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Why CAA Ate ICM: “This Deal Is About Agendas and Exhaustion”

CAA building
Photo by AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images
Matthew Belloni
September 29, 2021

When news of the CAA-ICM deal broke, I knew there was one person I needed to talk to: James Andrew Miller. Jim literally wrote the book on CAA (Powerhouse, in 2016; his new effort is a history of HBO, Tinderbox, which comes out on Nov. 16). He’s got, in my opinion, the best perspective on the agency world and its place in the larger Hollywood landscape. So yesterday and today, he and I went back and forth on what it means when the home of Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt gobbles up the house of Shonda Rhimes and Ellen DeGeneres in an all-equity deal, and what the future holds for CAA and its rivals in a quickly changing talent landscape.

Matt Belloni: You predicted this talent agency consolidation in your book, especially when Ari Emanuel started growing what is now Endeavor into a multi-headed octopus, with an agency (WME) alongside a sports marketing firm (IMG), a combat sport league (UFC), a bull riding association (PBR), and, as of this week, a sports betting platform (OpenBet). Then the Writers Guild revolted against TV packaging, which was the bread-and-butter of ICM; the pandemic hit, squeezing everyone; and Endeavor went public in April, indicating it will use the money to grow larger and larger. So, did ICM need to do this deal? And, perhaps more importantly in this market, did CAA need to do it?