Social Networks and Exchange: Self-Confirming Dynamics in Hollywood

42 Pages Posted: 11 Feb 2005

See all articles by Olav Sorenson

Olav Sorenson

Yale School of Management

David Waguespack

University of Maryland

Date Written: January 26, 2005


Studies have consistently found that social structure influences who transacts with whom, and that actors appear to benefit when exchange occurs embedded within these relations rather than in an unstructured market. This paper argues that the apparent benefits of embedded exchange can arise from an endogenous mechanism: 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. In the motion picture industry, not only do distributors show a preference for carrying films involving key personnel with whom they had prior relations, but also they tend to favor these films when making decisions regarding their release (opening dates and the level of promotion). After controlling for the effects of these decisions, films with stronger prior relations to the distributor perform worse at the box office. The results reveal that, rather than benefiting from repeated exchange, distributors produce these effects through their own efforts.

Keywords: social networks, exchange, film industry

JEL Classification: L82, A14, L22, D81

Suggested Citation

Sorenson, Olav and Waguespack, David, Social Networks and Exchange: Self-Confirming Dynamics in Hollywood (January 26, 2005). Available at SSRN: or

Olav Sorenson (Contact Author)

Yale School of Management ( email )

135 Prospect Street
P.O. Box 208200
New Haven, CT 06520-8200
United States

David Waguespack

University of Maryland ( email )

College Park
College Park, MD 20742
United States

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