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The Changing Face of Content

5 Sep, 2006 By: Thomas K. Arnold

For years, we've been talking about how distribution channels are changing — from the renting indies to the selling mass merchants, and now to digital download services like Movielink and CinemaNow.

But what we see happening is that content itself is changing, as well. Kids are skipping DVD movies and watching short cartoons on YouTube.com and Revver.com, part of the exploding video-sharing sites that have put a new phrase into the home-entertainment language: user-generated content.

Now, there was a time when user-generated content — and we're going to coin the acronym UGC — meant little more than Webcam-generated lap dances. Not so today. While the 200 or so video sites that have sprung up since the beginning of this year still have plenty of salacious content, most of the UGC you see consists of elaborately drawn cartoon serials, silly tricks (like putting a Mentos mint in a Diet Pepsi bottle and watching a fountain of soda shoot out), spoofs of trailers and movies, or even outtakes from home videos.

One of the most-watched videos on Revver.com, with more than 12,000 views, is of a 4-year-old playing the drums. Over on YouTube, the latest rage is a short clip of a guy using a funnel, a piano and various other gadgets to simultaneously play the theme songs to “Star Trek” and “The Simpsons.” Less than two minutes long, the clip has attracted a whopping 146,108 views.

If content is king, then the studios' kingdom is in trouble. True, Hollywood content is migrating to the Web, but there it is coming face to face with a whole new breed of content designed for, and by, those who see the computer and not the TV as their main entertainment conduit.

Hollywood has to do more than search out new channels of distribution, both physical and electronic. Tinseltown has to go back to what it has always seen as its trump card — creating content, chiefly feature films and TV shows — and realize that what's worked in the past may not necessarily work as well in the future.

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