Doug Scott led a panel on the shifting sands confronting networks and the entire entertainment industry at Verge 2013. The panelists—KC Eastonson of CNN, Bob Lord of CNN, Evan Shapiro of Pivot TV, and Julie Simon of Fox—challenged the audience to rethink their assumptions of what is, and is not, important. The biggest headline? It’s time to take risks. With everything.
1) The Customer is Smarter Than You.
You can provide your content behind a pay wall, but people are going to figure out how to get around it anyway—no matter how fast you try to keep up. But the smart networks will figure out how to use their customers’ sneakiness to their advantage. In other words, trust that (one way or another) more viewers = more money.
2) Privacy is Passé.
All four panelists agreed that Millennials are perfectly giddy to fork over their private information in exchange for a good product. The key is they need to trust the brand and crave the content. The only ones still prudish about privacy are the old geeks.
3) Devices Don’t Exist.
We no longer need to worry about whether people are consuming content on a tablet or a smartphone or a television. Forget about that. Just think about building an audience, no matter how they’re watching. “We just need to think about getting to the consumer, getting to a tribe,” explained Bob Lord.
4) Your TV is Dumb.
“Think about the most basic things that your phone can do… like an alarm. Why is that not on the television?” asked KC Estenson. He added that everyone should be planning for the moment when the TV begins to act just as smart as the phone—at which point everything will change. All the panelists agreed that for now, the cable box is just waiting to die.
5) MVPD = Most Valuable Player.
Networks might be finding new ways to package their content, but they still keep coming back to the Multichannel Video Program Distributor for distributing it, albeit in new formats. As Evan Shapiro reminded us, everyone from FOX Networks to Pivot.tv are, “betting heavily on the MVPD ecosystem.” And Julie Simon reminded us that MVPDs are having an identity crisis: some just want to be pipes while others like Comcast and Time Warner Cable are investing in original content. But the bottom line is they’re here to stay, and we should be glad.
6) We are not Atlantis.
The media industry is not headed the way of the music industry, so stop comparing them. We may be fragmented, but people are still paying. And why? Because trying to figure out how to pirate 3 full seasons of Mad Men is only one thing: ANNOYING. And there’s another thing: there’s still nothing that beats a live event.
7) Risk it. All of it.
In his closing remarks, Evan made an explicit statement: “Those who fear will fail. Those who take risks will win.” He was reminding us that we all need to go boldly into the new fragmented landscape. No fear, no hesitation. Only dogged experimentation.
And on that last note, it’s worth watching OgilvyEntertainment’s video about risktaking and storytelling. It’s yet another explicit reminder that the future lies with the risktakers—with those fearless individuals who believe that IF YOU BUILD IT, THEY WILL COME.