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Blockbusters: Hit-Making, Risk-Taking, and the Big Business of Entertainment (Englisch) MP3 CD – Audiobook, 15. Oktober 2013

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How come so many movies are sequels, adaptations and reboots? Why do music studios spend so much on just a handful of superstar artists? And since when did TV shows become so lush and sophisticated? . . . [Elberse's] great new book, Blockbusters, explains that the . . . questions share one answer. The blockbuster strategy--betting more and more money on fewer and fewer titles--has taken over the entertainment world. (

In her new book Blockbusters …[Elberse] argues quite convincingly that in the music industry (in addition to cinema, television, books, and more) record labels are most profitable when they focus their funds on a small number of big-shot, can't-miss juggernauts. (Billboard)

Forceful . . . Elberse analyzes the realm of culture with a rigorous, numbers-driven approach. (The Boston Globe)

Persuasive… Elberse's research has now culminated in the publication of her first book, Blockbusters, in which she makes a bold…case against fiscal timidity in the entertainment industry. (Bloomberg Businessweek)

Convincing… Elberse's Blockbusters builds on her already impressive academic résumé to create an accessible and entertaining book. (Financial Times)

Blockbusters demonstrates that [a blockbuster] strategy usually beats the more cautious approach of spreading around lower-amount investments in a larger number of projects, a recipe for mediocrity that seldom captures the public's imagination. (Forbes)

A compelling answer for those who wonder why Hollywood seems obsessed with superheroes and all hit songs sound alike. The formula works. . . [In Blockbusters,] Elberse delivers an accessible, convincing accounting for the ways in which contemporary entertainment is produced, marketed and consumed. (Kirkus Reviews)

As Blockbusters reveals, pursuing projects with high risk and high reward is actually the best long-term business model. (

The book effectively explains the paradox of why more entertainment channels result in fewer choices, and offers a welcome respite from the usual business titles. (Publishers Weekly)

Fortunate readers of the book are claiming that Anita Elberse's Blockbusters is a compelling answer to those wondering why Hollywood seems obsessed with superheroes. Her book merits, not one, two, but three readings. (

In Blockbusters, Anita Elberse… argues that the blockbuster strategy--a broad formula that assumes investing in big potential winners will account for a disproportionate share of returns--now governs consumer markets, from restaurants and hotels to electronics. (The Wall Street Journal)

Good books merit a second reading--Blockbusters merits at least three. First, read it for fun. Anita Elberse describes the history of how blockbuster products and star entertainers were built. If you've ever read arguments about whether leaders are made or born, you'll love this. Then read it again for Elberse's model, which explains the process by which hits and stars are made. This will make you feel like Columbus discovering a world that has long existed but few have seen. Then read it a third time, using her model to understand how other stars - leaders in politics, business and academia, for starters - often can be built in the same way. There is hope - because the world truly is entertaining. Blockbusters is a delightful, thought-provoking book. (Clayton Christensen, author of The Innovator's Dilemma) -- Dieser Text bezieht sich auf eine andere Ausgabe: Gebundene Ausgabe .

Über den Autor und weitere Mitwirkende

Anita Elberse, the Lincoln Filene Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School, is one of the youngest female professors to be awarded tenure in the School's history. Her work has been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Variety, and Fortune. She lives in Boston, Massachusetts. -- Dieser Text bezieht sich auf eine andere Ausgabe: Gebundene Ausgabe .

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seeking blockbusters is the best economic strategy for symbolic businesses even in the Internet era 6. November 2013
Von Douglas Galbi - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
Anita Elberse’s new book, Blockbusters: Hit-Making, Risk-Taking, and the Big Business of Entertainment, convincingly argues that seeking blockbusters is the best economic strategy for symbolic businesses even in the Internet era. The Internet makes possible an unlimited diversity of digital content and services. That encourages belief that fragmentation of audiences and the proliferation of niche products will control business success. However, the Internet also enhances social influence that concentrates attention and purchases on the most popular symbolic products. In current business reality, enhancing social influence is more important. The most profitable business strategy is using all available communication tools to make a particular symbolic package highly popular: a blockbuster.

Social influence is hugely important. Persons learn about goods through other people. Valuations of goods are closely related to what persons perceive to be other persons’ valuations of goods. As Elberse explains, a film’s earnings can be well predicted from its opening weekend box office receipts. Opening weekend receipts depend on extensive pre-opening promotion and securing wide theatrical distribution. Because popularity and currency create value in social communication, economies of scale exist in marketing and promotion. To be a potential blockbuster, a film has to be good. But being good isn’t sufficient. Expensive, complex, and creative marketing and promotion creates blockbusters.[2] The Internet has changed means for marketing and promotion, but not the underlying economics of marketing and promotion.

Reduced distribution costs and globalized symbolic markets increase producers’ operating leverage. Operating leverage depends on the relation of fixed costs to marginal costs. Reductions in marginal costs relative to fixed costs increase the profitability of selling an additional unit. The Internet has reduced the marginal costs of distributing symbolic goods and expanded symbolic markets globally. The profitability advantage of blockbusters has thus become greater.

Elberse describes the successes of blockbuster strategies with case studies across mass-media entertainment. Alan Horn’s strategy of blockbuster films for Warner Brothers dominated Jeff Zucker and Ben Silverman’s strategy of managing for margins at NBC. Grand Central Publishing paying a $1.25 million advance to an unknown author for rights to the book Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World makes sense in light of the logic of blockbuster marketing. Elberse describes the rapidly scaled up marketing strategy by which Lady Gaga (who’s ugly) and Maria Sharapova (who’s gorgeous) became superstars. She explains why Real Madrid reasonably paid extraordinary sums for a roster of soccer galácticos. In the realm of new media, Jay-Z’s launch of his memoir Decoded and the online attack of the National Football League illustrate how large-scale promotion works across new and old media.

The value of blockbusters is not just a matter of big business. The growth of Facebook and Twitter relative to blogging suggests that most people in their own small social worlds are more engaged in being a celebrity than being an author. In materially wealthy, socially impoverished societies, providing social-psychic goods is a huge business opportunity. Twitter is all about attracting and manipulating social followers with low-cost tweets. Facebook’s fundamental business proposition to its users is providing “likes”: specific signs that “people like me.” Google, which merely offers the accounting proposition of “+1,” is having a difficult time competing with Facebook. Social media entrepreneurs exploring new business opportunities undoubtedly are developing technologies to effectively deliver “ugo girls.” A less attractive product is “atta boys.” Boys and men are less engaged in social media than are girls and women.

Human social nature favors commodified symbolic goods. If persons exchange symbolic goods that they themselves have made, the goods are enmeshed in complicated interpersonal dynamics. Socially distant, commodified symbolic goods are less socially complex and less socially risky. Scholars seeking to be collegial thus say little substantive to each other about their work. The structure of academic disciplines is essentially a cartel in restraint of personally troublesome discussions. Most academics participate in online discussion lists by posting nothing other than conference notices, publication notices, retirement notices, death notices, and other academic-bureaucratic items. In academy, having substantive, critical discussions is much less valuable than producing commodified, largely ignored items of scholarship (journal publications and books). The underlying social economics applies more generally to everyone, but is less starkly apparent.

The growing importance of blockbusters threatens effective democracy, creative diversity, and justified differences in wealth. The strategies and tools for marketing and promoting blockbusters differ little from those for promoting political candidates and political causes. Unlike entertainment goods, political leaders should make difficult decisions and get challenging tasks done. Focusing on marketing and promotion often impedes making good, timely decisions and actually doing necessary work. The imperatives of making blockbusters heighten the tensions between creative freedom and business success. A blockbuster culture is more symbolically homogenous and less supportive of individual creativity. Moreover, blockbusters create enormous income differences between superstars and mere team players. When superstars earn vastly greater income without meritocratic legitimacy, team players not deluded with improbable dreams of stardom become resentful and lose motivation to perform. A society too skewed toward blockbusters is likely to collapse spectacularly.[3]

Elberse’s Blockbusters is an important book for aspiring media moguls, aspiring celebrities, and everyone concerned about economic, social, and political trends. Elberse’s book deserves to be more widely read than Chris Anderson’s best-selling, awarding-winning, and factually misguided book, The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More. Anderson, however, had better social connections in the business of promoting popular writing.[4] Anderson’s book also told a story that was less well-known and more popularly attractive. Big-media business has been described for more than a century. Elberse’s book cannot compete with celebrity gossip publications. The flyleaf of Elberse’s book highlights significant symbolic differentiation:

Anita Elberse, the Lincoln Filene Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School, is one of the youngest female professors to be awarded tenure in the school’s history. Her work has been featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Variety, and Fortune.

Despite its greater factual merit, Elberse’s Blockbusters probably won’t become as popular as Anderson’s The Long Tail. That’s an unfortunate reality of the blockbuster economy.

I recommend seeking truth and enjoying creativity.


[1] Heightened concern about security and trust with respect to digital products and services also favors concentration. The costs of security lapses and bad publicity are higher for more popular products. More popular products also have higher probability of exposure of security weaknesses and a larger revenue base to invest in making the product secure. On the other hand, more popular products are more valuable targets for cyber-criminals. On the whole, the balance seems to me to favor popular products. Using only popular apps is a simple, common approach to avoiding very insecure apps.

[2] Production costs for films vary widely. Spending more money in producing a film provides costly effects that can be marketed as distinctive signals. Creating value for marketing and promoting a work is not the same as creating value in the end-customer full experience.

[3] The epilogue to Blockbusters insightfully notes:

When you look close enough, the principles and practices of “show business” can be found in a wide cross section of companies and sectors in our economy — and increasingly so.

Elberse (2013) p. 261.

[4] Anderson worked as U.S. Business Editor for the Economist and was Editor-in-Chief of Wired when he wrote The Long Tail.

** review from **
14 von 18 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Well-Researched and Enlightening Look at the Entertainment Industry 15. Oktober 2013
Von Liebo - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
I am generally leery of books where the author posits a provocative wide-ranging thesis. Its probably largely Malcolm Gladwell's fault. So naturally I approached Anita Elberse's Blockbusters with some trepidation. She makes the claim that focusing on high-stakes major campaigns is essential to succeeding in today's entertainment industry and she employs a plethora of examples and research from movies, sports, books, music, and television to support her case. While it can be a bit dry at times, Blockbusters is a very informative and often fascinating examination of the current and future state of the entertainment industry and the increasing importance of tentpole products and campaigns.

Elberse is a professor at the Harvard Business School who understandably brings a wealth of knowledge regarding the industry. She also has experience researching topics such as the economic effects of the unbundling of songs from albums on the music industry (bad for record labels). Elberse has built up quite an impressive list of contacts (she actually just co-wrote an article with Sir Alex Ferguson), which greatly enriches the book. Blockbusters is able to glean insights from major players such as Maria Sharapova's agent and Alan Horn, the former president of Warner Bros. Rather than speculating on the strategies behind campaigns, Elberse is able to pick the brains of decision makers.

The book's main concept is an intriguing and seemingly counter-intuitive approach to entertainment. Essentially, the strategy of hedging bets with a diverse portfolio of products is not the path to profitability for entertainment entities. They should instead promote a few projects and bet big on their success. Elberse illustrates this point with a huge amount of well-argued statements backed up by data and examples, often with commentary from major players. Her book is wide in scope and ranges from Youtube to major opera houses and Argentinian soccer, yet she manages to explore all subjects in considerable depth. She is also refreshingly objective, acknowledging the drawbacks and inherent risks of the blockbuster strategy and why smaller-scale projects are still valuable (largely to facilitate the continued success of blockbusters). She explains the impact of blockbusters on producers and stars, and her chapters on endorsement deals are especially enlightening. I really enjoyed learning about the rationale behind athletic sponsorships for star athletes, such as when Elberse describes how Lebron James weighed three endorsement deals with different compensation models and King James' thought process behind his decision. And as would probably be expected by a new book, Blockbusters explores how recent technological innovations such as original content on Netflix and YouTube and speculates how they will impact the blockbuster model in the future.

Despite the author's academic background, her book is largely readable and suitable for mainstream audiences. Her target audience seems to be the kinds of people who are at least slightly interested in following entertainment trends in places like the Wall Street Journal and Economist. Some basic business knowledge would be nice to get the most out of Blockbusters but there are no complicated formulas or anything and she explains everything in a clear fashion that a layman can understand. She is more concerned with communicating the conclusions resulting from her complicated statistical analyses rather than how she derived them. While the epilogue looks at ways to apply her blockbuster thesis to other fields, this is (mercifully) not the kind of book with workshops every chapter detailing how to apply these lessons to your job. The book is meant to inform and entertain, and it largely succeeds on both counts.

At times Blockbusters reads like a case study, which is fine as far as imparting information goes but it doesn't always make for the most captivating reading material. Sometimes the book drags as she explains the nitty-gritty of particular financial details, but it is generally readable and many of the book's conclusions are fascinating. She is able to pack a ton of information and insight into the book and it improved my understanding of the entertainment business more than any other book.

In Sum

Anyone interested in learning about the current state of the entertainment industry and how it is being affected by technological innovations will get a lot out of Blockbusters. Elberse is able to combine the expertise of an academic with the clarity and eloquence of a journalist. She definitely subscribes to a higher burden of proof than many other books based on supporting a major thesis but even if you remain unconvinced about the blockbuster strategy you can still derive quite a bit of enjoyment and knowledge out of the book. Blockbusters ultimately maintained my interest through most of its pages and is worth seeking out for those interested in the topic.

2 von 2 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Interesting i 22. Dezember 2013
Von - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe Vine Kundenrezension eines kostenfreien Produkts ( Was ist das? )
Anita Elberse's "Blockbusters" is exactly as described. If you are looking for a book on the creative side of entertainment, this isn't the book. But if you want an explanation on how the 'event' movie began to take over the theaters and why as well as how singers like Lady Gaga could hit so suddenly and with such a blanket force, then this is the book to read.

Elberse gives the risks of the blockbuster mentality but also the patterns on why it works and continues to be deployed year after year by movie studios.

It isn't the most fun read if you love movies as an art form and you can recognize that the 'blockbuster' strategy essentially choked the art house theater out of existence in almost all places except for the largest of cities but it is still a very interesting read that makes a lot of sense when you consider the scope of Elberse's subject matter.

Definitely worth reading for a movie fan.
4 von 5 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Good thesis, well presented, dull. 16. Dezember 2013
Von Peter G. Keen - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe Vine Kundenrezension eines kostenfreien Produkts ( Was ist das? )
This begins promisingly and is clearly the work of an expert. It quickly loses momentum. It is built around a simple idea that has been influential in analyses of sports markets, technology and the arts: that the gap between the best -- a Michael Jordan or Lady Gaga, say -- is so much higher than the good but not great that they gain apparently disprortionate rewards. The thesis here is that the most effective business strategy is to exploit the Jordan opportunity rather than go for a cheaper and lower risk portfolio approach. The author makes her case well but it's so flat and dull. The book is rather plodding, with lots of examples that don't come to life. My own response was largely "Yes, I get it.... So?" There is no sense of the dynamics of the competitive fields, the personalities, the distinctive features of the business landscape.

It's an OK book and I have no criticisms of it in terms of structure or style. It just doesn't seem to merit 250+ pages. I suspect the main limitation in flow and verve is that the material is heavily based on Harvard Business School cases. Having been through the case writing process as a doctoral student at HBS, I recall that they were designed to be reliable, accurate, measured and cautious -- which the style of this book is. They were never intended to be compelling and vivid. This book is in the end worthy but dull.
8 von 11 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Theoretical Overreach 17. November 2013
Von MIKKEL MARETTI - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe Verifizierter Kauf
I have followed the work of Anita Elberse through the Harvard Business School newsletter Working Knowledge for a number years now. I have always enjoyed reading her work and I found it of particular relevance for the discussion which ensued after the publication of the Long Tail by Chris Anderson. I think that it is very reasonable that AE comprises her work over a number of years into a book because I believe she has valid point to make. Most of the book is a solid showing based on a well-thought and valid theory backed by empirical evidence. So why the One star ?
The problem in my opinion is one which I will refer to as "theoretical overreach". The sciences in general and the social sciences in particular have proved a lot less "scientific" than the ideal of positive physics, according to their own criteria. Even though the track record of predictions is very thin, and the reliability of data more often than not very questionable the quest remains the same: to create a theoretical framework which can explain the world at large.
In the case of AE she has a theory which has a lot to say when it comes to how the movie and the music industry work but that is not enough. Thus she wants her theory to be universal in the sense that it shall be able to explain the dynamics in all business ventures which can even remotely be considered to be part of the entertainment industry. And that is where in my humble opinion the "overreach" sets in because the theory is simply not a good fit with European football and possibly not with NY nightlife either.
The One star is the rating given for chapter 3 which is the chapter where I feel I have something to add to the discussion. Thus I will focus my review entirely on chapter 3.
While charts and tables with data to underpin the theory are present in the chapters covering movies and music there is not even one chart in the chapter about football to give some substance to her claims. A number of figures are tossed around but what to make of them when they are not coherent or part of a full dataset ? Thus the methodology seems lacking.
But in fact the biggest issue appears to be theory itself when applied to football. Let's summarize the theory briefly: entertainment industry ventures need superstars in order to produce blockbusters which are the drivers for their business. (Blockbusters can be produced without the SuperStars but it is a harder and less reliable route to embark on.)
So football clubs need to buy the best talent available in order to produce . . . what ? Revenues or Profits or Wins ? or a combination of the three ?
The next issue arises when it comes to what defines a superstar ? In Hollywood you have an A-list, in the music industry there is probably also some well-defined criteria. And in football ? transfer sum, salary, individual awards, titles, endorsement deals . . .?
Is Gareth Bale a superstar ? he is the most expensive player ever but he has never won a trophy and never played neither Euro nor World Cup since he is Welsh. Is Messi a superstar ? he has played at Barcelona all his career so he was never traded in a big money move. There is price tag on him - ok cool Messi is a superstar. Ronaldo also. But a part from those two, who then ? Beckham was the highest earning football player in 2012 but when he played for PSG during the spring 2013 he was not a starter. Thus is he a superstar ? Samuel Eto' was the highest paid player when it comes to wage from employer during his time in Anzhi but largely invisible to most people since few follow Russian football. Busquets from FC Barcelona has won it all is he a superstar ?
Warner Bros was applauded for their high risk strategy which brought them revenues and profits. So the criteria for success was pretty clear cut. Then we have the football clubs. If profit is the measure for their success then most of them fail miserably. Chelsea for instance has run a deficit every single year since Abramovich took over apart from 2012 where they unexpectedly won the Champions League and thus had the windfall of huge extra money coming in. Chelsea has the most expensive squad in the world of football with some prominent names among them so it must qualify as a blockbuster strategy. Revenues have risen substantially but Warner Bros would probably not have been in business today if they could only muster one year in the black out of 10.
In the book the example of Real Madrid and the galacticos strategy is the prime example of applying the BlockBuster strategy to the world of football. So does it work ? well, if one looks at the winning record of Real Madrid during the reign of Florentino Perez then it is miserable compared to the costs of the project.
And another issue even if the Real Madrid project could be defined as applying the blockbuster / superstar logic is it then representative for the world of football ? If only one club moves by this logic is it then a sign that the rest of the clubs apply the wrong strategy or simply that RM is an outlier ?
A third claim is that Boca Juniors relies on producing talent while other clubs pursue a strategy of buying established stars. In 2011 Real Madrid was the club in Europe which had seen 3rd most players move through their youth academy to make it to the first team in one of Europe's 5 big leagues. Only Partizan Belgrade and Ajax Amsterdam did better.
Boca Juniors is also part of the foot chain scooping up talent everywhere in Argentina and in South America. Since the money is far less in Argentinian football than in European football well then the best players move there for the money and for the glory. But that is not very different from the food chain within Europe where players leave for greener pastures elsewhere if the opportunity arises. And where players who do not make it in the big clubs go elsewhere. Like KAKA' moving from Real Madrid to AC Milan on a free transfer.
Real Madrid is more than a football club. It is the symbol of Spain and Spanish unity and the pride of Madrid. It is backed up by city government, it gets favorable loans from the banks, a number of wealthy and powerful individuals are involved in the management. Chelsea is a toy, as is Paris SG, AS Monaco, Manchester City etc. of a foreign billionaire.
Decisions made when it comes to run football clubs more often than not have nothing to do with the way movie studios or record labels run their businesses. Few billionaires would buy Warner Brothers to be able to get the front row seat at a movie premier. Few American nationalists would shed many tears if EMI went bust.
How many football clubs on the other hand have seen rescue operations in order to stay in business even though everyone involved knew beforehand that it would probably not be the last one.
Furthermore the theory is blurred by the fact that sports is about winning in a dynamic live event where all kinds of coincidences play a factor which is not the case with the more controlled environments of music and movies.
Sports in general and football in particular simply does not fit the bill of the blockbuster / superstar conundrum. Football has got everything to do with pride, irrationality, emotions, struggle, power, big egos, and playing fantasy football with a real club and live players.
Therefore it would be much wiser to leave out sports from the book since special conditions apply and in particular for European football. US sports might come closer to fitting the bill but probably not all the way.
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