JWR Articles: Live Event - NAB Show 2012 - Day 3 (Moderator: Lori Schwartz, Marty Shindler) - April 23, 2012
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NAB Show 2012 - Day 3

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Broadcasting without networks and predicting the future without benefit of the next big thing

If the primary purpose of any major trade show (beyond the ability to fill an association’s coffers thanks to sponsors and exhibitors trying to positively position themselves within the industry), then the NAB Show is largely fulfilling those expectations.

Two sessions within a few hours of one another reinforced the notion that online content distribution may well eclipse films in theatres and TV on standard sets (albeit with home theatre capabilities for those who can afford it) and national networks or Pay-TV content bundlers as the leaders of the digital pack now that consumers—more so than advertisers—are calling the shots one device at a time.

Moderator Lori Schwartz (Chief Technology Catalyst, North America, McCann Worldgroup) kept the proceedings moving at a fast clip as the panelists brought their own highlight reel to share with the capacity crowd during the Content Theater’s “Broadcasting Beyond Television” session.

Sitting side-by-side were Yahoo (represented by Debbie Menin) and MSN (Joe Michaels fronting the brand). A friendly air of competiveness could be felt as each proclaimed impressive statistics (e.g., MSN boasting 522 million unique hits per month) and trumpeted a growing catalogue or original programming.

Y-Screen purposely (and literally) channels much of its content to those who love comedy and women, with marquee names such as Tom Hanks and Bill Maher lending their skills and credibility. A quick visit to the web found that the pre-roll commercials played well (with no button to “skip” the ad or a closed caption toggle) only to find the first clip “no longer available”) and the second from Maher’s “Crazy Stupid Politics” hanging at 1:13.

Rather than reinventing programming wheels, Michaels explained MSN’s strategy of working with the millions already on board and, accordingly, providing vertical content. Hot Guys Doing Horoscopes (think Naked News with clothes) has a great premise but comes across a little too “read” on the brief deliveries. Go See This Movie’s Oscar favourites episode is shameless cheerleading where the clips shine far brighter than the hosts.

From Daniel Tibbets’ (SVP Digital Media, Bunim/Murray Productions) point of view, “brands now want to integrate with the story early on without feeling like a serialized commercial.” That notion seems oddly familiar to those who can remember the apparent controversy surrounding subliminal advertising. His featured show, Battlefield 3 is a must-sponsor for America’s munitions companies.

Through database integration (for such shows as Burn Notice, cross-reference below), Zane Vella (Watchwith) salivated over how “every frame has amazing possibility—something else [i.e., links to advertisers or related content] attached to it.” His clip had an unobtrusive layer floating on top of the images. As they changed (e.g., a new character appeared) the data links switched in concert.

Betty White proved her star power yet again as Karrie Wolfe (Kinetic Content—a television production company big ambitions to sell its programs everywhere) explained how Off Their Rockers—an adaptation of a Belgian program—was modified to suit the North American appetite for reality shows (it’s Candid Camera where seniors prey on the younger set) and celebrities. Not coincidentally, as the show is about to launch, Betty has opened her very first Twitter account to enable one-to-one chatter with her adoring fans. While this show will first air on network television, Wolfe would be more than happy to see it in other countries and on the Internet. Betty’s brand—no doubt—will be the catalyst for those sales as well.

What is the future of Internet television vs. traditional broadcasting? NAB Show’s final Super Session attempted to peer into the pixel ball with “Predictions From the Street: The power players behind the great content shift.”

Marty Shindler (CEO, The Shindler Perspective and longtime film executive) was the invigorating moderator of the panel of soothsayers which included Doug Creutz, VP, Cowen Group; James Marsh, Managing Director, Senior Research Analyst, Piper Jaffray & Co.; Tom Morrod, Senior Principal Analyst, TV Technology, IHS Screen Digest and Michael Pachter, Managing Director, Equity Research, Wedbush Securities).

A lot of time was spent opining about the effect Apple’s TV set will have on the marketplace after its full-bore launch expected in 2013. Pachter had no doubt it would be commercially successful if for no other reason than the blind loyalty of the Apple fan (his company has also proclaimed it to be “The biggest thing in consumer electronics since the Smartphone.” And with the iPad as the controller, legions of viewers might flock to the new hardware if for no other reason but to have a remote that has a comprehensive search feature. Why have a 500-channel universe if it takes longer than a show’s run-time to find it? It was generally agreed that unlike Open Road Films (an acquisition/distribution company backed by AMC and Regal—the largest film exhibitors in the U.S.), Apple will not get into the original production business. However, don’t be surprised if the way to Apple’s shiny new product will be via a contract with an operator such as AT&T.

There was also consensus that movie theatres are not going the way of vaudeville houses. As good as home theatres might be (for those with deep pockets) the shared experience and HUGE screens in cinemas will always draw enough fans to keep them viable thanks in no small part to 90% margins on drinks and snacks. On the other hand, premium Video on Demand is a dead duck and deserves to be so, as was so distinctly made clearly by Marsh.

And so we’ve come full circle. At the opening session, Stephen Dubner convincingly demonstrated how wrong predictions longer than 48 hours down the road can be (cross-reference below). With this last panel (whose livelihoods may well depend on correctly reading the TV leaves), the future as is clear as their background and individual biases permit. And you heard that here first! JWR

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