The State of the Industry 2014 – HRTS Luncheon Recap
In a time of change, how do you change with the times, how do you stay ahead of the curve?
In a time of change, how do you break through the clutter and fulfill viewer expectations?
In a time of change, how do you balance an embrace of the future with respect for the past and growth in the present?
On September 24, 2014 a packed house gathered together to consider these questions during the inaugural event of the 2014-15 HRTS Newsmaker Luncheon series, the State of the Industry.
Helping us navigate the way forward were five panelists representing a cross-section of our industry:
Chris Silbermann, Founding Partner, ICM Partners; John Landgraf, CEO, FX Networks and FX Productions; Kathy Savitt, CMO & Head of Media, Yahoo; Gail Berman, Chairman & CEO, The Jackal Group; and Kevin Beggs, Chairman, Lionsgate Television Group.
Moderating this panel of industry heavyweights was Ben Grossman, Principal at Selhurst Media Ventures.
Grossman kicked things off by asking the panelists where we are on the road from the past of only three networks to the hazy future of thousands of channels.
Silbermann noted that the distribution ecosystem has become quite vast and so even for the best content, “the amount of money that has to be spent on marketing to break through the clutter is a big issue”. As to quality, he added that since there are so many new distributors “I don’t know if there’s enough talent to go around to do great stuff for everybody”. Savitt said that “when you focus maniacally on customers, users and viewers, they tell you some really interesting things about the future that you can’t find anywhere else”, going on to concur with Silbermann about clutter, in that “it is becoming harder and harder for content creators to find their righteous audience”. As for where we might find content going forward, Landgraf pointed out that “linear channels are still the dominant force in television today, the dominant buyers, but in 50 years I don’t think anybody would say that people won’t be watching content primarily over the Internet”.
On the plus side, Berman said that “it’s an amazing time for content creators” since “if you look at distribution as ubiquitous and content as the only thing with real value then you know that it’s an incredibly good time for content creators”. Beggs concurred, noting the growth of his own company, where “in the beginning of our lifecycle as a content provider, the challenge was getting a seat at any table” whereas the situation today is that “in terms of sellers, it’s a study in abundance, we have so many buyers it’s hard to even get the product out to everybody in a timely manner”.
Grossman next moved to the subject of ratings and metrics, asking how you can measure a hit and especially on new players such as Netflix or Amazon.
Beggs noted that even he as producer doesn’t receive ratings data for ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK, but as for Netflix “they’re very happy, they continue to order new seasons and anecdotally, it feels to me as a consumer in the world that it has made an impact on pop culture” and so “I’m not knocking on the door too loudly”. Berman said that when she was running a broadcast network “there was an accountability, there was a system of measurement that everyone was being measured by and there was a tacit agreement that we were all playing by the same set of rules”. This is a concern in the new landscape “because some of us are playing in the public space with a set of numbers and some of us are not playing in the public space”.
Landgraf recommended that, metrics notwithstanding, it’s best to focus on results, since “for the purposes of our industry, the only truly valid measurement of success is how many quality series the ecosystem is sustaining”. Representing a new network player in Yahoo, Savitt said that “we are an advertising-supported business, we want to sell advertising to our advertisers” and as for ratings numbers for COMMUNITY, “we’ll release to our advertisers just the way anyone else will, we have to prove our worth and make good for them”.
Given all of the changes occurring in the industry, Grossman wondered how everybody will still get paid.
Landgraf said that in order to ensure long-term financial success, “I don’t think we have to own everything but I think we have to own most of what we do” and so “the established brands – HBO owns virtually all of their programming – are going to have to own most of it”. Savitt agreed and noted that as to the importance of network branding and particularly with younger viewers, Yahoo did research that found that less than 20% of 18- to 34-year-old viewers could identify who made their favorite shows and where they watched them. And so she wondered “what winds up happening for a buyer like ABC, how do you retain your brand?”
Berman replied that “I think one of the opportunities going forward is the branding of artists and taking the artist’s value, like ABC has done with Shonda Rhimes, and moving the artist forward as the brand, instead of having the artists mostly behind the scenes, in terms of the creators and producers”. Silbermann said that regardless of the platform or business model, “it’s important in terms of launching new shows if you have some brand equity since that will help you drive viewers towards other stuff that you’re putting out there”.
BACK TO THE FUTURE
Nobody knows the future, nobody knows what will make for long-term success since as Bernie Brillstein once said “if I knew that I’d be the old fat guy on a hill, I’d charge people five thousand dollars for a visit and it’d last five minutes”. As the pace of change accelerates, things may at times seem unclear but what is clear is that no matter what else happens, success will always come from the power of content, from payments based on accurate measurement, and from building an audience through a focus on brand development. In other words, things that haven’t changed in over 50 years and likely never will.
Photos by Chyna Photography
HRTS and JHRTS members can watch the video of this luncheon in addition to the large archive of past HRTS Newsmaker Luncheons. Log in here with your HRTS username and password.