Thursday, July 26, 2012

Do you really want your book publisher to also have the television and movie rights?

According to paidContent, Random House has partnered with Fremantle Media to create Random House TV, which will develop television shows based on Random House's books. Fremantle will have a "first look" at all of Random House's properties. Random House TV will be part of Random House Studio. formerly known as Random House Films.

There are a number of things wrong with this deal from an author's perspective: First, Fremantle Media and Random House are both owned by Bertelsmann, which makes the negotiations between the two companies self-dealing. Authors are likely to earn considerably less than they would if there was a truly competitive bidding process for Random House's properties. In addition, Fremantle's specialties are reality television and game shows (for example, American Idol, America's Got Talent, The Price is Right and X Factor.) The only drama of note on Fremantle Media's website is Merlin, a series about the young Merlin that's co-produced by Elisabeth Murdoch's Shine and BBC Wales, and that's only distributed by Fremantle. They're the last producer that most broadcast and cable networks would think of for dramatic programming.

This deal is an excellent example of why authors should retain as many rights as possible, including television and film rights. The Random House/Fremantle Media partnership is a marriage of convenience for Bertelsmann, but it's unlikely to do anything for most authors except tie up their ability to get a fair price for their television rights.
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