A few hours before investor-producer Jeff Sagansky went off on the streaming business model at last week’s NATPE conference, I had a great conversation about the transformation of the content business with a few people in the middle of it all: Kevin Mayer, the former Disney executive who co-founded the Blackstone-backed Candle Media, which has bought all or part of Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine, CocoMelon studio Moonbug Entertainment, Will Smith’s Westbrook (ouch), and the ATTN media company, among others; Jessica Reif Ehrlich, the longtime media analyst and managing director at Bank of America Merrill Lynch; and Kevin Beggs, chairman of Lionsgate Television Group. We talked about what the Great Netflix Correction means for content producers, how Hollywood would hold up in a recession, and whether the age of bidding wars is over. They agreed to let me run excerpts below that have been edited for length and clarity.
Matt Belloni: This panel was supposed to happen in January in Miami. I basically threw out my outline because everything has changed in the past five months. We’ll get into that but Kevin, you’ve bought very disparate businesses. What’s the through line? Like, are there synergies or are they just silos that you’re going to package together?
Kevin Mayer: There are synergies. We’re going to keep the creative energies and the distinct creative approaches separate. But just like at Disney, you buy brands, and the monetization can be centralized—distribution, sales, some of the production facilities and production financing, H.R., all the back office stuff. But [creatively] there is some synergy between the two groups. Reese Witherspoon has a great idea for a kids book called Busy Betty. We’re going to make that into a series and she’s working directly with Moonbug to bring it out on YouTube. There is a tight integration between these companies.