everyone shared the risks and the rewards across all of the exploitation areas. The approach was valuable in encouraging all parties involved to throw all of their energy into all aspects of the release. As well as this, teamwork and co operation can be seen when Wheatley and the whole cast supported the release plan and mobilised their active social media base in order to ensure that they could tweet or post trailers and updates of what they are doing and when the film will be out on what platforms. The co operation means that together the companies can take the same levels of risk and finance as a conglomerate within the category of the Big Six. The other key party was Picturehouse, both as exhibitor and distributor. It helped devise, refine and execute the strategy and it shared the risk with Film4 on all aspects of the release. Another major advantage provided by Picturehouse was the local loyalty towards cinemas around the UK. In comparison to other companies involved, Picturehouse took the experience further. They offered a relaxed cinema experience with food and refreshments; this enticed more of the audience into the cinema as they were paying for the experience. They also removed one of the key obstacles to any day and date release in the form of a cinema boycott because they are a smaller distribution company and so they aren’t competing with any larger companies, such as those involved in the Big Six, and so can afford to distribute and exhibit the film in independent cinemas as a result of this. Picturehouse executives believed that the film, more or less, reached the box office number that they forecasted… £25,000 to £35,000.

Another example of a film released in a similar way to ‘A Field In England’ is ‘A Late Quartet’. The film was released simultaneously in theatres, on Sky Box Office, on the Curzon Home Cinema VOD site and through FilmFlex services. The release aimed to create a ‘premium’ window of theatrical and key VOD services, keeping DVD and other on–demand releases in their later conventional window. The aim was to break even on theatrical revenues and to add 10,000 buys across all the non– theatrical platforms, generating £50,000 to the bottom line (assuming a 50–50 share of £100,000 total revenues). The marketing and distribution budget was more than £200,000, including £100,000 support from the BFI Distribution Fund. Curzon Film World had predicted 10,000 sales on all non–theatrical platforms but ended with 3,000 rentals and 2,000 downloads from Sky, 300 views on Curzon Home Cinema and 705 from FilmFlex. However on the other hand, the £520,375 taken theatrically is more than half of the US takings, well over the 10% usually expected of such releases. This shows that spending less money on the production and distribution of a film can effect the success of a film, but a lot of money does not need to be spent on a film for it to succeed within it’s level on the hierarchy of the film market. On the other hand, it could be argued that even if the film was produced and distributed by a member of the Big Six it may not have created much more revenue as the reduced revenue may have been because of either the content of the plot itself or the target audience.

Another example of an innovative way that a smaller company has overcome the struggle of the domination of larger conglomerates within the Big Six is Red State by Kevin Patrick Smith. In 2011, Kevin Smith returned to the Sundance Film Festival in Utah, USA. Here, Smith showed his latest creation, ‘Red State’. Red State is a 2011 American independent horror action film based on the Westboro Baptist Church. At the festival, Smith screened the film and then began a presentation. In this thirty minute speech, Smith shared his views about how hard it is now to make it into the film world and release a film and how the independent film genre “is dying”. He then explained how Red State had a production budget of $4 million, Smith saw this as a good figure and okay amount to retain back. However, he then continued to explain how the advertising and investing of the film would be a further $20 million, therefore meaning that the film would have costed $24 million to produce and advertise. Smith then expressed his disgust at this and surprised many with his decision to take the investing and advertising aspect into his own hands with his own production company, ‘Smod Films’. Smith had previously created an interest and audience using his ‘Smodcast’ which gave him a strong starting point. Smith’s aim was to set up home cinemas and screen it across the US. He also wanted to throw no advertisement towards the film,  but just to tour with it. During the lifetime of the film, only $1,104,682 was received; this was only approximately a quarter of the price of creating it. In his first screening, the film managed to raise $204,230. Red State generated the least for profits and ratings out of all of Smith’s films.This therefore shows that Smith’s individual release was most probably not the best thing for the film when considering figures and statistics. However, it clearly displays how independent filmmakers can create and release their films without a third member party. Although the film release was not as successful as films produced and distributed by conglomerates in the Big Six, the amount of money spent on both production and distribution of the film was a small fraction of the money spent on producing or distributing alone on larger tentpole films.

It could be argued that the nature of a production and distribution company has a fairly large impact on the success of a film. If a film is owned by a media conglomerate from the category of the Big Six then it is more likely to be considered as a tentpole film due to the amount of money that can be spent on both production and distribution. These larger companies hold a reputation of producing good films and so people can rely on them to carry on producing good films; this means that people are more likely to feel compelled to watch a film by a larger conglomerate rather than a smaller independent company. The conglomerate members of the Big Six dominate 90% of the film industry and so smaller firms have to use methods such as synergy, symbiosis and horizontal integration in order to get over this. However, even with methods such as these, films produced and distributed by smaller firms are often no where near as successful as large tentpole films released by members of the Big Six and so it could be said that the nature of a media ownership company does effect the success and broadness of the film’s release.


1 thought on “Media Ownership Essay

  1. Steven Jackson


    June, 2015 – “To what extent does media ownership have an impact on the successful distribution of media products in the media area you have studied?”

    You can find the exam paper and mark scheme here:

    Explanation/analysis/argument (16-20 marks)
    * Shows excellent understanding of the task
    * Excellent knowledge and understanding of institutional/audience practices – factual knowledge is relevant and accurate
    * A clear and developed argument, substantiated by detailed reference to case study material
    * Clearly relevant to set question

    Use of examples (16-20 marks)
    * Offers frequent evidence from case study material – award marks to reflect the range and appropriateness of examples
    * Offers a full range of examples from case study and own experience
    * Offers examples which are clearly relevant to the set question

    Use of terminology (8-10 marks)
    * Use of terminology is relevant and accurate

    Complex issues have been expressed clearly and fluently. Sentences and paragraphs, consistently relevant, have been well structured, using appropriate technical terminology. There may be few, if any, errors of spelling, punctuation and grammar.

    I would mark your current answer as being Level 4, possibly 19/19/9.

    – Superb essay with a wealth of carefully researched information. It would almost certainly get close to full marks, but I’m not sure you will be able to hand write this much in 30 minutes. You might have to look at where you can trim it down a bit…

    Liked by 1 person


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