SXSW Day One – TV: The Next Generation

My first joint SXSW Interactive and SXSW Film panel was on TV: The next generation.

In this panel in particular, my notes get pretty loose on who was saying what. Especially since I was in a back corner of the room and couldn’t always see who was saying what. But I think the gist of the conversation is there.

Ultimately my take away from it was that any pronouncements about where the future of TV is going are simultaneously premature (in that we couldn’t possible know yet) and overblown (in that it will likely be very much like what we have now, but morphed slightly, rather than wholly new).

If those sound like not very profound observations I confess that was my feeling too. Once again, too many smart panelists on a short panel with a vague topic leads to some interesting statements but little depth of discussion.

Panel was (this part is right because I cribbed it from SXSW’s site):


Tom: We’ll be talking about Television and where it is going next. What Web Video means and what Hollywood video means and where they come together.

How can web video compete with Hollywood video?

Right now we’re seeing indie video again – smaller production
companies, cheaper production.

Greg: the future of TV won’t be any one thing. Partner with them ( or make things for them.

Jay, revision3 – video network on the web, production co.
Dispelling the notion that you can’t make a business out of creating
video for the web. Now that advertisers are serious about the medium,
Hollywood will follow. In no time at all we expect revision3 like
divisions of every media company – some here.

Patrick – art’s awesome, but I don’t make art. I make video. TechTV. I
am a skunkworks division of a broader company – four people. I’ve
never had a suit tell me to get a famous person on the show to broaden
the audience. He does DLTV.

Nicole – audience is not AOL’s problem – we have a number of
problems but audience isn’t one of them. What we lack, and what video
online lacks, is vision – how to deliver to all of these markets what
they would devour if we could get it in front of them. We have
hundreds of thousands of users coming to AOL every day who would
consume video if we could put it in front of them. What we need is
good high quality video to put in front of them. (Distribution).

The BC boys – HBO ended up hiring them. They created a parody of the
OC while at boston college.

What do you do when you create a popular podcast / videocast and you
end up with something that people like. What are your alternatives?

Jay – there is a moment where you have to decide whether you want
to take on all the crap other than making video that goes along with
running a business. You have to decide where you want to be- some people are using YouTube to get noticed – which may be easier to do if your the BC
boys and it is a school project.

I consider Bud an entertainment company – they are starting BudTV.

This is an exciting time to hang back a bit – see where this goes and where your talent may apply.

Tom: are we going to see the big brands come in after everyone has figured out the way for them?

Patrick – Viacom wants to control its own video – if they can get enough audience, that’s great – but if it fails, they will come
back and have a viacom channel.

In the end, it almost doesn’t matter what they do. They’re just another aggregator – they can make all these rules.

Jay – At revision3, we made a choice early on not to care what distribution network you use. That’s the revolution – we’re now getting
to the point where tv networks are coming to us with offers for non-exclusive arrangements.

Do you go for ubiquity, or do you focus on controlling the content.

Nicole – certainly while page views are the mechanism for funding sites, we will still struggle with that. But it is
misguided to believe you can really control your distribution. If you have good enough content that people want to distribute
it, they will come back to you to get whatever is next. TV Networks are going to have to release their death grip on their
brands and properties.

Greg – but what about this great distribution network we’re all putting passive, linear video on – we need to make
somethign better than this. Fragmented doesn’t even begin to describe this current phenomenon – there isn’t enough revenue if
there are 5 million different small audiences.

Jay – there used to be a format that was safe. Now advertisers are saying “I can prove it has 3 mil viewers” and content
that in a million years no advertisers would have touched – and they want to be part of it.

If, advertiser, you are interested in working with my brand, you do need to take on risks.

Will web video reach the millions? Right now we’re measuring web shows in the tens of thousands – but TV shows in the millions.

But ultimately it is less important that each individual show hit a large audience than that you have figured out how to
aggregate those audiences. Federated media – they’ve aggregated enough people with content that they can take it to madison

CPA and other kinds of advertising – rather than buying ads up front, we’ll give you a cut of the revenue from this promotion –
basically a smaller buy, a cheaper point of entry, but also a good way to make this more measurable.

Nicole – AOL struggles with it in the same way – what’s the right measurement? Banner click through is very 1998. What still
works best for us is the link with something that shows up on TV.

What we should be looking for is good opportunities to connect your video to a more narrow interest set. (cheap version of the long tail).The problem the big networks face is volume – to reach the kind of audiences the networks reach you would need millions of
different niche type products.

They spend all this money on cell phone video, and then the manager goes on to become a VP or Director somewhere else. But you
learn alot along the way – you’re going to find out things like limelight can’t figure out how to tell ISPs to route traffic

When you get paged because North Carolina is unable to download your video because of a bad routing table, you are going to learn a lot about
things you don’t want to know.

I don’t want to know what I know right now about all this crap.

What the big networks have to contend with is all the crap we are currently dealing with – networks are used to controlling things – and they will not be able to handle the feedback – we are learning every day we put video up – they need to be able to learn from that way. But networks will aquire this stuff – but what will happen to those aquired companies inside the belly of
the beast?

Should channel 101 want that? Is it good for Channel 101? As long as I get yacht rock I don’t care.

This reminds me of when the “financial interest in syndication” rules got eliminated in the early nineties – all these small companies got bought up and we got several major conglomerates – but that just means new smaller firms pop up.

Jay – it is true you can create good video and get on youtube – but will anyone find you?

How will we deal with findability? In a 100 channel universe this is already unmangageable. Things like digg, These could be better solutions to the web video problem than we have today.

There really isn’t a youtube version of tv. That set top box is going to have to change. The ps3 and the xbox360 are becoming the set top box.

Audience questions:

How has content been influenced by advertiser relationships? Have there been conflicts of interest?

Jay – no, so far we have not. I think that’s because we have more choices. We might choose to go that way in the future- that is, creating a product due to a tie in with a sponsor – but it would be good stuff. (How do you make sure it is stuff you would do otherwise?) Well, we wouldn’t have done it otherwise.

We wouldn’t be able to survive if we do bad content.

Patrick – in a way, my whole career has been based on an early experience in which someone took my bad review of X, and turned it into a
glowing endorsement. Auto industry, music instruments – advertorial products – be honest about it up front.

Q: How far can traditional television go? If there are a ton of us with a smaller number of audiences, if we watch 5 minutes snippets of video online – how far does this need to go before it starts to fall apart.

Generations. Some of the challenge now in programming is to address 12 to 24 year olds where you are competing with games, web
video, etc.

They aren’t going to be mutually exclusive – they will be overlapping and fragmented. It takes generations to change viewing habits – but it is already starting to happen.

Lime, a small cable network – going to vod in broadband. We’re just not going to be a 24hr broadcast network. Some of these cable networks are going to to stop being channels and shift models. People will partner up, and some of the smaller will get canibalized.