Kara Swisher

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FremantleMedia's Tony Cohen Speaks!


While in London recently, BoomTown got the chance to do an onstage interview with Tony Cohen of FremantleMedia, the under-the-radar media company that is one of the most successful international producers of mostly televised entertainment.

You might have heard of one of its brands: The “Idol” juggernaut and all its spinoffs, including “American Idol.” Yes, the man we can finally all blame for Ryan Seacrest!

But its FremantleMedia Enterprises division is also hard at work at pushing its programming off-screen in areas like merchandising, the Internet, interactive television and wireless, as well as doing more traditional licensing deals.

Fremantle is actually part of the RTL Group, one of the biggest media companies in Europe, which is 90 percent owned by German media giant Bertelsmann.

I was curious to know that Cohen thought would happen to the TV industry in the next five years and when and if the Internet can produce a successful creative video business.

Happily, unlike a lot of other jumpy entertainment moguls, he is not even slightly afraid of the Internet, and he had a lot to say, most of which centered on the continuing power of content.

Here’s a short video interview I did with Cohen:

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work