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NATPE 2008: Broadcast dollars & digital pennies – new media here, but not here yet

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NATPE 2008:  Broadcast dollars & digital pennies – new media here, but not here yet

Where the NATPE Mobile++ was all about the bright digital future, the first day of the NATPE Conference spoke on some ground realities of digital and the fact that the medium had dimes and pennies; the quarters were few and far between, but the dollars didn’t exist at all.

In a discussion on ‘Back to Basics – It is still the Television Business’, Terry Wood, President, Creative Affairs and Development, CBS Television, said, “TV is TV. Internet can be a sounding board of sorts, but more than that, it cannot guide you in what you are trying to develop shows, it cannot define the success of properties either.”

Mort Marcus, Co-President, Debmar Mercury, was more categorical in his approach. He said, “Digital is not a business for TV shows. We are not there yet.” Both experts, together with Tom Kane, President and CEO, CBS Television Studios, said that the challenges in television itself were too many at present. Kane said, “We are ignoring the day time on television and focussing only on primetime. This is an area that really needs attention. Unless daypart building happens across the day with relevant content, the full potential of television itself hasn’t been tapped.”

Marcus added here that television was the creation of brands, and the idea should be to keep that as a guideline. Wood said that the off-air element of TV, too, needed a revisit to be able to build various dayparts. Ken Werner, Domestic Television Distribution, said that the new media could play a role here by bringing variety to the television experience that could in turn make the medium more engaging. The experts agreed that the key word in TV was to create habits.

New Media came under further scrutiny in the Think Tank session ‘Here Today, There Tomorrow’. Jeff Gaspin, President and COO, Universal Television Group, said, “The industry today is seeing a gravitation from broadcast to cable, and it is clear that in the television domain itself, there is a lot to still understand and develop. The digital domain brings a lot of promise, but a problem right now is that the domain really just has pennies, in comparison to the broadcast dollars.”

Gaspin was quick to state that this would correct itself over a period of time, when things such as the cost of streaming and other digital inputs would reduce, thereby increasing the margins. Andrea Wong, President and CEO Lifetime Networks spoke on her experience of channel brands loyalty developing in the viewers. Viewers tuned in the channel to watch what was coming on the channel rather than tuning into specifically a show, the channel in that case being incidental.

Another session that saw some caution on the digital excitement was Insight Arena session ‘Mobile Content: What’s Hot? What’s New? What’s Next?’ Mitch Fienman, SVP, Fox Mobile Entertainment, said, “We need to really temper down this excitement around the mobile medium. It is big and fast, but the expectations flying are too high. We need to see this medium in a more sober light.”

Eric Bader, Co-Founder and MD, Brand in Hand, explained that the Internet medium was already seeing problems with email marketing not working as well as it did a few years back. He said, “Neither is direct and other such new media. The challenge before the mobile medium is to take the ad spends from these mediums and be able to deliver on that.”

The digital medium surely has its highs that broaden the platforms to reach the consumers today. However, the experts working closely in the field, even in the advanced markets like the US, are clear that the need of the hour is to be more pragmatic on the expectations from this medium while taking the necessary risks that would grow the digital domain further.


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