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Summit Panel: Allow Fans to Use Content

3 May, 2010 By: Chris Tribbey

SANTA MONICA, Calif. --- Curt Marvis, president of digital media for Lionsgate, has a suggestion for fellow content companies: Stop fighting consumers who use copyrighted content.

By no means was he advocating piracy, or for allowing YouTube users to upload full-length content. But, speaking at the Variety Entertainment & Technology Summit May 3, Mavis did say content owners could use fans’ short-form uploads to their advantage.

“Conventional wisdom early on was to use all the tools [YouTube] provides to pull everything with a copyright off there,” he said. But when YouTube started allowing content owners to claim copyrights on materials, yet still keep them up, what was regarded as stealing instead turned into free marketing, Marvis pointed out.

The result: In April, user-uploaded Lionsgate clips on YouTube garnered around 25 million hits, he said.

“You can’t really stop this,” Marvis said. “It’s a huge audience, and it seemed absurd to me to shut it down.”

That delicate balance between protecting your content, while taking advantage of the very outlets used to steal it, was the running theme among Marvis and his fellow panelists.

In no corner of the entertainment industry is that more apparent than the music industry, according to Livia Tortella, GM and EVP of Atlantic Records.

“Because the CD economics were so good, the industry was very resistant,” Tortella said, adding that the Internet “forced us to innovate.”

“Five years ago [iTunes] was just starting,” she said. “Now, 55% of our revenue is digital.”

Atlantic has found that by offering more online interactive features that put fans closer to their favorite artists and keep them engaged with the product for more time, the result is increased sales.

Utilizing social media sites is one of the top ways Fox has promoted its TV shows, according to Bill Bradford, SVP of digital media for Fox Broadcasting Company. He pointed to the Facebook “House” page, which has nearly 5 million “likes.”

“It’s a really neat way to touch our consumers,” he said. “It’s actually becoming an interesting sales outlet as well. Our challenge is to make sure it doesn’t become spam.”

Dan Black, partner and co-chair of the L.A. Entertainment Dept. for business firm Greenberg Traurig, said content companies are wise to utilize online outlets, and “create a paradigm where everyone is happy.”

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