As the negotiation for Nikki Finke’s inevitable exit from her contract continues, it’s significant that Deadline film editor Mike Fleming has announced in an unusually lengthy 1583-word post that he is stepping up to an enhanced L.A./N.Y. role as he divides his year between the two coasts starting in November:
The hope is to take as much ground as I can for Deadline Hollywood and help it continue to evolve. The tone and the urgency and irreverence of this site will always be trademarks of Nikki Finke …but I am eager to see how I can do it better. I think Deadline is thriving despite a recent batch of articles implying otherwise, and it pisses me off when journalists cheap shot us.
There are several phases of the Deadline story. Nikki Finke, who as a journalist at print publications struggled with delivering copy on time, found her true metier at the L.A. Weekly with her influential blog Deadline, of which she wisely retained ownership. When her traffic was sizable enough, she found a buyer in PMC mogul Jay Penske and joined his growing online empire. With his resources behind Deadline, they poached top talent to join the staff, including Variety breaking news bloodhound Mike Fleming and THR TV reporter Nellie Andreeva, and added various editors and contributors such as awards columnist Pete Hammond. In that way Penske was able to leaven Finke’s toxic snark with solid industry-friendly reporting against which, trade-style, you could sell ads, especially lucrative Oscar ads. Penske also added Awardsline, to sell even more ads in print.
When I worked at Variety the editors were horrified by Finke’s growing clout and success, because she was able to post swiftly and opinionatedly without squadrons of copyeditors, editors and print production deadlines and costs. But the day that Penske bought Variety, and did not bring in Finke to run it, spelled her planned obsolescence at Deadline. He was ready to let her go. The blog could move on without her.
My take? For a long time Penske and Finke were making money and that was enough. But in the end, Penske couldn’t bear up under the strain of having to deal with her every day. Not when he had an even bigger potential moneymaker in established brand Variety. And why bring Fleming to L.A.? To up his company town profile, and put him closer to Variety’s current film czar, his former Variety colleague Claudia Eller.
Finke has been alternating between saying she’s on vacation and refusing to cover box office and insisting on covering box office.