LAS VEGAS -- CES 2017 -- Simply putting all your content on a number of distribution channels and device platforms is not a viable strategy, according to a panel of experts speaking at the Consumer Electronics Show yesterday.
Speakers on the panel, entitled "Hollywood and The Digital Consumer: The Entertainment Experience," included experts from the TV and online industries, advertising, creative talent management and other parts of the media ecosystem.
Ira Rubenstein, chief digital and marketing officer at PBS and the moderator of the session, kicked things off by asking each panelist what their biggest lesson or "a-ha" moment was in 2016.
According to David Shing (a.k.a. "Shingy"), digital prophet at AOL Inc. (NYSE: AOL), it was the emergence of fake news i.e., the development of the "post-truth era," as well as the rapid growth and popularity of ad-blockers.
(For those not clear about the role and responsibilities of a "digital prophet", please see this short article, which attempts heroically to explain it.)
Brandon Berger, global chief digital officer and board member at Ogilvy, said it was coming home to find a delivery of mint-chocolate ice-cream that had been ordered by his five-year old daughter using Alexa (Amazon's voice-powered digital assistant). He saw artificial intelligence and new user interfaces as being extremely powerful, helping people connect with technology in a more human way rather than using a screen of some sort.
The conversation quickly turned to channel/platform management when Kay Madati, EVP and chief digital officer at BET Networks, said that his greatest learning moment in the year came when he realized that BET networks simply had too much stuff going on. Tasked with a complete digital reset for the channel, he realized it was essential to simplify and reduce the number of sites and channels its content was being distributed on. So today, the network focuses on just five to seven online syndication channels and this has been very valuable for its strategy.
He stressed that the company continued to monitor other channels and syndication options for its content, but the real focus was on a few channels. He felt that it was more of an editorial than a technology decision, that the "key was understanding that we can be more than a digital face to a TV network. For example, we need to invest in Snapchat and have a real presence -- but to do so, we need a team just focused on our Snapchat channel.
"We would rather deliver unique experiences on these five to seven platforms -- different from each other, even different from what is on TV," he said. "We will have BET customers who will never watch us on TV."
David Freeman, co-head of digital packaging and talent at Creative Artists Agency (CAA), had a similar take on it. As a manager of talent, CAA used to leave the data and analysis largely to TV networks and agencies that struck licensing deals with its clients. But now, social networks have created a valuable opportunity to interact directly with consumers and track and analyze that interaction. He mentioned Vin Diesel, who has 100 million followers, and Ronaldo, who has 200 million.
But key to using this effectively is understanding this information, and evaluating it to see how best they can launch new businesses and leverage the data for their clients.
Adam Rockmore, senior vice president and head of marketing and communications for Fandango, agreed. Fandango is a movie ticketing site that also offers exclusive film clips, trailers, celebrity interviews, reviews by users and movie descriptions. Rockmore pointed out that 75% of his business was now conducted on the phone, a major shift from the desktop a few years ago.
He agreed that it was more than just enabling access via smartphones -- Fandango needed to understand that shift. "The experience, the behavior is very different from the desktop," he said.
They also need to optimize the entire experience -- not just access the site but actually make the transaction on these new devices. It's also about promotion -- they need to be engaged when their customers are having conversations about movies on Facebook or Snapchat. In fact, Rockmore said Facebook is the number one location for viewing movie trailers.
Freeman pointed out that the "new" studios could offer more or at least different opportunities today. For him, new studios are any new entities substantially investing in content development. This included AT&T, Verizon and Snapchat, which are all investing in content development and offering new opportunities for his clients.
Bruce Tuchman, Global Media Investor, Advisor & Entrepreneur (and former president of AMC Global and Sundance Global, before which he was president at MGM Global), said that "ubiquitous content is a fallacy. People don't want to watch [Amazon show] The Man in the High Castle on a vertically held smartphone. It is a lush visual, high-quality production, and needs to be seen on a large screen."
As a result, he said, "different content has to be developed for different platforms. You have to ask why are people using that platform? What experience do they want -- and then deliver that."
Rockmore again stressed that it was also about promotion. Most people may prefer to watch The Man in the High Castle on a large screen but they would discover the show and begin to engage with it only through promotions -- and those were more likely to be effective via mobile devices and social networks.
"You need to be on Facebook, Snapchat," he said. "You may not [have them] watch it there, but you need to engage with them there."
Madati wrapped up the discussion by acknowledging that the linear channel still drove the majority of revenue for the network. But BET needed to protect the brand and value of the network in the future, while ensuring the next generation of viewers continued to engage with it. So it needed to look at different distribution options and platforms.
"We have to look at it all," he said. "But it all has to work. We can't just put our stuff everywhere. The platform has to be king."
— Aditya Kishore, Practice Leader, Video Transformation, Telco Transformation