Research and teaching
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Gabriel Natividad and Olav Sorenson

Do unexpected events experienced by one line of business adversely affect other lines of business in diversified firms? We use fine-grained data on the film industry in the United States to show that such contagion frequently occurs when a distributor opens a film in theaters and concurrently releases an older title to home video: Being exposed to a competitive threat – a period of unexpected volatility – in the theatrical market at the time of a film opening leads the distributor to suffer a loss in sales on the concurrent home video release. Further analysis revealed that managers responded to these competitive threats by intensifying the advertising and promotion of their films in theaters, suggesting that they diverted resources and attention away from home video. Our results therefore suggest that the effects of unexpected events do spread across lines of businesses within firms and consequently that resource constraints may limit the ability of firms to engage effectively in multiple markets.


Organization Science, 26 (2015): 1721-1733

David M. Waguespack and Olav Sorenson

Categorization processes are generally treated as consistent mappings of the underlying characteristics that they group. Yet, in many cases, the identities of actors influence these processes. When identity matters, high status actors often obtain more favorable classifications. We examine these processes in the context of the Motion Picture Association of America’s parental guidance classifications of movies (G, PG, R, NC-17). We find that, conditional on a given level of content, films distributed by MPAA members, and those that involve more central producers and directors, receive more lenient classifications than those carried by independent distributors and involving more peripheral personnel. Conversely, and again conditional on content, films involving directors with a history of producing R rated features receive more restrictive ratings. We discuss the mechanisms that might account for these effects. Regardless of the mechanism, however, since ratings influence revenue and consequently profitability, the movie certification system in the United States places independent distributors and peripheral individuals at a disadvantage relative to their larger and more central rivals.

Organization Science, 22 (2011): 541-553

Ratings data and do files

Olav Sorenson and David M. Waguespack

This study uses data on the U.S. film industry from 1982 to 2001 to analyze the effects on box office performance of prior relationships between film producers and distributors. In contrast to prior studies, which have appeared to find performance benefits to both buyers and sellers when exchange occurs embedded within existing social relations, we propose that the apparent mutual advantages of embedded exchange can also emerge from endogenous behavior that benefits one party at the expense of the other: actors offer better terms of trade and allocate more resources to transactions embedded within existing social relations, thereby contributing to the ostensible advantages of such exchange patterns. Findings show that not only do distributors exhibit a preference for carrying films involving key personnel with whom they had prior exchange relations, but also they tend to favor these films when allocating scarce resources (opening dates and promotion effort). After controlling for the effects of these decisions, films with deeper prior relations to the distributor perform worse at the box office. The results suggest that, rather than benefiting from repeated exchange, distributors overallocate scarce resources to these prior exchange partners, enacting a self-confirming dynamic.

Administrative Science Quarterly, 51 (2006), 560-589

Giacomo Negro and Olav Sorenson

We investigate the competitive consequence of vertical integration on organizational performance using a comprehensive dataset of U.S. motion picture production companies, which includes information on their vertical scope and competitive overlaps. Vertical integration appears to change the dynamics of competition in two ways: (i) it buffers the vertically integrated firms from environmental dependence and (ii) it intensifies competition among non-integrated organizations. In contrast to the existing literature, our results suggest that vertical integration has implications well beyond both the level of the individual transaction and even the internal efficiency of the integrated firm.

Advances in Strategic Management, 23 (2006): 367-403