Tuesday’s Breakfast with Betty event turned out to be not only a much-deserved tribute to one of the world’s funniest, astute women but also set the stage for many of the following sessions that had to do with content and the scramble to provide it on a host of platforms and devices.
Prior to the induction of Betty White into the NAB Broadcasting Hall of Fame, there was a rerun (so apt given that most mainstream series have also wrapped for the season) of the highlight reel of previous winners, but already Gary Marshall’s clips (cross-reference below) had been added into the marvellous mix of past excellence. Hearing the soundtrack a second time, one couldn’t help but smile as Tchaikovsky’s rhythm’s and John Williams’ set orchestrations—replete with half-step modulation—played a deservedly second fiddle to stars past and present as they sparkled—a few in glorious black-and-white—on the big screens.
NAB CEO and President Gordon Smith had the honour of making the presentation and then sitting with Betty (note to editor: it just seems wrong to identify the affable entertainer as “White”) for an informal chat. Her clips spanning many decades gave a fleeting glance as to how well she has preserved herself (not just physically but also adapting her singular style to suit the various shows that quite understandably fetched her seven Emmy Awards). When pressed, she did confess to having a special place in her heart for Sue-Ann Nivens and Rose Nylund. As the former, the scene where she virtually rapes Ed Asner on the couch ought to find its way into the all-time funniest moments in comedy hall of fame. One can only imagine that the rehearsals were pretty tame and then Betty just went at it: and with a live audience too!
Unlike Garry Marshall who gave a monologue in response to his award, Betty sat demurely and did her best to answer the rather vanilla questions posed by Smith (including one attempt to delve into football that revealed a serious error in research …). Ah! Live is always so exciting!
No matter. What set this event apart from so much of the broadcasting world as it attempts to compete with instant broadcasters on the Internet and all manner of devices was presence: only those of us in the room with the honouree had the complete real-time experience with no commercial breaks or edits. The other 88,000 NB Show attendees who could have joined us, will never truly know what they missed. Bowing twice to the appreciative crowd as they stood and shared their love and admiration for this incredible dynamo was the humanistic icing on the cake of class.
Moments later, the Disruptive Media Conference: Profiting in entertainment’s new landscape kicked off with “Monetizing viewership in a Multiplatform Environment.”
Those attending were anxious to hear just how the current revenue pie—“analog dollars cf digital dimes”—might be recut to everyone’s cash-flow advantage. With YouTube recently announcing its intent to invest $100 million to add a huge array of original-material over dozens of “quality” channels, it seems the game is most definitely afoot.
As Steve Raymond (Co-founder, CEO, Big Frame: YouTube is a client) put it: “We can deliver engaged audiences [to advertisers].” In response to the elephant in the room (if advertising budgets are fixed, how will anyone make more money as Internet and mobile ads begin to really take hold?), Adobe’s vice-president of monetization, Jeremy Helfand, opined that since total media consumption is growing, companies will want to get their share of those ever-expanding eyeballs and ears: in his view, the pot can only get bigger. As to digital content, he believes that live is still unbeatable (especially sports and disasters) followed by long-form professional video with user-created videos decidedly in last place (how many more animal gags will go viral?).
Accordingly, if specifically designed channels can build an interactive audience of considerable size, then advertisers will find an incredible opportunity to build relationships with their customers one tablet at a time. Said Raymond, “It’s advertising gold.”
A particular method of content delivery, which also has monetization implications, was thrashed about (the panelists were the most combative thus far, offering some drama all on their own) at the pre-lunch Content Theater offering: Over the Top Television.
Moderator Brian Seth Hurst (President and CEO, The Opportunity Management Company) proved to be a real pro in the early going (notably keeping panelist Mitchell Berman—wearing the bankruptcy of his company, ZillionTV, like a badge of honour—on track) but couldn’t resist the temptation of having the last word rather than letting his guests duke out their own views of the brave new world, which was self-described as chaotic. Representing Pay-TV was James Moorehead from DISH who is not particularly worried about the coming wave of Smart TV capabilities because he can’t be bothered to get his set to actually play the “clunky, poor experience” shows available over the Internet and into his living room. The howls of laughter from the younger generation in the crowd spoke volumes about the “real problem here.”
While nothing was settled, the most interesting idea to come out of the session was the notion of individual people as brand (from Kiefer Sutherland to Teri Hatcher et cetera).
So, if I am a huge fan of, say, Betty White wouldn’t I be delighted to subscribe to the Betty White channel on YouTube (who would have licenced all of her “content’ from the various producers) and if I am wanting to reach the seniors and the Baby Boomers market, wouldn’t I salivate at the prospect of having my interactive ads appear between Sue Ann’s biting jibes? Imagine tweeting Betty while watching one of her shows—and getting a reply!
Since Betty just opened her own account on Twitter, it seems she is entirely aware of the possibility that her own brand will be worth much more than companies. In the coming Digital Spring, the Me-I generation will rule our planet yet! JWR