We [publishers] were the first storytelling industry and I feel that I am not going to let our sister industries be the ones that survive because I think we are the master storytellers.Eric's approach to ensuring this survival is for Penguin to take on the role of brand curation for authors and other creators. In this model, the publisher becomes the guardian of the story world and is able to control how that story, its characters and settings are exploited across media. Not coincidentally, it also means that Penguin will control all of the rights to that property and will have a guaranteed slice of the revenue if it's a success. This kind of strategy finds the publisher putting a foot firmly into the world of the agent, who would normally seek to manage publishing and other rights for their clients. But then, if you look at how many agents are publishing books directly these days, perhaps it is just another example of traditional roles becoming blurred.
In the movie world, global consolidation has long been the norm. Movies are immensely expensive to both make and to market, which makes a worldwide business approach essential. Click the image below to see a huge infographic at Empire Online about who owns which movie franchise:
Franchises and global brands are now seen as being essential to the movie business, to the extent that it's much easier to adapt your ideas into a reboot of an existing property, than it is to strike out with a truly original idea. And that gets to the crux of the problem, because the vision of the future that Eric and others are promoting sounds terribly sterile. There aren't many creative people outside of advertising who get up in the morning and think: "I know, what I really want to achieve today is to create a globally recognised brand." But the paradox is that most of the major story brands in the world today were started by just one person. Star Wars, Star Trek, Harry Potter, The Simpsons, James Bond, The Muppets – the list goes on.
Large companies are rarely a good environment for the kind of original thinking that's needed to birth a franchise. But once that initial concept has been successfully launched, corporations are much better placed than individuals to take a story world and turn it into a long-term money-maker. They might also ruin it in the process, but the good news is that corporations like Disney are becoming much more adept at running story businesses without running them into the ground. There's even a chance that the new Star Wars movies might invigorate the franchise, rather than taking it still further from where it started. Here's hoping, anyway.