CAA buys rival agency ICM as Hollywood heads to uncertain future


The announcement on Monday that Creative Artists Agency (CAA), one of the top four talent agencies in the entertainment industry, would be acquiring the top four ICM Partners agencies left jaws drop across the industry. The two companies represent many of the city’s greatest actors, directors and creators (Steven Spielberg, Shonda Rhimes, Daniel Craig, Ava DuVernay, and Jessica chastain among them), as well as many sports stars.

The entertainment industry is changing, and this deal offers a glimpse of how Hollywood is frantically remaking itself. Consolidation, if approved, would create a monster that, like the CAA Bryan Lourd, Kevin Huvane, and Richard lovett said in a statement, “strengthens our collective resources, expertise and relationships to provide even more opportunities for our world-class clients to build their careers and brands across multiple disciplines and platforms in a changing market.”

This “changing market” has taken a number of hard hits in recent years. These immensely powerful talent agencies had developed into full-fledged media conglomerates over the years, backed by private capital.

After a deadly fight with the Writers Guild of America in which thousands of Hollywood writers dropping their agents en masse, CAA and ICM finally signed a deal with the WGA last year in which they agreed to phase out lucrative packaging fees. As part of the WGA agreement, CAA also sold its majority stake in wiip, the production company behind series like Dickinson and Easttown mare.

The streaming wars have ushered in another level of chaos, as media companies devour each other in hopes of surviving the transition. This CAA-ICM union would create a megalith of similar agents who could fight with these media conglomerates.

The pandemic has accelerated the dominance of streaming, as studios like Warner Bros. have made the decision to drop their list of theatrical blockbusters on HBO Max and Disney to premiere Black Widow simultaneously in theaters and on Disney +. While Warner retroactively changed the deals with his talent, Disney found himself sued by Scarlett johansson for breach of contract. (The trial is still ongoing.)

All of this made it clear that the streaming economy will be tough on talent. Instead of box office bonuses (for movies) and syndication fees (for TV), agencies will have to push for bigger deals up front. And, it is believed, customers will be better served by having gargantuan representatives to lobby gargantuan media companies. As ICM Chris Silbermann commented in the announcement: “Together, we will build on our accomplishments and our entrepreneurial spirit, and continue to demonstrate an unwavering commitment to the best interests of our clients, as well as empowering new diverse voices within the industry. “

Definitions of best interests vary, of course, and the agreement will need to overcome the hurdle of antitrust laws. There will also be a discussion of this combination of two of the top four agencies among Hollywood’s many guilds, as it brings together many of the city’s most powerful talent in one stable. It’s just another convulsion in an industry resigned to constant transformation, for better or for worse.

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