Something for the Weekend – Cashing in on Celebrity Deaths

3 mins. to read
Something for the Weekend – Cashing in on Celebrity Deaths

It was Gandhi who said “be the change you wish to see in the world”. Taking his advice I’ve vacuumed up all the spiders in my house this morning: I want the change to be no spiders in my house, and there have been loads. To be fair his earlier advice had failed miserably. It turns out that spiders don’t really recognise non-violent passive protest. Who knew? Maybe I just wasn’t good enough at the lotus position.

I work from home, and I was just thinking back to the times when I worked in an office and all the crazy things we used to do to pass the time. Like walking around, apparently purposefully, with a (blank) piece of A4 paper to get some peace and quiet. No one will interrupt someone with a piece of A4 and an attitude in my experience. I used to regularly attend the smoking room, even though I don’t smoke, and never have. Two reasons: firstly, why should I work longer hours than smokers do? And secondly, you’d be surprised how often cigarette breaks turn into meetings that affect your future. Be in the smoke or be out of the loop.

Most offices have a sweep for the Grand National. It’s a bit of fun and someone has to win it. Of course that only happens once a year, so we needed something that would be there throughout the year. The answer? Celebrity Death Sweep. Maybe your office has one. Basically, you put, say, a fiver into the kitty every month, and you can choose any living celebrity that hasn’t already been picked, and the first chosen celebrity to die wins the cash pot. The Queen Mother cost some people a fortune.

Just recently, I imagine, it’s been more or less a weekly CDS winner, what with all the well-known 70-somethings that have died this year already. Who is benefiting from this apart from your jammy work colleague? Well, there will be a spike in demand for all these artists’ work amid and after the press frenzy when they die. And it’s the rights holders that benefit. After initial broadcast/release, probably a majority of income for all forms of media is through licensing and/or royalties. Ever more so in the digital age. So I went in search of a company that has a very big finger in that pie and is based here in the UK: ITV plc (LON:ITV).

ITV 160324

According to their own information ITV has “over one million hours of iconic footage and creative moving imagery captured over three centuries”. Good enough. So how does the chart look? Actually it looks much the same as a lot of UK stocks right now. There’s a little disruption presently, which is leading to the appearance of a congestion area. For those stocks we would expect some sort of measured move, assuming they break upwards, which is the more likely outcome from this kind of congestion area. It’s really at a pivotal moment. Looking very slightly weak as it dropped a little below the cloud.

ITV failed spectacularly around 10 years ago and has recovered from the mid-teens of pence to around 250p now. If, as I suspect, they are starting to reap the benefits of having so much footage of the dying celebs, then they are well placed to capitalise on this and see some increase in profits. I doubt that’s built into the price. It’s shown a little strength in relation to the FTSE 100. But I doubt that takes into account the pipeline of business, especially as celebs who partied their arses off in the 60s and 70s are prime candidates for the sort of things that kill 70-somethings. What I’d really like is a chart of celebrity deaths over the last five years but there isn’t one, so I’m extrapolating.

The irony of success in the performing arts is that your catalogue often makes more money for you after you die than during your lifetime.

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