Michael Jackson Estate Now in Major Damage-Control Mode

Sony's $250M bet on Jackson now looks risky
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 7, 2019 10:25 AM CST
Sony's $250M Bet on Jackson Now Looks Risky
Michael Jackson waves to supporters as he arrives for his child molestation trial in Santa Maria, Calif., on March 2, 2005.   (AP Photo/Michael A. Mariant, File)

The headline of an op-ed published by Bloomberg reads "Stop Listening to Michael Jackson." The piece by Ramesh Ponnuru is exactly what Jackson's estate had been hoping to avoid following HBO's Leaving Neverland documentary, in which Wade Robson and James Safechuck claim Jackson sexually abused them as children. Having made $2.1 billion since Jackson's 2009 death—consider the film This Is It, two Cirque du Soleil tribute shows, a forthcoming Broadway musical, and the $250 million Sony paid in 2018 for the rights to Jackson's music over seven years—the estate has plenty to lose should fans turn their backs on the megastar, per the Guardian and Washington Post. One music industry expert tells the Guardian its revenues will almost certainly suffer in the short term, but the long-term prognosis "comes down to the consumer."

Hence why Jackson's estate is on a PR blitz. Not only did it file a $100 million lawsuit against HBO, with lawyers calling the documentary "a one-sided marathon of unvetted propaganda to shamelessly exploit an innocent man," but it released two concert films on YouTube to compete with the premiere. Then there are the bus ads that have appeared in the UK, where the second part of the documentary is to air Thursday. "Facts don't lie. People do," the ads read, per the Post. Still, various radio stations in Canada and New Zealand have stopped playing Jackson's music, citing a change in public opinion. Sony's investment might still pay off, however. Per CNBC, there was a 116% increase in US streams of R. Kelly's music in the days after Lifetime aired a documentary in which several women accused the singer of abuse. (More on the fallout here.)

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