Mike Fleming

A little perspective on what is really going on with Deadline Hollywood founder Nikki Finke. For the past few months, she has unfortunately turned an internal matter, her dissatisfaction, into a public spectacle. While Nikki has been doing box-office from Hawaii for the last five months, the Deadline team that keeps this publication awash in scoops has continued to take the high ground and has absorbed these ridiculous barbs. Her latest flurry of dispatches warrants a response.

First let me make it clear, that Nikki has not been locked out of the site. If she had been, if would’ve been difficult for her to post that she was locked out of the site. That said, Nikki has been restricted to filing and editing her own stories. Secondly, she has complained she is prevented from running Deadline stories on her personal Twitter feed, because she has too many followers. The truth is, she has built a Twitter following with a site that gives the appearance she writes every story on Deadline, when her output continues to diminish. That traffic belongs to Deadline’s Twitter feed. The reason for this and other changes is simple. We are trying to strip away the distractions and diversions that have gotten between her doing what she does best, which is filing provocative copy like the Jeff Robinov scoop earlier today.

When I left Variety to come to Deadline, and Nellie Andreeva joined from THR, Deadline Hollywood was more a guilty pleasure than a business. I’m told by the money guys here that back then, the site generated less than $100,000 in ad revenues. We are on course to exceed $10 million this year. That makes our profit margins demonstrably higher than our rivals, and because we run a lean and mean operation that is dependent upon everyone doing their share. In the early days, Nellie, Nikki and I would play a daily game of can you top this, breaking story after story and establishing Deadline Hollywood as the destination site. The difference between then and now? Her filing has been down, aside from the box office report she writes each weekend. She has blamed that on what she said is her being forced to work 23 out of 24 hours on administrative tasks. None of us can figure out precisely what those were, and the company has seen to it that it has been removed.

She says on Twitter that she can’t wait to tell the truth about Hollywood. Nobody ever wanted her to stop doing that here. We want the old Nikki Finke back. If she returns—she is under contract until 2016—we will welcome her with open arms. If she doesn’t, we will survive, knowing in our hearts that she is miscast as the victim in this drama. As to her declaration that PMC owner Jay Penske “Owns me like a slave,” let me just say this—I don’t think Steve McQueen will be doing her story as a follow to 12 Years A Slave. Penske invested his money and time to help her build this business, and ultimately make her a multi-millionaire. Contrary to her assertion that we are reducing resources, we have plans to add staff as soon as next month.

Undoubtedly Nikki Finke changed the game here at Deadline. We’ve continued to put up record traffic in the months since she cut back, but we all want her voice back.