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Technology changes all: News Corps’ Jonathan Miller & Electus’ Ben Silverman deliberate

14-April-2010
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Technology changes all: News Corps’ Jonathan Miller & Electus’ Ben Silverman deliberate

Content production houses and broadcasters are very confident that digital, despite being the challenge that it is at present, would turn to be a growth driver for the industry. The challenge is how to use digital with traditional forms of media that would be mutually beneficial, and more importantly now, how to monetise the traction that various digital formats are getting.

India is still growing in traditional: Jonathan F Miller

For Jonathan F Miller, Chief Digital Officer, News Corp, the need is to keep one’s eyes open on trends and not be fooled by assuming that two similar looking things are the same. Miller was speaking about how he things applications are going to be much bigger than what is seen today. He said, “People thought mobile was an extension of communication device, social networks were the same as websites, and you tend to miss the shift, when you think it is the same thing. Application is different and that is a whole new thing in the mobile environment, it should not be seen the same as mobile. In fact, I would say this is a moment of shift in the industry.”

Miller also said that social network was here to stay in some form, and especially when everyone was talking about monetising. In his view, companies had to explore ways of free and paid content to be able to generate better digital revenues. This concept of ‘freenium’, which is free plus premium, has been in existence for a while now but media companies believe that the concept now has a chance to take off.

The conversation also moved to MySpace and dwelled on the reasons why MySpace lost its position as ‘the music destinaiton’, and in a sense, lost it ‘mojo’. Miller informed that MySpace started off as a place about finding new people or bands one didn't know and then the media platform looked at ways of expanding but that change didn't work. MySpace is once again concentrating on ‘Discover and be discovered’. Would the company look at subscriptions? “If we do subscription, we will do it this year,” said Miller.

Miller spoke on various subjects ranging with the Google – MySpace deal, which he thought was of great value to Google but would get a fair value of the search traffic for MySpace as well. Another point discussed was whethere monies coming from digital could support content. Miller’s view was that the starting point of this could be in content development process itself. In the current structure, broadcasters see 100s of pilots before picking 10 shows, of which one or two work. He said that digital could be of use here to cut down development cost.

Miller’s mantra was that all three platforms of television, mobile and internet need to used together to be able to make the best of each. In his conversation, he also divulged that News Corp was looking at USD 10 million for investments in digital in the year. However, he also stated that India may not be one of the priority markets for News Corp’s digital investments. He said, “India is still growing in terms of traditional and so we would be focussing a lot more on those areas but digital is not very high in India.

The other things that Miller sees becoming stronger in the future are casual games is one of the things and resurgence of the music industry.

It’s a new battleground for creativity: Ben Silverman

Ben Silverman, Founder & CEO, Electus USA has been known popularly for the work he had done while he was at NBC Universal, with series like Heroes and American Gladiator that had put NBC high on the ratings chart. Silverman’s current venture Electus’ boasts to be a non traditional studio built of the digital age. Silverman reckons that these are the times of hyper globalisation but adapted in localisation.

At Electus, the effort is to bring strong labels of independent creative voices to a single destination with an eye on the changing media consumption trends that have resulted due to the impact of technology. Quoting an example, he said, “The iPad I think is an entertainment pad, it is the ultimate TV on the go, the ultimate smart phone but it is unique to each user, and it would be different for each user. In a similar manner, content creators should keep an eye on how global ideas can be taken on a local level. ‘Twilight’ has proved again that wolves and vampires, boys and girls are all evergreen stories tales but the way they are told differs.”

According to Silverman, in an age when people consume television in different ways, where they are watching television and commenting on the characters at a social media platform at the same time, content creator has to change thinking gears too. He said, “The new age television should be able to let audience interact with the TV show, we should be able to provide multiple versions of the same show for different kinds of audience. In the drama world, there is a need for a more compressed window. It is no longer about how you sell the same IP multiple times. Things have changed and content too must.”

Silverman stressed that the new age content can only result from great partnerships. He observed that people had to become more collaborative, and that there were many people one needed at the table when brainstorming for creative and fresh ideas was happening. He said, “You should be long term greedy, short term. Premium content is the only content that brands can be comfortable, so you need ideas that reach out and touch you but are also successful. This new form of media consumption can suck away the linear form of storytelling, so we have to use our creativity to see how we break through and adapt to this new challenge.”

Citing the NBC Comcast deal, Silverman argued that distribution platforms were also in the race of being good content companies. The very fact that 2012 would see more Internet enabled TV sets needed content creator to be prepared. He said, “Primetime is still a robust way to gauge what is working but that is changing and we need to anticipate that future, and see how we work with our partners in the digital platforms so that content for all three screens has been thought and created from the start.”

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