Interview: New Miramax CEO Mike Lang: No Cannibalization Talk Here

As expected, Mike Lang has landed as the CEO of Miramax, acquired by Filmyard Holdings from Disney (NYSE: DIS) last week for $660 million. Lang was one of News Corp.’s M&A players during its digital spending spree and helped lead the formation of Hulu but this puts him in a different kind of deal role: making as much money as possible out of a 700-movie library. In the new gig, Lang will have to balance the core opportunities in traditional areas, including Blu-ray and global cable sales, while making the most of the digital “Golden Age.” He talked about that and more in an interview with paidContent:

The Golden Age: “I believe we’re at the beginning stages of a golden age,” Lang says of digital. “If you’ve got great content, it’s a great situation to be in.” And Lang starts with a nearly clear digital slate. Miramax has electronic sell-thru with Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) and some streaming VOD with Apple and Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN), but no “major” subscription or major ad-supported deals — i.e., nothing with Netflix (NSDQ: NFLX), Hulu or the like. Yet. “We’re at the precipice of working with everybody. We’re going to do it all.” That includes subscription but also a healthy respect for free on demand with Google/YouTube (NSDQ: GOOG), Hulu and others as befits someone who was in on Hulu when others called the News Corp-NBCU (NYSE: GE) JV ClownCo.

“Ultimately, the biggest opportunity is a locker with a digital cloud-like ecosystem where customers can buy content and use it across devices,”he said, citing Disney’s efforts in that direction. “My hope is that that ecosystem evolves and our little company can be a leader in that.”

New content: The new Miramax isn’t a movie studio and Lang doesn’t plan to turn in that direction. “We’re not going to be aggressive on new production,” Lang said, adding that it would be “foolhardy” to try set up everything he wants Miramax to do with licensing, marketing and more plus produce new films. Instead, they’ll look to partnerships for new film and TV projects. They’ll also look at acquiring more libraries or even partnering to sell a library if he proves Miramax is effective at selling its own. “I’m open minded about acquiring new libraries. There will be a lot of opportunities to acquire different libraries down the road.”

‘Different kind of company’: The new Miramax has a well-known brand and a solid library but it’s more like a startup than a traditional media company. It’s even in Santa Monica, home to many digital entertainment startups. “I want to lean forward, not be afraid, not be defensive. We’re trying to be offensive. We’re not trying to be a huge media company.” He’s going to stay lean, with hiring focus on “entrepreneurial.” He promises some announcements in that regard soon. Nowhere is the startup stance more visible than on the new, where Lang launched his own blog overnight with a look at the Weinstein legacy as though Miramax never went through the Disney phase. The site is as barebones as the company for now but Lang plans to add rental and sales. From his freestyle blog post/mission statement:

We believe that we’re now at a crossroads in the media industry. Many are saying that content is dead and all that matters is who controls distribution. Like the music industry, we’ll be destined to fight for pennies in a world that used to be about $’s.

Well I disagree. I believe we are at the beginning of a new golden age of content, where consumers will demand high quality content more than ever, across a multitude of devices in their home, while commuting, @ work, etc. And it’s also about consumers being able to access Miramax content throughout the world – from Chicago, to Berlin, to Mumbai, Sao Paulo, Shanghai and Dubai.

No “c” word: Lang also wants to change the language. “The word cannibalization probably never will be uttered at our company. No one’s worried about protecting things. It’s all about growing the pie. … Our biggest thing we have to do is come up with a strategy the right way and license it. That’s our job.”

In the meantime, here’s how Miramax is showcasing its library full of iconic images and familiar scenes: