Jay Penske, the owner of Deadline Hollywood and, as of yesterday, Variety, told his new staff of reporters on Wedneday that he planned to tear down Variety's online paywall and keep the print edition.
He also made clear that at least for the moment Deadline, the blog run by Nikki Finke, would not be welcome in the building.
Two individuals with knowledge of the meeting told TheWrap that Penske made the comments at a town-hall meeting with his new Variety staff.
The CEO of Penske Media Corporation, who purchased the 107-year-old trade newspaper for $25 million, used a power point and video presentation to introduce the Variety staffers to their new corporate allies — once-rival publication Deadline, YouTube entertainment news powerhouse ENTV, Bonnie Fuller's Hollywood Life and digital media properties.
Deadline might be an ally, but it was not welcome at the town hall meeting. A reporter for Deadline wrote that he "wound up escorted from the building by security before it began." It remains to be seen how this might bode for the relationship between Finke's feisty blog and the staid Variety.
Variety's paywall has long been a barrier to growing an online readership. But its elimination also means the loss of several million dollars a year in subscription revenue and puts Variety in the same competitive category as TheWrap, Deadline and The Hollywood Reporter.
Penske said the print edition of Variety will stay, one of the individuals told TheWrap, though he did not say whether both the daily and weekly editions would survive. The Hollywoood Reporter, long the legacy paper's biggest competitor, has recreated itself as a weekly glossy magazine under editor Janice Min.
One of the individuals told TheWrap that no major overhauls in the business would occur for about a year.