Yesterday we posted the bad news
that the upcoming Cagney & Lacey
DVDs were postponed, with no new release date. And no reason given, either! However, overnight we received an e-mail from one of our readers - Manuel Puppis - who has pointed us toward the answer. C&L
Producer Barney Rosenzweig posted a scathing message
at his blog yesterday evening, stating the reason for this DVD getting pulled from the schedule:
It seems that in the two plus years that I have been working to get this series out in DVD for our anniversary, the part-time business affairs execs at MGM had neglected to clear all music rights for such a release. Everything, they said, would have to go on hold until they could get their act together.
I offered help. After all, I supervised every music cue in our series. I know that there are only a few pieces that were not "music for hire" that were offered up as "source" material (Cagney listening to Wagner on her stereo for instance). We were not like Miami Vice with a lot of licensing of famous then-current music offerings. Surely this was something that could easily be fixed. A stonewall from MGM was the response. I might scream about "detrimental reliance," and all the other problems they were causing me, I might point out that I am a "partner" on the project and have a right to be consulted on such matters, but the bottom line has been no cooperation and noncompliance with my contractual rights. You think I am pissed?
Trust me, Barney's pissed. Just head on over to the link we provided above, and read the entire story of his ordeal in trying to get this series out on DVD. His frustration is so very evident, and is a fascinating insight into the production process of a TV-DVD from the point of view of the very passionate people who were involved in the show's original creation, who want to see their work preserved on digital disc for all time. In Barney's case, his wife - show co-star Sharon Gless - also has a more-than-slight interest in this!
On the other hand, I've got to editorialize a bit here on my own behalf, and I think I'm probably speaking for Gord as well (no guarantees there, though, and I don't want to get him out of bed just to look this over before I post it). Reading through Barney's story (and please do that before you continue reading my stuff!), he speaks very badly about MGM's decision to move from Sony to Fox for their DVD retail distribution: "They hired FOX. Does anyone understand this? If MGM is really a company, why aren't they doing this themselves?
" Yes, Barney, I understand it entirely. Here's the situation: Sony was among a group of investors that bought MGM. Sony wasn't a majority stockholder, but they did own a sizable chunk there. If I'm in MGM's shoes, there's no reason not to use Sony as my distributor (and DVD-producing partner) at this point; it sounds like a good fit. And it's certainly good for Barney, because he could then hook up with Sir Howard Stringer
, former head of CBS and now running Sony. Yes, Sir Howard certainly knows and understands Cagney & Lacey
, and has history with the show, so it's a good fit for that particular program.
But not for many (or possibly any) others owned by MGM. Over the course of about a year that Sony was distributing MGM properties, the Sony schedule was obviously Sony-property-heavy and MGM-property-light. Gord and I remarked on it amongst ourselves. Our readers remarked on it. Our friends in the industry remarked on it, and while I do not want to name names, we heard from other people in Barney's position (passionate people who want to see the shows they worked on get put out on DVD) remarked on it, and did not
feel comfortable with Sony's handling of MGM properties.
By the end of May 2006, MGM was announcing
that Sony is no longer going to be working with them on home video releases, and that they are basically back to working on the DVDs themselves, and using Fox's established retail supply chain - already proven to work fine for other DVD producers, like Anchor Bay - to get MGM DVDs onto store shelves. Immediately after things got started going through Fox, Gord and I started hearing from the same folks who were shaking their heads a year before, that things were improved now.
In summary, I sympathize highly with Barney's situation and with that of the Cagney & Lacey
fans, and MGM certainly seems to have dropped the ball on securing all music rights in time to preserve a carefully prepared street date schedule. And it's a probably not such a mystery why they didn't just sell him the rights back and let him have at it; the studio surely felt that the property was more lucrative financially if they keep it in their hands, instead of selling it off to him (which may or may not be true, but is probably the assumption they were working on). As for Fox's sales force and their challenge in balancing workload between promoting Fox properties and MGM properties, that's a challenge Sony had already dropped the ball on, for all intents and purposes, but C&L
may have been different only because of Sir Howard's personal involvement. But in the end, while I'm not saying I (or Gord) ultimately agree or disagree that MGM made the right move in the switch from Sony to Fox, I must point out that Barney's comments are the first time I've heard anyone in the industry question the wisdom or even the basic thinking behind such a move. We just regret that it hasn't worked out for the two lady super-cops we all love so much.
My hope, though, is that the folks at MGM will read this, and see all over again that Barney feels sure he can get these music rights worked out quickly and relatively easily, and give him a call and get this straightened out in all speed. Get the DVDs back on the schedule hastily, and give the fans what they've waited so long for!
Stay tuned, and we'll bring you updates on this as developments occur.