A warning sign from Wagner

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United Artists CEO Paula Wagner cautioned MIPCOM attendees Tuesday that the entertainment industry faces "crucial issues" given looming strike threats.

In a keynote interview with The Hollywood Reporter editor Elizabeth Guider, Wagner said that a strike could prove damaging for an industry already struggling to connect with consumers.

"We are on the threshold of a potential work stoppage, and we all have to look at the economics and come up with a financial model that works for this time," Wagner said, noting that the industry needs to move to a model that shares the upside across artists and investors alike.

"We all have to look at ourselves and look at the studio system and how aspects are perhaps antiquated and create a model where we all share and are financial partners, as well," she added. "Ultimately, the financial sources are putting in this money, and they deserve a return."

Questioned about whether the intense media scrutiny of her UA partner Tom Cruise's personal life has affected their working relationship, Wagner would only say that her longtime collaborator's focus remains "on the work."

"Tom and I have worked together for 25 years," she said. "The wonderful thing is that his extraordinary professionalism and commitment haven't changed from the day I met him, and he brings that vitality to every thing he does.

"Everyone who is in the public eye is under media scrutiny," she added. "and sometimes the media has a tendency to blow things out of proportion. As an artist, you have to stay focused and concentrate on the work."

Also on hand Tuesday at MIPCOM was NBC Entertainment co-chairman Ben Silverman, who signaled that the network would source more of its content internationally and "put more and more globalized content on the screen."

"At NBC, we want to be your partners, and we want you to partner (with) us in the long term," he said. "A huge part of our growth strategy is international — we are looking at it as a growth engine for the entire company, and I personally believe in it completely."

Noting the success of the Colombian format "Yo soy Betty, la fea," which became ABC's "Ugly Betty," Silverman said the international pool for creative ideas is getting bigger.

"It used to be that the U.K. and Holland had a leadership position in new ideas, but now there is an idea that content can come from everywhere," he said.

NBC programs like "Heroes" also put a range of geographical backgrounds, cultures and languages at the heart of the narrative, he said.

"It was unheard of to have subtitles on a primetime show," Silverman added. "Previously, we would have put characters with foreign accents onscreen, but in this show we have Japanese actors, Indian actors, British actors, and that has made it stronger," he said, noting that "more and more of our content will be built for a globalized audience."
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