Entertainment Supersystem?

April 15, 2006

The set reading for this week – H. Jenkins’ “Quentin Taratino’s Star Wars?: Digital Cinema, Media Convergence, and Participatory Culture” – brought to my attention this phrase “entertainment supersystem”. Doesn’t it sound super? Let’s go a few steps back and see how this came about. Global consolidation of corporate organizations! Well, let’s stick to the media industry for now. The world is getting smaller? Or is it?

The global media industry is dominated by a handful of powerful first tier corporations – AOL Time Warner, Disney, General Electric, News Corporation, Viacom, Vivendi, Sony, AT&T.These are the Super Star Destroyers of the global media system, if i may. Take Sony Corporation, for example. It is a manufacturer of audio, video, communications, and information technology products for the consumer and professional markets. The organization recorded consolidated annual sales of approximately USD$64 billion for the fiscal year ended March 31st, 2006. It has 913 consolidated subsidiaries worldwide, employing 158,500 people.

Between 1987 to1989, it spent a total of US$7 billion to acquire CBS Records and Columbia TriStar, now known as Sony Music Entertainment and Sony Pictures respectively. Sony acquired rival Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) in September 2004 in a deal pegged at nearly $5 billion. Likewise in 2004, Sony Music Entertainment and Bertelsmann AG's BMG completed a deal to create the world's No. 2 music company, Sony BMG Music Entertainment.

In 2002, Sony Pictures’ blockbuster movie, Spider-Man, enjoyed worldwide success, taking almost $822 million at the box office. The global appeal of the movie was utilized to promote a range of Sony products internationally, including mobile phones, Walkmans and computer games. This leverages on the strengths of one division to improve performance in other divisions, achieving synergy and adding value to the company as a whole.

Now, sorry for the hard, boring stats. I hope that gave you a pretty good idea of the magnitude of the word “Super”. Now, back to “entertainment supersystem”, which refers to “the series of intertexutal references and promotions spawned by any successful products”. For example, Spider-man. It originated from comic books, and move on to TV, films, toys and computer games etc.

Think you are an independent and opinionated individual? Think again!!! The corporations are taking over the universe! They are horizontally integrated, with business spanning across publishing, television, film, music and the internet. The Dark Side controls every aspect of our cultural understanding, brainwashing us into mindless submission!

But fear not! For every Super Star Destroyer built, there are thousands more new X-Wings out there, fighting the good fight. The privatization of cultural production has been counter balance by the resistance movements of the “rebels” – the participatory cultural stemmed from ground-level fan communities. Armed with affordable new technology (ironically, provided by the Dark Side), fueled by creativity and eager for action, the rebels are making their presence felt! This counter movement should not come as a surprise. It is somewhat, destiny! After all, Darth Vader did spawn Luke Skywalker!

(also check out these links on Global media ownership)




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