Wholesaler helps entertainment own backyards
When we think of “entertainment,” we usually think of Broadway shows, the cinema, television, Hollywood rock concerts and stars such as Tom Cruise, Carol Burnett and String. We envisionblinding spotlights, cast of thousands and crowds of adoring fans trying to reach out over velvet ropes to have their autograph books signed. We recall headlines screaming of scandals that touch people in a world where we can only be voyeurs and merely imagine what it must be like to be a part of the glitz and the glammour, the color and the chaos.
But that is only one kind of entertainment. There are other types of entertainment that do not come with as much fanfare and that come closer to home, that are in fact found right in our own communities. What about video arcades, family fun centers, zoos, aquariums, local movie theaters, adult-type nightclubs, theme restaurants and sports bars? What about the neighborhood fairs and bazaars and special arts events?
In terms of business opportunities, Main Street agents and brokers undoubtedly and justifiably see the star-studded world of Broadway and moviedom as beyond their reach. But, the nearer world of entertainment and leisure activities need not be. One managing agent/wholesaler/underwriter is targeting that nearer world and believes it does represent opportunities for agents and brokers to capitalize on.
That company is New Century Global of New York, Inc., formed in March of 1997 and based in the Wall Street area of Manhattan. The company also has offices in California; Dallas and Houston, Texas; New Jersey and Connecticut and, according to its management, plans to expand to the Midwest and the Southeast. The company, which boasts 65-plus employees and which does a good deal of Main Street property and casualty excess and surplus lines business, touts as its flagship the entertainment arena. However, according to Lee A. Orabona, president and chief operating officer, the firm’s philosophy about what constitutes entertainment is much broader than that of many of its competitors who, he says, look only at the big picture.
“When agents and brokers think of entertainment insurance, they think of the large exposures-the major theater shows, the concerts, the multi-million dollar movies and national dance companies,” he says. “We do that kind of business, of course, but they are usually the province of the large brokers and insurance companies such as AIG and Chubb. Those larger players often don’t look at the broader scope of risks that are out there and which need specialized insurance protection. That’s the market we’re looking at and we want to get the message across to local agents and brokers that it is a market ripe for penetration.”
Heading up New Century’s entertainment insurance programs is Carolyn V Norton, senior vice president and managing underwriting officer for the United National Entertainment Program of the company. Not only has Norton been in the insurance business for more than 30 years, but her specialty has been in entertainment, recreation, leisure and media risks. “She has had extensive experience as an underwriting manager for several successful entertainment programs,” says Orabona.
Prior to joining New Century Global, Norton was vice president of the National Entertainment Media Division for Acordia, Inc., and specialized in programs for independent film producers, publishing, television, PBS, theater and other media-related producers. She has also been very active in the special events and music area and has provided insurance programs for many major music, sports and special events. Her other business associations in the entertainment industry were with Willis Corroon, Acadia Risk Management (a Rockefeller Financial company) and Cohen Insurance (now part of the Near North Entertainment) where she was vice president of underwriting.
“It’s true that there are many exposures in the overall marketplace that many agents don’t think of as entertainment risks,” Norton says. “They think of them as traditional general liability exposures, but a restaurant or nightclub with entertainment needs to address the unique exposures inherent to these risks. Each has different clientele, different exposures, but they need some form of entertainment insurance and these have to be addressed by expert underwriters.”
And there’s more. Noting that many agents and brokers have already formed relationships with municipalities, Norton says here again is an opportunity for them to sell entertainment-related insurance protection. “There are municipalities that rent out their parks and other facilities for various events such as picnics, parades and other program activities. We offer a `Venue Users Policy,’ which covers the municipality for all such exposures. Of course, there are parameters. We would have to be informed, for example, if the venue was going to host an athletic event or a fireworks display. But for most events, we can provide blanket coverage so that the municipality venue and the lessee don’t have to obtain separate insurance for every event.”
Norton also says that the trend toward communities building multiplex movie theaters is yet another opportunity for agents and brokers. “For example, we cover the Edwards Theater chain of movie theatres in California,” she says. “Other exposures that we see as entertainment or leisure are roller skating and ice skating rinks. Then there are youth sports events, where clubs or corporations sponsor sporting contests for young people, and there are camps and regional and community theaters to be considered. We also insure companies that have little dinner parties and fundraisers. We also insure casinos and card clubs,” says Norton.
Orabona says that New Century represents some 40 carriers and offers an array of coverages including property, general liability, errors and omissions, directors and officers, employment practices liability insurance, inland marine, umbrella, workers compensation, auto and fine arts. Moreover, says Orabona, agents need not worry about having expertise in the entertainment and leisure field to take advantage of the opportunities that abound.
“Of course, we have a group of agents who are specialists in the area,” says Orabona. “But we are looking to bring on new agents and brokers and we are willing to work with them. We will even accompany them to sales presentations if it is necessary. All the agent has to do is look around in his or her community and make a determination as to what may constitute an entertainment exposure.”
“For example,” adds Norton, “there are many companies that hold promotional contests and offer prizes. We can provide prize indemnity insurance.”
Another area in which New Century can assist agents and brokers is in loss control and risk management. “We have contracted with a third-party administrator to provide those services when needed,” Orabona says.
Orabona and Norton say that New Century can provide entertainment coverage bundled or unbundled, on a case-by-case basis or blanket protection on an annual basis. “Most businesses don’t realize how many times during the year they host special events,” Orabona points out. “An annual blanket policy frees them to have as many events as they want and allows their promotion people to work knowing that they are covered for just about any contingency. All they have to do is keep us posted on what events are going to take place,” he says.
And,” continues Orabona, “one point we want to make very clear is that we are not targeting the same exposures as are the major entertainment insurance underwriters. We want to target that broader market and we want to work with agents and brokers who have immediate access to that market.”
In a 1950s Fred Astaire movie called “Bandwagon,” there is a rousing musical number entitled “That’s Entertainment.” The message of the song is that there are many facets to the world of entertainmentthat we shouldn’t limit our definition of the word “entertainment.” Orabona and Norton are apparently attempting to deliver that very same message to agents and brokers who are watching their traditional bread and butter markets dwindle because of new competition coming into the business or because of old-line companies that are experimenting with different methods of distribution.
“There are myriad opportunities out there in the broader world of entertainment,” says Orabona. All producers need to do is take a look around.”
Copyright Rough Notes Co., Inc. Sep 2000
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