Friday, March 14, 2008, 10:54 AM ET|Posted by Will Richmond
I had 3 key takeaways from the 2008 Media Summit which just wrapped up in NYC. The event just keeps getting better - great keynotes, terrific informal hallway chit-chats/networking and tons of well-directed energy. Though the event's agenda is broad, I was focused on the video-related elements. Here are 3 takeaways:
1. Iger and Moonves Get Tech; Lots of Innovation/Growth Ahead
A clear highlight for all attendees was the 2 morning keynote interviews, day 1 with Disney CEO Bob Iger and day 2 with CBS CEO Leslie Moonves. Both were ably conducted by senior Businessweek editors. Until a couple years ago, big media was in a defensive crouch regarding technology's uninvited incursion into their businesses. No more. Iger and Moonves are obviously convinced that technology, the Internet and broadband video delivery are now their companies' friends. Iger in particular really pounded this theme home.
An example of how technology helps which Iger repeatedly touched on was how Disney will leverage the platform of Club Penguin, its recent acquisition, to build communities for other properties (e.g. "Cars", "Pirates," etc.). These moves are intended to engender ever-greater levels of engagement. By the way, if you're a parent of youngsters and you've ever bemoaned how Disney's gotten its hooks deeply into your kids, you ain't seen nothing yet!
Moonves was emphatic that the Internet extends the value of CBS properties. March Madness was an example he offered. Three years ago it generated $250K of broadband subscription revenue. Two years ago CBS converted to ad-support and generated $4M. Then last year it generated $10M and this year is projected for $23M. And as Moonves pointed out, other than bandwidth, it's all incremental profit for the company. Echoing another conference theme, he further added that "the Internet should not be used to just regurgitate TV," but rather for the medium's unique capabilities.
Iger's and Moonves's mantras are no doubt being sent down to the troops from the executive suite. That suggests we can all expect a whole lot of tech-based innovation springing from these media giants.
2. Engagement and Originality: Buzzwords or More?
Two touchstones in many sessions were "engagement" and "originality." Both reflect the evolving viewpoint that broadband video has its own unique capabilities and that breaking through requires going far beyond traditional, passive programming approaches. With respect to engagement, the concept of introducing "social media" opportunities was often cited as the key tactic. An amorphous term, social media refers to all manner of user participation: content sharing, interactivity, personalization, mashups, uploading, commenting, rating and so on. Basically it's anything that gets viewers to do more than just sit back and enjoy the show. (For those looking to learn more, note next week's webinar on social media, presented by VideoNuze sponsors KickApps and Akamai)
Regarding originality, this relates back to Moonves's comment about not using the medium for regurgitation of TV shows (though to be sure there's value to that). Many people echoed that theme, emphasizing broadband must be used for original programming. The proliferation of independent "broadband studios" is encouraging early evidence that the originality bar will keep rising, prompting established and startup players to harness broadband's limitless possibilities.
3. Missing in Action: Paid business models
It wasn't that long ago that discussions about broadband video business models focused evenly on paid and ad-supported. No more. The paid model was completely missing in action at the event. I think I can count on one hand the number of times the concept was raised in sessions. Also MIA was DRM, the paid model's enabler (or torturer, depending on your perspective).
I detect a broad consensus that the broadband video industry has hitched its wagon to free ad-supported video for the foreseeable future. Many of you know I've been a long-time and enthusiastic proponent of this approach and I'm extremely happy to see things unfold this way. Though the broadband video ad model is still immature, all macro trends point to a bright future. One in particular is video syndication, which I wrote about 2 days ago. Syndication was a dominant theme, as panel representatives from both large and small content providers enthusiastically embraced it. See my post earlier this week, "Welcome to the Syndicated Video Economy" for more on this.
Ok, there you have it. There's plenty more tidbits I took away from the summit, so feel free to ping me if you'd like. And if you attended, post a comment and share your takeaways as well!