WME's Ari Emanuel Urges Google, Silicon Valley to Help Hollywood Fight Piracy

Ari Emanuel
Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty Images

"We need Northern California to figure out how to keep our intellectual property from being stolen," he tells a conference.

William Morris Endeavor co-CEO Ari Emanuel didn't mince words late Wednesday, urging Google and other technology players in Silicon Valley to help Hollywood figure out how to avoid piracy.

But highlighting the delicate balance of power between the tech and entertainment worlds, he also highlighted that the talent agency has focused more and more on opportunities in the tech space and spent increasing amounts of time finding the next hot start-up.

"We need Northern California to figure out how to keep our intellectual property from being stolen," Emanuel told the AllThingsD-organized D10 conference, according to the tech business news site.

He argued that if Google was in China, and its stuff was stolen, it would simply leave China.

Creatives like Aaron Sorkin, who spoke at the conference earlier in the day, and Larry David spend a lot of time developing content. And tech companies "need us protect that stuff," Emanuel said.

Where Google decides to play on piracy is particularly crucial, he said, expressing concern that the online giant may take its time and drag its feet. He called on Google to filter out international piracy to help cut down on content theft.

Asked about the failed SOPA piracy legislation and whether it could get another chance, Emanuel said that people must ask Google, Verizon and other tech firms about why they haven’t reached out on that topic.

Emanuel also highlighted the changing dynamics in the digital age. While he argued that pay TV cord cutting is not happening, he said that on the two coasts, people seem to watch less traditional TV. "But I do think people are watching a lot of television," he said, particularly lauding CBS and CBS Corp. CEO Leslie Moonves for doing "great."

He emphasized that somebody must pay to get premium content created, suggesting that as people get older, they seem more willing to pay for pay TV services.

Emanuel cited Glenn Beck's 230,000 paying subscribers and makes money off his Web site that way. "That's a model," the agent said, but emphasized that the site doesn't provide such content as Homeland, Entourage or Family Guy. "Those things cost more."

Discussing WME’s deal with Silver Lake Partners, which agreed to buy a 31 percent stake in the agency, Emanuel said his company has increasingly focused on technology and digital opportunities, which attracted the investor's interest. After the merger a couple of years ago, WME "kind of shifted the whole focus" to spend more time in Silicon Valley," he said. “We’ve been buying and investing in start-ups."