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Digital Hollywood Panelists Discuss Keeping Up With Consumers

19 Oct, 2009 By: Billy Gil

Panelists at Digital Hollywood Los Angeles Oct. 19 discussed the difficult process of keeping up with an audience that increasingly time-shifts content, without giving everything away for free.

A TV panel at Variety's concurrent Entertainment & Technology Summit talked about dealing with more people watching TV than ever before but at a time of their choosing, using DVR and streaming video sites.


"The bad news is [we] can't monetize it," said Marc Graboff, chairman, NBC Entertainment Group and Universal Media Studios.

John Landgraf, president and GM of FX Networks, said the challenge for content providers is "how to get some appropriate level of compensation." He said DVR has made a "very significant impact" on revenue, which has traditionally come from watching commercials on broadcast TV, cable subscription, and purchasing DVDs and downloads.

Dana Walden, chairman of 20th Century Fox Television, said syndication and DVD sales are still main goals for her company. She talked about adding revenue through partnerships to develop integrated advertising in shows, such as Subway's deal for "The Biggest Loser," so that revenue can be attained even without traditional TV ratings. She said that show drew in revenue even without big ratings at first through such partnerships, while a show such as "Prison Break" survived off the eventual DVD sales of the cult hit.

"['Prison Break' fans] wanted to collect it, and they wanted to buy it on DVD," she said.

NBC's Graboff likened syndication to "a pot of gold" and reiterated the need to monetize content immediately.

But ratings still matter, panelists agreed. They also agreed the mode of measurement needs updating.

"As the viewing experience changes, we've got to find a way to track that usage and get paid for it," FX's Landgraf said.

Fox's Walden spoke about the importance of even failed shows having an "afterlife" on DVD, citing ratings failure but consistent DVD seller "Arrested Development" as an example. FX's Landgraf said it's important to stay with shows that could build an audience online and elsewhere such as "It's Always Sunny in Philidelphia," which he said just had its season five premiere and increased broadcast viewership by 70% over the previous season.

Meanwhile, at a Digital Hollywood panel on TV, broadband and mobile, panelists echoed some of the same sentiments, saying the Nielsen model needed to change to capture more of mobile and broadband views. The panelists also discussed how to deal with upcoming technological developments and their effect on mobile and broadband streaming.

Dave Brown, senior manager, Cisco Video Solutions Marketing, said a Cisco study determined by 2013, 90% of broadband traffic will be video streaming, up from 50% in 2003. He said manufacturers that develop the simplest, most easy to use products will be those that succeed, giving the example of Apple's iPhone and iPod, which dominate the smart phone and MP3 player markets, respectively, despite not being the first products to those markets.

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