Kate Bulkley, Media Analyst.

Digital revolution sweeps Mip

By Kate Bulkley

Broadcast News

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For Broadcast April 11, 2013

Content market reveals a shift in thinking, says Kate Bulkley

The big conversations at MipTV this week were digital.

There were keynotes and Twitter Talks and details of how Red Bull attracted 8 million viewers to YouTube for Felix Baumgartner’s jump from the stratosphere.

There was also clear evidence that the world’s biggest content creators are grappling with how to work in the digital world, while still protecting their big brands and traditional TV business.

“Content and ideas aren’t enough any more; they’re necessary, but they’re not sufficient,” Endemol group president Tim Hincks told a Mip audience. “There’s a need now to fuse creative and marketing, particularly in the digital space.”

For producers such as Fremantle Media and Endemol, YouTube is not an alternative to TV, but something to be tackled differently.

Hincks is on the cusp of acquisitions to ramp up digital, and expansion in digital is clearly on Fremantle chief executive Cécile Frot-Coutaz’s agenda as well.

Fremantle’s ultimate owner, Bertelsmann, is selling part of parent RTL Group, which could raise €2bn (£1.7bn) for acquisitions, and Frot-Coutaz quipped that she would like to get access to some of that cash.

Irrespective of whether she does, her new global head of digital Keith Hindle believes that tapping into brands and ad agencies’ desire to create social media and digital projects is a key target area.

Both big producers are eager to sate consumers’ appetite to interact with programmes. Frot-Coutaz noted the success of Fremantle’s 120 YouTube channels, with 4.5 billion views. The company is looking at more channel ideas in the lifestyle and pet sectors, in particular the latter after the success of The Pet Collective, which has more than 150,000 subscribers. Both are taking pointers from multichannel networks such as Machinima and Maker Studios, which build online communities around areas of mutual interest.

For example, Endemol announced the launch of YouTube channel Fear Factor, which it hopes to link to some of its other 100 YouTube channels, such as Mr Bean’s Official Channel, to create virtual hubs where users can be brought together through marketing and online cues. This will build scale, which in turn should bring in brands eager to reach these communities.

Perhaps most interesting was the experience of Anthony Zuiker, creator of the CSI franchise, who now spends 80% of his time working on digital projects (largely backed by big brands, including DuPont and Kraft) and 20% on what he called his “day job” of television. His big online series is Cybergeddon, a 10 x 9-minute or 1 x 90-minute series funded by internet security firm Symantec.

Zuiker’s approach to digital projects is also interesting: he first considers the devices that people will use to watch and interact with his stories, be they iPads or smartphones, and only then will he think up the story, which he “wraps around” the devices. This seems to be pretty revolutionary stuff for traditional content producers learning the new digital ropes. If content is still king, perhaps the device is the throne it sits on?

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