By James Bradshaw
Published: Thursday, Dec. 29, 2016
Rush hour in St. Martin’s Lane, the storied theatrical thoroughfare in London, doesn’t usually attract dozens of leather-clad bikers. Yet there they were one evening in early November, with the street shut down and Meat Loaf on stage.
The event, promoting the musical theatre show Bat Out of Hell based on the singer’s album of the same name, could seem just as incongruous for its ties to Bell Media, the production’s Canadian partner, which is placing its first bet on live theatre, with plans to eventually bring the show to Toronto.
The nostalgia-fuelled musical is just one of several experiments set in motion by Randy Lennox, Bell’s president of production and content, who was wrestled away from a three-decades-long stint at Universal Music to rethink the way Bell, a division of communications giant BCE Inc., makes and deploys its content.
Mr. Lennox’s marching orders, simply put, were to bring “some IP-based thinking” to the media arm of a telecommunications giant, he explains over blueberry pancakes and chamomile tea at Toronto’s Shangri-La Hotel in a recent interview. That can mean everything from owning rather than renting more of the content on its various platforms to feeding the data-hungry wireless customers who drive the company’s bottom line with on-the-go audio and video.
The challenge confronting him is that Bell is a vast company that doesn’t turn on a dime, and some of his most recent investments won’t produce revenue overnight. But he insists that Bell, despite the pressures of quarterly reporting and a media industry undergoing a jarring shift, has the patience to see his vision through.
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Is it just me or does this sound like an SCTV skit?