Block Booking Migrates to Television
The Rise and Fall of the International Output Deal

by Paul J. Torre (Southern Illinois University Carbondale)

This article examines the recent Hollywood studio practice of distributing international
television programming via a bundling strategy, labeled an output deal, and situates the
practice as a further iteration of the early Hollywood system of “block booking” feature
films. Using germany as a case study, the authors looks at how Hollywood compelled
german distributors and broadcasters to take on large packages of television program-
ming that combined highly desirable blockbuster motion pictures with far less valuable
television series. Just as the original practice of block booking exerted financial pres-
sure on theater owners, the burdensome practice of television programming output
deals led to a major upheaval in germany’s entertainment industry, driving the second
largest german media company into bankruptcy. The international television output
deal persists, however, because transnational media regulations cannot hope to mar-
shal the enforcement powers of the U.S. Department of Justice, the Federal Trade
Commission, and the Supreme Court. Market forces within the global entertainment
industry have done little to curtail the expansion of global media conglomerates. and
yet, even as global power dynamics remain essentially the same, with Hollywood
retaining its primary position, this case study points to rising instabilities that threaten
an american-dominated international media economy. (download)