12 to Watch 2005: John Weiser

Jan 10, 2005  •  Post A Comment

In 2005 the man to see about movies will be John Weiser. When Sony’s acquisition of MGM is completed, Sony will control the most significant film library in the business, including such celebrated franchises as the James Bond films, the “Pink Panther” series, the “Rocky” movies and the Woody Allen catalog.

With the deal still under review, Mr. Weiser, president of distribution for Sony Pictures Television, can’t discuss the company’s plans to monetize the newly expanded film library. But more titles would create new opportunities for rights packages that would target demographic needs at a broadening array of cable networks and alternative delivery systems.

Meanwhile, with the successful “Spider-Man” movies, Sony has been building a franchise of its own. Last year’s sequel was a big hit in the middle of a quiet year for the studio. Mr. Weiser sold “Spider-Man 2” TV rights to Fox and FX for $50 million, a sum that sets one’s spidey sense tingling.

Despite the “very healthy marketplace out there” for syndicating theatrical movies, Mr. Weiser said, the business has gotten more complex. “The days of one network stepping up and buying a five- or 10-year window on a film are the exception to the rule. So the complexity is windowing films between both broadcast networks and cable networks, all within a five-year network window. It’s putting together a puzzle of windows that adds up to a percentage of box office that we’ve targeted.”

Traditionally, studios have aimed for 15 percent of the theatrical box office in their syndication deals.

Chuck Saftler, executive VP of programming at FX, was on the other end of the “Spider-Man 2” deal. Mr. Saftler used to work for Mr. Weiser and knows him well.

“The joy of what he does comes through in his professionalism and how he treats those he works with and those he negotiates with,” Mr. Saftler said. “He’s smart, but he does not leverage you with it. It’s just there. He makes smart, fair deals.”

Mr. Weiser said that right now, the market has a tremendous appetite for theatrical films. “The biggest growth area is cable,” he said, but Sony also has its eye on new technologies.

“With VOD and SVOD, these are platforms we’re currently monetizing that look like they’re going to continue to grow,” he said.

Just the Facts …

Title: President, distribution, Sony Pictures Television

How long in current position: Since 2004; joined the company in 1990

Year of birth: Not available

Place of birth: New York

What to watch for: Once Sony gains control of MGM’s library, Mr. Weiser will have a huge movie catalog available to distribute.

Who knew? He is a classically trained gourmet chef.