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Think Digital Content Creation, Not Just Distribution

15 Oct, 2013 By: Thomas K. Arnold

Invariably, whenever we in the home entertainment industry talk about “digital” this or “digital” that, we are talking about distribution. “Windowing” is the buzzword of the year, and studio strategists are focused on maximizing the revenue potential of studio properties — movies or TV shows — at every stage of the distribution game, both physical and digital.

This may be smart in the short-term, but in the long term we need something more. We need to look beyond digital distribution, which is centered around consumers' viewing habits, and pay more attention to digital content creation — in other words, consumers’ viewing choices.

Now, we all know that in today’s home entertainment arena, the major studio movies and TV shows are still the big enchilada. Sure, consumer eyeballs are increasingly diverted — or distracted, depending on one’s perspective — by Facebook and YouTube, but the big buzz a few years back about user-generated content has largely dissipated as though it was a mere flash in the pan. You can only watch the YouTube clip of the fat cat burping and farting at the same time so many times, we tell ourselves, before you go back to Iron Man 3 or Wrong Turn 5.

Every studio has dabbled in Web-only content, but I believe in the future Hollywood needs to pay more attention to the digital world as not just another place to distribute existing filmed content, but as a fertile breeding ground for new content. Maybe consumers won’t tire of the burping-and-farting cat as quickly as we had expected — and when they do, maybe they’ll turn to other YouTube videos to fill up an evening instead of watching a movie or a TV show.

A new report from the Pew Research Center should be required reading for every studio executive. The report says that in just four years, the number of Americans who are uploading and posting videos has more than doubled. More than a quarter of Internet users are sharing videos online, particularly the younger ones — while the percentage of adults who watch or download video content is up to 78%.

There’s an opportunity here, folks — for quality, original studio programming, served up in bits and pieces, on YouTube and Facebook. Social networking sites should be chock full of studio series and shorts, webisodes and one-off sketches; instead, the bulk of the content is still user-generated, leading to the creation of genuine independent Internet superstars like Smosh, one of whose videos has an amazing 99 MILLION views on YouTube.

By the way, even the cat video has more than 3.5 million views – and counting.

Food for thought, my friends, food for thought.

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