March 18, 2007
William Morris/Narrowstep Deal to Create Branded Channels for Each Star

This past week, the William Morris talent agency announced that it would be forming a partnership with UK-based online TV group Narrowstep to give William Morris clients Internet channels. The programming on these channels would be free to view and supported by advertising content.

The partnership with Narrowstep includes creating mobile content as well.

Steve Safran with Lost Remote points out that such deals "could mean a web channel for every star," what he terms "another disruption in the traditional media mold."

Interestingly, Safran questions that, if talents were going to create their own channels and bypass traditional media in reaching the audience with entertainment properties, why would they need the agents, either? "Agents, after all, are the ultimate middle-men."

Of course, Steve's being facetious, and this digital deal with Narrowstep is only a minute part of what William Morris purports to offer its talents.

The question is an interesting one, how best to sell talents. Creating branded channels for each talent, and creating original Web-based entertainment properties around them, would be most interesting for talent hoping to get greater attention, the ones who need the push of viral marketing to push them over.

It makes me wonder, though, how "grabbable" and "mashable" and "quotable" this content will be. Considering that the video properties William Morris and Narrowstep are pushing will basically be public relations/advertising for the star images of the talent on the William Morris roster, it seems like making the content as accessible as possible to viral marketers would be beneficial, but I'm wondering how guarded William Morris/Narrowstep will be over the content. For more on these debates, see other posts from this weekend here and here.

Meanwhile, David Kaplan over at paidContent links this decision with the announcement back in January that United Talent Agency would form a partnership with Veoh for a similar online channel, as well another comparable agreement bck in November between Creative Artists Agency and Revver.

The full press release, available here, highlights that "the partnership will bring together content creators, advertiser and distributors continuing the democratization of media created by the merging of TV and the internet."



Facetious? OK, maybe a touch. But there is a point in there, isn't there? Agents are middle men between actors and studios. And just like realtors who are feeling the pinch between people who sell homes and people who buy homes, the model of asynchronous information is changing.

Once you can hire your own stars (or be your own star), produce your own content and publish it, the model is really disrupted.

Is that the most profitable model today, right now, this minute? No. But we talk about what's next. And that's why it's so cool to think and fantasize about these scenarios.

And yes, be a little facetious. A little.

Thanks for the shoutout. Since I could never hope get in to M.I.T. (not even as a legacy, Dad, '59), it's nice to be quoted here occasionally...


Steve, I agree. I think you can be tongue-in-cheek and still be making an awfully poignant observation in the process. I think the realtor is a good analogy because there are tools in place so that we need the realtor quite a bit less than we used to, yet we also can't claim that they are wholly written out of the equation yet.

In William Morris' case, they are hoping to do everything they can, including this Narrowstep deal, to keep the package they offer as a talent agent attractive, but I think you are quite right--at the same time, they are just pointing out how much of this potential stars might be able to do without a middle man at all.

And, as for getting in to MIT, we can at least get you in for a visit if you are ever around Boston. Oh, and thanks for being so quotable!