Case Study 1

How did leadership coaching and collaboration help a major studio streamline its film-distribution practices across entertainment platforms?

The filmed entertainment business was a victim of its own organic, yet ultimately fractured, growth pattern.  In its early days, films were produced solely to watch in theaters.  When televisions started to appear in most American homes, studios launched television distribution divisions to sell films to television networks, and ultimately to television platforms worldwide.  When VHS debuted in the 1980s, studios again launched new divisions to exploit the opportunities for rental and/or sale of movies for in-home consumption.  During the 1990s and early 2000s, the theatrical, home entertainment and television distribution businesses grew tremendously, each in its own silo without really infringing upon the opportunities of the others.  Each of the studio divisions was focused on its own profit and growth targets, and was making decisions to maximize its individual bottom line, creating a splintered approach to distribution.


As we entered the economic recession in 2008, theatrical box office leveled off and the VHS/DVD market peaked, while evolving TV platforms demanded earlier and wider access to studio content.  Given their history, the historically siloed divisions had neither experience nor incentive to consider the goals of, or engage with, the other divisions. As a result, many decisions were made independently that were not best for the overall enterprise.  Information, strategy and materials were not shared across the divisions, and the divisions fought over who had the right to exploit intellectual property at various points in the product life cycle.


To improve the performance of films across the entire product lifecycle, a collaborative team approach was critical. As part of the studio’s in-house Accelerated Leadership Program (ALP), Dean assembled individuals from different disciplines and studio divisions to consider the challenge. The aim was to create mutual goals that would benefit the entire enterprise. No team member had a personal agenda or motivation to protect one division over another; in fact, the team had already spent six months together learning collaboration and team-building skills, and had built a high level of mutual trust and respect.  Together, the team performed a range of exercises to help them build a solution they could present to senior management, including:

  • Researched inside and outside of the company, speaking with subject matter experts, and analyzing the competition
  • Learned through extensive coaching how to effectively communicate with various stakeholders to tap into their expertise and understand their concerns
  • Received specific training in the areas of presentation and presence in order to effectively present their ideas and recommendations to senior management

Going into the presentation to senior leaders, the team was not invested in its approach becoming the de facto solution. Instead, the shared mutual goal was to shift the thinking of senior management to allow them to see the challenges and possibilities through a new frame of reference.  The team asked its audience of senior executives to be at least 1% open to a new approach.


Following the presentation of ALP’s recommendations, the studio immediately formed the Brand Strategy and Franchise Management group to shepherd each film collaboratively over its entire lifecycle – at every stage from the theater to the home. The formation of the new group increased the day-to-day communication and engagement across the various distribution groups, and generated new ideas for marketing and exploiting intellectual property that enhanced overall studio revenue and profits. In addition, the Brand/Franchise team identified additional opportunities to generate revenue from underlying intellectual property – including video games, consumer products, virtual reality, and TV shows.


The ALP approach demonstrated that fresh thinking does not just emanate from individual divisions, and is best created collectively as a truly collaborative approach. Having a cross-divisional team work together to generate and propose the change proved to be the right solution. The ALP team members went well beyond the goals of their own divisions, identifying additional opportunities to enhance revenues from related products in other divisions such as TV shows, consumer products, video games, etc.  Once formed, the Brand/Franchise group created brand marketing elements that not only raised the level of awareness for related intellectual property but also saved millions in costs typically incurred by each vertical’s marketing group.

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