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Movie Execs Get Wake-up from Indie Pioneer

Informitv reports that Todd Wagner, an unassuming billionaire trustee of the American Film Institute, delivered the keynote at the AFI Digital Content Festival with a wake-up call to the movie industry.

Ten years ago, together with Mark Cuban, he started broadcasting over the internet. In 1998 they took their company 'broadcast.com' public and saw their stock value rise 250 percent on the first day of trading -- the largest one day gain in the history of Wall Street. It was then sold in 1999 to Yahoo! for $5.7 billion, making 300 employees millionaires and Dan Wagner and Mark Cuban instant billionaires.

The ambition then was to create a 21st century media company, a next-generation cable network. Even then they spoke of not fifty or five hundred channels, but an unlimited number. They described the 'analogue approach' to distribution as focusing on the tip of the iceberg of which they had just scratched the surface.

However, Yahoo! failed to capitalise on their investment, acting with what Wagner calls �an arrogance that I can hardly describe�. He turned down their invitation to become chief operating officer and went on to use his money to find out more about making independently produced movies.

As chief executive of 2929 Entertainment, he went on to act as executive producer of influential films, including 'Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room', and 'Goodnight and Good Luck'.

With his old business partner Mark Cuban, he now has interests in high-definition HDNet channels and an art house digital cinema chain Landmark Theatres, effectively gaining a stake in production, distribution and exhibition. It is from this perspective that he offered his views on the future of digital distribution.

He describes Hollywood as �one of the oldest closed clubs in the world,� but suggests that is changing through digital technology, adding: �When the new rule book is completed you will definitely see some new players on the field.�

�The movie industry fights changes at every turn,� he says. �Technology is like a freight train. You can slow it down with obstacles, like litigation, but eventually it will hit you.�

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