Monday, October 24, 2011

Live Blogging @iWDMS

Here goes my second attempt at live blogging from a conference - proceed with caution (many typos, clumsy paraphrasing and unfinished sentences ahead).

iWDMS Panel: Beyond Primetime: The Battle of Push vs. Pull

Norm Bolen - Chairman, Canadian Media Production Association (CMPA). Lots of money in traditional media, clear regulation on what they need to invest in CanCon - ensures that a % of revenue will be spent on canadian content.Ad market for tv has bounced back very well. CTV transaction, Canwest - pumped money into the broadcast system. Big bulge of money being invested in canadian content - US financing on prime time drama (Flashpoint, Rookie Blue) - right now. Really good for Canadian producers...but why haven't we seen an explosion in digital content to reflect this? Says that Canada is more risk averse - less capital/investment available - Canadian Media Fund (CMF) is really key in the financing of a large proportion of canadian content...existing financial model hasn't really worked, wasn't much incentive for producers (limited return on investment, limited rights, etc.). New "terms of trade" deal - formal, measurable, enforceable and now a requirement for broadcast license. Key element re: digital content - in all deals now being negotiated there's a revenue sharing agreement on digital rights/conversion content - 50/50 break down. This is going to change things significantly - from push to pull, young creators not interested in traditional media, etc.

Thinks we are reaching the day when it will be almost impossible to even imagine regulating digital content on the internet. Harder and harder to differentiate the pieces - not sure regulation will be the solution to the CanCon dilemma. As a country we need to find a way to contribute more online - we don't have a Canadian platform for digital content - is this an area that we need to look at, develop.

Samantha McWilliams, Legal Counsel, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC): Netflix - reached 800K subscriptions in its first year in Canada - estimates it will reach 1million at the end of Q3.

Rita Cugini, Commissioner, Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC)
Pay-per-view has a very long history - the climate/technologies are changing, but there is a history (or background) there to consider. The CRTC will be holding industry consultations over the next 3 weeks on the opportunities, challenges, threats presented by over-the-top services (such as Netflix) - and try to devise some solutions. Are these services "exempt" - should they be regulated? enforce CanCon requirements? require them to contribute a % of revenues to Canadian productions? These are some of the questions they will be considering over the next little while. In the meantime, Canada has become the poster child for over-the-top services (other countries are waiting to see what we'll do).

Q from audience: UltraViolet - online rights locker (US based) that also deals with distribution on all different platforms. Consortia incl. 64 major players in the US and Canada - launching imminently. btw: Netflix is part of the consortium.

Christina Jennings, CEO, Chairman, Executive Producer, Shaftesbury Films
Doesn't think that Canadians are risk averse. But traditional broadcasters are falling (have fallen) behind. Canada has a lot of money right now (for media production) and everyone knows it. The risk she sees has more to do with US investment coming in and taking over - Canadians should take advantage of these opportunities. We need to watch what's going on with the over-the-top services and what the CRTC decides to do here, need to watch the digital space. Canadian experimental fund - breaking ground that no one else is doing, and she links this back to the foundations of Canadian media (that media, broadcasting and Canadian content have always been considered important). Talked earlier about creating a digital game for a television series watched primarily by older audiences - the game failed, and she points to this as an example of a mistake to learn from. Need to match the digital content/app to the audience's needs, likes, etc. Not try to force things, or just latch onto the latest trend. New app for tween girls on a making-of-the-band-style drama/comedy series Totally Amp'd - series made from the app up...might launch on iTunes, then get picked up by broadcasters for their websites (webisodes), and then the question becomes will it move to traditional media. Interesting! Using online to create an audience - alternative to "using a brand" (e.g. adaptations of a known character or book series, etc.).

Norm Bolen: Significant amounts of money being raised by consumers and fans of content through micro-financing, crowd sourcing (Kickstarter etc.). Younger people especially, engaging in this not to make money but to support content they care about. Rejection of traditional media, production standards, etc. Digital content creation is going to come out of these newer models, these types of producers and consumers.

Christina Jennings: It's all changing, but points out that amazing things being made online (movies for $1 million) aren't necessarily making money for the creators involved. Need to break open, cross barriers with the traditional broadcasters (they have all the money after all) - who will ultimately be the ones to push us forward. (I think she means into a sustainable industry model). Also points to the need for curation of all this user-generated and independently produced content - a role she feels can be filled by traditional broadcasters, producers, etc. To start to curate, highlight, select (sort of what broadcasters have been doing all along) - not just showcase tie-ins to their current (traditionally modelled) programs, but original digital content that fits into their overarching "brand" or vision (e.g. CTV, YTV, etc.).

Bolen: Youtube has channels that already serve this function = new curation models, that he thinks will become increasingly important. Some of these will become dominant, successful models (a la Huffington Post for news). Points to comedy as a key area where this is taking place.

Cugini: Regulator - what should the role be (earlier asked if there even should be a role)? These are questions CRTC is asking itself. Don't have funds - can only require that funds flow in certain ways (e.g. CanCon funding), but even then, there are so many questions and uncertainties involved right now. Thinks that linear, traditional broadcasting is probably not going away in our lifetime - but asks 'what are broadcasters doing to embrace and compliment the digital'? Are they being as innovative as online broadcasters? From this it sounds like the biggest concern here is ensuring -- or at least supporting as much as possible -- industry success.

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