Advanced Television

Paramount 2.0

July 10, 2024

We have a deal, say Paramount and Skydance, and this time it will stick. Shari Redstone got a slightly sweeter price and proved she was no pushover, just in case anyone thought she was.

That’s the trouble with being the 2.0 in a dynasty, everyone, and I mean everyone, assumes you only get to run the shop because your dad built it. Sumner Redstone was one of those handful of BIG characters (some of mixed character), who designed the late 20th century media landscape, think; Rupert Murdoch, Silvio Berlusconi, Ted Turner, Robert Maxwell, Leo Kirch. Some ended their careers with reputations intact and some… didn’t. None of their companies survived them in anything like the structure they had when they were in their heyday.

Redstone Snr was famous for having held on by his fingernails to an upper floor window ledge as the only way to survive when the hotel he was in burned down. He sometimes seemed to have rather less of a grip on strategy at Viacom (the old Paramount), as he sold and then repurchased the CBS network.

The new owners of Paramount are going to have to overcome the same prejudice against 2.0ism. Skydance is the vehicle for David Ellison, son of Oracle founder Larry. Skydance has been on the go for 14 years and has had a hand in some big hits, including the latest Top Gun movie.

He is touted (by his own executives) as the perfect poster child for combining creativity with tech. As one of them said, he can do a table read and then go next door and do the coding. Depending on where you sit in the creation and distribution chain, I suspect that recommendation will make you either cheer or choke.

What he does have is a tech start-up attitude to spending and that will be an interesting ride for the open-handed expensers of Hollywood. His recipe for Paramount is lots of vagueness on tech transformation, and more efficiencies (cuts) of $2 billion in costs across the group; the current management had identified a further $500 million as the limit.

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