Donna Langley Preaches The Power Of Optimism & Meeting Consumers Where They Really Are To Ken Ziffren & UCLA

donna langley preaches the power of optimism & meeting consumers where they really are to ken ziffren & ucla

(L-R) Donna Langley, Ken Ziffren Universal/Rob Latour/Penske Media

“Everyone is talking about the doom and gloom of our industry, but we have to get over that and be optimists,” said Donna Langley today. “I really do believe that.”

“As much as things change, they stay the same,” the Chairman of NBCU Studio Group and Chief Content Officer also declared of the media industry. “The pocketbook is being impacted by how many streaming subscriptions they have,” Langley added of the consumer financial fatigue and growing moves towards the old cable mode of bundling in the dimming digital environment. “Bundling is an inevitability.”

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Moving from matters of bundling, the big and small screens, the state of Peacock, AI, protecting IP and the unsteady media landscape, the seasoned exec was speaking Friday with uber-attorney Ken Ziffren onstage in the marquee event of the 48th Annual UCLA Entertainment Symposium.

donna langley preaches the power of optimism & meeting consumers where they really are to ken ziffren & ucla

“Consumer behavior has shifted, but it’s probably not coming back anytime soon,” Langley admitted of the post-pandemic business realities the industry is grappling with.

However, as cinema fans now are seeing just one movie on average a year as opposed to four movies a  year pre-pandemic, Langley says her rule is to push back with an increased focus on creativity and pinpoint choices. “We’re meeting the consumer where they are,” Langley said in the developing multi-prong NBCU strategy.

Especially  when it comes to attracting the Gen Z audience.

“It’s not back to the 1990s ..it’s appointment viewing, and it has to have a lot of social energy around it,” the exec detailed of getting the bums of the generation born in the Clinton Era in seats.

With synergy as the buzzword this afternoon, Langley offered the crowd of students and attorneys a glimpse of the world of “interruption and disruption”

“There’s a lot of thought that goes into how much time am I spending in the world of television and how much in the world of film and where can we blend those things,” Langley noted of her expanded role last year to reign over both NBCU’s film and TV arsenals.

“You know, we have an incredible suite of assets between film and television franchises and there’s a ton of connectivity that already goes on,” the 2020 honored Dame Commander of the British Empire and self-declared Hacks fan asserted. “It’s as simple as can we make television shows out the Fast and Furious franchisem and we take the late night challenge across the portfolio in ways that can really enable their brand – which in turn, enable our platforms.”

With faint echoes of saxophones down the hall in the Herb Alert School of Music building, Langley told the full auditorium that “inside our own ecosystem we have ultimate flexibility.”

Coming off the commercial and Oscar winning success of Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer, as well as box office hits The Super Mario Bros. Movie, and Fast X, Universal was top of the box office last year with a more than $5 billion global haul. While the Fall Guy faceplanted with moviegoers, the Comcast-owned studio is, as Langley admitted Friday, “down this year.”

Still Universal may be down, but not out. The studio has the Jon Chu-helmed Wicked adaptation and Despicable Me 4 coming out this month is what is suddenly looking like a hot summer businesswise.

With his keynote interview providing the star power of the Symposium for nearly a decade, 83-year old Hollywood mandarin and UCLA Law School grad Ziffren has spoken with the likes of CAA’s Bryan Lourd and Netflix’s Chief Content Officer Bela Bajaria in the past several sessions.

Oddly there were few mentions of last year’s strikes nor the possibility of further corporate consolidation and mergers in this year’s hourlong conversation between Ziffren and Langley. As IATSE prepares to return to the bargaining table with the AMPTP on June 24, there was also nothing said about the current state of labor in Tinseltown.

As he has in previous sit-downs, what the  83-year-old former UCLA Law Review editor-in-chief and Ziffren Brittenham LLP. co-founder did do is take the Isle of Wight raised Langley down memory lane with a brief history of the executive’s upbringing, move to America and career at New Line.

From where she started to where she is now, Langley summed up her own career motto bluntly: You’ve always got to work a worst case scenario, and then work backward.”

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