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William Morris + Endeavor: one less won't mean twice as much

April 27, 2009 |  6:15 pm

The combination of William Morris-Endeavor may have other talent agencies nervous, but the studios and networks are not likely to lose any sleep over it.

"I don't think it is a clout exercise," said one network business affairs chief, responding to the question that the combined agencies would be able to extract more from producers on behalf of their clients. "This really is a cost-reduction exercise.... These two agencies realize they have to be leaner to make the kind of money they want to make."

"It's one less agency to deal with; it'll make our lives a little easier," added the head of a television studio.

Sure, that line is what one would expect to hear from a company that is lining up to bid for the services of a hot young actor to anchor a network's sagging Friday night lineup. Still, there is some logic to it. While the newly minted WME -- a name that evokes Vince McMahon more than Ari Emanuel -- could force other agencies to align, having fewer players doesn't always translate into more leverage in negotiations.

Both William Morris and Endeavor have thrived on so-called "packaging fees" for television shows, in which the agency receives an ongoing payment from the producers when reruns are sold to a cable network or local TV stations.

But the rerun market has been drying up for years as audiences fragmented and reality shows -- which have a shorter shelf life and little rerun value (does anyone really want to watch old episodes of "Biggest Loser"?) --flourished.

-- Joe Flint