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Mark Cuban @ UT

Mark Cuban @ UT

Dallas Mavericks owner and 2929 Entertainment co-owner Mark Cuban came down to Austin Monday night for an engagement at John Pierson’s University of Texas Master Class series. Not sure what to expect, I found the “Conversation with Mark Cuban” to be engaging. Cuban certainly came across as a friendly, smart, and charismatic mogul…

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(Mark Cuban, right, chats with Georgia Pierson shortly after his University of Texas Master Class. Georgia introduced herself as one of the employees of Austin’s Landmark Theater, The Dobie, which Cuban co-owns. Always welcome to feedback, Cuban asked Georgia to offer any suggestions on how to improve the Austin cinema.)

Okay, now a little background: Cuban’s 2929 Entertainment has had an equally successful and controversial year with several releases that have taken advantage of the day-and-date model. Essentially, this means movies getting released in theaters, on DVD, and cable TV all on the same day and date. By extension, 2929 Entertainment works with Magnolia Pictures, HDNet, and Landmark Theaters to make this happen. indieWIRE recently ran this coverage about the company’s plans, during SXSW.

Otherwise, Cuban’s career has been newsmaking for years. He’s the outspoken owner of a once-horrible, but now-great, basketball team. He’s a billionaire who cashed in on the dot-com boom. He’s a former reality show host. He’s a blogger. And, he’s a Texan. Among the many anecdotes and answers Cuban offered during his two-hour panel, here are some highlights:

– On his early years: Originally from Pittsburgh, Cuban attended college in Indiana and then relocated to Dallas because of the weather, women, and economy. He first lived there in a three-bedroom home with five other roommates.

– On his introduction to HD: After selling Broadcast.com for billions, he purchased an HD TV and was faced with very little content to watch. This got the ball rolling for his creation of HDNet, which helped pioneer the now more common world of HD programming.

– On finding fresh content today for HDNet: Cuban says the mission is to find quality programs, not necessarily syndicated hits. Thus, the network has gone after such fan favorites as the short-lived Dead Like Me and Andy Richter Controls the Universe. Cuban also says that he has his sights set on picking up reruns of the recently axed Arrested Development.

– On day-and-date releasing: “We started ‘day-and-date’ and had no idea it would be so controversial.”

– On the troublesome Enron trial, and his company’s own successful Enron documentary: “Why don’t they just show the movie in court?”

– On Bubble, his company’s headline-making first project with director Steven Soderbergh (which was released, day-and-date, in January): It was a disappointment at the box office, but a complete success on things like DVD and, surprisingly, hotel room rentals.

– On how much of his daily time is spent on the film business: “About 70%.”

– On the birth of his blog: After a showdown with a Dallas Morning News writer, he contacted blog mogul Jason Calacanis so that he could create his own outlet. Citing that greater exposure means more criticism, Cuban summarizes his blog with “It’s always fun when you can fight back.”

– On his recent VOD versus HDnet debate with filmmaker Caveh Zahedi: “By definition, VOD is continuously available, so you don’t create a destination value.”

– On the first thing he’ll do if the Dallas Mavericks win the championship: “I don’t even known what I will do… but, hopefully, I’ll find out.”

– On the two celebrities who taught him a lot: Dennis Rodman and Paris Hilton. Simply because they are perfect examples of how individuals can use the media’s thirst for gossip to their advantage… “kinda like Caveh did in his blog.”

– On his relationship with basketball officials: “I’m not hard on the refs… they just have to do their jobs.”

– On some current TV plans: He’s working on a reality show starring former basketball superstar Dennis Rodman.

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