Not every Hollywood studio or entertainment giant looks at YouTube as a kind of video pirate ship. "YouTube is a great marketing platform. A lot of the time my producers and writer are submitting to the site," said Stefanie Henning, senior vice president of Fox Television Studios.
"YouTube is a great platform, but it's not being used properly," said Drew Reifenberger, senior vice president of Super Deluxe at Turner Broadcasting. " You can't have a business based on stolen goods. We have to be involved in that process [resolving copyright issues and monetization], and there is a lot going on."
Henning and Reifenberger were speaking at the "Hollywood 'IT' List" panel at the AlwaysOn OnHollywood conference. They were joined on the panel by Alan Bell, executive vice president and CTO at Paramount Pictures, and Carmi Zlotnik, executive vice president of New Media Programming at HBO. The panel was moderated by OnHollywood host Tony Perkins and Paula Parisi, executive editor of The Hollywood Reporter.
Alan Bell (Paramount), Stefanie Henning (Fox), Drew Reifenberger (Turner), Carmi Zlotnik (HBO)
Henning said that the industry has to work with companies like YouTube. "It's much better to reach out to the Google's of the world to create innovative software for our industry needs," she added, citing new opportunities, such as tagging every piece of media with an upsell for tickets or offers for higher bandwidth versions and building a marketplace around specific content.
Henning also gave an example of creating programming that takes viewers from a TV show to a Web site on any kind of device, including mobile phones, with additional story lines and a more intimate experience for viewers. Fox is also developing a short form soap opera for the Web.
Zlotnik said that HBO uses "lower concern" assets to experiment with new distribution channels. He also said that Hollywood looks to the pool of user generated content for talent. "When we do our jobs effectively, we are looking at Hollywood and the entire content production system and going through it with a drift net."
However, the panelists were in general agreement that professional content will continue rule their businesses. "We love amateur stuff but we are betting on the pros," said Reifenberger. "More pros will get into the game [working on Web content], such as Will Ferrell [he is involved 'Funny or Die') and over time people will gravitate to the pros. Quality will rule and user generated content [UGC] will go down."
Zlotnik predicted that user generated content will be integrated into conventional programming, letting people submit their take on a subject related to a TV show, and the show curating and presenting that content. "For every popular trend, we adopt some aspect of it," he said.
Paramount's Bell said, "Regardless of the outcome it behooves the content industry to be involved and figure out a way to leverage user generated content, harvesting talent, building buzz, people editing and mashing up content and building communities and monetizing the ad stream. If I were running a VOD or download-to-own video site, I would figure out a way to bring UGC into it.
Hollywood will continue to stick to what it knows, trolling for talent among the amateurs and focusing on high quality content, at least according to current popular standards. While the studios and networks aren't looking, new competitors will rise up who are more tuned into what people really want and how they want to consume their entertainment content. Of course, the entertainment giants will be in a position to invest in those upstarts if they can see through their cloudy lenses.