• Interview with Mitch Berman, Co-founder, ZillionTV

    Last week I had a chance to catch up with Mitch Berman, co-founder and Executive Chairman of ZillionTV, the early stage online entertainment service. Mitch is a long-time Hollywood veteran and will be speaking at next week's NATPE LATV Fest (VideoNuze readers get a special discount). An edited transcript follows.

    VideoNuze: What are the 2-3 key trends in digital media we should be watching?

    Mitch Berman: I often talk about the growing role of influence, sharing and reward which are tied to social networking. Reward is both the influence you get with other members of your social circle as well as "points." Another trend is the rise of casual games which are becoming very popular with examples like Farmville. Then I'm also watching the trend toward over-the-top video. Now you have retailers, CE makers, independent over the top players like Roku and others, plus software providers. They're all attacking the traditional video subscription model.

    VN: Is the threat of cord-cutting real or imagined?

    MB: I think there's more hype than reality for now. The key is the consumer proposition. I'm a sociologist by background so I believe understanding the consumer is so important, but not discussed enough. Another trend is delivering the 3 screen experience. But the culture around each screen is radically different. So for example you can't just slap a TV show up on a mobile device and expect to succeed. So in this new world, the question is what's the model for the consumer?

    VN: Some people believe the concept of content ownership is dead. What do you think?

    MB: I believe that's partially true. I believe in the cloud model, but both rental and sell-through work, though we don't know yet for video. There are 2 cloud-based security approaches in the industry - DECE and KeyChest. I believe in that model, but we'll have to see how it plays out.

    VN: What are studios doing right and wrong in TV and movie digital distribution?

    MB: As an ex-HBO person I understand the desire to protect valuable assets. The good news is the industry is more and more looking at windows and considering ways to relax them and innovate. The bad news is that I think they're being overly protective, though I understand it. They have finite resources and are somewhat locked in to existing models. However change is everywhere - when you go into big retail stores you'll see the amount of distribution for DVDs has shrunk for example. So they need to find new approaches, but they don't have the resources to try them all.

    VN: What are the key things connected devices need to do to succeed?

    MB: First of all, there are many different devices. To succeed, they must first be easy to use - plug and play. Also they need to be priced well. Something that's $99 and up plus a subscription is too high. Look at the pay-tv providers have succeeded - they charge $4.99-6.99 per month for additional box. That used to be an issue when they were called "additional outlets." But now there's a charge for the set-top box but it seems free to a lot of people. Then of course there's the question of what content is available. It's all over the map right now. We're still understanding what people really want to do on their TVs, not online or on mobile devices.

    VN: What will you be talking about a the LATV Fest?

    MB: I'm going to offer a positive view of the world that we're in an "Industrial Revolution" in the entertainment industry, with all kinds of new opportunities. Learning to monetize in this new world - that's the big question.

    VN: Thanks Mitch.