The first-ever Entertainment Technology in the Internet Age conference is remarkable in many ways.
It couldn’t be more appropriate that Stanford University is hosting this wide-ranging discussion of how to make quality content available to “everyone, everywhere” (that in itself resonates with its Canadian counterpart, Canada 3.0: with the 2017 moonshot goal, “anyone can do anything online”—cross-reference below) due to the early participation of “The Farm” with the beginnings of the Internet in 1969—alongside UCLA—and the fact that, arguably (according to conference chair, Patrick Griffis), “motion pictures started here” when the results of a scientific commission to Eadweard Muybridge by Leland Stanford produced “The Horse in Motion,” becoming a very early (1878) “illusion of continuous motion.”
It is also arguable that Hollywood was born on that day. Now approaching its centenary (2016), it is both encouraging and relieving that SMPTE (Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers—the definer/arbiter of film and broadcasting standards) has smelled the proverbial coffee and realized that its collective wisdom, expertise and wherewithal could be put to good service as the Internet threatens to place broadcasters and cinemas in the dustbin of mass media consumption.
The cause of this awakening and sudden desire to embrace what hadn’t been seen as a major challenge to the supremacy of TV networks and Hollywood moguls is not really the emerging technologies that can provide such applications as Video on Demand and TV Everywhere but—not dissimilar to the relatively sudden shifts of power in the Arab Spring—the game-changing empowerment of the public to wag the tail of the content producers/distributors by surrendering just enough of their personal information to leave advertisers positively salivating at the notion of one-to-one conversations rather than the more traditional one-to-many model with its potential customers.
So make no mistake, despite hearing from speaker after speaker that they have the wishes of the public uppermost in their minds, driving their decisions—and that monetization of many of the latest devices and distribution schemes are secondary goals (alongside the all-important duty to their various artistic trusts)—it’s the ability to please their respective pipers that is leading this sea change of content and delivery.
With that as background—even before the gavel rang in the first session—this two-day symposium promised to have as much to say about the topic as its subtext: the scramble to keep, expand or find new revenue streams be they advertisements, subscriptions, institutional begging (er, hello there PBS) or as yet to be fully defined fountains of cash.
As the ensuing articles will detail, there was seldom a dull moment even if priming the money pump was the continual elephant—with no apologies to Fox News—in the room. JWR