Thursday, May 21, 2015

VERTICAL, HORIZONTAL INTEGRATION an illustration: Warp, Working Title, Marvel, Avatar

Some of NBC-Universal's film subsidiaries

Working Title is part of a vertically integrated conglomerate, NBC-Universal, itself part of a much larger parent company, Comcast. NBC-U turns over an incredible $25bn a year and combines production through such subsidiaries as Working Title, distribution through Focus Features, StudioCanal and Universal International Pictures, as well as exhibition arms ranging from the US TV network NBC to the subscription streaming site Hulu. Horizontal integration and the synergies from this are part of their strategy, with the films fuelling interest in the Universal theme parks for example. Working Title have been part of horizontal integration strategies ever since they expanded into the American market and sold off 67% of their shares to PolyGram (later bought by NBC-U). One of their earliest global hits, 1994’s £3m Four Weddings and a Funeral which grossed an incredible global £150m, had an OST (soundtrack) on Island Records … a subsidiary of PolyGram!

The dominance of a handful of global film conglomerates has led to the use of the ‘big six’ to denote their scale; all six (seven if you count Lionsgate) are vertically integrated. Horizontal integration is increasingly common too. The Sun newspaper notoriously ran 18 stories mentioning Avatar in just one day, joining a range of Sky One programmes and, later, blitz advertising of Sky’s new Sky Movies 3D channel, which would premiere Avatar; all the companies involved were mutually benefitting subsidiaries of Rupert Murdoch’s News corporation. The interplay between the various Marvel superhero film franchises and the TV offshoots (Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, Daredevil, Agent carter etc.) helps boost parent company Disney’s TV operations, principally the ABC network on which they’re aired, with TV and film synergistically promoting each other.

It isn’t just the big boys who utilise horizontal integration though. Warp Films is an offshoot of Warp Records and their music video production, and their website and monthly promotional email promote both side by side. The Warp Records act Arctic Monkeys have featured in Warp X’s Le Donk and Scor-Zay-Zee, been the subject of the feature film Arctic Monkeys Live at the Apollo, directed by Richard Ayaode, who would then use the Arctics’ singer to provide the soundtrack for his fictional feature film debut, Submarine!  

Some details from the NBC-Universal Wiki

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