Both papers have finally decided that the escalating tensions between Paramount and DreamWorks merit coverage. As was reported on Tuesday by Variety, Reuters and a few other outlets (and picked up by LABO), Viacom CEO Philippe P. Dauman was sounding dismissive during a NY investment conference about the prospects of losing DreamWorks and Steven Spielberg. Should Spielberg leave when his contract runs out, said Dauman, "the financial impact to Paramount first and especially to Viacom overall would be completely immaterial." That's probably true - Viacom is an awfully big company - but it's also bad form to say it like that (of course, this is Viacom). DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeff Katzenberg put in his two cents for the second-day story in Variety – he called Spielberg “nothing short of a national treasure” – and the chatter around Hollywood reached the point where Paramount head Brad Grey (the guy some believe is behind the on-going rift), tried to calm the waters by saying that Spielberg and the DreamWorks team are just swell.
This afternoon, the LAT posted a strangely written story that had little new to say, other than to recap all the months of animosity. Dauman's comments are buried at the end. (To be fair, the Biz section ran a short wire story on Dauman, but it was lost on P2. I mean, why even bother?) The NYT posted a more straight-ahead account of the turbulence, though the piece snidely suggested that Hollywood folks don't understand that the word "immaterial" is a financial term and not necessarily a slam. Whatever. It is worth noting that BW laid out a lot of the tensions back in July, including the possibility that Spielberg and Geffen were ready to bail (there's been gossip about their unhappiness for months). Nobody paid much attention back then because BW is not considered an important industry publication. Now all of a sudden, it's a big story.