Is the Web the new Hollywood?

Is the Web the new Hollywood?

Summary: "The audience is taking over the programming," according to Ted Cohen,senior vice president of Digital Development and Distribution at EMI Music. "A few years ago we looked at litigating it, now we are looking at how to monetize it.

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"The audience is taking over the programming," according to Ted Cohen,senior vice president of Digital Development and Distribution at EMI Music. "A few years ago we looked at litigating it, now we are looking at how to monetize it."

In the last several months, hundreds of video sites have shown up on the Web. However, the big entertainment companies, who fear loss of control, will need to let go to participate in the new
media world, Cohen said. With or without permission, users are  playing with the video and other content assets--from trailers to full length features--of entertainment companies.

tedcohen1.jpg

From left: Jennifer Feikin (Google), Ted Cohen (EMI Music), Jeremy Allaire (Brightcove)

"You can't set up too many rules right now....if you don't let them play they will play anyway, so we have to figure out how to monetize it," he said. Rights are a complicated issue, he said, but the rights holders have to have the right "mindset." For example, directors and producers making B-roll and samples available to the masses to mashup, and hoping that MySpace or YouTube users become unsolicited viral marketing agents.

Cohen was speaking on an OnHollywood panel that also included Jeremy Allaire, CEO of Brightcove; Jennifer Feikin, director of Google Video; Erik Flannigan, vice president and general manager of Entertainment Programming at AOL; and Jeff Karnes, director of Multimedia Search at Yahoo. J.D. Lasica, co-founder of Ourmedia, was the moderator.

The panelists don't expect user-generated content to displace the content produced by networks, studios and independent producers. Allaire noted that producing good content costs lots of money,
and also requires marketing, branding and building an audience.

Feikin agreed that most of user-generated content isn't going to be good, but pointed to the community aspect of the phenomenon. "Much of what is on the Internet is now a novelty, but it has an additional way to express and communication that wasn't there before. It's also a good way to find content, but it needs to be good content. It's not just about the distribution. More content is being created, but the best content is what will be watched," Feikin said.

In terms of what kind of video content works on the Web, Feikin said, "Come back in a year...the whole revolution is only eight months old. We really don't know what will work. Today it's short form comedy and video content, very PC-based."  Down the road, video will spread out to more kinds of mobile devices, and  the "whole long tail of content" will open up, she added. At the other end of the tail, the entertainment industry is bring more longer form content, such as TV shows, to the Web.

hollywoodpane5.jpg 

From left: Jeff Karnes (Yahoo), Erik Flannigan (AOL), Jennifer Feikin (Google), Ted Cohen (EMI Music), Jeremy Allaire (Brightcove), J.D. Lasica (Ourmedia) 

One major difference with the Internet is that reduction of scarcity is happening on a massive scale, Allaire said, and it is becoming more efficient to serve micro-markets. The issue of distribution control came up. Allaire said the most networks--such as MTV, Discovery, and Turner--would rather distribute themselves than ceding it to another gatekeeper. "How to get syndication and aggregation is not figured out," he said.

AOL's Flannigan said that having control of the context around a video, wrapping it with a community experience, is key for the networks and other content owners. He also lamented the lack of a good mechanism to attract casual viewers. "There isn't a seductive barker channel to get people online," he said.

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3 comments
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  • If you believe this, I have a bridge for sale.

    Uh huh, some pimply faced teen decides a video about picking his nose is the next great movie. Yeah, right...
    No_Ax_to_Grind
    • Watch communities and make money from what you have learnt

      How about a bunch of guys spinning vinyl records, while telling stories (in a rhyming / poetic fashion) to the beat? Rap is now over 20 years old, and is stronger than ever. (Rap is a great example of a ?mashup? taking off.)

      Hollywood needs to recognize the unchanging principle that it makes money by providing superior products and services over free ones. Don?t go after people unless they are making money from your copyrighted material. Allow kids and people to play with content, and place paths / links within their communities, etc. for them to go and buy content cheaply and easily ? and free of DRM.

      Content providers could watch developments of these ?mashups?; see which ones or formats are particularly popular; then create high quality productions of them.

      Regarding content in general: news clips could be done like the ones on MSNBC (having ads at the beginning). News content providers could then allow people to download the clips and use them freely. (They would see far greater distribution that way.)

      New content formats could be created, that display tasteful, quiet, animating ads in an adjacent plane to the one the content is playing. The animating ads could take users to an advertiser?s web page. Content providers therefore could distribute some of their content (video / audio) free, and rely on embedded advertising to pay for the content. What if someone subverts the advertising by converting the content?s format? As long as that person is not making money from it, forget about it. Focus more on making the ads tasteful (and as a result removing consumers? incentive to get rid of them), and providing excellent download services that make it very easy for users to find and purchase popular to obscure content. (Making it easy for consumers to get a hold of hard to find content is a very important key for content providers making a lot of money.) Also, make use of promotions (such as if you download a particular new song for $1, you get 2 classic songs for free).

      Content providers can take a lot of the wind out of P2P networks and significantly expand their businesses, by making it really easy to find and download purchased content, or content embedded with advertisements.
      P. Douglas
  • "long tail of contnet"

    I seldom hear Hollywood types talk about that "whole long tail of content" cited by Jennifer Feiken; and I cannot figure out if this is because they just do not get it or just do not WANT to get it. I like to believe that much of the success of Amazon.com can be attributed to the long-tail phenomenon; and I like to believe it because that is the main reason I use Amazon.com (as well as abebooks.com). At a time when major public libraries are being gutted by draconian budget cuts, the Web is often the only place to find obscure books (generally in used but satisfactory condition). The idea that a company like Amazon.com can create a revenue stream out of connecting lots of minor demands for such obscure items gives me some hope for the Internet, but I just do not see the entertainment industry going in that direction.

    What sorts of things would be on the "long tail of content" there? Having been in several concert halls and opera houses that provide a video feed to the lobby for latecomers, I think that distributing such feeds would be a great example. However, as I have learned from people "in the business," there are more problems of access rights than you can shake a stick at; so it is unlikely that an expatriate opera-lover in Singapore (I was one once) will ever have be able to connect to even such a feeble video source, just because it is better than nothing. (As a matter of fact, a representative of XM Radio told me that they could not post playlists in advance on their Web site because of access rights problems.)

    So I am not necessarily mad at Hollywood for ignoring a trend. More likely I am mad at the legal framework that impedes that trend. Buying small quantities of obscure stuff if one thing. The legal foundation is there, and the Internet is a great place to do it. Using the Internet to build an extended audience for a performance genre whose audience is already weak seems to be quite another; and that, I suppose, is why it will always be easier for me to see the latest episode of "Lost" on the Internet, but not the latest PBS broadcast from Lincoln Center.
    kitchen-cynic