OnScreen Media Summit: Content Management Challenges Remain In Multi-Screen Environment
Reaching Viewers/Users Via Myriad Platforms Still Must Be Balanced Against Traditional Linear Distribution
by Mike Reynolds 10/21/2009 1:38:00 PM

New York While content migration to various platforms is a media given these days, significant digital profitability remains an elusive quarry.

That was one of the key takeaways from executives speaking on the "Opportunities For Growth In the Multi-Screen Environment" roundtable discussion at the second annual Broadcasting & Cable/Multichannel News OnScreen Media Summit here Wednesday.

AETN executive vice president of distribution David Zagin (right) said that for the most part the programmer views digital content as a promotional device, to trigger sampling and bring viewership back to its linear networks.

Zagin, though, when asked by moderator MCN editor in chief Mark Robichaux, if AETN was making any money from its online endeavors, said they have "given us the opportunity. At this stage, it's not a ton or a game changer."

He expects AETN's prospects to improve, though, with the emergence of more effective standardized measurement across different platforms. Zagin said that's one of the barriers to maximizing revenue digital content. Another, he said, is being "mindful of respecting our distributors. [Linear TV] is still the bread and butter of our business."

Syfy president Dave Howe agreed. He said that the network, which appeals to tech-savvy viewers who are early adopters, has been at forefront of content migration, as its predecessor, the Sci Fi Channel, first streamed a show a decade ago. At that point, he said, getting "rights was easy and the technology was hard." Now, the scenarios are reversed.

With that in mind, Syfy and other programmers must "walk a fine line" of keeping their traditional distributors and users happy.

All the same, he said there is another practical purpose for playing content in multiple arenas, like Hulu.com or syfy.com. If programmers don't, consumers will pirate it.

At the end of day, though, the prime way to attract audiences, no matter what the platform, is simple: having great shows.

"You need something that differentiates your network," Howe said. "Those with me-too fare are finding it increasingly difficult to make it" in today's fragmented media universe.

Gaining attention in today's multiplatform environment also presents its share of challenges and opportunities. On the one hand, Mark Greenberg, president and CEO of Epix, the joint venture, multiplatform movie service from Paramount, Lionsgate and MGM, said the channel hopes to create value for affiliate partners with content offerings extending to linear, broadband, video on demand and mobile platforms. This platform-agnostic approach, he said, appeals to young adults and teens, who multitask their way through their leisure hours and are comfortable in watching movies on various screens.

At the same time, getting messages out about the service, which is slated to launch on linear basis on Verizon FiOS on Oct. 30, has prompted Epix to advertise in such varied venues as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, radio, spot cable and broadcast.

Then, there's the Facebook crowd, millions of which, according to Greenberg, are fans of the James Bond franchise. As such, Epix is letting them know it will be the "Home of Bond" films in November.